I truly believe that there are no rules when it comes to passions like watch collecting. There are manufacture movement fanatics; there are slavish hand-finishing fanatics and then there are integrated bracelet watch fanatics. Whatever your proclivities, do whatever you want on your path to horological happiness, as long as it doesn’t harm others.
With that said, let’s address the elephant in the room; within the watch collectors’ community (ahem, ShameOnWrist), there’s an unfortunate culture where Hublot ownership gets lumped in with other watch-related faux pas. Augustman is here to address why we shouldn’t indulge in this bit of uncivilised snobbery.
In 2011, Hublot Big Bang Tourbillon Automatic Sapphire Las Vegas Boutique 45 mm debuted a magnum opus in the guise of the Tribute to Antikythera. Inspired by ancient Greek technology, the bronze device with hyper complicated clockwork, the Antikythera machine was discovered to be the oldest calculator in human history, calculating various celestial phases (like eclipses and the movements of astronomical bodies in our night sky) in relation to planet earth’s position within the solar system.
Suffice it to say, constellation charts as well as calendars including one for the Egyptians and other more esoteric ones based on 235- and 223-month cycles and an Olympic Games indicator (that is to say one which cycles every four years) were found on this ancient device. Suffice it to say, at the time, nobody in watchmaking understood enough about it to remake a version of it. Only Hublot was crazy enough to attempt it and succeed.
Conceived as the Hublot Calibre 2033-CH01, it offered the same astronomical, astrological and calendar indicators with the addition of basic timekeeping functions and a tourbillon; making it one of the most complex timepieces on the market that rendered the creation too expensive for the consumer according to Hublot.
That was until the Nyon manufacture decided to release a consumer edition, the Antikythera SunMoon MP-08. Forming part of Hublot’s “Masterpiece” watch collection, the Antikythera SunMoon MP-08 greatly simplified the Antikythera mechanism while retaining the spirit of its raison d’être: the large “constellation decorated” central hand displays the phase of the moon through a window, the hand itself taking a full year to travel around the entire dial, in essence becoming a multipurpose calendar hand that when used in tandem with the solar hand gives detailed calendar data.
The larger dial “hand” is indicative of “sky position”, translating our perspective of the sky over the year as well as periods of the zodiac. Hublot was also the first to show how the various zodiacs relate to one another in terms of lengths. In addition, the solar hand also indicates earth’s relative position to the sun, which we render in our daily lives as the passing of the months. The “Antikythera” watch represented the perfect fusion between ancient and modern times.
Timepieces like these and the 637-component MP-05 LaFerrari with a record-breaking 50-day power reserve and unconventional tourbillon-calibre architecture, are emblematic of not just a genius but a dedication to the highest horological arts that sees its know-how being translated downwards to watches for the masses; reminiscent of a time where mechanical timepieces were once the province of royalty and aristocracy before finally being rendered in ever more affordable forms.
In this instance, shaped sapphire crystals – like that found in 2016’s LaFerrari Sapphire – are but one example in the Maison’s unrelenting pursuit in the mastery of materials and its fusion with heritage mechanical watchmaking.
With a hardness rating second only to diamond, sapphire is notoriously difficult to process, cut and micromachine. Sapphire, which goes by the mineral name corundum, boasts extreme physical, chemical and thermal durability, earning it an exceptionally broad range of applications in areas where resilience to extreme environments is required. In fact, so robust is the material that military ground vehicles and aircrafts often use glass protection to stop high kinetic energy projectiles (e.g.bullets) from entering the cab and or cockpit.
Hublot’s comfort with the material reflects a growing know-how that has enabled them to overcome some of the difficulties inherent to working with sapphire and use its transparency to ever more spectacular effect.
Nevertheless, machining, polishing, piercing and assembly constitute a permanent challenge: cases start out as blocks of opaque sapphire that are milled with diamond coated tools then. During the slow polishing process, the revelation of the presence of inclusions can bring a watchmaking back to step one because anything less than perfect clarity would be unfit for use.
Piercing and assembly are also fraught with dangers since incorrectly exerted pressure can shatter or break sapphire crystal at any moment. Production losses are par for the course and so a costly process. Therefore, it stands to reason that sapphire cases remain an exclusive trend and the purview of the best watchmakers.
In the end, the complex case of the Hublot Big Bang Tourbillon Automatic Purple Sapphire is a Lego-like construct of approximately 50 components, with each piece machined to precise tolerances in order to fit together like a puzzle. They are held in place by six H-shaped titanium screws on the bezel.
Last year, Hublot entered brave new frontiers with its new tourbillon movement in a watch case made of orange sapphire crystal: a world-first for coloured synthetic sapphire, and the latest in a line of coloured sapphire created by the Nyon manufacture. For 2022, the Nyon manufacture broaches yet another frontier with a follow-up to that brightly coloured model, this time rendered in another world first for sapphire, purple. This new tint is achieved using a composite made of aluminium oxide and chrome.
Hublot’s Art of Fusion is not only material but also expressed through to the heart of its movements. Among them, the HUB6035 Manufacture Automatic Tourbillon Movement. As the brand’s first automatic tourbillon movement, this exceptional calibre displays the full watchmaking savoir-faire and expertise of the tourbillon developed by the brand since 2007.
Three years in the making and bequeathed with a three-day (72-hour) power reserve, the one-minute tourbillon with 243 components is a tour de force in watchmaking that one can actually own. According to Hublot CEO Ricardo Guadalupe, “the rotor is there for purely aesthetic reasons. Hublot’s goal has long been to combine tradition with innovation, so we wanted to present a classic tourbillon in a modern way by putting a micro-rotor on the dial side. It’s a spectacle.”
Indeed, it is a spectacle; the positioning of the oscillating weight on the dial side – while giving no specific technical advantage – takes away the distraction of the mainspring barrel directly behind it, keeping your eyes focused entirely on the tourbillon high complication.
“We put it at the 12 o’clock position to balance it with the tourbillon escapement at six o’clock in order to create symmetry,” Guadalupe explains. Furthermore, a transparent dial and three bridges made of sapphire ensures that nothing distracts from the core purpose of the HUB6035 – regulating precise time in conflict with the physical reality of gravity.
Measuring 44 mm in diameter with a thickness of 14.5 mm, the Hublot Big Bang Tourbillon Automatic Purple Sapphire is by no means a small watch. With a case made of purple sapphire crystal and accented with a matching rubber strap, there’s undeniable wrist presence coupled with the comfort of high-grade silicon securing the lightness of precision-machined sapphire on your wrist.
Ultimately, this Hublot Big Bang Tourbillon ensconced in sapphire has something that will delight the fancy of every kind of watch enthusiast if they can get past their own bias.