Hublot at Watches & Wonders 2024: Sapphire Watches Takes Centre Stage - Men's Folio
Time, News

Hublot at Watches & Wonders 2024: Sapphire Watches Takes Centre Stage

  • By Asaph Low

After seeing Hublot’s novelties in recent years, one would imagine a series of crazy experiments taking place in the brand’s Nyon-based manufacture. That is true to a certain extent, but rest assured, nothing is similar to those seen in Dexter’s Laboratory. While “crazy” might be a generalised term laypeople use, “pushing boundaries” would be the astute way of conveying that idea. Though Hublot started the year strong with their LVMH Watch Week showing, they proved that finishing strong is even more crucial in today’s watchmaking climate, and boy, did they kick things up a few notches at Watches & Wonders Geneva 2024.

Presenting at two major watch fairs was always going to be a challenge for Hublot. It meant multiple headlining creations had to be ready, but after seeing what was launched in Geneva, it is safe to say that Hublot was well-prepared in all departments. Sapphire takes centre stage once again at Hublot, having perfected the art of colour (or colourless, as you would see later on) alchemy.

The first of which is the Hublot Big Bang MP-11 14-Day Power Reserve Water Blue Sapphire. It is a mouthful for sure, but the key takeaways lie in the last three words: Water Blue Sapphire. While the MP-11 is not new to Hublot, having multiple iterations across various materials and colours, the pale blue rendition stands out amongst its other well-saturated, vivid-coloured counterparts sans the clear sapphire piece. As with all sapphire pieces, each has its unique chemical formula, which involves various elements precisely doped to achieve desired colours and shades, and in this instance, pale blue. Combine that with a high transparency index and meticulous hand polishing; the result is a radiant and luminous work of art.

Mechanically, the Hublot Big Bang MP-11 14-Day Power Reserve Water Blue Sapphire is no pushover, too. Its HUB9011 Manufacture calibre boasts a whopping 14-day power reserve thanks to seven vertically arranged co-axial barrels. Instead of integrating the barrels into the movement, Hublot chose to peacock them by setting them 90° on the front side of the calibre. Given its height, the front sapphire crystal has been modified with a unique curvature that once again demonstrates Hublot’s technical prowess in sapphire crystal engineering and manipulation. Though the calibre is hand-winding in nature, an accompanying electric Torx stylus ensures winding the watch is a breeze. An extremely handy power reserve indicator positioned on the extreme left of the barrels indicates the remaining power in days. Time-telling elements have been positioned on the top half of the dial, with the regulating components expertly repositioned at two and four o’clock.

Staying on the topic of sapphire watches, Hublot’s other pièce de résistance, the Hublot Spirit of Big Bang Sang Bleu Sapphire epitomises Hublot’s “Art of Fusion” philosophy. Here, Hublot’s universe of haute horlogerie seamlessly harmonises with Maxime Plescia-Büchi’s creative and artistic exponent, Sang Bleu. This year’s sapphire piece follows up on last year’s Hublot Spirit of Big Bang Sang Bleu, which was previously outfitted in Hublot’s King Gold, all-black ceramic, and titanium.

“2024 marks eight years of collaboration with Hublot and three iterations: the first in 2016 with the Big Bang Sang Bleu; the second in 2019 with the Big Bang Sang Bleu II; and finally, the Spirit of Big Bang in 2023. While every design is produced using a similar approach, transposing the principles of my tattooing across to Hublot’s specific watchmaking space, the result is different every time as it is applied to a different base. This time, in addition, we are transposing what the DNA itself has become, the fusion of Hublot and Sang Bleu, onto a Hublot signature material never before applied to our collaboration: sapphire. This is a highlight of this collaboration because sapphire is, in itself, the most noble material used in the watchmaking industry, while it simultaneously bestows something ghost-like and futuristic, virtually architectural, onto the pieces. This corresponds exactly to what I seek to produce in all my projects,” shares Maxime Plescia-Büchi.

While the blueprint remains as it was, featuring a chiselled and faceted case of overlapping hexagons, rhombuses and triangles signature of Plescia-Büchi’s polygonal tattooing, machining a sapphire case of that complexity presents itself as a monumental challenge for Hublot. Three-dimensional machining and over 100 hours of work went into crafting the crystalline case, with the only non-transparent elements being the crown, push buttons, and six H-shaped screws on the bezel.

The end result is a contrasting softness incised into the hardness of the sapphire. Here, the purity of the Sang Bleu features, which remain sharp and methodical, expresses itself visually and on the wrist in an ultra-light minimalist style. Hublot’s HUB4700 automatic chronograph calibre appears to levitate gracefully within the watch case’s cavernous transparency. Instead of utilising traditionally shaped watch hands, specially designed disc hands organically enhance the 100-piece limited edition Hublot Spirit of Big Bang Sang Bleu Sapphire’s faceted design.

Once you are done with this story, click here to catch up with our April 2024 issue.