Over the Rainbow: Hublot Doubles Down on Colour
Hublot kicked off 2023 with a bang — three big bangs, to be exact. The Big Bang Unico SORAI, the most modest of the three (relatively speaking), features a yellow-to-purple gradient dial and a matching multicolour camo strap. The Big Bang Integrated King Gold Rainbow, meanwhile, is festooned with nearly 1,000 rainbow- coloured gemstones set precisely into a case made of King Gold, Hublot’s proprietary 18k alloy. Even more impressive, however, is the Big Bang Tourbillon Automatic Yellow Neon SAXEM, a watch made from a transparent sapphire alloy the colour of a tennis ball. In an industry where a dial colour other than black or white can be seen as adventurous, creations like the Big Bang tend to stand out. At Hublot, however, audacity is and always has been the name of the game — particularly where colour is concerned.
The first Hublot watch was introduced in 1980, a period during which traditional Swiss watchmaking was threatened by quartz technology, and the industry was desperately in need of fresh new ideas. By pairing a nautically inspired gold case (‘hublot’ is French for porthole) with a black rubber strap — a combination never seen before in luxury watchmaking — the brand’s youthful and iconoclastic approach was a perfect fit for the new decade.
Now, some 40 years later, the Swiss brand has expanded its offerings far beyond that original concept to dozens of bold designs in a rainbow of colours, often making use of unusual materials. With over-the-top designs and collaborations with the likes of Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, fashion designer Samuel Ross, and celebrity tattoo artist Sang Bleu, Hublot has earned a devoted following by creating watches that stand out on the wrist.
“Our clients want watches that are different,” says Raphael Nussbaumer, Hublot’s Chief Product and Purchasing Officer. “They appreciate the lengths Hublot goes to present watches that combine groundbreaking technology with unique design.”
In the case of the Big Bang Unico SORAI, the brand’s second collaboration with the conservation group Save Our Rhinos Africa and India, those lengths extended to creating a warm grey ceramic case reminiscent of rhino hide, and pairing it with a dial inspired by the African sunset (the time when rhinos are most vulnerable to poachers).
Despite the modern look of The Big Bang Integrated King Gold Rainbow, its hundreds of glittering gemstones are the product of a watchmaking craft that’s been refined for centuries. Creating the watch required first finding the perfect combination of stones in precise sizes and colours, and then painstakingly setting them into the case, one by one. “This watch showcases both baguette-cut and brilliant-cut gemstones, and each needs to be expertly cut and held in place,” Nussbaumer says. “This requires enormous skill and is an art in itself.”
Even more work, however, was required to create the Big Bang Tourbillon Automatic Yellow Neon SAXEM. The product of nearly three years of development, SAXEM (Sapphire Aluminium oXide and rare Earth Mineral) is similar to sapphire crystal, with an ultra-resistant composition and an intense colour.
“As with sapphire, SAXEM is extremely difficult to manipulate,” Nussbaumer says. “It requires specific tools and skills to cut and shape the case and all the different components, and it took years of perfecting our know-how.” And that’s to say nothing of the movement — Hublot’s HUB6035 self-winding Manufacture calibre — which was entirely skeletonized and fitted with components made from sapphire to enhance the watch’s transparent look.
Priced at $264,000 and limited to just 50 pieces, the Big Bang Tourbillon Automatic Yellow Neon SAXEM is a watch that would have been almost unthinkable 40 years ago. Not only would it have been impossible to build, but it would also have looked like a visitor from another planet next to even the most colourful pieces of the time. In 2023, however, it’s possible to create a skeletonized tourbillon with a case made of bright yellow sapphire crystal, and there are plenty of customers eager to buy one.
“It’s clear that high watchmaking is changing with new clients and collectors that are searching for daring pieces,” says Nussbaumer. “The rules of watchmaking are always being reinvented and reinterpreted. This is a big part of Hublot’s philosophy.”