FrontRunners: Rubber Soul

Carlo Crocco created a sensation 20 years ago when he introduced Hublot watches, solid gold timepieces with natural black rubber straps that are delicately scented with vanilla. Clearly ahead of his time, Crocco pioneered a concept that has become one of the most prevalent trends in the watch market, despite the fact that rubber straps are typically relegated to sporty and casual purposes. But Crocco is out to alter that perception with Hublot’s first made-to-order Haute Joaillerie collection (800.536.0636). “Many of our private clients requested jeweled watches,” says Crocco.

The striking contrast of sparkling Top Wesselton diamonds and pink sapphires against the brand’s signature smooth black rubber strap is not for the traditionalist. Each timepiece is handcrafted in Geneva by master stone setters who meticulously position hundreds of gems in a process that takes several weeks. A stainless steel model set with 264 diamonds and 44 pink sapphires around the bezel sells for $29,900. But the height of the collection is a $73,900 gem-encrusted model featuring 705 diamonds and 46 pink sapphires set around the bezel, as well as on an 18-karat gold cover.

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