The integrated steel sports bracelet is here to stay. Why? “Because if you look at the watch market, 60 percent of watches are sold on a bracelet,” Riccardo Guadalupe, CEO of Hublot told Robb Report at LVMH’s Watch Week in Dubai this week. The luxury conglomerate, which also owns Bulgari, Zenith and Tag Heuer, held its first-ever summit of watch releases in the Middle East. Each brand, except for Tag (which is already known for its bracelet sports watches), debuted a watch on an integrated steel bracelet. The latest from Hublot happens to be the first-ever range of watches in its Big Bang model to come on a bracelet.
“The integrative bracelet happens to be like a very big trend right now,” said Guadalupe. “It’s at all the brands, the LVMH brands, but even beyond that—[A. Lange & Söhne] did one just recently, and you have [H. Moser & Cie] coming out with one too.” Everyone wants to have the runaway success of Rolex (all models but most notably the GMT-Master II and Daytona references), the Patek Philippe Nautilus and Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak. The challenge, said Guadalupe, is bringing something new to the bracelet with a strong design.
It took three years to develop the new Hublot Big Bang Integral watch, which comes in three iterations: titanium ($20,900), King Gold (a Hublot proprietary gold alloy that’s more red than traditional 18-karat gold 5N, $52,500)—both of which can also come accented in diamonds ($68,000 in titanium and $100,000 in gold)—and an all-black ceramic version (limited to 500, $23,100). It’s the latter, not the steel version, that makes Guadalupe proud. “It is the most important model because when we do full ceramic, the space narrows to what is on the market,” said Guadalupe. “Only a few, very few, brands that do the full ceramic integrated watch.” (One of those is Bulgari, who dropped a new Octo Finissimo in a shiny ceramic at LVMH Dubai Watch Week.)
But it’s also a highlight because Hublot flexing on materials, especially ceramic, is one of its brand hallmarks. “That’s where we’re specialists,” says Guadalupe. “And of course in the future, we can be able to come with colored ceramic, you know that we’ll have invented the right ceramic. So if we come with the red ceramic, we’d be totally unique.” Of course, the red ceramic he referred to was first developed for accents on the Ferrari Unico Carbon Red Ceramic, but later used in on the full case for Big Bang Unico Red Magic. The patented material is created using a sintering process that combines pressure and heat without burning the pigments for a difficult-to-achieve, in-your-face red. Since then, Hublot has used the same process for a blue ceramic and plans to release other colors in the future.
Like most Hublot timepieces, at 42 mm x 13.45 mm, this is not a sports watch for wallflowers but it certainly errs on the more conservative side for the brand (notwithstanding the blinged-out diamond versions). It comes equipped with the brand’s HUB1280 Unico self-winding chronograph flyback movement with column wheel, which boasts 72 hours of power reserve, a 4 Hz frequency and 354 components.
Although Hublot is known for its rubber-strapped watches, this isn’t its first integrated bracelet. Guadalupe says its previous attempt, on its Classic Fusion model, wasn’t a huge success—and he expects the new bracelet model to be the attention grabber. “Our core business comes from our rubber strap watches and it will remain so, but if this watch accounted for 10 percent of our sales, I would be very happy already.” This is definitely a nice addition to Hublot’s lineup that will please existing clients while luring in a few new ones.