At the turn of the century watchmaking was a universe away from what it is today. Big watches were scarce, unconventionally shaped watches almost unheard of. The tectonic shift began as the 21st century dawned, with Corum riding on the top of the wave that would soon sweep watchmaking.
At Baselworld 2000 the Bubble was unveiled, an unparalleled 44 mm in diameter with a towering sapphire crystal so tall it distorted the dial. With a size and shape totally unprecedented in watchmaking, the Bubble was an instant hit.
The Bubble was the brainchild of the late Severin Wunderman, a relentlessly creative entrepreneur who acquired Corum that very same year. Wunderman, who survived both the Holocaust and cancer, had a roving, creative mind. In one instance, he was inspired by an experimental deep-sea dive watch from the 1960s, which was fitted with an enormous domed crystal to withstand the pressure of the ocean. That formed the genesis of the Bubble, one of the most recognizable wristwatches of its time.
While the Bubble was unquestionably unique, its unorthodox design was merely an extension of Corum’s long-established philosophy. Since its founding in 1955, Corum consistently excelled at designing totally original timepieces, ranging from the Rolls-Royce, shaped like the luxury automobile’s front grille, to the Golden Bridge, distinguished by its remarkably tiny, baguette-shaped movement.
Despite being a mere 15 years old, the Bubble is major part of the brand’s heritage, deserving of elevation into a hall of fame. The Bubble has now been revived as part of the Corum Heritage collection, putting it alongside other landmark timepieces like the extra-thin Coin Watch.
While retaining all the design codes of the original, the 2015 Bubble is not a mere replica of its predecessor. Fitted with a rubber-ringed, spherical crown, the case is a collection of smooth, rounded lines, just like the original.
But it has been enlarged to 47 mm, lending it impressively striking proportions, especially as it stands some 18.8 mm high, crystal included. But, as always, practicality was high on the mind of the development team, which paired the oversized case with short, curved lugs, allowing it to hug the wrist snugly.
A remarkable 8 mm high, this sapphire crystal is one of the largest of any watch. Sapphire is a material so extraordinarily hard it has to be cut with a diamond-tipped tool. This in itself is challenging enough that even when machining ordinary, flat watch crystals the job can take hours. Crafting the mountainous crystal of the Bubble requires exponentially more work. The task starts with cutting a block of crystal, then grinding it into a bubble-like shape, and finally polishing the crystal to flawless clarity with absolutely no optical imperfections.
Because the sapphire crystal is so tall, it acts as a lens, both magnifying and distorting the dial. Corum’s designers took advantage of this by designing a dial with a clever, op art (short for “optical art”) motif. Taking inspiration from Hungarian-born French artist Victor Vasarely, founder of the op art movement, the dial is decorated with squares in graduated sizes that grow larger toward the center of the dial.
Op art desired to create static patterns that gave the impression of movement or surprising, contradictory perspectives. Likewise, the dial of the Bubble is perfectly flat, formed from a lacquered, brass disc stamped with the cube motif, but appears sharply domed. In fact, it looks so rounded it might pass for the top of a sphere.
This arresting op art dial will be fitted only to a pair of limited edition, PVD-coated versions of the Bubble, each made in an exclusive run of just 350 pieces. The first is the Bubble Vintage, housed in a bronze-tone, PVD-coated case paired with Super-LumiNova treated for a vintage effect. A modern watch made to look like an antique from an indistinct era, the Bubble Vintage is a nod to the original Bubble now 15 years old.
Taking another perspective is the Bubble All Black, clad entirely in a glossy black PVD coating, matched by a matte black dial, along with charcoal-colored indices and hands. The Bubble All Black removes all distraction, making a monochromatic statement that emphasizes the iconic shape of the Bubble.
Part of the regular collection of timepieces, the third model in the Bubble collection does away with the dial entirely. A skeletonized movement takes its place, with the domed sapphire crystal providing a magnified view of the exposed wheels of the CO0082 self-winding movement.
All of the Bubble timepieces are fitted with rubber straps topped with leather: calfskin for the op art editions and alligator skin in the case of the skeleton. And each is fitted with a buckle matching the case finish.