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It all started with a Big Bang
History & Masterpieces

It all started with a Big Bang

Friday, 20 April 2018
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Marie de Pimodan-Bugnon
Freelance journalist

“One must be absolutely modern.”

Arthur Rimbaud

It takes passion, a healthy dose of curiosity and a sense of wonderment to convey the innumerable facets of watchmaking…

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5 min read

Since its debut in 2005, the Big Bang chronograph has been one long success story. Its secret? A signature design that gives form to Hublot’s concept of fusion through unprecedented combinations of materials. Gold and rubber, denim and diamonds, sapphire, carbon, silk embroidery or sheep wool… there’s no stopping the Big Bang!

Most watches come with a brand name attached. Not the Big Bang. It is one of the rare timepieces that can unleash passions with just two little words. Big Bang. Full stop. End of. This is all it takes to set the Hublotista’s heart pounding and catch the attention of the ordinary watch enthusiast at the same time. Here’s a chrono that has made its mark, courtesy of a sharp design and combinations of materials that don’t go unnoticed. Backed by impeccably executed marketing, the Big Bang flies the flag for Hublot’s signature fusion concept, as well as being the symbol of the brand’s revival and meteoric success.

Big Bang Chronographe 2005 © Hublot
Big Bang Chronographe 2005 © Hublot

The Big Bang exploded onto the scene in 2005. The man behind this stroke of genius was a certain Jean-Claude Biver, barely a year into his tenure at the head of Hublot. This marketing maverick, who years later would take the helm of LVMH’s watch division, didn’t work from a blank canvas but instead took the main features of the very first Hublot watch, launched by Carlo Crocco in 1980, and cranked them up a notch. Beyond the bezel, still with its porthole shape, Biver grounded the new watch in a bold concept: the fusion of materials. After all, its predecessor from twenty-five years earlier had had the chutzpah to put a gold case on a rubber strap.

A landmark design that took customers by storm

In 2005 the watch industry was thriving. Oversized cases and extravagant designs were all the rage. The Big Bang couldn’t have come at a better time. Every detail was made to serve the new concept of hybrid materials. The 44.50 mm case was a sandwich construction of stainless steel or red gold with lateral inserts in kevlar, with “ears” protruding from the sides. Crown and pushers featured rubber inserts that mirrored the rubber of the strap. A wide ceramic bezel ringed the carbon fibre dial, highlighted by six screws with a H-shaped notch. For the engine, Hublot called on La Joux-Perret to develop a new chronograph movement, taking care to introduce finishes in keeping with its design identity. This meant a black PVD treatment for the honeycomb surface of the tungsten carbide rotor.

La Big Bang s’impose non seulement comme le navire amiral d’Hublot mais aussi comme le support d’expérimentations esthétiques inédites.

This was the watch the market had been waiting for. Critically acclaimed, it carried off the Best Design prize at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève. Watch fans couldn’t get enough of it. Sales took off and with them Hublot’s revenue, which increased eightfold in the space of four years from CHF 25 million to more than CHF 200 million in 2008. The foundations were laid; all that remained was to build on the concept. With a certain freedom of tone, a healthy dose of creativity and design teams that were ready to rumble, the Big Bang emerged not just as Hublot’s flagship watch but as a canvas for exotic design experiments.

Denim, diamonds, sheep wool… anything goes!

In 2006 the Big Bang reappeared in a new All Black concept, ushering in what would be a lasting trend in watch design. In 2008 Hublot extended its territory with the creation of the very first Big Bang for women. In 2013, taking advantage of the vertical integration strategy introduced since the brand had become part of the LVMH portfolio in 2008, the Big Bang crossed another milestone with the introduction of the UNICO chronograph movement. Developed and manufactured by Hublot, this is the only chronograph calibre with a column wheel and a double clutch, visible on the dial side. Hublot also took the opportunity to tweak the original design, starting with a larger 45.40 mm girth. Screws, pushers, crown, indices and numerals were given a technical redesign. This “new improved” Big Bang was also fitted with the One Click system for easy strap changing without tools.

Big Bang All Black 2014 © Hublot
Big Bang All Black 2014 © Hublot

In 2015 the Big Bang celebrated its tenth anniversary in suitable style by lending its sporty design to the brand’s first skeleton tourbillon coupled with a five-day power-reserve indicator. Ten High Jewellery versions, fully paved with diamonds and sold for a million dollars each, put the Big Bang even more squarely in the spotlight. And because the art of fusion remains central to the collection, the tenth anniversary was also the ideal pretext to showcase Magic Gold – an alloy with a hardness of almost 1,000 Vickers which the brand developed in 2011, in partnership with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), and debuted in 2012 on a limited-edition Big Bang Ferrari.

Big Bang Ferrari 2014 © Hublot
Big Bang Ferrari 2014 © Hublot

The brand’s multiple collaborations with the likes of FIFA, Ferrari and Italia Independent, not to mention artists (including of the graffiti and tattoo kind), have provided further opportunities to experiment with this concept of fusion. Carbon and gold, ceramic and steel, denim and diamonds, sapphire, silk embroidery, sheep wool… the “didn’t-expect-that” combinations keep on coming… and with them a string of phenomenal successes. The Big Bang has dropped a creative and technical bombshell that continues to shake up the watchmaking world.

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