Hublot’s expertise In making watch cases out of sapphire is, at this point, beyond reproach. The Nyon-based manufacture was the first watch manufacturer to produce such cases on an industrial scale, in 2016, and has remained a pioneer in that field during the five years since. “But what,” aficionados of such innovations might ask, “has Hublot done for us lately?” The answer came last week at the Watches & Wonders virtual watch fair: “How about an entire watch — case and bracelet — made out of sapphire?” Here’s a closer look at the Big Bang Integral Tourbillon Full Sapphire, a revolutionary timepiece in which the materials are just the tip of the iceberg.
The watch melds two of Hublot’s most noteworthy developments of recent times — its new “Integral” case construction with an integrated bracelet, which debuted in last January’s Big Bang Integral chronograph models, and its recently launched automatic tourbillon movement, Caliber HUB6035, which took its opening bow in a trio of Big Bang models last year, including a showcase piece with an orange-tinted, translucent sapphire case. The latest incarnation of Hublot’s first self-winding tourbillon also finds itself housed in a case made of sapphire, this one fully transparent, made up of no fewer than 37 separate components, all painstakingly machined from the material, which is traditionally used solely for the crystal of a watch. The dial, such as it is, also consists of a clear sapphire disk, with satin-finished, rhodium-plated hour appliqués and hands, all coated with white Super-LumiNova.
Hublot says that its engineers had to entirely restructure the classic Big Bang case to remove nearly all of its visible screws and overhaul its geometry and profile to integrate it into the sapphire bracelet, as well as to rework bridges and plates of the movement to give them the illusion of being suspended in space. The bracelet, of course, was also a challenge: made up of 165 pieces, 22 of them sapphire and a third of them “specially designed to provide unique harmony with the transparency of the case,” it features minuscule titanium inserts developed in-house that don’t protrude from either side of the bracelet links, which help ensure fluidity and flexibility on the wrist.
Visible from the front and back of the clear, 30-meter water-resistant case is the automatic Caliber MHUB6035, whose openworked design is balanced by a tourbillon at 12 o’clock and a 22k gold micro-rotor, with a skeleton “Hublot” logo, at 6 o’clock, which helps the movement amass its three-day (72-hours) power reserve. Equipped with ceramic ball bearings and Hublot’s advanced winding system, it is enhanced with high-end horological decorations including beveling, sunray brushing, and sandblasting. Among the components that appear to float freely in space are three bridges made of sapphire — the barrel bridge, automatic bridge, and tourbillon barette. The openworked construction and extreme transparency of the case allows light to enter and illuminate the movement from all directions, creating intriguing combinations of diffused, refracted, and reflected surfaces.
Finishing touches include the polished sapphire bezel with characteristic H-shaped screws, an engraved limited-edition number (out of only 30 pieces being produced) on the caseback, and deployant clasp made of titanium to secure the sapphire bracelet to the wrist. The Big Bang Integral Tourbillon Full Sapphire is priced at $422,000.