Here at WatchTime, we admittedly tend to give more credence, and more coverage, to excellence in horological technicity than to decorative disciplines like gem-setting. But the haute joaillerie coup that Hublot pulled off this year is simply too impressive to ignore. With its new Big Bang Paraíba models, unveiled in Geneva last month concurrently with the SIHH, the brand whose mission statement is “The Art of Fusion” stakes a claim to another watch-world first: the first timepieces ever adorned with ultra-rare, baguette-cut Paraíba Tourmaline stones. How significant is this accomplishment? Read on.
Paraiba Tourmaline was discovered in 1989 in the Brazilian state of Paraíba from which it takes its name, and achieves its distinctive, irridescent turquoise hue from its combination (or fusion, if you will) of gold, manganese, and copper. Its extreme rarity makes the Paraíba even more coveted and expensive than other precious stones such as diamonds, emeralds, and rubies: a single Paraíba stone is mined, on average, for every 10,000 diamonds. Hublot has established an exclusive agreement with a mine in Brazil’s Rio Grande region that extracts the stones in an environmentally sustainable manner, using methods that ensure reforestation and using only clean water so as to prevent soil pollution.
The rarity of the stones are matched only by the difficulty of applying the baguette cut to them. Baguette cutting requires stones of perfectly uniform color, a restriction that necessitated five times more raw material than usual for the initial stone selection. Even after each of the selected stones was baguette-cut, only 70 percent of this much smaller pool could be set into cases, with the other 30 percent rejected due to breakage or inconsistent quality or color. More fragile than even emerald, Paraíba stones require an elite level of expertise and dexterity in both the cutting and setting stages — not to mention patience, as the process can take up to three times longer than for diamonds.
The Big Bang Paraíba collection consists of two models and four references. The larger and more complicated piece is the Big Bang Unico Paraiba, offered in 45-mm cases of either white gold or King Gold, the latter a proprietary Hublot alloy made by combining 18k gold with copper and platinum. The cases are stunningly set with 48 baguette-cut stones on the bezel and 388 brilliant-cut stones on the rest of the case components. The watch is outfitted with Hublot’s HUB1242 Unico Caliber, a self-winding in-house movement that includes an integrated flyback chronograph function and a date display at 3 o’clock. The front of the movement, which stores a 72-hour power reserve and uses a column wheel to drive the stopwatch, is on full display through the openworked dial, while the rear side can be admired through a sapphire exhibition caseback. The Unico Paraiba models are attached to turquoise-blue alligator leather straps that harmonize with the stones and similarly colored elements on the dial. The price is $274,000 in both white gold and King Gold.
Slightly smaller in size at 39 mm, again in either white gold or King Gold, the Big Bang One Click Paraiba features the same 48-count Paraiba-set bezel, along with 129 brilliant-cut Tourmalines on the case and 11 additional brilliant-cut stones on the dial, marking all the hour positions except for 3 o’clock, where sits a date window. The sunray dial and Super-LumiNova-filled hands reflect the brilliant blue-green of the stones, shielding beneath it a self-winding HUB1710 movement, offering a 28,800-vph frequency and a 50-hour power reserve. The turquoise alligator straps on this model are fitted with Hublot’s recently introduced One Click system, which enables the wearer to easily and quickly change straps without the use of tools. Both Paraíba One Click models are priced at $232,000.