Transparency in Timekeeping: 3 New Sapphire-Cased Watches from Hublot

Hublot continues to push the envelope when it comes to the materials it uses in its watch cases. After introducing the Big Bang Unico Sapphire, the first large-scale-production watch with a case made of transparent sapphire, last year, the brand doubled down on sapphire at Baselworld 2017, using it as a case material for the first time in its tonneau-shaped Spirit of Big Bang series, and introducing two colorful new Big Bang Unico models with red- and blue-tinted sapphire cases — the latter representing the very first time blue sapphire has been used in horology.


Hublot Spirit of Big Bang Sapphire - front
Hublot Spirit of Big Bang Sapphire

Like its predecessors in titanium, King gold and ceramic cases, the Hublot Spirit of Big Bang Sapphire has a barrel shaped case measuring 45 mm wide and 15.10 mm thick. Hublot used four blocks of machined sapphire to create this transparent version of the case — a very difficult process made all the more challenging by the unusual shape; according to the company, new machines and new processes to polish and finish components needed to be developed. The resulting case, after almost 100 hours of work involving 3D machining, is one that is as hard and nearly as scratch-resistant as diamond (sapphire is 9 on the Mohs hardness scale; diamond is 10), whose crystal clear design offers an unimpeded view of the skeletonized, self-winding movement, Caliber HUB4700. Based on the famous El Primero from Zenith, Hublot’s sister brand within the LVMH luxury group, the movement has an integrated chronograph, a visible date wheel with the current date displayed in an aperture at 4:30, a high-balance frequency of 36,600 vph, and a power reserve of 50 hours. Aside from the movement components, the very few non-sapphire elements visible on the watch are the crown, chronograph pushers, case screws, H-shaped bezel screws, and the deployant buckle clasp, all made of titanium. Limited to 250 pieces and mounted on a structured, lined rubber strap, the Spirit of Big Bang Sapphire is priced at $79,000.

Hublot Spirit of Big Bang Sapphire - flat
The movement is a skeletonized, Hublot-modified version of the Zenith El Primero.

To create the groundbreaking Hublot Big Bang Unico Sapphire Blue, Hublot’s engineers and chemists had to meet the challenge of producing a block of colored sapphire whose mass exceeded two kilograms, a feat never before accomplished. Developing a process that melted iron with aluminum oxide, they were able to produce a blue-colored sapphire that maintained a uniform color and also boasted the material’s transparency and extreme scratch-resistance. This blue sapphire — from which Hublot cut the case middle, bezel, and back for this new watch — is the first ever used in the history of watchmaking. The case measures 45 mm in diameter and 15.70 mm thick; its bezel is secured by six H-shaped titanium screws. Blue highlights on the smoked, transparent dial made of composite resin include the applied Arabic numerals, minute markers along the flange, and the hour and minute hands, which are also treated with a blue luminescent treatment. The skeletonized, self-winding flyback chronograph movement, Hublot’s in-house Unico HUB124, is on display beneath this clear dial, with a date display at 3 o’clock, subdials at 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock, and the chronograph’s column wheel visible on the dial side. Its frequency is 28,800 vph and its power reserve is 72 hours. The strap is a transparent blue, structured rubber and closes with a titanium deployant clasp. The watch is a limited edition of 250 pieces, priced at $85,000.

Hublot Big Bang Unico Blue Sapphire - front
Above and below: Hublot Big Bang Unico Sapphire Blue

Hublot Big Bang Unico Blue Sapphire - side

Also limited to 250 pieces is the Big Bang Unico Sapphire Red, which derives its colorful case from a process that heats aluminum oxide — the raw material in forming sapphire — with chromium at a temperature between 2,000 and 2,050 degrees Celsius. Like its blue-hued counterpart, the watch has a 45-mm case and contains the Unico HUB124 chronograph caliber. Its crown, pushers, and six H-shaped bezel screws are in black-plated titanium, while its hour and minute hands are black lacquered and coated with a red luminous material. The deployant clasp that fastens the watch’s smoked, lined strap is made of black ceramic and black-plated titanium. The price: $74,000.

Hublot Big Bang Unico Red Sapphire - front
Above and below: Hublot Big Bang Unico Red Sapphire
Hublot Big Bang Unico Red Sapphire - reclining
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  1. Oliviero Colleoni

    Around watches world , sapphire material will mark next 10 years a importance position.

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