Hublot makes a lot of Big Bang limited editions. Like, a ton of them. This year alone, I’ve spotted at least eight Big Bang announcements in my inbox, each touting some watch that will be produced in limited numbers â and I’m sure there are plenty more that I’ve missed. All of this is to say that despite the seemingly endless parade of limited editions, when I first saw the Big Bang Sang Bleu, I felt the company could be turning the corner. This was a genuinely fresh take on the Big Bang, created in collaboration with someone interesting. I had to get a closer look.
The main criticism Hublot has faced isn’t actually focused on the volume of editions it’s released, but rather the lack of original thinking that has gone into some of them. In many cases, the strategy has been to change the colors on the dial, add the logo of the partner, and maybe create a new strap, all while keeping the bulk of the Big Bang intact. To be fair, the contrary would make very little sense from a manufacturing standpoint. Making completely new components is a big ask, which small productions can’t justify. But that’s another story for another time.
But it’s not unreasonable to expect a degree of novelty from an artistic collaboration, especially when a contemporary artist is involved. Much too often though, we get something that feels a little flat, as was the case when Mr. Brainwash splashed some paint on a unique Big Bang. Failures seems to occur in one of two cases. Either the medium, i.e the watch does not lend itself well to the artist’s style. And while that can be disappointing, it does happen and it would be a little harsh to hold it against the artist or the watch company. Other times, too many people get involved â the watch company has an identity to protect â and that inevitably stifles the creative process.
Which brings us to Hublot’s latest artistic ambassador.
Maxime Buchi, Founder Of Sang Bleu
Maxime Buchi, is a 38-year-old Swiss tattoo artist and entrepreneur, and the founder and director of Sang Bleu, a creative studio split between Zurich and London that has turned into a bit of a movement. Since Buchi founded it in 2006, it has spawned a magazine, a fashion brand, and collaborations with hip brands such as New Balance.
I met Buchi back in June, shortly after his association with Hublot was officially announced â I must confess this is one of those Hublot partnerships I missed on the first go-around. A real watch enthusiast, he was one of the first people to contact us when we invited the London-based watch community to meet with the HODINKEE team while we were in London, and it wasn’t difficult to spot him in the crowd during our get-together. Like many tattoo artists, he is covered with ink from head-to-toe, so there was never any doubt about who had just turned up when a man with tattooed skull walked into the room.
That evening, Buchi wore a Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 5990, a serious watch and an early sign of good taste. We talked about watches, obviously, and tattoos â shocking, right? I found his stance on body art and his own approach very interesting, but the subject of Hublot and the Big Bang watch never came up that evening.Â
Hands-On With The Big Bang Sang Bleu
Three months later, Hublot gave me a call and asked if I’d like to try the new Big Bang Sang Bleu. I was genuinely curious to find out how much of Buchi’s graphic signature would be present in the final product and jumped at the chance. Had he been able to crack the seemingly impossible task of making a watch brand cool via the world of tattoos? He’s not the first to bridge those two worlds, and few of the attempts that precede this watch, such as Mo Coppoletta’s Romain Jerome, did not fill me with confidence.
But Buchi has an advantage over other artists when it comes to his style. His interest in symmetrical lines and use of polygons and other geometric shapes to create unique visuals is more easily translated â and machined â by watchmakers. His designs are familiar to us as well. They’re inspired by Leonardo Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man and other classic works, and through his linear approach Buchi is able carve new patterns, like the octogonal bezel, thereby taking the iconic case of the Big Bang in a new direction.
He’s also not the tattoo artist to turn to if you want ‘a tattoo watch,’ and chose instead to draw a totally novel time display. The hands for the hours, minutes, and seconds have all been replaced by rhodium-coated octagonal discs, organized from the largest to the smallest time unit, with the hours on the outer edge, followed by the minutes and finally the seconds in the dial’s center. It takes a while to get used to what looks like longer hand counting the hours and not the minutes, but once you wrap your head around the logic (and you will), reading the watch becomes easy.
Hublot also introduces a new typeface to the watch â created by Swiss Typefaces, Buchi’s design agency â to mark the hour and minute wheels. The seconds wheel however, is a little more mysterious. It’s fully symmetrical, but unlike the hours and minutes does not have any lume to mark its tip, meaning you’re never quite sure where you stand in between two minutes of the day.
So what hasn’t changed? It’s another 45mm Big Bang, presented in a body that fuses materials â in this case titanium with a black composite resin â and it features the manufacture’s UNICO HUB1213 movement, an automatic caliber with 72 hours of power reserve, visible through the watch’s sapphire caseback.
So, it’s very large, but it has the benefit of being a lightweight watch and on the calfskin strap it sits comfortably on the wrist. Considering the size of the case, I was really impressed with how wearable it was, actually. Would 42mm have been better? Probably. But Buchi exploits the size of the Big Bang well, using it to his advantage even to create a sense of depth like I had not experienced in a watch.
I imagine it looks much better on a forearm that’s covered by a thin layer of ink and a thick layer of leather, but man did I enjoy busting out my old biker jacket for a few days to try my best to remain in sync with my wrist wear. I’m not the kind of guy this watch was made for, and I’m OK with that. I enjoyed wearing it anyway.
I’ll happily admit that for a moment there, I got totally pulled into Sang Bleu’s world. And that’s probably this limited edition’s greatest achievement. It gets the tattoo community talking watches and I’m sure it will get a few watch enthusiasts thinking about their first (or next) tattoo.
The Hublot Big Bang Sang Bleu is a limited edition of 200 pieces, each priced at $18,800. The watch come on a black calfskin strap, but according to Buchi it just as good (maybe even better) on a white or a black rubber strap. Yes, the man behind the design of this watch and its strap thinks there are alternatives out there, which tells me really cares about the end consumer’s enjoyment of his product and isn’t high on the hubris of thinking his first design was 100% perfect.
In the end, you have to admire the Swiss artist. Buchi really went for it and asked some difficult questions of Hublot, including designing a new bezel and time display. In response, the Swiss manufacture proved the adaptability of its flagship watch, which many have doubted, following a string of supposedly-unique watches that all looked very similar in reality.Â
And it’s paid off. In fact, I’d go so far as to say Hublot is at its best when it presents watches that are unlike its usual fare, whether that’s in the LaFerrari range, this new-look Big Bang, or that triple calendar Stephen reviewed a few weeks back.