How to build a watchmaking icon in a decade

Case study: Hublot Big Bang

BRIEF

  • Objective :
    Create an iconic watch designed for a young, cosmopolitan clientele to re-energize Hublot’s brand image.
  • Strategy :
    Defy convention by transposing the concept of “fusion” to watchmaking, featuring a case made of unprecedented materials, while at the same time unlocking new production synergies.
  • Results :
    In less than ten years, the Big Bang has become a true watchmaking icon, winning the hearts – and wrists – of 300,000 aficionados around the world.
Ricardo Guadalupe and his design team © Hublot / Fred Merz

Close-up

In 2004, Jean-Claude Biver and Ricardo Guadalupe, now respectively President of the LVMH Watch Division and Chief Operating Officer of Hublot, took the helm of Hublot, a watchmaker founded in the 1980s. At the time, Hublot had made a splash by offering a watch whose case combined gold and natural rubber. But by the early 2000s sales had begun to wane. To give the House a fresh boost, Jean-Claude Biver capitalized on the original idea to invent a fusion concept for watchmaking, proposing a new take on high-end chronographs that spotlights functionality and the performance of the case, along with the materials in which they are made. This was a bold gamble in an industry deeply attached to traditions and the methods of time-honored craftsmanship. The concept became the cornerstone behind Hublot’s renaissance. And the ultimate expression is the Big Bang.

 

© Studio Kippik

“Fusion was already ubiquitous in fields like architecture and gastronomy, but in 2005, the idea of fusion was something still very new in watchmaking.”

To apply the fusion concept, Jean-Claude Biver and Ricardo Guadalupe set out to design an entirely new model of watch. Inspired by the way legendary guitarist Les Paul captured the functional essence of an acoustic guitar to invent the electric guitar, they wanted to accomplish the same thing for watches. The case had to accommodate a combination of novel materials to create a distinctive aesthetic while developing new technical characteristics. The design had to be rationalized to facilitate the use of complementary and interchangeable components, making it easier to create new models and limited editions.

These imperatives spawned the idea of a “sandwich” case made from five parts, compared with three for a conventional watch, along 70 components. Thanks to this architecture, all the components that were once hidden become visible, enabling a fusion of different materials. The Big Bang was born, paying tribute to the excellence of Swiss watchmaking craftsmanship while at the same time propelling it into the future.

The first model was unveiled in 2005 at the industry’s prime time event, the Baselworld show. Pairing a natural rubber strap with a case in 18K pink gold and a ceramic bezel, it was an instant hit. By the end of the show, Hublot had multiplied sales by a factor of 5.5 versus the previous year.

© Hublot / Usain Bolt

“We went where luxury had never gone before, into the worlds of soccer, basketball, athletics and rock music.”

Sporty, with the look of a thoroughbred, the Big Bang boasts a movement containing 252 components, including a tungsten rotor, and is water resistant at up to 10 bars (100 meters). The watch is not marketed like conventional high-end timepieces. Hublot targets a new generation of watch lovers, intrepidly adventuring into realms that were previously unexplored by watchmakers. Over the years it has partnered with a host of modern-day icons, including rock stars (Depeche Mode), graffiti artists (Pamela Castro), athletes (Usain Bolt, the Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich football clubs), Formula One heroes (Ferrari team) and more. This diversity of partnerships is possible thanks to the ultra-modular construction of the Big Bang, making it possible to adapt the icon into a multitude of exclusive models, underlining the key to its impact and success.

Hublot has at the same time conceived a succession of amazing associations to create an infinite variety of Big Bang watches. Over ten years the case has been crafted in gold, rubber, titanium, ceramic, carbon, Texalium and other exotic materials. Hublot even developed its own Magic Gold, cast right at the manufacture. Made of a gold and ceramic alloy, Magic Gold is so resistant it can be scratched only by a diamond.

© Hublot

The Big Bang is also an astounding watchmaking feat in that it has become an icon in less than ten years, winning over 300,000 customers around the world. Hublot’s sales were 20 times higher in 2014 than in 2004. The brand is present in 39 countries and has 77 brand-owned stores. This vitality enabled the House to inaugurate a high-tech manufacture in 2009, a 6,000-square-meter facility on the shores of Lake Geneva, and to develop its own Unico movement. The Unico is a column wheel movement with a double clutch, containing 330 components. It naturally made its debut in a Big Bang watch in 2010, giving Hublot fresh impetus to continue forging new paths to the future. In September 2015, a second building will be inaugurated at the manufacture, crowning the brand’s success.

Key figures

  • 5.5 times increase in sales after Hublot introduced the Big Bang in 2005
  • 70 components in the Big Bang case
  • 5 to 7 years are needed to add a new material to a Big Bang design