IN-DEPTH: The Hublot Big Bang Integral Blue Ceramic shows the evolution of the sports watch IN-DEPTH: The Hublot Big Bang Integral Blue Ceramic shows the evolution of the sports watch

IN-DEPTH: The Hublot Big Bang Integral Blue Ceramic shows the evolution of the sports watch

Fergus Nash

The domination of blue-dialled steel sports watches has been slowly diminishing in the public eye lately, as waves of innovation are beginning to overtake the appeal of what’s familiar. Bronze cases, green dials — these trends aren’t just popular because they look fantastic, but because they’re refreshing. The Hublot Big Bang Integral in deep blue ceramic is a similar breath of fresh air, replacing steel entirely, and almost negating the need for a dial at all.

 The case

Hublot’s ability to craft gorgeous ceramic colours without compromising the stability of the material is one of their greatest achievements, creating something that looks fun, sporty, but can still take a beating and emerge scratch-free. This shade of ultramarine blue, shifting in the light between a dark navy and a playful periwinkle, is a natural match for the inky sheen of ceramic. The Big Bang shape is now quite well established, but the architecture of the Integral is no less impressive. The wide chamfered edges break up the brushed flat surfaces, adding some wonderful dynamics to even a straight-on view, and it only gets better as the watch is rolled around to different angles.

From a side view, the case leans into a certain sci-fi charm, with a sudden lug downturn and large channels cut out from the sidewall, and the “ears” of the case incorporating many contrasting facets. The boxy pushers jut out from the case with great purpose, marking it out as an obviously modern design alongside the jumbo-sized cog-shaped crown. The bezel raises out of the flat case, honouring the Porthole after which the brand is named, and studded with the proprietary H logo screws.

The dial

Although the Hublot Big Bang Integral barely has a dial to speak of, the face of this watch is certainly a handsome one to look at. The blue ceramic surroundings perfectly matching the blue-covered components on the inside makes the brushed metal parts look suspended, and also helps the hands to be legible among the mass of other parts. The dashes of red printing on the seconds hand, chapter ring, and on the minutes register subdial give the watch a bit of extra character, as well as preventing the complex dial from having too many bright elements.

The layout is enticing, with the column-wheel visible at 6 o’clock, running seconds at 9, and the chronograph’s 60 minute register at 3 o’clock. The date wheel, visible along the entire perimeter of the dial, is highlighted at 3 o’clock also by a cutout within a small smoky sapphire disk. A second creative use of sapphire is the Hublot logo, printed on the underside of the crystal so that it’s never obscured by moving hands. 

The movement

In-house automatic flyback chronographs aren’t so easy to come by outside of Hublot, which is what makes the UNICO 2 movement so unique in the modern market. After engaging the top pusher with the satisfying click only a column-wheel chronograph can give you, pressing the lower pusher will instantly fling the seconds hand back to the starting position to begin again for precise and quick measurements. The skeletonised winding rotor, visible from the caseback, keeps the watch topped up for its 72 hours of power reserve, beating away at 28,800 vibrations per hour. At 1.3mm thinner than the previous UNICO movement, this edition keeps the Big Bang Integral at a respectful 13.45mm thick, easing the bulk of the watch.

Being the rebels that Hublot are, you won’t find an exorbitant amount of ornate decoration behind the sapphire caseback. The components are finished precisely, but without any of the bells and whistles which distract from the total dedication to utility. The brushed and blasted finishes of the components serves to place more focus on the parts that count, such as the oscillating balance wheel. Another benefit is visible on the dial, where the front-facing plates of the movement have been painted blue to match the case.

The bracelet

Hublot aren’t breaking any boundaries with this particular integrated bracelet design, but when it looks this good, they really don’t need to. The effect of flat links taking turns to harshly reflect the light is one of the biggest appeals of an integrated bracelet watch, and it’s why this style has remained so popular for nearly 50 years. The only thing that makes that effect look better, is when the light is glazing over the glossy liquid-sheen of ceramic. Hublot have slightly tamed the bling-factor by applying fine brushing to the top surfaces of the links, however the thick chiselled edges are polished and glitter unashamedly.

It’s comfortable as well as attractive, with end-links that come down off the lugs at a strong angle so as to drape over the wrist, and a titanium deployant buckle beneath the smaller screwed links for incremental adjustment.  

The verdict

The Hublot Big Bang Integral in blue ceramic is priced at $32,200AUD, which is of course a lot of money. But, if you go hunting for an all-ceramic automatic flyback chronograph, you may find yourself quickly out of options. The price is indicative of the quality and uniqueness of the watch, which carries itself as a true luxury contender amongst much loftier giants.