Editor’s note: The Hublot Spirit of Big Bang Yellow Sapphire perfectly typifies why the Swiss watchmaker is at the forefront of material innovation and design aesthetic — you just don’t see many watches out there like this. This particular Spirit of Big Bang was actually the first watch in the world to be made of solid Yellow Sapphire and, when contrasted with its black open-worked dial, crown and pushers, it makes for a very attractive, if extroverted, timepiece.
Magic Gold, ceramic, sapphire. We all know that Hublot loves toying with case materials, and their latest comes as yet another clever spin on case materials — the first ever watch cased in yellow sapphire. Hublot wasn’t the first to get into the art of crafting sapphire watch cases, however they have been the first to dabble in colour, and after the successful launch of blue and red, this glowing golden yellow became the brand’s latest addition earlier this year. While hanging in the sun at Watches & Wonders in Miami (sprinting from one meeting to the next), I had an opportunity to take a closer look at this jaune gem.
The reality is that people love to bang on Hublot, and especially the Spirit of Big Bang, which is a little unfortunate in my eyes. Yes, its tonneau case shape didn’t exactly reinvent the wheel when it launched in 2014, but the uneducated callout of it being derivative is about as accurate as stating that any black-dialled dive watch on the market is a copy of a Rolex Submariner. But I digress. From the onset I’ve actually been kinda fond of the Big Bang, and though the shift in casing is quite dramatic, I’m going to make the daring argument that this is the most aesthetically pleasing sapphire-cased Hublot to date. Hear me out, now.
To make the case for the Spirit of Big Bang Yellow Sapphire you don’t really need to dig too deep to see what sets it apart from the other clear and coloured sapphire-cased watches in the Hublot catalogue. Plain and simple, the high-contrast combination of black and yellow gives this model a much more punchy look than any of its siblings. Think Bumblebee in the Transformers franchise, for example, or the Pittsburgh Steelers football team immortalised by Wiz Khalifa’s song called (you guessed it) ‘Black and Yellow’. It’s all over caution signs, radioactivity warnings; face it, there’s a reason that government and security regulation bodies chose it. It’s a pairing that’s made to be noticed and, frankly, I’m a little surprised that Hublot hasn’t played with it more often.
This stark contrast is precisely what’s lacking in all of the other sapphire-cased Hublot models. Blue sapphire is contrasted by steel and other light grey finishes. Red sapphire is set against black, but being a darker hue, it simply lacks punch. In a sense, this is a good thing for those wanting to not draw any more attention than a sapphire case already will, but this is Hublot — a brand known for punch — and, in my eyes, this makes the Spirit of Big Bang Yellow Sapphire a quintessential example of the brand doing what it does best.
But how did we get here, you might ask? Well, creating the lab-grown synthetic sapphires large enough to carve cases out of allows for a bit of scientific trickery. Different elements and chemical compounds can be fused into the sapphires, and, in the case of yellow, the addition of copper and aluminium oxide. Still maintaining a hardness rivalling diamonds (9 on the Mohs scale) and the lightness of titanium (107 grams on the wrist), the scientific shift presents no changes other than purely aesthetic.
Ticking away as usual inside, though more visible than usual, is the Zenith El Primero-derived Hublot calibre HUB4700. Zero critique here from a calibre standpoint, considering that shy of a sub-dial redesign, you get similar vibes to the El Primero Full Open — another chronograph I’m a fan of. Having this piece on the wrist for a brief hour or so, I did notice that the material Hublot is using for its translucent straps is a reasonable improvement over its usual selection. The material is a fair bit softer and more compliant on the wrist. Though their usual rubber straps aren’t bad to begin with, the added comfort is instantly noticeable.
Out in the Miami Design District crowds, the slightly muted yellow didn’t catch nearly as much attention as I had initially anticipated; however, this is one of Hublot’s bases in North America (if not the world), so between the brand being far more common and simply being in the throes of the city’s biggest watch fair, it probably wasn’t a fair venue to gauge whether or not the piece could possibly sail under the radar. At the very least, it will easily sneak by those unfamiliar with watchmaking, being written off as something made of plastic. If the Spirit of Big Bang Yellow Sapphire is up your alley, stock will be legitimately limited. Unlike the usual large-scale “limited editions” from Hublot, this piece is limited to only 100 pieces globally.
Hublot Spirit of Big Bang Yellow Sapphire Australian pricing and availability
Hublot Spirit of Big Bang Yellow Sapphire, limited to 100 pieces, $136,000