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Hublot Spirit of big bang - 601.JX.0120.RT

August 27, 2023

How can we pass up the opportunity to review such a piece when one is in our care? We're taking a closer look at one of the most fascinating modern watches we have in our catalogue, designed to stand out, blend in, sparkle, and go unseen. We're talking about Hublot's Spirit of Big Bang Chronograph.

But, before that, a little history. Twenty-five years after the launch of the Hublot brand, the Big Bang debuted at Baselworld in 2005. The theme of the Hublot name has always been about fusion, whether that's design elements, materials or mechanics. Hublot's original watches, which now inspire the Classic Fusion line, were generally discreet but tended to be made of precious metals. If you saw one, you'd say, "yes, that's a product of the 1980s".

It seemed that this approach would only work for so long, and the older designs started to look a little stale. The alternative movements of the nineties brought a hard new edge demanding more bling and showing off than ever before, and with that demand came cash to burn. This is what mainly prompted Audemars Piguet to reinvent the Royal Oak and make it into the beefier, punchier Royal Oak Offshore that many (including us) love. 

In 2005, Hublot launched the Big Bang, an exciting new entry into luxurious fashion. Like the Royal Oak Offshore, the Big Bang featured a large, imposing design that exemplified the brand's direction. And it worked. Exceptionally well, almost too well for Hublot, which has been ridiculed for its overly fashion-oriented leanings and selling expensive watches that it calls haute horlogerie without the haute mechanics inside. Nevertheless, Hublot has been able to market the Big Bang extremely well over the years, and it's spawned countless iterations. Some firm favourites are the classic Big Bang Chronograph, the Big Bang UNICO and the Big Bang Meca-10; the latter two come with in-house movements to boot.

The Spirit of Big Bang is a different animal from the regular Big Bang but, as the name suggests, captures the essence of what made the Big Bang successful. The most important difference to note here is the case shape. The Big Bang is renowned for its rounded case with 'ears', the parts on either side of the case that represent the hinge and locking mechanisms on the portholes of a ship (Hublot being French for porthole). The Spirit of Big Bang has a barrel-shaped case, which is also sometimes called a tonneau case. You guessed it, tonneau is French for barrel.

You'll note that the Spirit of Big Bang keeps various details from the regular Big Bang despite the different case shape. For example, it still has exposed screws on the top of the bezel, and there are 'ears' on either side of the case, although they poke out a lot less here. You can tell that Hublot wanted to keep the elements of what made the Big Bang iconic while creating something that's still new, like when a film's musical composer reuses a character's theme in different places to create different moods while the music still resonates with that character. 

That said, changing the shape of a watch's case like this creates an entirely different wearing experience, and Hublot is well aware of this. The tonneau case is curved slightly along its longest edge, so despite it being a 45mm watch, it wraps itself around your wrist snugly no matter how big or small, aided by the clear rubber strap.

That strap might be our third favourite feature of this particular piece, second to the box the watch comes in, which is transparent except for the iconic Hublot bezel on the top. We've seen plenty of classy boxes for watches over the years, but this is definitely one of the most unique we've had in.

Of course, the transparent watch box was only our second favourite feature. Our very favourite feature is the case which is made of sapphire crystal. On high-end watches, sapphire crystal is typically used to cover the dial. You wouldn't use regular or safety glass as they're too weak. Some watches use plexiglass which is acrylic, but this scratches easily and can sometimes become discoloured in the sunlight. Sapphire crystal is one of the hardest substances known to man, so it's perfect for covering a watch's dial due to its scratch resistance.

It's one thing to make the crystal of a watch, but it's another thing entirely to make a watch out of crystal. Doing so requires a new skill set to be learned, as once the crystal has been grown (that's right, it's grown in a lab), working with it becomes challenging thanks to its hardness, blunting tools quickly, and its brittleness resulting in shatters. Now take a look at the shape of the Spirit of Big Bang. It's no ordinary round case, it's got layers and edges and corners and so forth—tricky stuff. Thankfully, sapphire crystal is very dense, so this watch is noticeable on the wrist. It's not dense like gold is, so it doesn't feel like you've got a brick attached to your arm, but it is pleasingly noticeable.

Also, although high-end watchmakers don't tend to do this, a traditional watch with crystal on the front and back usually obscures most of the movement, meaning you'd never know if any corners were cut. Watchmakers don't get the luxury of relying on a dial plate to cover any small imperfections on a skeletonised movement where the components of said movement also become the dial. Now mount that movement inside a see-through case, and there's no room for imperfections in the finish, as the customer can see the movement from any angle.

Inside this watch, and on display at all times, is the calibre HUB4700. Hublot uses this movement in many of its Spirit of Big Bang chronograph watches and is finished to match the watch it's going in, which usually means changes to the subdial colours and markers. The movement is self-winding thanks to a skeletonised rotor with the Hublot 'H' on it. As for tech specs, it has a power reserve of around 50 hours, the movement features a column wheel for better control of the start/stop/reset cycle, and the beat rate is 5Hz. If that reminded you of Zenith's famous high-beat El Primero calibre, you're thinking along the right lines. The HUB4700 movement began its life as an El Primero movement. As both Hublot and Zenith are owned by the same parent (LVMH - Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessey), this makes a bit more sense, and the El Primero is a fantastic movement in its own right.

The appeal of this Spirit of Big Bang comes from the case, which blends the traditional Hublot hallmarks with a new design identity. Hublot is one of the few watchmakers to commit fully to using sapphire crystal in its watches; this example demonstrates their mastery of this material. Sure, it won't be to everyone's taste, but there's a lot to love with this special piece.

If you're interested in purchasing a pre-owned luxury watch like this gorgeous Hublot, please do get in touch and we'll endeavour to source one for you, assuming we don't have one in stock already. Our website is continually updated as we buy and sell all kinds of watches. Don't worry if we don't have the watch you want in stock. We buy and sell a lot of watches, so another one is bound to come around, but you can always contact us, and we can help you source the perfect timepiece for your collection.

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