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Hublot Big Bang UNICO Watch Review

Hublot Big Bang UNICO Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Hublot is probably one of the least understood luxury brands around (particularly in the wrist watch realm) – especially because so many people think that they understand it. Hublot really epitomizes what someone recently described to me as a “non-fragile” company. The idea is that fragile companies are those that don’t deal well with criticism or complaints. Non-fragile companies, on the other hand, actually thrive in the face of criticism and sometimes even controversy. Hublot receives more than its fair share of negative commentary from the wrist watch collector community, yet the brand seems to be getting stronger all the time. Hublot is a non-fragile company that thrives on feedback both negative and positive. No one at the frantic and busy organization is at all sensitive about the fact that many of the more conservative watch collectors take most opportunities to share their disapproval at the brand’s product offerings. Hublot keeps on going strong offering more of what people seem to love, and also more of what seems to irritate some of the more outspoken members of the watch lover community.

2015 represents the 10-year anniversary of the Hublot Big Bang that really marks the remarkable relaunch of the Swiss watch brand. After Jean-Claude Biver sold Blancpain to the Swatch Group, he proceeded to use his earnings to purchase the then distressed Hublot – a flailing and money-losing Swiss brand, with a name that means “porthole,” originally started in the early 1980s.

With the Hublot Big Bang and a modern take on bold luxury sport watches, Hublot was able to help strongly and permanently change the face of the modern sport watch industry. Love or hate their strategy, “The Hublot Way” is a powerfully aggressive and effective way of making a brand desirable and culturally relevant. Are they making products that the dedicated, niche, high-end watch enthusiasts claim to want? No. But at the same time, a close inspection of many of the elements of what Hublot is today reveals that the company embodies pretty much everything even the most picky watch collector is looking for. You do, however, need to sift through varying degrees of chaff to find it.

Hublot Big Bang UNICO Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

People often know me as a rather unapologetic Hublot fan – and wearing this Hublot Big Bang UNICO for a few months quite constantly sort of increased my Hublot fan-dom. No, I am not in love with everything they do, but I genuinely like the Hublot theme as well as their particular take on making horology contemporary. Maybe it is all because of the “Biverian” influence that remains even though he is technically the CEO of a different company right now (TAG Heuer), but the spirit of the watch industry’s most influential branding and marketing maven, Jean-Claude Biver, stays true today under the leadership of current CEO Ricardo Guadalupe.

One of the more interesting elements of Jean-Claude Biver’s maturing relationship with the brand is that it did not diminish much A) after he sold the company to LVMH, and B) after he stepped down as CEO. Today, Jean-Claude Biver still participates in Hublot events and the e-mail address he most uses has an @hublot.com name. So now, 10 years after the initial launch of the Big Bang, the products still enjoy a sense of his energy and passion – a passion that has transcended the marketing and is easily seen in the products themselves.

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Hublot Big Bang UNICO Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

The original 44mm-wide Hublot Big Bang watches are still produced today (in countless variants), so this larger more modern Hublot Big Bang UNICO is not what I would call a replacement. However, the Hublot Big Bang UNICO 45mm (originally debuted by aBlogtoWatch here in 2013) fits in between the 44mm-wide Big Bang and the 48mm-wide King Power cases. I’ve actually guessed a few times that the 45mm-wide Hublot Big Bang UNICO case has more or less replaced the King Power case, as it has a similar look and feel while being more modern and also more ergonomic.

In that previous article mentioned above where I debuted the Hublot Big Bang UNICO, you can read more about the design evolution and how the case really started out as Hublot’s Big Bang Ferrari that was adapted to be a modern Big Bang. So let me step back and say that if you want a slightly smaller, more simple line of watches, the original Hublot Big Bang case is still available and worth looking at; but if you want one of the best timepieces Hublot has to offer today, then I recommend you check out a Hublot Big Bang UNICO.

Hublot Big Bang UNICO Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

From a watch lover’s perspective, the Hublot Big Bang UNICO is one of Hublot’s proudest achievements. While Hublot has produced movements in-house for quite a while, during much of their modern history, in-house-made Hublot movements were reserved exclusively for their most expensive and exclusive models such as tourbillons. “UNICO” is really the name for a movement platform which can be modified and moduled to offer a range of complications. In its purest form, the UNICO automatic movement offers time plus chronograph (and date), and is very well represented here with the caliber HUB1242.

Hublot Big Bang UNICO Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

The development of the UNICO took at least 4-5 years for Hublot and was premised around the idea that the company wanted to move away from relying strictly on base Swiss ETA Valjoux 7750 and 7753 automatic chronograph movements to power their timepieces. Not that these movements are bad, but they aren’t exclusive, nor do they fully capture the fuller extent of the Hublot personality. With an in-house movement for volume products (meaning not exotic movements such as tourbillons that aren’t produced in any large volume), Hublot needed a solid, reliable, flexible, and beautiful in-house movement that could be the cornerstone of most of their timepieces.

I recall visiting Hublot several years ago in 2010, prior to the release of the UNICO when it was still under development. The Hublot manufacture had large unfilled spaces that would eventually house production equipment to produce watch movement parts. Recently, Hublot opened up a second facility adjacent to its original Nyon, Switzerland-based headquarters that they affectionately call “H2” with additional manufacturing space.

Hublot Big Bang UNICO Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

The UNICO movement was always meant to offer as much as the Valjoux 7750 and then some. The 7750 is so ubiquitous for good reason. It is a solid workhorse movement that offers good performance, reliability, and available parts. The UNICO needed to offer at least the same performance and reliability while adding a few elements to the equation. Basic performance stats have the movement operating at 4Hz (28,800 bph) with 72 hours of power reserve. The chronograph has some improvements over that in the 7750 by adding a column wheel transmission (which is neatly visible through the dial) as well as a flyback mechanism (meaning you can reset the chronograph without stopping it first).

Hublot Big Bang UNICO Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Thus, on paper, the UNICO offers more than the 7750 – which it has more or less replaced – so what about visually? Well, this is where the UNICO really shines because it was designed from the ground up to be more or less skeletonized and visible all the time. The bridges are natively skeletonized and almost all Hublot Big Bang UNICO watches have open dials. The “naked” approach to the movement draws in the eye, offers a lot for movement lovers to appreciate, and at the end of the day, just looks really cool. Like the automotive world that continues to inspire high-end sport watch design like the Hublot Big Bang UNICO, the movement is a visible engine with all the masculine splendor that comes with it.

Hublot Big Bang UNICO Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

One of my favorite things to do with the Hublot Big Bang UNICO is just look at the movement through the dial and caseback. Hublot cleverly designed the dial to not only be open, but also to be very legible. Very few Hublot timepieces are difficult to read. The company understands the importance of high-contrast, legible dials that allow you to easily read the time. This task gets more complicated when you have an open dial with a view into the movement parts – often, the eye is distracted between the dial and movement elements, which tends to result in poor legibility. I think that, especially with this “Halloween” limited edition Hublot Big Bang UNICO in black and orange, you can see how important readability is for Hublot.

Hublot Big Bang UNICO Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

The caliber HUB1242 is designed to have the time with subsidiary seconds dial, 30-minute chronograph, and date on the dial. The latter uses a stencil-style numbers ring that can actually be seen almost in full behind the dial, and the indicator for the current date is at 3 o’clock. Honestly, the date is among the less legible facets of dial, but frankly, I appreciate it being second to the time because, while I like having the date on a dial, I don’t always want to look at it. Moreover, sometimes I decide not to set the date (lazy), and I don’t like a super conspicuous date window reminding me all the time that I haven’t correctly set it.

Hublot Big Bang UNICO Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

So, overall, I have a lot of praise for the HUB1242, and that seems to be the consensus among the people who ask to check out the Big Bang UNICO off my wrist. This latter practice is something I eagerly look forward to – especially when someone who I know is not traditionally an Hublot fan wants to take a look at it. The process is almost the same each time – they take what they think is a large garish watch in their hands, only to spend a lot of time intimately looking at the dial and movement and saying something like “that is actually pretty nice.” I like to sometimes respond with, “damn straight it is. Do you think I’d like a brand with a crappy product?” No, I don’t like brands with crappy products, and Hublot is certainly not one of those. Love or hate their designs/events/partnerships/etc… Hublot today makes some very solid watches whose movements stand up there with some of the best. Yes, they are expensive – welcome to “luxury anything.”

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  • word-merchant

    “The Hublot Way” is a powerfully aggressive and effective way of making a brand desirable and culturally relevant”

    I don’t get this statement – how is Hublot any way culturally relevant? Putting endless variations on endless celebrities’ wrists doesn’t add relevance – it just makes noise, and adds some validation for the small proportion of the population who are wealthy enough to afford one or more $20k+ timepieces and who struggle to make their own minds up about what their taste actually is.

    There’s the general feeling in the marketing world that ‘exposure equals relevance’ – but that’s nonsense, and born of desperation: look around you, and look at how derivative and lazy brand ads and image building has become across every industry. What was the last watch ad that really spoke to you? I guarantee you that Hublot’s approach is running out of steam and that consumers are getting tired of all the hyperactive screaming. We are desensitised to marketing: that’s why browser ad blockers are so popular.

    I’ve never met Biver, I don’t know him at all, but he strikes me as a canny and clever man – and he’s no longer Hublot’s CEO. I wouldn’t gloss that over so quickly.

    • iamcalledryan

      I think the term “relevant” is awful in general, and I agree that exposure certainly shouldn’t equal relevant.

      Amidst all of the brand ambassadors (some paid, others simply flying the flag for status), and the colors, and the sponsorship, and the partnered limited editions, I agree that it will not keep a watch afloat unless it connects more deeply. But behind all of that noise is something more than just an aping of AP and aggressive marketing. My biggest frustration is that Hublot actually fail to market themselves based on what they have genuinely achieved, that being the merging of unusual an exotic materials.

      They had the balls to mix rubber with precious metal before anyone else, and its brands like AP that actually followed Hublot on that trend.

      • JimBob

        Also there’s their 18K ceramic gold material. I’d hoped to see that make more use in watch cases and bezels.

  • SuperStrapper

    Very cool. Love the contrast here, and the finishing looks great.

    Now I’ll get out of the way so the parade of haters can have their say.

    • Are we looking at the same case? Or were you referring to the finishing of other parts?

  • Polly Molly Moo

    I quite like some of Hublot’s less shouty watches, but any watch with a name like ‘Big Bang’ or even worse ‘Big Bang King Power’ just shouts “City Trader, too much money, wants to impress, small dick, big watch” – it’s very yuppy / eighties – I’m surprised they have sold as well as they evidently have. To my eyes they are tasteless and vulgar, as I suspect their owners might be.

  • Josh Krut

    Lexus has gone on to sell many cars in the US despite justifiable claims that its first models were Mercedes knock-offs. Now I would argue that both companies sell a lot of cars to very different companies. Same goes for AP and Hublot — each company has their own market. Also, the first knock off of the Royal Oak was the Patek Nautilus, but there is not much mention of that in polite company.

    • iamcalledryan

      But the RO and the Nautilus were both designed by Genta so “knock off” isn’t really the word! It’s like saying the Opus 5 is an URWERK knock off.

      • Josh Krut

        Valid point. Perhaps it would have been better to write that the Nautilus is derivative of the Royal Oak. Look, I am a huge AP fan and AP makes up the bulk of my personal collection. Notwithstanding, I think Hublot is an interesting company that gets a bad rap. Having written that, I think that Hublot offers something different that is more accessible and there is room for both in the marketplace.

  • BNABOD

    There is nothing like waking up on the wrong side of a porthole. Well yes hum ” the company embodies pretty much everything even the most picky watch collector is looking for. ” A pretty bold statement in my book. Look, no doubt Hublot can make a watch and the movement is decent looking but nothing to trip over either (wait one could trip over that thing it is so big). The piece screams look at me look and my massive watch on steroids and it seems rather petty and immature. Lastly you have the CEO of TAG using his old company’s email address? yeah that really sets the stage nicely even though part of LVMH it is inappropriate.

  • “Hublot is probably one of the least understood luxury brands around…especially because so many people think that they understand it.”

    Hublot makes overpriced, obnoxious watches and markets them to overpaid, obnoxious people. Mystery solved.

    • SuperStrapper

      I don’t mind if I’m overpaid, but I take exception to being called obnoxious.

  • Aaron Wood

    I never noticed till now that the screws make the same “H” that is on the crown. It’s a nice touch even though the watch is still ugly as heck.

  • I_G

    It’s not hard to understand Hublot, it’s started with a AP Royal Oak-esque design just bigger and bolder then with clever marketing they created a strong brand and topped it with Biver’s cheese.

  • Richard Baptist

    I find most of Hublot designs not to my taste. However they are a few of their designs I like. I like this for the movement and the skeletonization (is that a word?), not sure if I had the money I would spend it on this. I like that they don’t take themselves too seriously and they take design risks – some work and some don’t but hey I applaud them for trying. Hublot don’t bother me, they’re just doing their thing.

  • Spaceguitar

    I have restrained watches in my small collection, and a couple louder ones. Just depends on my mood honestly. I see nothing wrong with a bold piece like this when it fits. Not making up for anything. Sometimes you wear black and grey, sometimes you wear a bright aloha shirt, nothing wrong with that.

    Literally my only beef with this is the ungodly price.

    I dig how muted the date is; the info is there but doesn’t detract at all in its “semi-hidden” state.

  • iamcalledryan

    Really like the dial. The leather is a little awkward siting within all that rubber – I would like to see this in a vulcanized bracelet or just a cool rubber strap.

  • Ulysses31

    Thrives on criticism. Ignores/doesn’t respond to what the market desires. Is idolised by a dedicated group of blinkered fans for whom the company can do no wrong, and who presume those who don’t like the company are just idiots who “don’t understand” the garbage they willingly lap up, not realising they make themselves look like fools. In other words, if Hublot were a person, it would be Kanye West. You’re deeply, hopelessly in love and your love is perfect – as is your delusion. I would admire Biver more for sticking to his vision unwaveringly, if his vision were any good. He is the Sepp Blatter of the watch world – stubborn, insistent, and wrong. Hublot make a quality watch, but that doesn’t separate them from many other Swiss brands. Their designs are tired and stale. They actively court some of the most questionable and even reprehensible “celebrities” on the planet to market their products. A company like this is not one i’d ever want to buy a product from, just to avoid the association. Self-respect, honour, dignity… these are not words one could associate with Hublot, a company seemingly without values.

    This particular model is more restrained than most but we’ve seen it all before. It is only an incremental improvement.

    • Marius

      I`m sorry, but did you just insinuate that Kanye West is not a good person? Are you telling me that Yeezy, the Louis Vuitton Don, the college dropout, Martin Louis the King Jr. is not a person I should look up to?

    • resonator resonator

      “…the Sepp Blatter of the watch world..” – that was fricking amazing!

    • I don’t know about now, but a watch retailer told me that when the UNICO watches first arrived (a few years back) fully 50% of them were dead on arrival. Just a data point…

      • Ulysses31

        I guess I was wrong when I said “Hublot makes a quality watch”. Makes it even harder for me to fathom the following they have. It must really be about fashion/status above all else.

        • I agree. It seem they focus a lot on marketing and ambassadors.

  • Marius

    I highly respect Ariel Adams as a watch journalist, but in this instance, I disagree with him on a few points.
    Firstly, Mr. Adams argues that Hublot makes solid watches with movements that can compete with the best. Excepting the super complicated models, Hublot uses two movements: ETA and UNICO. The ETA calibers are not even the highest grade, while the Unicos are nice, but not really in the same league with AP, Patek, Journe, or higher end JLC.
    Secondly, the author argues that Hublot watches are expensive, but so are most high end Swiss watches. This is absolutely true, but the difference is that other brands will offer you a much more valuable watch, for the same price. For instance, the recently reviewed Hublot Classic Fusion, that uses a base ETA caliber, and a modest fit&finish costs $9,000 exactly the same price as a JLC Master Ultra Thin Moon, a watch with a fantastic fit&finish, and equipped with a high quality, thin, in-house movement, that also has three additional complications.
    Thirdly, the article talks about the semblance between Hublot and AP, arguing that AP didn`t develop that case design in isolation. As far as I know, Genta first used this case design with the Royal Oak. Moreover, given that this Hublot costs over $22,000, I would expect them to develop their own, completely original design. I mean, its not a carbon copy of the AP, but its not far from it, and a company presented as modern and fresh should be able to come up with an original and modern design, not immitate one developed in the 70`s.

    • Ariel Adams

      UNICO movements aren’t trying to look classic so they won’t feel like they fit in the same category as something from F.P. Journe or Jaeger-LeCoultre. Aesthetically it is very difficult to compare and contrast movements which often are trying to be different. All I said was that I was happy with the movement – and in other ways I am happy with movements from other brands.

      Maybe it is just me but I never look at a Big Bang and see a Royal Oak or vice versa. The details are so different that I’ve never confused the two models. Is that just me? Of course they exist in the same thematic category but I don’t know why all the focus on them looking similar. For me the Big Bang designs are as original as they need to be while still looking familiar.

      In the arena of expensive luxury products I’ve seen all types of things from “good value despite high price” to “nice product with a price that is too high.” I’ve just become accustomed to this and know that most consumers are equally able to make such a determination. When I think something is good looking but costs a lot I am not shy to say it. In my life I’ve both purchased items I didn’t want as much because there was amazing value and other products which might cost a bit more than I think they are worth because I like the totality of the product. Unfortunately if you purely focus on “strict value for the money” when it comes to luxury watch brands you’ve really restricted the number of products you are talking about.

      • When I see a Big Bang case, I see a Royal Oak. If the BB did not exist and was suddenly released (meaning you were not so used to seeing it), you might well see it as a highly derivative design (which I think it is). Sure the dial is different but the case looks like a Genta knock-off to my eyes.

  • Polly Molly Moo

    Maybe we should introduce some new model lines to their watch range. How about the “Big swinging dick”, “Gelled-back hair ambition”, “The dick of Wall Street”, “The king dong power-trip”, “Big bang blowjob”? I’m happy to assist their marketing team!

  • mtnsicl

    More like a Big Dud. The finish on the case is awful! G-shocks have better finishes.

  • spiceballs

    Nice movement, interesting case and strap (connections) but gaudy (to my eyes) and too highly priced. But, as implied, Hublot apparently don’t care (?) as I, for one, am not their target clientele. But then, neither do I – – – .

  • JimBob

    I think the ultra-low-viz date is a mistake, as is printing on the sapphire window.

    • MEddie90

      I’ve gotta admit I don’t really mind the low visibility date. Its not intrusive but its there when you need it.

      The best course of action with date windows imho is to either make it a central feature (al la lange big date) or try to make it blend in as well as possible so as not be be intrusive, this date window is certainly in the latter (although I think a lighter background colour underneath the display would help bring it forward without being overly obnoxious)

      • JimBob

        I figure they started with a higher visibility color, but it looked obnoxious with the skeleton motif.

  • Hydra

    yuck……

  • Omegaboy

    Hublot is ‘The Emporer’s New Clothes’ in the world of watches. Bivers openly admits getting their prices up there to be considered haute horology. They play around with materials. So what. If you buy one, you’re paying for their R&D and marketing, not for anything of lasting value.

  • Gustavo Reyes

    My question is, are they manufacturing the hairspring? Which is the very heart of the watch. This is the essence of the full in-house caliber.