As we grow older, it’s natural for our tastes to change and evolve; however, I’ve always loved brightly colored transparent objects and my affinity for them has not diminished in the slightest as an adult. Whether we are talking about rocks and minerals, Lego pieces, Halloween candy, or phone cases, my favorite versions of any objects always seem to be the transparent ones in vibrant colors, and apparently that sentiment also extends to six-figure luxury timepieces, such as the limited-edition Hublot Big Bang Unico Green SAXEM that was just unveiled as part of the brand’s novelties for LVMH Watch Week 2024. Practicality and durability are typically the two traits that I value most in wristwatches, and while this transparent green Hublot is arguably the antithesis of both these qualities, it is also my favorite new watch that was announced at this year’s show.
Among the various SAXEM watches that Hublot has put forward thus far, my favorite is still the Big Bang Tourbillon Automatic Neon Yellow SAXEM that was part of the brand’s releases last year for LVMH Watch Week 2023. However, while the new 2024 Hublot Big Bang Unico Green SAXEM (ref. 441.JG.4990.RT) isn’t quite as impressive as its neon yellow sibling that features a flying tourbillon and is powered by a skeletonized micro-rotor movement (or the original Big Bang MP-11 SAXEM from 2019, which also featured a case made from emerald green-colored SAXEM), it is significantly less expensive than either of these two models. Additionally, rather than being based upon one of Hublot’s most premium and avant-garde creations, this latest SAXEM watch is very much the classic Big Bang Unico Chronograph, although it is rendered in one of the brand’s most seldom-used and high-tech case materials.
So, what is this wonderfully vibrant and transparent SAXEM material? In short, SAXEM was originally developed for the satellite industry, and it is similar to synthetic sapphire, although the two materials differ when it comes to their molecular structure and how their colors are achieved during the manufacturing process. Sapphire and SAXEM both have a composition that largely consists of aluminum oxide, although sapphire has a three-sided crystalline structure, while SAXEM has a cubic form, and this makes SAXEM better suited for rich and vibrant colors, as the material will appear the same shade when viewed at different angles. Additionally, while sapphire is colored with metallic oxides, SAXEM uses rare earth elements to achieve its vibrant hues, and this is responsible for the rather unusual name of the material, as “SAXEM” simply stands for “Sapphire Aluminum oXide and rare Earth Mineral” (clearly some liberties were taken with this acronym to avoid a terribly cumbersome name).
Aside from its bright green transparent case, the new Hublot Big Bang Unico Green SAXEM is very much the same flagship chronograph that occupies a cornerstone role within the brand’s modern catalog. Measuring 42mm in diameter by 14.5mm thick, the multi-component case of the watch offers a similar size and profile to other models from the collection, although rather than being crafted from gold, titanium, carbon fiber, or even colored ceramic, all of the major sections of the case are constructed from SAXEM that appears in an incredibly rich emerald green color. Clear sapphire crystals are still used above the dial and for the display window in the caseback, while the various black-colored components on the watch (such as the crown, pushers, and screws that hold the case together) are all crafted from titanium.
Simply because I have a longstanding love of brightly colored transparent objects, I’m naturally going to be a big fan of anything that Hublot produces in SAXEM. However, it’s important to reiterate that from a functional perspective, the Big Bang Unico Green SAXEM is very much the same watch as the standard 42mm Big Bang Unico Chronograph, and it is powered by the same manufacture HUB1280 UNICO 2 automatic flyback chronograph movement, which runs at a rate of 28,800vph (4 Hz) with a power reserve of 72 hours. Similarly, the case also features Hublot’s One Click strap changing system, where owners can press the trapezoid-shaped buttons located on the tops of the lugs to disconnect the strap, and while the skeletonized dial features the same overall design with a two-register layout and a date window embedded within the sub-dial at the 3 o’clock location, the luminous material that appears on the dial and hands is now a bright green color to match the rich green hue of its SAXEM case.
One interesting detail worth mentioning is that while all of the 42mm Hublot Big Bang Unico Chronograph watches offer the same functionality from a movement perspective, they do differ when it comes to their water resistance. The various ones with cases made from metal alloys and ceramic all offer 100 meters of water resistance, while those with transparent cases, such as the clear sapphire model and the latest Big Bang Unico Green SAXEM only offer 50 meters. Similarly, it also happens to be these models with transparent cases that are the absolute most expensive within the series, so while you are paying handsomely for the novelty of having a watch with a fully transparent case, you are also technically getting less from an outright performance perspective (although I can’t imagine anyone buying a six-figure watch with a sapphire or SAXEM case is really all that worried about its water resistance).
While all of Hublot’s 42mm Big Bang Unico chronograph models run on the same movement, the finishing on them can differ to better complement the color profiles of their respective watches. As for the Hublot Big Bang Unico Green SAXEM, its skeletonized tungsten oscillating weight and all of its plates and bridges have been given a black PVD treatment to match the black-and-green colorway of the watch, and since the dial is largely transparent and open-worked, the black-finished components of the movement are visible through both sides of the watch to create a visual contrast between its display and case. The green and black colorway extends onto the strap, with the strap itself crafted from a semi-transparent green rubber, while the deployant clasp is made from black-finished titanium with the “Hublot” name appearing in bright green letters on its outermost section.
The overall visual impact of the Hublot Big Bang Unico Green SAXEM really feels like something that should exist within the universe of DC Comics’ Green Lantern superhero, and while the entire watch is executed to incredibly high standards, it still maintains a certain lighthearted and playful quality, rather than feeling like something that is first and foremost intended to be expensive. Even in an alternate reality where I was fabulously wealthy and had an entire collection of six-figure timepieces, I would still feel somewhat uncomfortable about wearing a traditionally extravagant watch like one that is crafted from solid gold and set with diamonds. However, I could much more easily see myself strapping on this transparent green SAXEM Hublot with a fresh pair of sneakers and going about my everyday life, without feeling like I was necessarily trying to telegraph my wealth to the world.
Since SAXEM is very similar to sapphire, the case of the Hublot Big Bang Unico Green SAXEM will be incredibly difficult to scratch, and it won’t discolor or become opaque over time like transparent plastic materials. With that in mind, a severe impact does run the risk of cracking or shattering SAXEM, and having a six-figure timepiece with a case that is entirely crafted from this material would admittedly be a bit stressful whenever quickly getting up from a table or rounding the corner of a doorway. Given that the dial isn’t exactly the most legible, and a strong drop onto a concrete floor has the potential to absolutely annihilate its existence, the Big Bang Unico Green SAXEM is hardly a contender for being a person’s function-forward everyday timekeeping companion. However, no one buys this watch because they view it purely as a utilitarian object, and when it comes to watches that cost six-figure and even seven-figure prices, I firmly believe that the object you receive for your money is far less important than the simple yet ever-nebulous criteria of how the watch makes you feel.
Historically, an expensive watch was one that either featured a highly complex movement or one that incorporated intrinsically valuable materials into its construction like precious metals and gemstones. However, with an official retail price of 116,000 USD and production limited to 100 examples, the Hublot Big Bang Unico Green SAXEM (ref. 441.JG.4990.RT) costs more than five times the price of the entry-level 42mm models from the collection. That said, once you move past a certain price point, no amount of mechanical ingenuity or precious materials can entirely justify the cost of a luxury watch, and choosing one ultimately becomes an emotional purchase, even if the person buying the watch doesn’t necessarily view it as one. Regardless of how you may feel about Hublot as a brand, there is no way to look at its catalog and not feel something, and when it comes to Hublot’s vibrantly colored transparent watches like the Big Bang Unico Green SAXEM, they simply make me happy. For more information on the Hublot Big Bang Unico Green SAXEM watch, please visit the brand’s website.