Photos by Ariel Adams

We were treated to (or tortured by, depending on your view) a bevy of dragon-themed watches this year. Every brand seemed to be jockeying for a slice of the Chinese market, with its own take on the Year of the Dragon. Some were subtle, some not so much. But Hublot surprised me with something that certainly wasn’t subtle (Hublot never is) but still managed a thoughtfulness that made it far more palatable than the rest. The Hublot truly felt different from the others — a more complete effort that could stand on its own and look great while doing so. For the Hublot Spirit of Big Bang Titanium Dragon, the brand has drawn on the incredible work of Chinese paper artist Chen Fenwan, and the result is awesome.

The Titanium Dragon is one of only two three-hand models in the Spirit of Big Bang line that doesn’t have diamonds. For whatever reason, Hublot feels the need to use this platform for diamonds, but thankfully, that’s not the case here. The titanium case is about as unembellished as Hublot gets, outside of the Classic Fusion collection (which I always try to avoid). Measuring 42mm in diameter, with a lug-to-lug of around 56mm and a thickness of 13.8mm, the watch is neither overwhelming nor dainty. The wrist presence is aided by three things: the case curvature (which Hublot always gets just right), the lightweight titanium construction, and the integrated strap that makes the watch a near-seamless silhouette around the wrist. The case adds a lot of variety, still, by combining frosting, polishing, and brushing. With the jumbo crown and its rubber ring, operating the watch is easy, and with 100 meters of water resistance, this is a fun watch that can actually be worn, not babied.

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Absolutely stealing the show is the dragon head dial. Based on Chinese paper artist Chen Fenwan’s work, particularly an enormous dragon she made of paper cutouts (yes, paper art is real, and yes, her stuff is amazing — check it out). The ornate, multi-layered dial depicts a classically inspired Chinese dragon, though a keen eye will see a few nods to this horological take in the gear teeth at the eyelashes and at the periphery, plus Hublot’s H-shaped screws standing in for the eyes. The look is achieved by applying individually cut pieces on top of each other until the visage comes to life. To save the dial from marring, the brand’s logo and “Swiss Made” are smartly printed on the underside of the sapphire crystal. The entire experience is transfixing: I kept titling the watch to see the shadows of each layer and examine every curve and element. On a more practical note, the signature Hublot hands get a brushed finish. Personally, there were a few moments when this made it hard to read against the matte dragon pieces, and I might have gone with at least some polishing to allow them to catch light and contrast the texture of the dial.

It’s not every day that a watch’s bracelet or strap is more exciting than the case, much less almost as exciting as the dial, yet that’s exactly what struck me as soon as I started handling the Hublot Spirit of Big Bang Titanium Dragon. The watch does come with a gray textile strap that double secures with Velcro and a black ceramic buckle, and they can be easily swapped thanks to the brand’s push-button strap-changing system, but why have a burger when you can have filet mignon? The black rubber strap on the Titanium Dragon doubles down on the name with a dragon scale pattern and is the obvious choice when wearing the watch. Chen Fen Wan’s dragon design is continued with a marquetry design of individually made and placed scales, a process that is done by hand and takes about 8 hours per strap. I’ll be honest with you: I’ve never wrist-rolled so many times in such a short period of time.

The Hublot HUB1710 is one of the most basic calibers you can get from the brand. A simple three-hand automatic with a date function (clearly omitted for this model), the HUB1710 is based on the Zenith Elite 670, a force in its own right, and a design that also sits under the LVMH umbrella (sharing is caring). The movement operates at 28,800 vph with a power reserve of 50 hours. Hublot did well making the movement cage echo the case design, and the movement itself features a basic level of finishing that won’t get any awards but also won’t detract from the dial’s spectacle. While the skeletonized logo is acceptable, I couldn’t help but think the rotor should’ve gotten the same treatment as the dial and the strap.

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Unlike some less thoughtful Chinese New Year pieces we saw this year and in years past, the Hublot Spirit of Big Bang Titanium Dragon has a broad appeal thanks to its artistic design that goes beyond simple adornment and transforms the watch. On the wrist, it’s not just comfortable, it’s beautiful; you simply won’t be able to stop admiring the layering of the dial or the marquetry of the strap. The Hublot Spirit of Big Bang Titanium Dragon is priced at 29,500 USD and is limited to 88 pieces. For more information, please visit the brand’s website

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