My personal take is that Hublot demonstrated a prolific stream of activity – guided by Biver – that no other Swiss watch brand was even remotely close to matching. I admire the execution skills of the team, which far surpass the typically overly cautious and conservative nature of their neighboring colleagues. Hublot isn’t located in a busy metropolis, but in the quiet city of Nyon outside of Geneva. Hublot’s ability to move and act quickly and with relative agility is because Mr. Biver didn’t ask people for permission before acting, rather he asked them to do things. This management style accounts for what I feel is a major part of Jean-Claude Biver’s success in the watch industry. As a non-native Swiss resident (he was born in Luxembourg but did eventually become an Swiss citizen) he was able to communicate to the Swiss using their own language, but was arguably not held back by their conservative decision making tendencies.
Jean-Claude Biver On The Hublot Big Bang
As part of this review I took some time to speak with Jean-Claude Biver on the Big Bang. I think the most important thing to report is that according to Jean-Claude, the “Big Bang will forever remain the biggest design contribution of my career.” For him it was a great achievement in both modern industrial design, as well as a successful use of a modular design in an aesthetically pleasing way.
I asked Jean-Claude when he first realized the Big Bang was going to be a hit. As someone who was already skilled in knowing the market appeal of various watch models, he described to me how in 2004 when he and Mr. Guadalupe first viewed prototypes of the Big Bang design, he knew it was going to be a hit. With that said, not even Mr. Biver could have anticipated that he was about to release not just what would be a design icon, but also a force that would be seriously disruptive in the landscape of contemporary, high-end timepieces.
Biver said that the original design mandate for the Big Bang was actually rather simple. This was at a time, mind you, that the watch industry was increasingly interested in industrial designers to come in and help make modern watches. This meant that rather than looking strictly at existing watch design, inspiration from the worlds of modern cars, buildings, and other vehicles and structures was highly inspirational and very welcome.
The Big Bang 44 was supposed to more or less pick up where the Hublot of old left off. It was supposed to take this design from the early 1980s and thrust it into the 2000s. The modular aspect of the design was also very important because it was clear from the start that Hublot needed a way to create product differentiation with the option of limiting ongoing R&D costs. In other words, the Big Bang was supposed to be a porthole to our times.
It was also supposed to be for a new, younger demographic that much of the watch industry was accustomed to marketing to. I recall an interesting marketing tactic that I noticed Hublot participated in that I could never imagine another other brand doing. I actually wrote about this in 2007, as one of the earliest articles on aBlogtoWatch. Hublot made a presence in the virtual open world game Second Life. Characters could even get a Big Bang watch for their digital avatar. It might seem silly looking back on it, but it demonstrated not only actual marketing in practice, but a sincere desire for Hublot to be more relevant to younger, technologically literate people. If you are thinking that most online gamers can’t afford luxury watches, you are probably right. That wasn’t the point. The idea was to instill the idea of Hublot in the minds of younger people to create awareness. Also, there was the hope that if just a few of them made it big enough to afford a luxury watch, that one of them would be a Hublot. That statement alone captures much of what Biver’s overall marketing strategy with the Hublot brand was.
The Face Of Modern Watch Marketing
Marketing and materials together combined to create a youthful, energetic look that appealed to a generation of people who felt that the staid old watch industry was entirely interested in regurgitating their past success. Hublot proved that you can be a traditional watchmaker but also relevant. Perhaps the biggest problem Hublot faced was the mere fact that while they nailed appeal for many people, their price points were still too high for the majority of consumers to afford.
Despite being priced out of the grasp of many otherwise willing consumers, Hublot achieved incredible sales success with the Big Bang. When asked about this, Jean-Claude Biver said that the real part of the success was being able to encourage customers to purchase more than one Big Bang watch. As I discussed above in the section about “the law of multiple attraction,” the Big Bang aimed to be a watch that could be produced in many varieties, and ended up being appealing to the same person in multiple varieties. Whereas people tended to buy a single Rolex Submariner, that same type of watch consumer could buy a slew of Hublot Big Bang models, and still feel as though they could handle more.
Hublot became the master of offering meaningful variety to their products not only by making various Big Bang models look different from one another but also by often connecting them to events, people, charities, and sponsorships. As I said before, this not only allowed for Hublot to penetrate new demographics of potential customers, but was also a great way of offering existing customers product variety to tempt them.
From the outside, this did have the tendency to annoy a lot of the more seasoned and conservative watch lovers who felt like Hublot has milked the Big Bang a bit too much. Though, the price of annoying purists paid off in years of success for the brand who today is one of the most well-known names in luxury timepieces. All thanks to the success of just one model, the Big Bang.
I enjoy wearing the Hublot Big Bang 44 now over 10 years after its debut. I still think the watch has a lot of design merit to it. Updated models such as the Big Bang UNICO are priced a lot higher, typically north of $20,000. Hublot continues to produce the Big Bang 44 since it really hasn’t offered anything else in that particular price segment in the Big Bang collection. Some of the details continue to impress me such as the overall wearing comfort as well as the legibility and design of the dial details. Personally, I feel that the retail price is a bit on the higher side, but Hublot was never trying to be a bargain brand (few luxury watch makers are). Back in 2005 and today in 2017, it offers a unique wearing experience and a fun design that is as spirited as it is a manifestation of a serious Swiss watch.
Hublot never intended the Big Bang to be for everyone – and it certainly isn’t. Given the breadth of design and marketing activities around the Big Bang, it is easy to find many angles to it (the collection I mean) which you don’t like. With that said, if you look closely enough at the various Big Bang 44 models that Hublot released, I am pretty sure most all watch lovers will find at least one they are attracted to. Then all they need to do is afford it. Price for this reference 301.SB.131.RX Hublot Big Bang 44 watch is $13,600 USD. hublot.com
>Model: Big Bang 44 reference 301.SB.131.RX
>Price: $13,600 USD
>Size: 44mm wide
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Yes.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Watch and industrial design lover looking for something evocative of an era, high-end, and that doesn’t take itself way too seriously.
>Best characteristic of watch: Overall design has aged very nicely and it still feels modern and fresh in many ways. Legible dial and clever use of materials still impress even if Hublot has gone more high-end with later models. Still a very innovative timepiece and a real icon of modern watch design.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Price is high given a lot of the people who would really like to own one. I never did figure out exactly why Hublot couldn’t find another material other than resin for the middle sandwich section. It does wear large, but there is always the 41mm wide model for that.