October 6, 2014
by Ariel Adams
Ferrari cars and Hublot watches… partners in timekeeping, but how well do these two brands go together? That is a question watch lovers have been asking since Hublot announced that it was the official high-end watch maker for the iconic Italian sports car manufacturer back in 2011. The exciting news was met with the reality that no one had really been successful as a watch making partner to Ferrari, let alone the fact that most car+watch ventures overall don’t really succeed. So why, then, was the relationship so important to Hublot and what did they do with it?
There are few more polarizing brands that I know than Hublot. Most people either totally love or totally hate Hublot. Of course there some people in the middle, but only because they find some Hublot watches that they totally love and others that they totally hate. The polarization of the brand is almost legendary at this point. Hublot, as a modern brand (even though it began in the 1980s), is the child of master brand manager (we will call him that) Jean-Claude Biver. Mr. Biver brought the world the Hublot Big Bang, and arguably the most productive and attention-worthy forms of modern luxury watch advertising in modern times. It was Jean-Claude Biver who ardently went after Ferrari, and in his opinion, it was only Hublot that could make the car and watch relationship work.
The allure for Hublot was being able to capture the attention of the world’s mega pool of wealthy Ferrari owners, or even aspirational owners. If you bought a luxury car, often times you’d want accessories to go with it, even if those accessories are sometimes serious investments unto themselves. By partnering with Ferrari, not only did Hublot elevate their own image, but they were also instantly granted a whole new world of potential customers that might never otherwise pay attention to, or know about, watch brands. Biver’s tactic for making the relationship work was to produce a series of watches that, while thoroughly Hublot in character, were distinct products within the brand’s collection. His words to me where very simple; that the mistake most other companies made when working with Ferrari was to simply adapt existing products with Ferrari branding. The key, he said, was to respect the relationship and produce something totally unique for the partnership. Within a year after their release, Hublot seemed to indicate that over 10% of their sales came from the Ferrari watches.
In 2012, when I first saw the then novel Hublot Big Bang Ferrari watches, I was immediately impressed. I happen to be the open-minded type of modern watch lover that has always seen value in the efforts made by Hublot. Did I think Hublot had improvements they could make in regard to quality? Yes. Did I think Hublot went a bit overboard with limited edition watches? Yes. Did I think sometimes Hublot got too ambitious with their pricing? Yes, and sadly, so do most other brands. Yet, at the end of the day, Hublot was thinking forward and producing new stuff with a momentum that no one else could catch up to. A momentum that could either cause the brand to keep going, sputter out, or trip on itself and pick up where it left off and hope for the best.
Now in 2014, a few years after my initial interest in the Hublot Big Bang Ferrari collection, I offer a review. I am reviewing of one of the limited edition models of the Hublot Big Bang Ferrari produced especially for the Beverly Hills, Los Angeles Hublot boutique store which is operated by the retailer Westime. This particular color scheme is perhaps not my favorite, but it is interesting, with is mostly blue tones and red accents. As you can see, the Hublot Big Bang Ferrari comes with two straps, something which I believe they all do. Among other things, Hublot used the Big Bang Ferrari watch to implement a new feature into Big Bang watches – a quick release for the straps.
A simple button on the case where the lug structure is can be pressed to release the strap. This means that wearers can swap out straps easily and securely – a feature I wish most luxury watches had. Assuming you have a series of straps to go with the watch, this makes a lot of sense. On the down side, it means you can’t use just any strap you want, given that the connector is proprietary. Furthermore, the Hublot straps are tapered and have other features which won’t be easy to find in after-market straps. Let me put it this way, if you are seriously into high-end sports watches and straps, you’ll need to find a pretty serious custom strap maker…
Earlier in 2014, I spent more time talking about some of the newer versions of the Hublot Big Bang Ferrari – and there were even more I was not able to photograph. The success of the collection has promoted a range of versions which not only play with colors, but also materials – something which is at the heart of Hublot’s “fusion” concept behind design. Jean-Claude Biver himself made an edict that the corner stone of the Hublot watch catalog would be a melding of materials. This particular blue, red, and black Hublot Big Bang Ferrari combines titanium and ceramic, along with rubber, and anodized aluminum.
On other models, you’ll find additional materials, such as 18k gold and carbon fiber executed in countless ways. At 45.5mm wide, the Hublot Big Bang Ferrari was the first time Hublot materially upgraded its Big Bang case since its initial introduction around 2004. Hublot increased the size 1.5mm, up from 44mm wide, and overall added more masculinity while making it even more modern looking. A design like this is at the heart of a crossroads between two types of aesthetic preferences. There are those who like clean, restrained, classic lines, and there are those who prefer edgy, contemporary, and somewhat intense design. An Hublot, like anything else loud, is bound to call attention to itself, and thus equal parts compliment and complaint.