May 22, 2017
by David Bredan
…And yet, not a single scratch on it. So I took out my keys and started messing around, first on the back (“Try on a non-conspicuous area first” is the instruction that echoed in my mind just before I got into testing the bezel). I applied a fair amount of pressure – I made sure both the watch and keys were clean because dust particles and who knows what else may actually scratch it, I presume – and while the key left a mark, I could just wipe it off, no problem.
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First: do not try this with your gold watch!? Our @abtw_david's proper review of the Hublot Big Bang Magic Gold goes live on aBlogtoWatch.com in an hour, on a quest to find out just how magical Hublot's 18 karat gold really is. @hublot #ablogtowatch #hublot #hublotbigbang
Still, I think you’ll empathize with me when I say this felt like a hair-brained idea and that there was a fair amount of adrenaline “fuzed” into my system when I was deliberately trying to scratch a full-gold luxury watch. But hey, if Jean-Claude Biver said “It. Cannot. Be. Scratched” it’s enough to fuel me to progress in the belief that it’s all going to be fine – which it was, thankfully.
Does this mean Magic Gold can resist anything and that it truly can only be scratched by diamonds? Frankly, I’m still not sure. But, with a few “buts” notwithstanding, I would want my first gold watch to be in Magic Gold; and this, neatly, leads us to finally discussing the Hublot Big Bang Unico Magic Gold.
Some 1,700 words and a chemistry lecture into it, let’s see what the Hublot Big Bang Unico Magic Gold is actually like. At 45mm wide, it has a Magic Gold bezel, case top, and bottom, with a “black composite resin” lower bezel and a black titanium center section. The dial is non-existent, really, as the indices and sub-dials are cleverly fixed onto the flange ring and hence inserted above the movement in one piece. Indications include central hours, minutes, and chronograph seconds. Running seconds are on the sub-dial at 9, while the 60-minute totalizer for the chronograph is at 3, along with a discreet and hence, moderately legible date.
Overall legibility is excellent. Hublot generally does a great job at putting massive main hands on its watches, which is not only a design decision (that many watch designers decidedly or negligently do not to make), but also a question of the movement having ample torque to carry them and all other complications – more on the Unico movement soon.
Quality of legibility is primarily defined by the contrast between the hands and the dial’s other elements – and when I say contrast, I mean contrast in colors, in shapes, and also in texture. The matte silver colored top of the movement serves as a nice backdrop for the gold-plated, satin-finished, applied numerals and hands, and while the hands appear to be skeletonized, their last 60 or so percent have a solid black filling.
I was asking myself what that black material may be and found out that it actually is black lume inside the hands and indices. As black luminescent material, its performance verges on useless. Charge it with extremely strong light for a long time and all you’ll get is a faint and mushy green glow that goes away in under a minute. I can appreciate that it is actual lume, because it may come in handy in some very specific scenarios, but in truth, it has the expected and well-known limitations of black lume.
I found that the depth of the dial often surprised me positively. Just glancing at the watch, I loved to see the cumulative effect of the thick indices, the multiple layers of the movement, the nice color contrast, plus the Hublot logo applied to the inside of the crystal. All this makes for a lot of visual depth – a property all but the thinnest luxury watches should have. Anti-reflective coating on the slightly raised, but perfectly flat sapphire crystal performed solidly, further enhancing legibility.
At 45mm wide, the Hublot Big Bang Unico Magic Gold is a big watch that still manages to lay flat and stay secure on the wrist. When trying on a watch, here’s a tip on what to check if you want to get a good idea whether the watch will be comfortable to wear. Have the deployant buckle adjusted to your size and take off the watch. Close the buckle and look at the shape the watch and the strap take on when off the wrist. If it is an oval with two flats above and below, there’s a solid chance it will be fine. I have seen watches that took the shape of the “U”, which is the exact opposite of the wrist’s shape and hence, until the straps are broken in, will be a pain to wear.
As such, the Big Bang Unico is very comfortable – Hublot has actually considered people with small wrists, which is a rare thing. With my 6.75″ wrist, I could wear the watch in the strap’s second tightest setting, while most all others I wear exclusively on the smallest one. This is not to say that I didn’t wish the Big Bang Unico came in a 42-43mm case, because I do. However, as things stand now, the only size you can have Magic Gold in is 45mm. This is a big gap in the portfolio of Hublot that really caps the marketability of this material. I understand creating new tools for a smaller size is a challenge, but some three years after the debut of the first Magic Gold piece, it really is time for one or two more wearable pieces to debut.
The deployant is black PVD titanium with a black ceramic insert. I wish DLC was more widely used, as the inside of the buckle (from all the closing and opening) is already showing some wear where the friction-fit pieces meet. The ceramic insert is indented inside the buckle making it less susceptible to breaking – it takes just one bigger accidental slam on a desk or wherever and a protruding ceramic bit could shatter. As it is now, all the edges of the buckle are in black PVD titanium and it is a given that it will start to show wear in a couple of weeks or, at most, a few months time, no matter how careful you are.
Hublot sells the Hublot Big Bang Unico Magic Gold on a black rubber strap which I didn’t want. While I am well aware of the Big Bang’s history and its then-controversial gold and rubber combination, I just did not like the look of that striped rubber strap. Instead, what I have here is the strap with a brown alligator leather insert that beautifully complements the hue of Magic Gold, with a rubber edge and back for much improved durability and wearing comfort.
The strap quick release system on the Hublot Big Bang Unico Magic Gold works really well and is easy to use. It holds the strap so secure that not even extensive force could remove it, but at the same time, it allows for a bit of play. This play allows the strap to pivot minutely, making for a bit more flexible of a fit and ultimately allowing the watch to sit more securely. The strap may move to a tiny extent, but at least you don’t have the whole watch sliding back and forth. The watch stays secure and the strap adapts – this is a good thing.
The Hublot Big Bang Unico Magic Gold is powered by the in-house designed and produced Unico 1242 movement, an integrated automatic chronograph caliber. Power reserve is 3 full days at 72 hours and operating frequency should be 4Hz. The column-wheel movement has a fly-back function added to the chronograph – sounds cool, but chances are it’s going to remain a scarcely used feature for most.
Interestingly, Hublot doesn’t communicate about this at all, but I spotted what appear to be an escape wheel and pallet fork made from silicon. When viewed at the right angle, they play in a purple hue that gives their fancy tech away. More so, the Unico features a modular escapement, which means that the balance wheel and escapement can be removed, serviced, and reinstalled without having to take apart the rest of the movement – clever stuff.
While I have never been annoyed by the automatic movement (it’s pretty quiet), I found that the operation, i.e. the ticking of the movement, is so loud that I am not sure I’d want it next to me when working on my computer. Even in a room with a fair bit of audible street noise, I could still hear it. In a perfectly silent room, I’d just have to put it somewhere else. If your hearing is not so great, or if you just enjoy hearing an expensive watch ticking away, then this obviously will be no bother at all. However, I did find it annoying, even if I understand most watches without a dial and a solid case-back have this trait.
The Unico 1242, being a modern, integrated chronograph, has been freshly designed from the ground up, which allows it to have some traits the majority of other chronograph movements don’t have. Primarily, the chronograph’s bits have been fitted onto the dial side of the movement, exposing the column wheel and, deeper inside, the chronograph’s fourth wheel and coupling arm and wheel.
You can actually spot the neatly skeletonized coupling arm, based directly above the 7 and 8 o’clock indices, move back and forth when you start or stop the chronograph. As this arm pivots, it engages and disengages this wheel with the central chronograph seconds wheel. A bit to the right from it, you can see the column wheel move, so the dial side of the Unico 1242 is as animated as it can possibly be without having the balance wheel here too.
On the case-back you have the massive but largely skeletonized automatic winding rotor and its prominently sized and positioned accelerator wheel. The escapement and balance wheel are on this side as well, though you do need to rotate the watch around to get a better view of these. A good thing is that the straps can easily be removed and reattached if you want to take a closer look at the case-back.
Being an industrial movement, it really is all about the skeletonization visible even on the tiniest parts, as well as the even, “high-tech” grey hue that the entire movement is covered in. I didn’t miss the machined anglage visible on most other industrial movements at all, but I do think the winding rotor is an area that could use some improvement. While a fancy, hand-engraved rotor like on a Breguet would look odd here, I am sure a more refined and complicated design would be possible to achieve and would render the case-back considerably more impressive.
Pusher feel and feedback is fine – they are clicky alright but work very smoothly with considerably less effort than some other calibers. If you like a strong mechanical feedback and a heavy pusher, this isn’t it – but this relative lightness lends them a sense of refinement which is a nice contrast against the unapologetically bold appearance of the watch itself.