April 28, 2018
by Ariel Adams
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a sucker for color. What do I mean exactly? I am implying that taking something old and rendering it in a new color alone can really capture my attention. That’s half of what Hublot did with the Big Bang UNICO Red Magic reference 411.CF.8513.RX watch – by taking the Big bang UNICO watch and producing it in the color red. The other and more interesting technical side of the story is that they made a red watch using red-colored ceramic. This is something which hasn’t been done before.
In my opinion ceramic is the most important modern material for watchmaking in tandem with silicon. I strongly believe that ceramic and silicon will increasingly have important roles in entry-level to high-end horology. A discussion of ceramic materials is outside the scope of this conversation, but I will remind you again why we get so excited about ceramic. Ceramic is a non-metallic (even though some forms of it mix in metal) material which is formed, baked to harden, and then polished. Colored ceramic is a process formed during the production of the material itself. Pigment must be mixed in to common ceramic materials such as zirconium oxide (aka zirconia) which is then baked into the final, hard material. Normal ceramic baking processes burn away most pigment colors leaving the final material blotchy and unattractive. For that reason zirconia is mostly produced in black or white, as well as an assortment of mostly dark colors.
Bright colored ceramics have for a long time been a sort of holy grail for ceramic makers. The “Reg Magic” ceramic produced in-house by Hublot is the realization of one such grail color. I discuss a bit more about how Hublot achieved the red color in this ceramic material when debuting the Hublot Big Bang UNICO Red Magic watch on aBlogotWatch here. Why ceramic if the main point is to get a red watch? The reality is that there aren’t other options. Colors in watch case materials must be considered as a function of available durable materials. If you want red, you are limited to a few options that included painting or plastic originally. If you wanted a red watch that was high-end (not plastic), then you needed to coat or paint a material. This led to the possibility of the color wearing off, which isn’t something particularly desirable in a high-end product.
While ceramic might appear to look like high-quality ABS plastic, the material is much harder than steel. Ceramic colors won’t fade, chip off, or for the most part ever scratch. The appeal of ceramic (colored or otherwise) is its long-term durability as well as resiliency. That means in many years from now, ceramic will still look brand new – and you can’t say the same for most metals or other materials.
Hublot is no stranger to using ceramic in a wristwatch. Ceramic was one of the original “fusion” materials Jean-Claude Biver included in the original Big Bang watch collection in 2005 (though it was black ceramic). While Hublot produces other ceramic colors (including blue), red is certainly the most eye-catching. I found it hard not to greatly admire the Big Bang UNICO Red Magic watch despite the fact that the only novelty in it is the color and Red Magic material. Otherwise this is just another member of the now large Big Bang UNICO 45mm watch family (in 2018 Hublot also introduced a new 42mm wide version of the Big Bang UNICO).
The Hublot Big Bang UNICO Red Magic begins with the in-house made Hublot caliber HUB1242 automatic chronograph movement with three days of power reserve. The open-dial on the face is given a “devil” red and black color treatment which persists on the rest of the watch. The two-tone black and red color theme of the piece is cool, masculine, eye-catching, and also attractive. Hublot obviously has command of the Red Magic ceramic material, which means the future has a lot more Red Magic watches in store for Hublot (and red color ceramic) fans.
Given that red-colored ceramic is still very novel, wearing a red Big Bang watch was a fresh experience for me – and the watch feels very comfortable in this skin for sure. While people might claim that from afar the watch appears to be made of plastic, I think that is just a result of this look being previously available almost exclusively in plastic. The case material neither feels or looks cheap at close inspection or on the wrist. Hublot pairs this 45mm wide (15.4mm thick and water-resistant to 100m) watch with a black and red rubber strap to complete the look. If these colors speak to you, then I think it will be hard to resist this timepiece (budget willing of course).
Hublot will produce 500 pieces of the Big Bang UNICO Red Magic as a limited edition. I don’t know how challenging it is for Hublot to produce the material or how much manufacturing bandwidth they have for it, but I’ll take their word that producing it is time consuming and challenging. Future red ceramic watches will come from Hublot and you can be sure that others around the world are actively trying to come up with their own red ceramic watches. Does this mean that yellow, light green, orange (which Omega does a bit) and other bright colored ceramics are coming from Hublot or otherwise? Not necessarily. My understanding is that each color presents its own challenge because the pigments are themselves different materials. Though I would hope that Yellow Magic ceramic comes next.
The Red Magic ceramic material was enough for us to put the Hublot Big Bang UNICO Red Magic watch on the aBlogtoWatch list of the Top 10 Watches Of Baselworld 2018. It goes without saying that I’m a big fan – even if the underlying watch is not new. The limited edition of 500 pieces reference 411.CF.8513.RX Hublot Big Bang UNICO Red Magic has a retail price of $26,200 USD. hublot.com