Recently, I joined Hublot watches for another interesting event – this time, in Napa Valley, California where the raison d’être was the launch of the new Hublot Big Bang Unico Retrograde Chronograph Kobe “Vino” Bryant limited edition watches (aka Big Bang Vino watch). Especially when it comes to Hublot, I like to share the nature of the events surrounding their new product launches because it really speaks to the brand’s unique personality. Love them or hate them, Hublot has one of the most distinct personalities as a company, not only in the watch industry, but in the luxury industry as a whole. During a Q&A session with Kobe Bryant, someone asked the important question of why he decided to work with Hublot – his answer was sort of interesting.
People who’ve spend time interviewing Kobe Bryant will attest to the fact that the celebrated basketball player has his good days and his bad days. When not feeling particularly social, the talented athlete is reserved and quiet, even though he is well known for his passionate opinions on subjects ranging from sports to lifestyle. On that sunny day in Napa, Kobe was fortunately having a very good day and his mercurial side came out in full bloom. So when asked about his relationship with Hublot, Kobe was very honest about how vetting his brand partners is important to him. Like all celebrities whose name is a brand as much as they are a talent, Kobe can’t work with just anyone. He and his people need to do a lot of research about their partners to make sure they share values, are respected, and are trustworthy. What makes Hublot attractive to personalities like Kobe is that their products are extremely bold, speak for themselves, and are extremely unique. Kobe Bryant seems to like the notion that when someone sees his watch, they know without a shadow of a doubt that he is wearing an Hublot.
Kobe Bryant became an Hublot brand ambassador in 2013 with the launch of the King Power Black Mamba (debuted here). That makes this Hublot Big Bang Unico Retrograde Chronograph Kobe “Vino” Bryant the second major timepiece Hublot has launched in his honor. Back then, Kobe’s most popular nickname was “Black Mamba,” but more recently, he seems to prefer the nickname “Vino.” In his own words, the name was given to him now that he is becoming much more mature as an athlete, because, “like wine, he is improving with age.” Kobe “Vino” Bryant is certainly maturing – able to speak about himself and his career with a grace and nonchalance some people in his position never achieve.
What I most like seeing is how genuinely excited he is to get his watches. While the Hublot Big Bang Unico Retrograde Chronograph Kobe “Vino” Bryant watches are all limited editions, two special versions are produced just for Kobe with some unique text on the back just for him. Some people might not understand that these limited edition watches produced in honor of particular celebrities aren’t merely marketing stunts used to leverage their popularity, they are items actually produced for their celebrities who are damn excited to take receipt of them – and wear them. To pick up his watches (he received one of each version in 18k King gold and black ceramic) Kobe flew up to Napa, spend a few hours with us, and then flew back down to LA to take his daughter to her sports game. It is an interesting dynamic, because the ambassadors themselves are really into the products.
If you are confused as to how basketball, wine, Hublot, and Kobe Bryant all go together, that is okay. Let’s just say that not all event themes are as synergistic as others. No one seemed to care, because when it comes to being in one of the most beautiful places in the world, drinking good wine, and having Kobe get excited about watches… no one seems to be asking “why are we all here?” So let’s get to the watches themselves – which are mostly basketball themed with a little bit of “wine country” in the details.
Like the black python strap that came with the original King Power Kobe Bryant watch, these new versions also have a python strap, but here, in red, which is meant to evoke the color of red wine. A deeper shade of red is used for much of the dials. Given that the base case for the watches is the Big Bang Unico 45, the straps are easy to remove and swap out using a pusher on the lugs. In addition to the red python straps, each of these Hublot Big Bang Unico Retrograde Chronograph Kobe “Vino” Bryant watches comes with a black rubber strap.
Flip the watch over, and you’ll see a green tinted sapphire crystal exhibition caseback window. This is the first time green has been used for the crystal color, and the idea is to make it feel like you are looking through a wine bottle (which are often dark green in color). You’ll also see a print of Kobe Bryant’s signature on the green sapphire crystal. The rest of the details which make the Hublot Big Bang Unico Retrograde Chronograph Kobe “Vino” Bryant different are related to basketball.
Look in the center of the dial, and you’ll see what is essentially the motif of a basketball. Around it, on the burgundy red-colored dial flange, you’ll see small bump texturing meant to look like the surface of a basketball. Then, there is the matter of the movement, which while not entirely new, has been adapted for timing basketball games versus soccer games.
Inside the watch is the in-house made Hublot Unico caliber HUB1261 automatic movement. The unique layout of this dial (which is interesting, but not the most elegant, in my opinion) has the time in a subsidiary dial over 6 o’clock, a subdial for the seconds near 9 o’clock, and a chronograph complication that uses two retrograde hands to measure the minutes and seconds. The hands slowly move from left to right and then jump back to the starting point.
Retrograde hands are cool, and Hublot’s use of them in a chronograph is not a bad idea. Retrograde hands cause a lot more wear and tear on a movement as compared to traditional hands that just move in a circle. So using two retrograde hands for the chronograph means that they will not be running all the time and thus will last longer between servicing periods. One issue, however, is that when the chronograph is not running, the hands have a “zero position” which is all the way to the left. This, along with the sub seconds dial at 9 o’clock, means that the dial is visually weighted too much to the left and feels off-balance in the context of symmetry.
The Hublot Unico HUB 1261 has 72 hours of power reserve and operates at 4Hz. Comprised of 385 parts and using a column wheel for the chronograph, it is an off-shoot of HUB1260 movements which debuted in the version of this watch that was meant for soccer timing during the 2014 FIFA World Cup. There, with the Big Bang Unico Bi-Retrograde Chrono, the chronograph was designed to measure 60 minutes plus overtime for football (soccer) games, and for the HUB1261, that has been changed to 48 minutes (the length of a basketball game) plus overtime.
At 45.5mm wide, the Hublot Big Bang Unico Retrograde Chronograph Kobe “Vino” Bryant remains a sizable watch, but it is smaller than 47mm wide King Power case of the Black Mamba watch. Hublot is offering the timepiece in either black ceramic or 18k king gold, with the pieces being limited to 200 pieces and 100 pieces respectively. Price for the Hublot Big Bang Unico Retrograde Chronograph Kobe “Vino” Bryant ref. 413.CX.4723.PR.KOB15 in black ceramic is $29,100 and the ref. 413.OX.4738.PR.KOB15 in 18k king (red) gold is $47,500. hublot.com