June 21, 2016
This Spring — precisely when depended on the market — Hublot debuted not only a new watch, but a new kind of watch, the Hublot Classic Fusion Berluti, in two versions: the “All Black” and the “Scritto.” The fashion world received it with great fanfare. To those in the world of fine timepieces, it was seemingly a softer launch, but the watch crowd should have taken more notice — because this, my friends, is the ghost of Christmas future.
As I wrote in the foreword of Ariel Adams’ weighty tome The World’s Most Expensive Watches, my take on “luxury” – or, really, “luxury goods” (the terms are not synonymous; the latter is just a subtly disguised description for products with heritage, craftsmanship, and high prices) – is a polymath’s approach to connoisseurship and collecting. As both consumers and the world of luxury evolve, so must the level of collaborations: co-branded and/or private label simply won’t do in the long run.
Consider the Ermenegildo Zegna watches made by the Sowind Group, the La Chaux-de-Fonds–based watch manufacture that produces Girard-Perregaux. The partnership yielded a number of timepieces, including the High Performance sports watches and the limited-edition rose-gold Zegna Centennial Limited Edition dress watch. Both were essentially slightly altered Girard-Perregaux watches — and that just won’t do any longer. There needs to be a sense of integration in these collaborations that’s purer than just slapping on a label and saying, “Voilà!” DNA from each brand has to be present to create true progeny — and now Hublot, for which fusion is one of its corporate values, is leading the charge for what luxury joint ventures ought to look like.
Which brings us to the 45-millimeter Hublot Classic Fusion Berluti in 18-karat King Gold, a pairing of Italian-cum-Parisian bootmaker Berluti with the Swiss luxury watchmaker. On the surface, it seems to be two LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton brands thrown together and put in a blender, out of which pops a leather-clad timepiece. (We’ll leave the BDSM jokes aside — oh, wait. Too late.) That’s true as far as it goes. But the fact is that Berluti customers — actually, at those price points, let’s call them “collectors” — are Hublot clients as well. Dig a little deeper, then, and it all becomes more intriguing.
Let’s start with Berluti, a shoe line I know quite well. I purchased my first pair of Berluti Andy loafers (so named because they were designed by Warhol himself) in London’s Berluti boutique in Mayfair going on 15 years ago. My second pair I bought in Milan, my third in New York at the original Madison Avenue flagship. I’ve purchased a dozen or more Berluti varieties, from the Ultima to the Playtime sneakers, and I could tell you exactly where I bought each, and who artfully executed each shoe’s colorful hand-applied patina. You never forget a pair of Berlutis — sublime and timeless, they’re art in leather.
Now, take Hublot. Yes, we can all agree that it never met a co-op branding or licensing deal it didn’t like, but those prolific partnerships don’t diminish the care that goes into the final product. I’m as familiar with Hublot as I am with Berluti — though I’ve owned only one, a Classic Fusion, I’ve written a lot about the brand. I’ve been to the manufacture; I’ve seen Magic Gold being made. I did several book events for DRIVE TIME at Hublot boutiques. I know them; I get them. And while Hublot is not a watch for everyone, nor is Berluti a shoe for all. Neither is for the shy, reserved, or conservative.
Thus, the fusion — to borrow the Hublot term again — of the two came as little surprise. In fact, over the years I’ve mentioned to Patrick Ottomani – a longtime chum and the managing director of Berluti USA, and Alessandro Sartori, the brilliant former Berluti creative director – that they really should do something with Hublot. And when I last had lunch with Jason Morrison of Hublot USA (just prior to the announcement of the collaboration, as it happened), I told him, “You guys must do something with your Berluti brethren.”
What does a shoe have to do with a watch, though? On the surface, nothing. Up higher, though, in the more rarefied air, the answer is everything. Do you have bespoke or made-to-measure suits? Drive a European auto? Have a nice pen, preferably a fountain? Do you appreciate and occasionally take a two-martini lunch? Play as hard as you work? Smoke a fine cigar on occasion? Have a sense of adventure and bold style? Are you rakish, sir? Then you’ll get it: The pen guy, the car guy, the watch guy, and the Berluti guy are all the same guy.
Now look at the Hublot Classic Fusion Berluti watch itself — not the grey/black version with the ceramic case and handmade strap, which is dreary, but the tan Hublot King Gold one. It’s amazing! Check out the debossed Berluti patinated Venezia leather dial: It’s fresh, original, and executed with exacting precision. And the band, made of the same leather but with the signature Scritto eighteenth-century calligraphy motif. Indeed, the entire watch — the limited-edition Hublot Classic Fusion Berluti (500 of the All-Black priced at $14,600; 250 of the Scritto in the 18-karat Hublot King Gold for $29,400) — nicely captures both brands. The case, the HUB1100 self-winding movement — all the rest is classic Hublot. In many ways, and much more so than in most such partnerships, this Hublot Classic Fusion Berluti is a collaboration in far more than mere name — and the way things, going forward, just ought to be. hublot.com