Taking place once every two years, Only Watch is a charity auction where many of horlogy’s most famous bands all create a one-of-a-kind timepiece that gets sold to the highest bidder, with the entirety of the proceeds benefiting research on Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Hublot has been one of the supporting brands since the very first edition of Only Watch in 2005, and while the Nyon-based manufacturer almost always produces rather bold and striking designs, it has taken Only Watch 2023 to put forward what can only be described as a truly fun and bonkers wristwatch. Created in collaboration with famous Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, the new Hublot MP-15 Takashi Murakami Only Watch Sapphire represents what is easily the most complete expression of Murakami’s signature rainbow cartoon flower design that Hublot has ever produced, and it also happens to be the brand’s first-ever central tourbillon watch.
There have been several different Takashi Murakami collaboration watches that have featured rainbows or smiling cartoon flower faces in their designs, but the new Hublot MP-15 Takashi Murakami Only Watch Sapphire (ref. 915.JX.4802.RT.1198.OWM2 3) takes this concept and brings it to the next level. Rather than having a rainbow gem–set flower inside of a traditionally shaped case made from sapphire like the limited-edition model we previously reviewed here, the entire 42mm-wide by 13.4mm-thick case of the new MP-15 Takashi Murakami Only Watch Sapphire is actually based on the design of Murakami’s rainbow gem-encrusted flower. The front of the watch is a domed sapphire crystal occupying the center that houses the central flying tourbillon, and this circular center section gets surrounded by a large stainless steel bezel in the shape of twelve large flower petals that are encrusted with 444 rainbow-colored gemstones. Meanwhile, the sides of the case, winding crown, and caseback are all crafted entirely from clear sapphire and held together with polished titanium screws, while water resistance comes in at 30 meters to protect against any incidental contact.
The heavily domed sapphire crystal sitting above the central flying tourbillon has been given eyes and a mouth to make it look like the face of Murakami’s famous smiling cartoon flower character, while the time is indicated by a small pair of hour and minute hands that appear to float under the central tourbillon that forms the face of the flower. Meanwhile, the hands display the time against a set of rainbow-colored luminescent hour markers, which are applied to a polished clear composite resin dial disc that sits along the inner perimeter of the crystal. Given that this entire watch is based upon the shape of a flower, the case of the Hublot MP-15 Takashi Murakami Only Watch Sapphire is essentially a circle, and fitted to its integrated lugs is a transparent rubber strap that is completed by a deployant-style buckle made from titanium and clear sapphire.
Since the Hublot MP-15 Takashi Murakami Only Watch Sapphire is the brand’s first-ever central tourbillon model, the movement powering it is an entirely new creation, and inside the sapphire case of this rainbow gem-encrusted cartoon flower watch is the manual-wind Cal. HUB9015. While the party piece of this manufacture caliber is easily the centrally-mounted flying tourbillon, the Hublot HUB9015 also features two open-worked mainspring barrels (mounted in series, but on a single plane), which provide this 236-component movement with a power reserve of approximately 150 hours. The idea for a central tourbillon came directly from Takashi Murakami himself, who explicitly requested one during the design phase of this new model. However, since Hublot did not already offer a model with this unique and complex configuration, this one-of-a-kind piece that was originally created for charity now officially holds the title of being Hublot’s very first central tourbillon watch.
As someone who doesn’t have a fraction of the income required to participate as a bidder in a high-profile auction such as Only Watch, my favorite part about the biennial charity event (aside from the fact that it benefits a good cause) is that it can often create a bit of friendly competition among the participating brands, where each one feels compelled to bring an outstanding one-of-a-kind piece and achieve an impressive sum in the name of charity. For watch enthusiasts, this means we get to see some truly special and unique timepieces, and since all of the lots featured in the Only Watch auction are 1/1 unique creations where brands don’t need to worry about mass-market appeal, some of the pieces like this new Hublot MP-15 Takashi Murakami Only Watch Sapphire end up being truly wild and an immense amount of fun for the entire industry. To learn more about the Only Watch charity auction or Hublot watches, please visit either the Only Watch website or Hublot website, respectively.