A decent number of the mechanically unique watches that originally get produced for the Only Watch charity auction ultimately become the foundations for timepieces that work their way into their respective brand’s catalogs. Given the enormous expenses involved with creating a new movement or case architecture, it only makes sense for brands to get some type of return on their investments, and as its latest new release of 2023, Hublot has unveiled its first commercially available central tourbillon watch. Featuring a transparent flower-shaped case, the new Hublot MP-15 Takashi Murakami Tourbillon Sapphire is based upon the concept of the brand’s Only Watch entry from this year, although rather than being a piece-unique destined for auction, this latest addition to Hublot’s catalog will be produced as a limited edition of 50 examples available to the general public.
Normally, we wouldn’t be seeing iterations of the various brand’s Only Watch novelties until after the charity auction had already occurred, but with Only Watch 2023 postponed for the time being, Hublot is launching a commercially available variation of its outlandish Only Watch piece. While the piece-unique Hublot MP-15 Takashi Murakami Only Watch Sapphire featured a flower-shaped sapphire case fitted with petals adorned with 444 rainbow-colored gemstones, the new Hublot MP-15 Takashi Murakami Tourbillon Sapphire has its flower petals crafted from clear sapphire.
Similar to the Only Watch piece, the case of the new Hublot MP-15 Takashi Murakami Only Watch Sapphire is also constructed from clear sapphire, and it measures 42mm in diameter by 13.4mm thick, with a transparent sapphire display caseback, clear sapphire winding crown at 3 o’clock, and 30 meters of water resistance. The concept with this latest model was to achieve maximum transparency with the case, and rather than having light simply shine upon the new MP-15 Takashi Murakami Tourbillon Sapphire, Hublot’s goal was to instead allow the light to pass directly through the watch itself.
Just as before, the Hublot MP-15 Takashi Murakami Tourbillon Sapphire features its tourbillon mounted directly in the center of its display without an upper bridge to provide it with a floating appearance. Meanwhile, the hands are peripherally mounded below it and stick out from the perimeter to indicate the time against the small track of hour markers that sit between the central tourbillon and the clear sapphire petals that form the case and bezel of the watch. Additionally, like the rainbow gem-encrusted Only Watch piece, the heavily domed sapphire crystal that sits above the center tourbillon has been given eyes and a mouth to make the entire watch resemble the face of Murakami’s famous smiling cartoon flower character.
Since the new Hublot MP-15 Takashi Murakami Tourbillon Sapphire is essentially the fully transparent version of the timepiece that debuted for Only Watch 2023, the new limited-edition model is powered by the same in-house Cal. HUB9015 manual-wind movement, which Hublot created specifically to fulfill Murakami’s request to collaborate on a centrally-mounted tourbillon watch. The 236-component Cal. HUB9015 runs at a frequency of 21,600vph (3 Hz) with a power reserve of approximately 150 hours, and this rather impressive duration of autonomy is made possible by its two series-mounted mainspring barrels.
Since the Hublot Cal. HUB9015 is a manually-wound movement with a power reserve that is nearly a full week long, winding the watch by hand requires 100 rotations of the crown, and this can ultimately be a rather time-consuming process. Consequently, Hublot includes a special electronic winding stylus with the MP-15 Takashi Murakami Tourbillon Sapphire that can be charged via USB and fits over the winding crown to smoothly wind the watch in a rapid yet controlled manner until the maximum amount of tension has been supplied to both mainspring barrels.
The strap fitted to the new Hublot MP-15 Takashi Murakami Tourbillon Sapphire appears to be more-or-less identical to what can be found on the Only Watch model, and it is constructed from translucent rubber with a titanium folding clasp that is adorned with a decorative sapphire insert. Since the case is essentially a clear sapphire flower sculpture, it doesn’t have any type of lugs (in the traditional sense of the word), and while Hublot hasn’t included any photos of the strap or the reverse slide of the case for the new MP-15 Takashi Murakami Tourbillon Sapphire model, the photos of the brand’s Only Watch piece would suggest that the strap connects to the case in a similar fashion, with a small pair of screws that are secured from the underside surface of the watch.
The Hublot MP-15 Takashi Murakami Tourbillon Sapphire will be produced as a limited edition of 50 examples and will be accompanied by an official retail price of $316,000 USD, which makes it one of the absolute most expensive Hublot models currently available, second only to the blue sapphire version of the Big Bang Integrated that is fitted with a full-sapphire bracelet and sells for over half a million dollars. Normally this model would only be making its appearance after the piece-unique Only Watch version realized some sky-high value at auction, although we are now seeing things happen in reverse, and the new MP-15 Takashi Murakami Tourbillon Sapphire has instead established the baseline for what it costs to purchase the standard-production version of Hublot’s very first centrally-mounted tourbillon watch. For more information on the Hublot MP-15 Takashi Murakami Tourbillon Sapphire, please visit the brand’s website.