REDolent of the Maison’s innovative spirit is the Hublot Big Bang UNICO Red Magic AKA the ‘midlife crisis watch’
Nelson Mandela once said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done”. If someone had told me a decade or so ago that a luxury watch would be revealed that with it’s striking bright personality will leave anyone that crosses its path astounded — for good or for bad as watches like this one that generate public opinion are an example of something created out of the ordinary — I would have scoffed and asked them to bugger off. But then here we are, with the new for 2018 Hublot Big Bang UNICO Red Magic. Bold and as red as watches in ceramic can get, it is an insanely interesting offering from the house that masters the feat of fusion.
When the watch we are looking at today — the Hublot Big Bang UNICO Red Magic — was released, it was the world’s first vibrantly coloured red ceramic watch. REDolent of the Maison’s innovative spirit, this ultra red oversized wrist gizmo was not only innovative in its material outlook but also rode high on the wave of reinventing the luxury wheel. Today we go hands-on with the fiery red monster. But before we do that, we really got to address the elephant in the room; AKA the big red skeletonised watch that can very well be the watch version of a bright red sports convertible car being driven by a middle aged man. Not judging, nothing wrong with the situation, just pointing out what we felt when we saw the watch.
I realise that this is a relatively older offering from Hublot, but recently I got the opportunity to go hands-on with the watch. And contrary to whatever criticism I may have encountered against it on online forums and websites since Baselworld 2018, I might admit that pretty much none of the negativity seemed justifiable after playing with the watch in person.
Anyway, let’s start by painting a picture. Circa: Baselworld 2018. Location: Switzerland. Players: Hublot vs the veteran luxury watch industry brands vs watch snobs. Offering: Big Bang UNICO Red Magic. Result: Beating the impossible, again. How, let’s find out.
REDefining Luxury – The Context
We have all heard of gold. Also of ceramic. There is nothing new with these materials. But poking and prodding has often assisted science in making discoveries. Enter Hublot.
Hublot’s ascent to the top of material innovativeness ladder is a long time in the making. It started with their invention of the Magic Gold case material back in 2011. At the time, it was the world’s most scratch resistant 18K carat Gold, owing to the brand creating an alloy between boron carbide (ceramic) and 24K Gold.
Not one to sit content with their laurels, Hublot decided to expand further their unique material approach and applied it to ceramic. The result, a very bright and in your face red that is not only patented but also designed and produced in-house. Besides looking a shade of unbelievable red for a watch, this new type of ceramic by Hublot is also extremely resilient.
Now I won’t focus on what other watches make use of ceramic because none do it the way Hublot does, but it’s still worthwhile to bring up Rado if we are discussing ceramic as a case material as they have been innovating with it since the early 1960s. That said, the Rado DiaMaster Ceramos Thinline is a bit different than the Hublot Big Bang UNICO Red Magic. My point is that yes, there are other brands working and innovating with ceramic, but none do it with the brightness of Hublot.
So how does Hublot do it? With years spent in R&D where their team managed to achieve this specific colour in ceramic by the fusion of pressure and heat that sinter the ceramic without burning the pigments.
Specifications that REDound to the Maison’s Technical Prowess
The reference 411.CF.8513.RX features the calibre HUB1242 UNICO Manufacture self-winding chronograph flyback movement with column wheel. It features 330 components, 38 jewels, beats at the frequency of 4Hz (28’800 A/h), and boasts of an impressive 72-hour power reserve.
This UNICO movement has been designed, developed, machined and assembled in-house by Hublot and its pallet fork and escapement wheel are fixed to a removable platform and made from lightweight silicon. The movement features microblasted anthracite ruthenium plated mainplate & bridges and incorporates the above mentioned flyback chronograph, a date indicator, and a mechanism with dual coupling and column wheel being visible on the dial side.
The movement is encased inside a 45mm diameter and 15.45mm thick polished (and oh boy so very polished) red ceramic fiery body that is surrounded by a bezel again in the same material. Overall, the look of this microblasted red ceramic case with polished & beveled corners is anything but plastic. Providing visual relief from the overdose of red are the black composite resin bezel lugs, the middle ‘sandwich ears’ part of the case, and the polished titanium black PVD 6-H shaped screws on the bezel. Further balancing this red with black are the titanium crown with black rubber around the crown for enhanced grip at 3’o clock and the titanium round shaped chrono pushers at 2 and 4’o clock.
Taking the red trend inwards onto the watch face is the skeleton matte red dial with red appliques (and black grained luminescence). On this dial the red hands again with black luminescent material work their magic. Another added red layer comes in the form of the angled red inner bezel flange on the perimeter of the dial with a black printed track.
The sub-dial at 3’o clock features a 60 minute counter and a date window (perhaps the only ineligible part of this dial is the date window and wheel) while the sub-dial at 9’o clock features a running small seconds hand. To top it all off, there’s the Hublot logo and branding at 12’o clock, again in red.
Continuing the red trend beyond the case is the red (and black) lined structured rubber strap on a black PVD titanium with black ceramic insert deployant buckle clasp.
I have a bone to pick with Hublot. For the life of me I cannot understand why their promo shots of watches are always very two-dimensional, very flat. In reality, their watches are anything but flat. And surprisingly legible. It also pains me to read comments on Hublot watches on other forums and websites about how non legible or plasticky they look. These comments couldn’t be further from the truth, at-least in regards to this particular one. The watch, like a fair number of Hublot releases, got its fair share of criticism online. This in-fact was part of the reason why chose to go hands-on with a relatively old watch rather than showcasing Hublot’s latest novelties (which we hope to soon by the way).
I felt that perhaps the watch enthusiasts didn’t actually see the watch in person, hadn’t really spent time playing with the wrist toys, for they are full of depth, heft, surface interplay and like I said, surprisingly legible. Or perhaps the initial promo shots were too flat and didn’t do justice to the watch. Whatever the case maybe, we are looking at this review as a sort of REDemption for the watch.
I understand that the red colour and even the Big Bang case design may not be for everyone, but the combination of polished red ceramic and the Big Bang case architecture is appealing nonetheless. Some might even say it’s too red, almost to the point of tacky. So we decided to take it for a spin. And when you look at the real pictures you can really see the marvel that this is.
The case design for this watch is an icon in its own right – having won numerous awards when it was first launched in 2005. Since then, the brand has used numerous materials, intense marketing, and a plethora of limited editions to show off their signature piece. So it comes as little surprise that they would use this design body to feature their most red ceramic case luxury watch yet (for 2018).
Let’s dive further into the complex features of this watch, and break them down into simpler terms so that we can all better appreciate the offering.
First, the obvious crititque. The colour. It’s RED. The shade of red is bright, and someone liking it or not is largely dependent on personal taste. No point in people criticising other people just because they like the colour red. So let’s rule out that critique, shall we?
Next, the plastic look. If you look carefully at the pictures, there is a certain sturdiness and refinement to the texture of the ceramic case. The trademark “sandwich” construction of Hublot watches is maintained. The way the surfaces are overtly facetted and beveled they create a myriad of levels and textures on the modular case. With so many angles and small surfaces of the case and the crown guard, combined with the exposed components, and each providing their own shade of grey, black or red, the resulting watch is overwhelmingly stunning and least plasticky in person.
Then, let’s address the legibility concern. I agree that when it comes to the dial, in the promo shots it looks almost unreadable. Again, to our surprise, that was not the case. Hublot like many of their offerings has opted for the skeletonised look which further reveals the usually masked components underneath the dial skin. Someone can be forgiven for thinking that this hampers the readability of the dial. I for one am not too proud to admit that I thought so as well. But my time playing around with these watches taught me otherwise.
Finally, the way the light falls on the various surfaces of the dial helps to reveal the depth and the three-dimensional play of the dial. You can immediately see the difference between the components and the elevated track featuring the alternating appliqués and Arabic numerals. Like the recently released Hublot Big Bang GMT All Black Yohji Yamamoto, the dial shows hour markers as alternating between Arabic numerals and baton-style appliqués. Being applied and raised, they provide further visual relief and interplay with colour. Also, the colour contrast between red of the hands and numerals against the grey/black mechanical movement is spot on.
The REDivivus Moment or Watch Ya Gonna Do About It
If you are one of those who look at the conventional definition of luxury and feel it is time for reinventing the wheel, then look no further than Hublot. To wrap this review up, let me just say that Hublot manages to bring back to life, in a sort of rebirth moment, the very idea of luxury.
Some may ask what is the point of this watch’s existence? This is definitely not for people who wish to fly under the radar. I agree. But perhaps no Hublot is. And in that lies its innate charm.
The charm is not really about the redness of the case though as such. It’s more about what a luxury brand is doing to push the envelope of what’s possible or not; and what constitutes luxury or not. And when one luxury brand does this and commands the peak position in the field, others are bound to follow suit. Or at-least experiment. And that’s something I appreciate about this because watches like these, and brands like Hublot, in my humble option prevent the watch industry from going stale or monotonous.
There are a million dress or dive luxury watches out there, and for good reason too. But when you throw something like this in the mix, it opens up new boundaries, new aspects about watchmaking that’s intriguing to say the least. Haters are gonna hate. Granted, Hublot watches are not for everyone. And I reckon this is how it should be as well. Targeted at a select niche — in an ever-growing market — Hublot watches are for people who are not only privileged but also prefer to go the less trodden pathway.
We wish to thank the Hublot Sydney Boutique for the opportunity to film and review the Hublot Big Bang UNICO Red Magic. To buy this watch or to find out more about Hublot watches, head to their website here. If you wish to look at our Infographic review of this watch please head here.