When Jean-Claude Biver set out in the 1980s to make the nearly forgotten Blancpain brand attractive again, he formulated a number of principles. One of them was that a Blancpain watch should always be round. Biver left Blancpain long ago, but to this day, those in charge there have upheld that precept of yesteryear. Ricardo Guadalupe was one of Biver’s early and longtime comrades-in-arms. He was by Biver’s side at Blancpain and later went with him to Hublot. For the past 10 years, Guadalupe has led the brand as its CEO. He admits, “I like shaped watches. It was always a dream of mine to make a square watch one day. Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible when I was at Blancpain.”
Guadalupe proved that it is possible at Hublot a few years ago. In 2014, he launched the tonneau-shaped Spirit of Big Bang. There had previously been individual special models in non-round cases, but the Spirit was the first regular line in Hublot’s collection with a shaped case. “The success of the Spirit encouraged me to do the Square Bang,” Guadalupe says. “The Spirit currently makes up 15 percent of our sales. With the help of the Square Bang, in a few years our shaped watches could account for 25 or 30 percent of sales.”
That’s the inside view. But even from an out-of-house perspective, it makes sense for Hublot to break new ground when it comes to case shapes. After all, this brand stands for diversity. ‘Fusion’ is the leitmotif that Biver articulated for Hublot when he joined the company in 2004. And fusion still applies today. Among other things, it can be translated in this context as the combination of very different materials in a single watch.
What began with the combination of a gold case and a rubber strap went on to become an incredible variety. The spectrum ranges from familiar materials, like stainless steel, titanium and carbon fibre, to Hublot’s own developments, such as scratch-resistant Magic Gold, which has 25 percent ceramic content. Hublot has even used materials such as concrete, denim, and osmium for its watches. The brand has benefited from the fact that the classic Big Bang case consists of more than 70 individual parts.
But the brand’s disruptive design code can express itself in more than just materials and colours. Just a few years after Biver and Guadalupe reinvented Hublot, the brand released watches with complications in avant-garde cases, such as the spectacular MP05-La Ferrari with 11 barrels and a 50-day power reserve.
The next step
The Square Bang is the next step in bringing out Hublot’s expressive design, and specifically that of the Big Bang, into a new shape. There are not many square luxury watches on the market, where about 90 percent of the models are round. As a special configuration of the rectangle, the square is even rarer. Classics like the Cartier Santos or the TAG Heuer Monaco are exceptions to the rule. Thus, from the outset, the Square Bang targets an exclusive clientele — and that is surely not a mistake in an era when most people prefer to distinguish themselves from others.
Similar to the Spirit, the Square Bang clearly reveals that it’s derived from the round Big Bang. The ancestry is evident in the model’s name and still more obvious in its design. The case of the Square Bang consists of even more individual parts than that of the round Big Bang (there are exactly 81), and it is divided like a sandwich into an upper, middle and lower part, as well as the bezel, plus the ‘ears’ attached to the sides. They can all be found on the Big Bang and the Spirit as well, and the same goes for the movement’s container, which is invisible from the outside and around which the case’s components are grouped.
The most typical Hublot feature, however, are the H-shaped screws. They are what really make a watch a Hublot. There are six of them on the bezel: One at the top and another at the bottom, plus two each on the sides. There are two more screws on each strap lug. Between these is the trapezoidal pusher, which lets you instantly detach the case from the strap and replace one wristband with another. The designers of the Square took all these elements from the Big Bang.
Attention to detail
The crown is likewise from the Big Bang, while the square pushers are from the Spirit. Once again showing Hublot’s love of detail, the rubber inlay inside the buttons is divided into three small squares, an almost hidden allusion to the shape of the case, similar to the checkerboard pattern on the rubber strap, which is often lined on other Hublot watches.
Since Hublot stands for diversity, it’s no wonder that the Square Bang is available in as many as five different variations: Pure King Gold and Pure Titanium, each optionally with a black ceramic bezel, plus an All Black version in black ceramic. We chose the last-mentioned version for our test. As flashy and colourful as Hublot often appears, this brand was the first to release an all-black watch, which polarised opinion when it was introduced in 2006. Not only were the case, strap, and dial black, but also the numerals and hands. Critics complained that the dial was difficult to read, but Biver countered by pointing out that reading the time is not important for a watch that costs more than €10,000.
Hublot subsequently varied the all-black theme in every conceivable direction, and in 2009, also blackened the screws on the bezel, as well as the crown and the pushers, which still were steel or titanium-coloured on the original model. The Big Bang Unico All Black, introduced in 2014, brought a bit more brightness back into play. Connoisseurs could peer through its starkly skeletonised dial and admire silver-grey hands rotating above steel movement parts.
The same was true for the Square Bang All Black. It’s a direct descendant of the Big Bang Unico All Black and the sister of the Spirit of Big Bang Black Magic, so to speak. The watch’s exterior is completely black, i.e., the ceramic case including the screws, crown, pushers, bracelet, and clasp. The larger surfaces of the case, which can also be seen from above, are satin finished and create a nice contrast to the polished flanks. These, in turn, are distinguished from the ears and the middle part of the case, which is made of black Kevlar composite. This design underscores the multifaceted styling of the case and assures that the Square Bang Unico All Black makes a very high-quality impression. This positive effect is confirmed by the watch’s good fit. For example, you don’t feel any transition at all when you slide your fingertip from the sapphire crystal to the bezel and back again.
The strap length can be easily adjusted to fit any wrist. This is made possible by a total of 15 holes, two of which are connected to the clasp. Since the rubber strap is elastic, the retaining buttons can easily be pressed through the stretchy holes. The ends of the retaining buttons are widened, which prevents them from accidentally slipping out. This assures that the watch rests securely on your wrist at all times. The clasp can be opened easily by pressing two pushers.
Round manufacture movement
In classic watchmaking, you would expect a shaped case to contain a similarly shaped manufacture movement. The Square Bang is indeed equipped with a manufacture movement, but it is round, not square. It is Caliber HUB1280, which is the second, slimmer and improved version of the Unico caliber that we reviewed extensively when we tested the Hublot Big Bang Integral Grey Ceramic in the April-June 2022 issue of WatchTime India. Although you can see a large portion of the handsome movement from the outside, the fact that it isn’t round doesn’t bother us. The discrepancy is hardly noticeable when viewed from above because the movement is surrounded by the square minute track of the dial, leaving only four small corners. The 11 applied minute markers and the two subdials, one for the small seconds at 9 o’clock and one for the elapsed minutes at 3 o’clock, extend far into the movement, thus creating a pleasing impression of visual unity. Overall, there’s so much happening on the dial that there’s no distracting dissonance between the circle and the square.
Peering through the crystal above the dial, you can watch the chronograph calibre at work. When the stopwatch function is started and stopped, you can see how the column wheel at 6 o’clock advances one position at a time and how the intermediate wheel of the horizontal coupling between 7 and 8 o’clock moves alternately toward and away from the centre again, causing the chronograph’s elapsed second hand to begin running and to stop. Through the crystal in the back, you can see the actuated pushers engage with the movement. There are few movements that let you understand a chronograph’s function so well.
But what about precision? Our measurement on a Witschi timing machine largely confirmed the stable rate of the same movement that we tested in our April-June 2022 issue of WatchTime India. The daily rate was slightly faster, with a gain of 7.3 seconds in 24 hours. We were pleased to discover that the watch ran a bit more accurately on the wrist, where it gained only 5 seconds per day.
So, has Hublot successfully squared the circle? Has the Square Bang actually managed to take on the DNA of the Big Bang and, by extension, also the DNA of the Hublot brand, while becoming the kind of model in its own right that deserves a place in the collection? The answer is a simple yes. The Square Bang is a typical Hublot, and not only because it successfully adapts the round Big Bang to a square shape. This is a large and expressive watch, but it is also a timepiece with no coarseness whatsoever and with numerous harmonious details and all-around high-quality workmanship. This sporty watch is technically state-of-the-art, which fully justifies its price of `20,92,000 (approx.). And last but not least, it makes a powerful statement on your wrist. Add to that the fact that the Square Bang Unico All Black is not made to cater to every taste, so it will without doubt retain that high degree of exclusivity.
Images: Courtesy brand
This story first appeared in the print issue of WatchTime US, and was then carried in the Jan-Mar 2023 issue of WatchTime India.