Hublot (Est. 1980 – ) According to at least one watch connoisseur, “A Hublot [watch] is not something you easily wear under a cufflink (nor is it meant] to be worn with a tuxedo … [a] Big Bang [model] is sure to cause a lot of attention, which just might be a clue as to how the style’s name originated.”
Hublot is a relatively young but well-known Swiss watch company. The Hublot name is derived from the French word for “porthole.” It was founded in 1980 by Italian-born Carlo Crocco who gained experience working for the Italian Binda Group that is best known for making Breil watches. Crocco left that company in 1976 to strike out on his own and create a new watch company.
He moved to Switzerland and formed MDM Geneve and set about designing a watch that he named the Hublot. The watch he created featured the first natural rubber strap in the history of watchmaking. No ordinary strap, it took three years of research to create.
When the first gold Hublot watches were presented, it began a new stylistic trend in the watch business: It was the first brand to produce watches of precious metal with a strap made of rubber. It also created a great furor in the industry because of the mixed elements.
Ironically, the style became the Hublot’s corporate identity. The main characteristics of the Hublot wrist watches are their big, impressive size, the porthole-shaped case that combines polished and matte metal parts, the minimalist black dial, and distinctive black strap made of genuine rubber. Despite failing to attract a single customer on the first day of its debut at the 1980 Basel Watch Fair, the watch quickly became a commercial success.
Among the first Hublot fans and admirers were members of royal families who extended their patronage to Hublot. Not long after, world famous celebrities became interested in the brand insuring its continued success.
By the early part of the 21st Century, Crocco had become preoccupied with his own design work and many activities for the Hand-in-Hand Foundation, a charity helping deprived children around the world. He set out to look for someone who could oversee his watchmaking business.
In late 2003, Jean-Claude Biver (1949- ) then president of Swatch Group’s Omega division met Carlo Crocco. In May 2004, Biver assumed duties as CEO also becoming a board member and minority shareholder in Hublot Watches.
Biver was born in Luxembourg and at age 10 moved to Switzerland with his family. After graduating from university, he went to Le Brasseur and the Joux Valley, the birthplace of Swiss watchmaking. The move had an outsize influence on his life.
Biver’s watchmaking career began in 1975, when he joined Audemars Piguet, and later worked at Omega. In 1982, with his friend Jacques Piguet, he assumed control over the Blancpain watch company that was struggling at the time.
Within ten years of Biver’s control, Blancpain had become a prosperous company. Still, to save the company and help it develop further, the partners decided to sell it. In 1992, Nicolas Hayek and The Swatch Group bought Blancpain, and Biver continued to hold a CEO office and remained a member of the Swatch Group steering committee until late 2003.
At the end of 2003, Biver decided to take a year’s sabbatical but quickly changed his mind when he was offered the opportunity to take over leadership of Hublot. Upon his arrival, Biver set about creating a new flagship watch collection unveiled in Basel in April 2005. It was branded the Hublot Big Bang chronograph and was an immediate success.
In November 2005, the Big Bang began accumulating the first of its many awards. It received the 2005 Design Prize at the Geneva Watchmaking Grand Prix, the Sports Watch Prize at the Watch of the Year ceremony in Japan, and the Middle Eastern Prize for the Best Oversized Watch at the Editor’s Choice Watch of the Year Awards in Bahrain. By the end of 2006, sales were bordering on 100 million Swiss francs.
In February 2007, Hublot opened its first brand shop in Paris in Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. The second one was opened in the Byblos Hotel located in Saint Tropez that summer.
As 2008 began, the company launched the first Big Bang watch model designed specifically for ladies. Its case diameter was 38 mm, with a rim-type bezel, but without a chronograph.
Later that year at Baselworld 2008, the company presented the Big Bang Classic Fusion wrist watch. This Swiss wrist watch was the result of development by Hublot to add elegance and sport appeal while retaining its traditional style. There is no chronograph in this model so it is much thinner. The watch became one of the leading products at Baselworld and Hublot sales beat all records.
Later in 2008, the Big Bang Purple Carat watch received several prizes. The watch won second prize in the Women’s Watch category at the Exhibition Horlogerie in Geneva. It also was awarded with a prize for best jewelry making in the Women’s Watches category at the contest in Bahrain. Also, the Parisian journal Revue des Montres named this Hublot watch with “The Best Women’s Chronograph” prize.
Also in 2008, Carlo Crocco sold Hublot to LVMH, the French luxury goods group. Jean-Claude Biver, CEO and Ricardo Guadalupe, Director retained their respective positions within the company to contribute to the expansion of the LVMH group’s watchmaking sector.
According to Hublot’s Official website, last updated at the end of 2014, the company has also grown physically. In 2009, it inaugurated “a new high-tech manufacture on the banks of Lake Geneva in Nyon. Under the leadership of Jean-Claude Biver, a [significant] area has been dedicated to the watchmaker’s art, and to the development, creation and production of movements … including grand watch complications such as tourbillons, minute repeaters cathedral, the Antikythera movement, the Key of Time movement, and the La Ferrari which holds the World Record for watch autonomy with 50 days of power reserve.”
Jean-Claude Biver also installed a foundry to produce Magic Gold, a scratch-resistant 18-carat gold that, was launched in association with the EPFL (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne) at the end of 2011.
That same year, Hublot bought the Swiss company Profusion, which specializes in the manufacture of carbon fiber components. In addition, there is an in-house galvanoplasty department that tests new metal treatments. In 2013, Hublot introduced – for the first time in the industry – a bright red colored ceramic.
In May 2015, the site AskMen.com published a column by James Bassile that commented on Hublot’s introduction of color.
“[The] Big Bang … initially horrified the watch world with its [color] palette. The same production process that allowed Hublot to combine unlikely materials allowed them to pair out-their colors. In my interview with him, Jean-Claude Biver explained how novel this was at that time:
“For centuries, every luxury watch was basically made out of one of four materials: white-gold, platinum, stainless steel, or gold. The first three materials have essentially the same color; they’re all a whitish-grey [and] only an expert can really make out the difference between them.
“So three of the four materials had essentially the same color, and the second color was the yellow of gold. That’s it. Two colors! Can you believe it?! Since the 1700s, all luxury watches were the same two colors! With the Big Bang, thanks to the construction, which integrated several materials, suddenly we were capable of bringing a bunch of new materials which had different colors.”
In the years since, Hublot has regularly served up new colors. The Big Bang collection now includes shades like “Cappucino Chocolate,” “Black Lemon” and “Tutti Frutti.”
However, according to Bassile, what was most offensive to purists was the “All Black” Big Bang, released in 2006. True to its name, everything on this watch was black, including the dial, hands and numerals — making it extremely difficult to actually tell the time.
Current Hublot CEO Ricardo Guadalupe told Bassile that this was the point, “We didn’t sell this watch to use to tell the time. Of course it’s important to have it, but here it’s secondary. The concept here was to present the watch as an object, for what it represents, rather than as a tool to tell the time. At that time, the concept was quite innovative and different.”
Consequently, and in spite of innovations like these, the luxury watch market has continued to flourish in the age of smartphones. New Hublot wrist watches combine incongruous and unusual things and elements.
Hublot watches for ladies amaze due to the variety of colors – from classic black to bright blue and bright orange. Hublot has never competed with other top watch brands even as it presents, unique and innovative accessories.
Hublot remains one of the last independent family watch companies with a unique one-product concept. Employing complete creative freedom, Hublot has managed to preserve its unique singularity and identity and, simultaneously, expand its lines to include complicated Swiss men’s and women’s watches and wrist watches released in limited edition.
Hublot also has friends and ambassadors in all fields including sports: the fastest man on the planet Usain Bolt, Bayern of Munich, Juventus of Turin, Ajax Amsterdam and Paris Saint-Germain to name just a few in the field of football.
Also in this group are Ayrton Senna of the prestigious Instituto Ayrton Senna, the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco overseen by Prince Albert, Dwyane Wade and the NBA Champion Miami Heat, Kobe Bryant with the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers, Maria Riesch and Dario Cologna in skiing, Depeche Mode and Jay Z from the music world.
In January 2016, The New York Times reported that to mark the 75th anniversary of the late film star, Bruce Lee’s birth, Hublot released a limited edition set of Bruce Lee watches as part of its Spirit of Big Bang series.
An intricate dragon motif on the dial pays homage to Lee’s famous emblem, made famous in Enter the Dragon, the martial arts film released just days after Lee’s death in 1973 at the age of 32. The watch, priced at about $30,000, is powered by a new self-winding chronograph system with a 50-hour power reserve.
Its tonneau case, and the dragon image, are etched in yellow on black micro-blasted ceramic. Yellow and black — Lee’s favorite colors — also adorn the strap of alligator leather sewn on natural rubber. The dial’s sapphire backside has a skeleton motif with “75” inscribed underneath an icon of Lee positioned midair in jeet kune do, the martial art Lee devised.
“Jeet kune do is not classical Kung Fu but is instead a mix of various techniques, methods and influences,” says Richard Guadalupe Hublot CEO. “This is the same as Hublot’s concept of combining different techniques and materials never before put together.”
Hublot is the result of essentially one idea – combining rubber with fine metals to create a new standard in luxurious sports watches. Nearly thirty years later, the Big Bang line has grown to become one of the most popular choices when it comes to masculine elegance. A long list of features now trendy in sports watches were pioneered by Hublot including the use of rubber, PVD coating, rose gold and bold, and aggressive styling.
Today, Hublot has a flagship store on Bond Street, London. Stores in the United States are currently located in Atlanta, Bal Harbour, Beverly Hills, Boca Raton, Dallas, Houston, Las Vegas, New York City, and Palm Beach.