Hublot's got a new watch. And instead of being technicolor or solid gold, it's completely see-through.
The Big Bang Unico Sapphire is all about showing off what Hublot can do with sapphire. The 45 mm multipart case, bezel, and (of course) crystal are all sapphire and blend seamlessly together. It almost looks as if there's no crystal over the dial because the rest of the case is already sapphire. The only components that aren't sapphire are the combination titanium-and-sapphire crown and pushers, the titanium screws, the strap-release system, and the translucent silicone strap itself. It's much lighter weight than you'd expect and is still waterproof to 100 meters.
One advantage to using sapphire as the case is you can see the movement inside from every angle. Here, that means a great look at Hublot's in-house Unico chronograph movement, which is a flyback chronograph with a column wheel and a double clutch. To make all this even easier to see, Hublot has treated the movement with a black PVD finish. The watch has a 72-hour power reserve and is automatically wound by the rotor on the backside of the movement.
Sapphire watches don't come cheap. Milling the hard material into the shape of a watch case is a laborious process with a high rate of breakage, meaning that for every good case you get, you have to throw a lot of cracked and shattered components away. Richard Mille is the brand best known for selling sapphire-cased watches, usually for close to or a little more than $1 million. Even if you compare the Big Bang Unico Sapphire to some of Hublot's other sapphire watches, it looks like tremendous value. Take the LaFerrari Sapphire, for example, which carries a whopping $575,000 price tag (and is a lot less wearable, to boot).
Importantly, though, this watch isn't coming onto the scene in isolation. Just a few weeks ago, TAG Heuer, also owned by Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH) and managed by Jean-Claude Biver, released the Carrera Heuer-02T. At $15,950, this is the least-expensive Swiss-made tourbillon chronograph on the market, coming in at a small fraction of the price of most competitors. It looks as though, after a very rough year of watch sales, LVMH has decided that one way to get customers interested again is to give them watches that were formerly out of their budgets at prices they can actually afford. These aren't bargain bin prices, but they do offer good ways for collectors to move from that first watch or two to more serious collectable pieces.
The Hublot Big Bang Unico Sapphire is a limited edition of 500 pieces and is priced at $57,900.