Among the most innovative luxury watch brands on the market today, Hublot is known for its unique “fusion” watches. Hublot designers combine rare metals, rubber, leather, ceramics, and fabrics for maximum comfort, functionality, and style.
Hublot developed the world’s first rubber watch strap, and continually engineers new materials, such as its signature “King Gold” alloy.
Though young for a family-owned Swiss firm, Hublot quickly earned acclaim from prominent figures worldwide. Famous fans of the brand include several European kings and princes as well as celebrated athletes, artists, and musicians.
Who Founded Hublot?
Hublot’s original founder was Carlo Crocco, an Italian visionary who hailed from a long line of respected watchmakers. His uncle founded the Italian watch company Binda, which developed many best-selling watch models in Italy during its peak.
Naturally, with such a pedigree, Crocco grew up immersed in the rich traditions of watch manufacturing and design. He worked diligently in his family’s business for over 30 years.
However, the talented and iconoclastic Crocco yearned for the freedom to pursue his own vision. His personal views on watch design often clashed with both traditional watchmaking conventions and the fashion trends of the time. In 1976, he finally decided to leave Binda, and would soon change the very face of luxury watchmaking.
Crocco’s “Porthole” Concept
In 1980, Crocco went to Geneva, Switzerland to set up his new manufacture and began designing its debut watch collection. Crocco, who loved sailing, set out to create a stylish yet sailing-friendly watch.
To him, this meant a watch both durable enough for on-deck adventures and dressy enough for black-tie events.
Crocco’s primary inspiration for the collection was clearly indicated in its name “Hublot,” which means “porthole” in French.
Fittingly, the original design’s face closely resembled the porthole windows on a ship. This was due to a distinctive bezel of gold or steel ornamented with 12 H-shaped screws. Evenly-spaced, these screws also served as the hour markers, rendering them functional as well as decorative.
Along with its nautical associations, the porthole motif would soon prove to fit Hublot in another way. Hublot’s enduring claim to fame is discovering utility and charm in combinations of contrasting materials, both man-made and natural. And what icon could evoke that more perfectly than a metal-framed window built into a ship’s wooden walls?
Hublot Pioneers The Rubber Strap
Designing the strap for the Hublot collection presented a unique challenge. Must-haves for Crocco included water resistance, comfortable fit, and sleek, clean lines. Yet none of the traditional watch strap materials—steel, leather, fabric— possessed all of these qualities.
So Crocco started looking into more unusual options. Ultimately, he decided on rubber for its unique look, texture and feel. Also, unlike materials such as suede, it could be easily washed without damage.
However, not just any type of rubber would do. To be suited for use in quality luxury sporting watches, Crocco felt a rubber should have:
- Long-term resistance to breakage, warping, and staining
- Softness for comfort and customizable fit
- No hint of that characteristically potent “rubber smell.”
Crocco and his team worked about 3 years, spending over $1M, to develop a rubber to fit these specifications. The end result was incredibly durable, yet flexible enough to fit comfortably to every wrist. Best of all, instead of smelling like your average rubber, it exuded a subtle vanilla scent.
Rapid Rise To Watch Industry Success
Crocco’s porthole design and unprecedented choice to marry rubber with a precious metal were enormous risks. Hublot was snubbed by watch connoisseurs with traditional tastes and could well have ended up fading to oblivion.
But instead, Hublot swiftly became a favorite among royal families in Europe. Juan Carlos I (King of Spain from 1975-2014) was one of the first avid fans of the brand.
Hublot’s growing reputation as the watch of royalty catapulted the brand to the heights of success and fame. Soon, it was competing and holding its own even among watch manufacturers established more than a century before.
Staying True To Form For Years
Throughout the 80s and most of the 90s, Hublot enjoyed considerable success with just its single core collection. Other than adding on mechanical movements and dial markers, the company never veered far from the original porthole design. (You can read more about various type of watch movements on our Watch Movements Breakdown.)
In fact, other luxury watch brands began to imitate Hublot’s designs and particularly its rubber straps. This is how rubber, previously unorthodox in watchmaking, became a standard material in sporting watches. Nowadays, nearly all watch brands offer rubber strap models—and it all started with Crocco’s vision.
By the early 2000s, Hublot’s popularity began to wane. But luckily, it caught the eye of a watch industry maverick looking for a promising new company to helm.
New Leadership Refocuses Hublot
Jean-Claude Biver is well-known for his astonishing work in revitalizing struggling or even defunct watch firms.
Most famously, he revived Blancpain by renewing consumer interest in mechanical movements during a period where quartz was king. Another example is how he reinvented Omega through strategic product placement and celebrity endorsement deals.
Biver was struck by the genius of Hublot’s initial defining feature — the unexpected union of dissimilar yet complementary materials. He saw looming potential in laser-focusing on that distinction. He believed a large repertoire of cutting-edge materials would certainly appeal to the increasingly-diverse, cosmopolitan luxury market.
Thus, after Biver became CEO of Hublot in 2004, he heavily promoted the brand’s “Art of Fusion.” In 2005, he developed the wildly-popular, award-winning “Big Bang” collection. Exotic materials are incorporated into nearly every watch component — even the movement itself, for some Big Bang models .
Under Biver’s leadership, Hublot’s sales volumes quintupled. By 2008, Hublot’s success attracted a handsome bid from the multinational luxury conglomerate LMVH (Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE). Crocco accepted, and the brand became part of the LMVH Watches & Jewelry division. Once again, Hublot found itself joining the ranks of much-older Swiss watch firms such as TAG Heuer.
How Hublot Remains A Top Brand
Hublot has managed to thrive even during recession periods that hit hard for other watchmakers. Current CEO Ricardo Guadalupe, who succeeded Biver in 2012, has continued to foster the company’s growth, keeping business brisk. What are some of the company’s secrets?
Variety Of Hublot Speciality Materials
As we’ve seen, especially since 2005, Hublot has been continually expanding its already vast range of signature materials:
Rubber remains a staple in most Hublot collections. It’s often combined with other materials in the straps to increase comfort and durability. But Hublot designers are also known include it in stylish accents on the bezel or other visible components.
This material can be both incredibly light and strong, and it’s found extensively in Hublot diving watches. It helps watches to withstand water pressure tolerance during deep-sea diving yet remain comfortably lightweight.
In addition to metals common in fine jewellery like platinum, titanium, and tungsten, Hublot uses its own speciality alloys. These include:
- “Magic Gold,” which is very fine (18-carat) and scratch-proof due to the inclusion of ceramic material
- “King Gold,” another 18-carat alloy that exhibits a lovely reddish “rose gold” tone from increased copper content. A dose of platinum serves to stabilize its distinctive color.
Recently, Hublot has been incorporating luxury fabric elements into its designs:
- Chronograph Italia Independent Classic Fusion watches are made with beautiful woolen fabrics supplied by the famous Rubinacci tailoring family.
- “One Click” Italia Independent models are fitted with lush velvet straps.
- The Big Bang Broderie lines feature Saint Gallen embroidery on organza silk
Alligator skin and other types of leather are often used in combination with rubber, particularly in the “Classic Fusion” line. But leather also sometimes appears on its own. For example, the breathtaking Berluti Classic Fusion collection showcases Berluti Patinated Venezia leather in the straps and the dial.
Partnering Up To Create Unique Limited Editions
Like many top watch brands, Hublot boasts a long list of distinguished company sponsors and brand ambassadors. One of the latest and greatest is the current World Number 1 Golfer, Dustin Johnson, who partnered with Hublot in 2017.
But unlike some of its peers, Hublot is particularly keen on working closely with its partners. This enables Hublot designers to truly capture the unique essence of each sponsor / ambassador in creating tribute pieces. These rich collaborations have led to a wide selection of jaw-dropping limited edition offerings. Here are a few noteworthy examples:
Brazilian soccer legend Edson Arantes do Nascimento (or “Pelé”) is widely acknowledged as the greatest footballer of all time. He began endorsing Hublot for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and graced the “Hublot Loves Football” campaign.
The limited edition Pelé Classic Fusion model, shown above, features:
- A satin-finished ceramic case (face shown above on the left)
- Yellow highlights throughout the watch
- A strap embossed with a pattern reminiscent of the pentagonal panels of a soccer ball
- A soccer-ball-shaped subdial
- Pelé’s special silhouette logo on the case’s back (shown at right).
Hublot’s alliance with Ferrari officially began in 2011 and has been going strong ever since. Far from simply placing Ferrari logos on existing models, Hublot’s designers pulled out all the stops. Their Ferrari tribute watches vividly evoke the bold lines and palpable power of Ferrari racecars and luxury sports cars.
The MP-05 “LaFerrari”(shown above) was actually developed in parallel with the 2015 LaFerrari hybrid sports car. The unusual shape and open-case back is highly reminiscent of its namesake. It’s not hard to see why it remains one of the most popular Ferrari-inspired Hublot timepieces.
This complex watch contains the highest number of individual parts in any Hublot model (637). It also features a record-breaking 50-hour power reserve.
Usain “Lightning” Bolt
Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt is often called “The Fastest Man on Earth.” Indeed, he’s won 8 Olympic gold medals and broken many world speed records. When Bolt became a brand ambassador in 2015, Hublot dedicated 2 limited edition “Big Bang” models to him. The “Big Bang Unico Usain Bolt Yellow Gold” and “Big Bang Unico Usain Bolt Ceramic” can be seen below:
One model is encased in 18-carat yellow gold and the other in black ceramic. Both are highlighted across the dial with yellow and green accents, colors of the Jamaican flag. The straps are also embossed with Jamaican flag motifs to honor Usain and his heritage.
Maxime Buchi, famed Swiss tattoo artist and founder of multidisciplinary media studio Sang Bleu, partnered with Hublot in 2016. The Sang Bleu Big Bang showcases an intricate miniature glass and metal Buchi sculpture centered on the dial. Shown below is the King Gold variety.
Popular Hublot Models From Current Collections
In addition to its splashy limited edition models, Hublot also releases many much-loved standard pieces. The company offers nearly every model in a wide variety of case/strap variations:
This line retains the minimalist spirit of the original Hublot collection, while still allowing for great variety and innovation. Shown below is the popular Blue Chronograph King Gold:
One of the most diverse Hublot collections, Big Bang often employs the company’s unique patented technologies. For instance, the “One Click” system allows the wearer to easily change the watch’s strap, enabling many style options.
Big Bang watches are also available with a number of different movements and complications. Particularly popular is Hublot’s in-house automatic “Unico” movement, which features:
- An integrated flyback chronograph with a column-wheel mechanism on the dial side
- A highly-efficient bi-directional automatic winding system (70-hour power reserve)
- A removable escapement module that allows for easy balance/escape wheel repair
As you can see below in the new “Big Bang Unico Sapphire Rainbow,” the movement itself is also aesthetically pleasing.
Spirit Of The Big Bang
One of Hublot’s more recent collections is the Spirit of the Big Bang, which feature tonneau (barrel-shaped) dials. These watches feature the Zenith El Primero movement, which fits nicely within the slim-line tonneau cases. Shown below is a model encased in black ceramic and black-plated stainless steel. It’s also set with 48 black diamonds, a smoked sapphire crystal dial, and a big date moonphase complication.
Last but not least is Hublot’s famous MP collection of racing watches. These are unconventionally-shaped models heavily-inspired by automobile silhouettes, such as the MP-05 line mentioned earlier. Another stunning example is the MP-07 40 Days Power Reserve. It has a rectangular dial, amazing power reserves, a vertically-oriented in-house movement and a tourbillon with 9 series-linked barrels.
Shown above is the Sapphire Crystal variation of the MP-07 that offers maximum visibility of the unique movement and complications.
Craving More Hublot?
We hope our rundown on Hublot’s brand history, company philosophy / achievements, and notable product lines has piqued your interest. To further browse Hublot’s most popular watch collections, read the latest press releases, and learn more about the awe-inspiring craftmanship in Hublot watches, you can visit the company’s official website.
"Swiss innovation at its finest. Hublot is an influential industry leader for its adventurous use of materials and precision craftsmanship."Rating: 5.0 ★★★★★