A STUDY IN SCARLET
15th March 2021
Somewhere along the northern shore of Lake Geneva, the boffins behind closed doors at Hublot’s furtive Metallurgy & Materials laboratory are toying with borderline alchemy: scratchproof gold, sapphire cases and a dazzling rainbow of ceramics, which now comes to bear on the watchmaker’s other form of wizardry – high-octane micro-mechanics. Words by Alex Doak.
Forty years ago, Hublot combined gold with rubber for the first time in watchmaking history, forging the brand’s ‘Art of Fusion’ mantra. Since then, scratchproof ‘Magic’ gold has been pioneered by its in-house foundry, followed by coloured sapphire cases, and now ultra-tough, lightweight zirconium ceramic case components. In a world of chiefly monochrome ceramic, building an in-house-manufactured swatch book of blue, green and red in such short time is formidable.
Hublot’s trademark vanilla scented rubber strap provides continuity to the worm-gear-inspired ‘screw’ motif of the winding crown.
The skeletonised ‘HUB9011’ calibre – conceived and made entirely in-house, just like Hublot’s tourbillons and Unico chronograph – comprises 270 components. It’s especially notable (besides the power reserve of course!) for its its oil-free silicon escapement, black platinum bridges, plus the patented index-assembly system visible at 2 o’clock, which allows simple rate adjustment.
To enable power to be transmitted from the horizontally oriented barrel axis to the vertically oriented gear wheels controlling the hours and minutes hands, Hublot’s movement designers deployed a system rarely employed in watchmaking: a helical worm gear, which commutes the direction of kinetic energy by 90º.
Admirable through the sapphire crystal’s cylindrical ‘bulge’ (itself a triumph of form) are seven series-coupled spring-wound barrels. In total, on a single full wind, they offer a full fortnight of autonomous power.
To create an aesthetic balance with the helical worm gear, just visible at 10 o’clock, the escapement’s balance – oscillating at a ‘ticking’ frequency of 4Hz – has been moved forward to the dial side, in a symmetrical position at 2 o’clock.
Every surface of the Big Bang MP-11 Red Magic’s ceramic components are fully polished, meaning the bezel and strap attachments provide a dazzling contrast with Hublot’s signature H-shaped screws, rendered here in matt-black titanium.
The MP-11 is wound manually using a large, fluted crown in black rubber, shaped in ‘screw’ relief to echo the helical worm gear inside. Like the MP-05 of 2013, whose 11 barrels provided 50 days of power, you engage an electric ‘Torx’ stylus into the hub of the crown to wind it quickly, like an F1 pit stop. Fitting, given the MP-05 was inspired by the powertrain of the LaFerrari hypercard.
ROX Magazine spoke with Hublot CEO Ricardo Guadalupe about how the brand has diversified during lockdown, turning 40 and looking to the future.
Hublot, Official Timekeeper of the Premier League, has just launched a limited-edition version of the Big Bang e connected watch, which is now available to buy at ROX.