Blue in the Face

Self-confessed Hublot doubter Alex Doak might be changing his mind, thanks to the latest limited edition from The Watch Gallery.

Let’s get one thing clear, before you start reading things into that introduction: there is no such thing as a bad luxury watch. Which is a blessing to me and my fellow horolo-scribes: unlike genuinely bad cars or dreadful restaurant experiences, there’s always some redeeming feature to riff on – mainly concerning the inherent build quality that a “Swiss Made” dial-marking guarantees – thus sparing oneself the inevitable blowback that any of your irrational gut feelings might elicit from diehard fans.

Yes, it’s cowardly, but watches are all about gut feelings aren’t they? Who am I to say you shouldn’t buy a Hublot because I wouldn’t? It’s a finely made bit of kit, it’s worth the money, and hardly stepping on other brands’ feet, so what do you care that I have an issue with its multitude of tenuous sporting associations, brash marketing tactics, disproportionately fanatical collector base, the suspiciously generic design of the Big Bang…

I’m coming round to Hublot though. And it’s principally thanks to The Watch Gallery’s latest limited edition – a rather classy exercise in titanium and ceramic, with chronograph subdials and contrast stitching picked out in TWG’s royal blue (£12,500). The brushed metal and electric accents properly suit the stark technicality of Hublot’s skeleton dial and its geometrically constructed case – a cyborg for the wrist, which happens to go with a pinstripe suit as well as a ray gun.

But what I’m finally “getting” with Hublot is the brand’s sheer versatility and variety. It’s impressive enough that the brand’s top-flight Nyon manufacture is nimble enough to turn out a special run of just 25 Classic Fusion Aero Chrono “Selfridges” watches; the internal logistics required to make and deliver to the watchmaker’s bench the few-thousand components amongst many millions will make your head spin. But then you consider all the other limited editions, the restless evolution across the core collections… That’s seriously impressive, innovative stuff for a brand that still manages to uphold all the codes of traditional Swiss watchmaking.

And then it dawns on me: Hublot is haute horlogerie’s Swatch. And we all love Swatch, don’t we? Like Swatch, there’s a Hublot for everyone (everyone with a spare £12,500, admittedly) and like Swatch, there’s always a Hublot to suit today’s mood or outfit. There’s always something new, and there’s always someone in the room who’ll spot yours and want to chat about it. Like Swatch, Hublot will always be in fashion, and most importantly Hublot is FUN, which is something the majority of its Swiss counterparts could learn from. Hublot collectors may be diehard (allegedly, number 25 of TWG’s edition will never leave its plastic wrapper, let alone its safety deposit box) but they’re never over-reverent – again, something the majority of Hublot’s counterparts’ customers could learn from.

I doubt Hublot’s marketing team will have the guts (or the lawyers) to start advertising themselves as “the connoisseur’s Swatch watch”, but it’s not a bad thing to consider. Hell, it’s brought this “long-in-the-tooth” hack round to the brand, after all. And when you consider this week’s sale of 5,800 Swatches at Sotheby’s Hong Kong for US$6 million – an average of £1,034 per placky watch – you realise that anything with a passionate-enough fanbase earns its worth by sheer virtue of that passion. In combination with Hublot’s near-faultless mechanical execution and bang-on design, that makes for a very worthy watch brand indeed. Not to mention strong investment potential for special editions as well executed as The Watch Gallery’s 25 Aerofusions.

Damn. I think I’d better change that introduction. I really like Hublot now.

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