The integrated-bracelet sports watch: also known as the current, most powerful trend in luxury watchmaking. Fade it at your own risk. For many years now, sports watches – especially those with integrated bracelets – have been on the receiving end of ravenous demand. Manufacturers that wouldn’t normally be associated with sports watches have all come up with their very own sporty collections. Of course, we all know that Hublot has been in the sports watch market for a long while now. The brand’s flagship collection, the Big Bang, has been around since the mid-noughties. Big Bang watches are known for their exotic materials, rubber straps, porthole bezel with unaligned H-screws, and often-aggressive aesthetic. All the more interesting, then, that it was only two years ago in 2020 that the polarising brand introduced its first sports watch with an integrated bracelet: the Big Bang Integral.
Hublot Big Bang Integral Time Only
This year, at LVMH Watch Week 2022, the sequel (or is it really a prequel?) to the Big Bang Integral was released by Hublot. Named the Big Bang Integral Time Only, the watch is a pared down version of the original Big Bang Integral, doing without the chronograph function and going, well, “time-only”. The Integral and the Integral Time Only may be from the same Big Bang family, but they are very different beasts on the wrist; it’s almost as if the new Big Bang Integral Time Only speaks a distinct design language. Here, we bring you the low-down and our honest thoughts on Hublot’s latest integrated-bracelet sports watch.
The Case, Dial and Hands
The new Big Bang Integral Time Only is available in three different materials: titanium, yellow gold, and ceramic. Each version has a uniqueness about it. The titanium sports a classic look that is betrayed by its space-age lightweightness. Hublot only uses Grade 5 titanium, which has high specific strength and excellent corrosion resistance. The yellow gold variant is the most striking of the trio, the heaviest and naturally the most luxurious. Both the titanium and yellow gold Integral Time Only watches are regular production while the final ceramic variation is a limited edition of 250 pieces. At 40 mm in diameter and 9.25 mm in height, the watch is surprisingly restrained in size. Those familiar with the Big Bang collection know that its members tend to be larger, some up to 45 mm in diameter. The new Big Bang Integral Time Only, dare we say, wears quite elegantly on the wrist – this is a watch that most wrists can pull off. It’s even ‘compact’ enough to slide under a cuff, which can’t be said about most models in the collection. Hublot’s Big Bang watches are famous for their use of rubber straps, but in the Integral line, integrated bracelets are used instead. Credit is given where credit is due: these are some really gorgeous bracelets. The three-link bracelets used in the collection feature aggressive lines and angles, with the edges of each link beveled. The alternating brushed and polished finish of the multi-faceted bracelet is textbook but bears special mention for its superb execution. This is a bracelet worth staring at.
For added casualness, a sapphire crystal dial is utilised to reveal the movement behind it. The skeletonised date wheel is a nice touch but the rest of the movement isn’t quite as interesting to see, given that it’s covered up by bridges. In contrast, the original Integral – which is a chronograph – has much more to appreciate visually. Open dials share a common issue, and it’s that they are, by design, fairly hard to read off of. To ameliorate this issue, the seconds track around the perimeter as well as the seconds hand are given red accents. The other hands and the hour markers are coated with luminescent material for low- or no-light visibility.
Driving the Integral Time Only is the 185-part, 27-jewel Calibre HUB1710. The movement is based on LVMH sister brand Zenith’s Elite 670. In spite of the name of the watch, it actually has a date function in addition to time-telling. One could assume that the “Time Only” name serves to stress that the watch isn’t a chronograph like the original Integral. The Calibre HUB1710 has a power reserve of 50 hours when fully wound and operates at a modern 4 Hz beat. Its mere 4 mm thickness is what allows the case to have sub-centimetre height.
Finissage on the Calibre HUB1710 is tidy and attractive. Highlights are the circular Geneva stripes on the bridges and the openworked, circular brushed winding rotor. Its industrial, monochromatic appearance is befitting of the image of a contemporary sports watch like the Integral Time Only.
The Competitive Landscape
Toss a metaphorical rock into the watch market these days and you’ll most likely hit a sports watch. Sports watches have been the flavour of the decade and that means competition is as stiff as it’s ever been. Hublot distinguishes itself from its competitors by being a leader in the lifestyle segment of the sports watch market. Love or hate the brand, it is a master at marketing itself, be it through traditional advertising, sponsorships, or collaborations. Hublot is also a trendsetter, experimenting with all sorts of materials and aesthetics that challenges the status quo. The new Big Bang Integral Time is a reflection of this notion, with its bold looks and availability in three materials (two of which are fairly unconventional in watchmaking). The watch is priced at USD17,800 for the titanium, USD19,900 for the ceramic (limited edition of 250 pieces), and USD49,400 for the yellow gold version. The ceramic variant may be the most enticing option of the triumvirate, as it is a limited edition piece that is only marginally more expensive than the base titanium variant.
For something a little more elegant in design, look no further than the Chopard Alpine Eagle. The subject in the photograph below is the Alpine Eagle Cadence 8HF, the speedster of Chopard’s sports watch line. As its name suggests, the Cadence 8HF operates at an 8 Hz frequency for improved precision. And no, it’s not marketing fluff, because the Calibre 01.12-C that powers the watch is indeed COSC-certified. The Chopard Alpine Eagle Cadence 8HF is only available in titanium, limited to 250 pieces, has a date function, and a case/bracelet with a vaguely similar design to the Big Bang Integral (if you squint hard enough). Priced at SGD27,600, it is costlier than its Hublot counterpart – but you do get, in return, better finissage and a high frequency movement.
Next up is yet another titanium sports watch – fresh from Watches & Wonders 2022 – this time by prestigious Saxon manufacturer A. Lange & Söhne. The new Odysseus in titanium is the most elegant watch of the bunch here and also boasts an additional day display. It is also – by a significant margin – the most expensive, at EUR55,000. Of course, this is in part down to the exemplary finishing and decoration applied unto the watch – finishing that is at least on par with the best from Switzerland. Limited to only 250 pieces, the Odysseus in titanium is most likely sold out as we speak.
Don’t feel like getting held at ransom by a boutique, or placed on an imaginary waitlist? Prefer not to pay a premium for a watch that would’ve cost half the price a decade ago? Well then maybe the Big Bang Integral Time Only is the watch for you. Competitively priced, genuinely good-looking, and an overall fun sports watch to wear, the Integral Time Only is a reminder of bygone days when sports watches weren’t just about how much you could sell them for the following month. This year’s presentation of the watch is tame by Hublot’s standards. Expect wilder variations of the watch to come in the following years, perhaps in magic gold or sapphire or in rainbow ceramic with a denim dial.