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Review: The Hublot Big Bang Unico Red Magic, Where Watchmaking Meets Materials Science

by Frank Chuo on June 4, 2018

Hublot Big Bang Unico Red Magic

Ask one hundred watch enthusiasts about Hublot and 99 will agree on one thing: Hublot are the shock jocks of luxury watchmaking. And they do so unabashedly, introducing increasing numbers of “aggressive” pieces into their portfolio every year. Like them or not, they get the watch world talking. This year, the brand introduced its most vibrant looking watch yet – a very, VERY red watch – and as expected it got everyone talking. But there’s more to the watch than just a bold colour choice. In fact, a lot of ingenuity has gone behind making this watch possible. Here, we bring you the details and our thoughts on the new Hublot Big Bang Unico Red Magic.

 

The case, dial and hands

The Big Bang Unico Red Magic measures 45.00 mm x 15.45 mm in case diameter and thickness, respectively. Make no mistake, it is oversized, but that’s the way it needs to be. The Big Bang series of watches are, after all, meant to be loud statement watches. Combine the sheer girth of the case with the colour red, the most evocative and passionate colour on the palette, and you have yourself a watch that can’t be missed from a mile away. But the Big Bang Unico Red Magic is more than just bewildering spectacle, it also represents a breakthrough in watchmaking materials.

 

The Big Bang Unico Red Magic features a quick-release system for easy strap change.

 

The Hublot R&D department has succeeded in creating what is the first ‘vibrantly coloured ceramic’, something that has previously not been done in industries using technical and aesthetic ceramics. According to Hublot, the invention is 100% in-house and the expertise has been patented. The newly developed ceramic is incredibly dense, with a hardness greater than conventional ceramics and thus increased resilience. The problem with adding colour to ceramics is that the heat involved in the baking process would normally burn pigments, resulting in dull colour. Hublot have claimed that their proprietary manufacturing process (that has to do with heat and pressure) avoids this, though how exactly remains a secret. Previous use of the manufacture’s red ceramic have been restricted to the bezel of the limited edition Big Bang Ferrari Unico Carbon Red Ceramic. In the Big Bang Unico Red Magic, most of the case is made of this innovative material, polished to a sheen.

 

Hublot have plenty of experience of ceramics, previously with ‘Magic Gold’ and now with ‘Vibrantly Coloured Ceramics’.

 

The design of the skeletonised dial on the Big Bang Unico Red Magic is largely consistent across the Unico 45 mm and Unico 42 mm line of watches. With their striking matte red accent, the flange, indices, minute and seconds counters, Arabic numerals and hands contrast strikingly against the movement in the background. Their red hue aids in legibility, though we noted that the contrast can feel a bit tiresome to behold after a while. To complete the look, the watch also comes with matching lined structured rubber straps – in red of course. Now, obviously the design, aesthetics and dimensions of the Big Bang Unico Red Magic isn’t for everyone. However, it bears mentioning that the watch is made by one of the top Swiss watch manufacturers specialising in materials – the build quality is as solid as they come. In our hands, the Big Bang Unico Red Magic neither looked nor felt plasticky (though photos may suggest otherwise). Quite the contrary, it felt pretty good. The watch is an easy target for scorn – no two ways about that – but judgment should only be passed after experiencing it in real life, for it may surprise you.

 

Legibility is decent on the Big Bang Unico Red Magic even though red on grey isn’t the most striking contrast.

The movement

Powering the Big Bang Unico Red Magic is the Hublot Unico Calibre HUB1242, designed, developed and manufactured in-house. The 330-part, 38-jewel automatic movement has a power reserve of 72 hours and operates at a contemporary 4 Hz beat rate. On top of a chronograph function, the Calibre HUB1242 also has a date display set (a little too) discreetly within the chronograph minute counter. Unbeknownst to many, the movement also features a flyback function, allowing the chronograph to be reset while running and then instantly begin running again.

The movement’s design and finish is noticeably modern with blackened bridges and winding rotor. It is front-loaded to take advantage of the openworked dial. Of note are the date ring and column wheel, providing insight into the workings of the Calibre HUB1242’s two complications.

 

Finishing on the Hublot Unico Calibre HUB 1242 is neat and fitting of its price point.

The competitive landscape

The Hublot Big Bang Unico Red Magic caters to one specific audience, and that audience consists of people who want a bold, trendy statement watch. Made in a limited edition run of 500 pieces, the watch retails at SGD37,200 (or CHF24,900). In the grand scheme of statement watches, the Big Bang Unico Red Magic does offer the highest loudness to price ratio, and that’s value for anyone looking to attract attention.

 

On the wrist, the Big Bang Unico Red Magic can’t help but stand out.

 

If the fiery aesthetics of the Red Magic is too hot to handle, there’s always the icy cool Big Bang Unico Sapphire to fall back on. No less fascinating, the case of the Big Bang Unico Sapphire is indeed made of sapphire crystal. We were skeptical at first about the appeal of the watch, but our doubts were put to rest as we went hands on with it. The Big Bang Unico Sapphire appears plasticky in photos but looks and feels like glass in real life, cold to the touch, solid and an impressive sight. They say you shouldn’t judge a watch until you try it on – it could not be more true for this Hublot. Like the Red Magic, the Sapphire is powered by the Hublot Unico Calibre HUB1242 and limited to 500 pieces. It does however retail at over twice the price of its ceramic brethren at USD57,900 (or SGD77,493).

 

The Big Bang Unico Sapphire comes in two main versions. This one here is the All Black variant.

 

But no talk about statement watches is ever complete without mentioning Richard Mille. The brand is known for its avant-garde watchmaking and aggressive design, as well as its obscene pricing which its clientele take as a perk, not as a deterrent. The RM11-03 Jean Todt 50th Anniversary was first introduced at SIHH 2017. It features a case made of high-tech material, namely TPT Quartz, which consists of hundreds of layers of quartz fibres. Like the Hublot Big Bang Unico Red Magic, the RM11-03 Jean Todt is a flyback chronograph with a skeletonised dial. But in addition, it boasts an annual calendar for added functionality. Not for the faint-hearted, the watch retails at USD140,000 (SGD187,376), almost four times the price of the Hublot Big Bang Unico Red Magic. The silver lining here is that the RM11-03 is one of Richard Mille’s best value-for-money (not a joke) and least expensive timepieces (sadly, also not a joke).

 

The Richard Mille RM11-03 Jean Todt.

 

Concluding thoughts

Hublot timepieces are some of the most polarising in the industry – the Big Bang Unico Red Magic is no different. The brand’s aggressive marketing (celebrities, endless limited editions, etc.) also leaves much to be desired. But at the end of the day, they do play a valid role in today’s watchmaking scene. Hublot may not have a single timepiece that will survive the test of time, but they do fill a particular gap in the market: the demand for fashionable/trendy watches with solid – even innovative – watchmaking.

 

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2 Comments
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  • Jeremy
    June 6, 2018 at 8:01 am

    I was going to tick “I hate it” but the more I look at the details the more I like it. It’s still the exact opposite of the type of watch I like and the colour also isn’t my thing but for some reason this version of the Big Bang best highlights the care and craftsmanship that have gone into making the watch. It’s one of those watches I think I would hate when it’s on someone else’s wrist but love it if I owned it.

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