A Bigger Bang

Last year was a special year for Hublot. The brand, which under the flawless stewardship of Chairman Jean-Claude Biver and C.E.O. Ricardo Guadalupe has become one of the most powerful watch brands in the business, marked the 10-year anniversary of the Big Bang. To the uninitiated, watches (in lieu of cigarette advertising) have now created campaigns that define and contextualise the notion of what it is to own something miraculous. No one has managed to absorb the impact of the recession and turn it into an opportunity like Hublot did. The secret ingredients to their success have been a mix of what Biver refers to as “a fusion of tradition and future”. People may have been a bit confused as to what on Earth this meant, but questions were answered when the Big Bang was released, and since then it has been something of a phenomenon.

To celebrate, Hublot decided to create a design prize. On the panel of judges sat one of this magazine’s idols and a high priest of rakishness, Lapo Elkann. Lapo is of the dynasty of the man after whom this magazine is named, Gianni Agnelli. He was a perfect choice to judge such a design prize considering his particular nous in the design arena, and awarding young designers is just the kind of thing watch brands should take the lead in, especially innovative brands such as Hublot.

But this was not the only thing that Hublot celebrated last year. At the Palais de Tokyo during Paris Fashion Week, Elkann and Hublot announced a much larger collaboration — between Hublot and Elkann’s own hyper-stylish eyewear brand, Italia Independent. The collaboration manifested itself in the Big Bang Unico Italia Independent.

For a long time, Lapo has been known for his connection with fast cars and fabulous dress sense. He built a personal brand around that and his sartorial acumen. It seems a fait accompli that Hublot would be another associate of Italia Independent. Wei Koh, the Founder and Editorial Director of The Rake and Revolution, says of the collaboration: “Lapo has a way of taking things that have come from street culture and elevating them to the vernacular of high luxury. One of these is denim: he actually had one of his Ferraris completely upholstered in denim, and he was one of the first guys to have clothes tailored in denim as well, and to elevate the status of denim to something that is extremely sartorial.” His now-trademark double-breasted denim jacket by Rubinacci changed everything. The denim revival in suiting began soon thereafter. About the partnership with Hublot, Elkann tells us: “We found that we were two companies with so much in common. In reality, the collaboration was born because it deploys the important qualities that we share: style, creativity, experimentation and advanced technology. I am a creative person. I like to do things that have never been done before. My creative vision in Italia Independent pushes me to use materials that have never been used before in certain product segments. Hublot and I have incorporated this vision into the Big Bang Unico Italia Independent. We have also introduced new materials on the eyewear created to go with the watch.”

What is most impressive with the choice of collaborator by Hublot is that they are not choosing someone merely because he is famous. Above all else — namely his Italian handsomeness and perfect sartorial taste — he is an extremely high achiever. Guadalupe says of Hublot’s choice of collaborators: “I don’t have a checklist that leads me to say, ‘This guy would be great for us’. It is more a case of meeting people through an activity or an event. If there is chemistry and we have a good feeling, then we just say, ‘O.K., let’s do something together’. We always meet and get to know the person before signing any agreement, to make sure we share the same ideas. A partnership can only be successful if the ambassador or friend of the brand likes the brand. With many of our ambassadors, like Usain Bolt and Jose Mourinho, they are already familiar with the brand, or are existing customers, and of course that helps as it means they have already been touched by Hublot.”

The campaign materials flawlessly emulate the epic levels of cool that only Lapo can carry off. The watch and the glasses pop and perfectly complement each other. Any naysayers among the snobbish intelligentsia of journalists and collectors have since been silenced.

Since then the two brands have been joined at the proverbial hip. The latest epoch of this friendship was launched at the Basel watch fair this year — the Big Bang Unico Italia Independent Camo collection. Koh sees this as a continuance of the ability that Lapo has in making something potentially mundane and quotidian and turning it into a sartorial masterpiece. “With the camouflage motif, he uses quite a bit in Italia Independent, but he also had one of his Ferraris painted in a camouflage motif, and then for this year’s collaboration with Hublot, the Big Bang is Texalium but with a camouflage motif. He wanted to take it away from its military roots and use it purely for its design iconography. One of the sub-dials in the watch has a peace sign because he wants you to understand that his use of camouflage is one for fun and for luxury and irreverence rather than a sort of aggressive military symbol.”

Hublot have tapped into a partner here unlike anything they have managed before. Whereas the aforementioned Bolts and Mourinhos of this world may be the leaders in their particular fields, and Hublot might design a watch to fit around that, Lapo is suited exactly for creating things that are coveted. He is a fantastic designer, and combined with Hublot’s awareness of the zeitgeist, they have created something spectacular as a result. In terms of what comes next, Lapo sums it up much better than we could: “The sky is really the limit in this collaboration between timepieces and eyewear. Hublot and Italia Independent share the same challenge: to reach excellence both at the technical and stylistic levels.

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