Hublot and Maxime Plescia-Büchi’s Third Sang Bleu Collaboration

Maxime Plescia-Büchi transforms the Spirit of Big Bang line for his third collaboration with Hublot. We head to Milan for the launch and a first look.

As a brand that was founded only in 1980, Hublot, by all accounts, isn’t your traditional watchmaker – and has no qualms at all being labelled anything else but that. The Swiss watch manufacture made its name by being disruptive from the outset – by putting a precious gold watch inspired by a ship’s porthole with its octagonal bezel with visible screws on a decidedly non-precious rubber strap. Hublot’s identity as the king of fusion – unusual in the industry at the time – was cemented, and the Art of Fusion became
its calling card. 

Watch purists initially struggled to understand Hublot’s mission but the brand has never wavered from its desire to be unique, different and bold in its approach. It needed to draw on high levels of craftsmanship and expertise, both in terms of material innovation – as seen in its proprietary Magic Gold, brightly coloured ceramics and sapphires – as well as in its manufacture movements, including the Unico chronograph, Meca-10 and other complications. And, lastly, it needed to align itself with partners and ambassadors who were just as crazy as the brand itself. 

According to Hublot CEO Ricardo Guadalupe, “The key to the success of the brand is to do not what traditional brands have done for 200 or 300 years. It’s important that our philosophy is to make watches in a different way.”

Maxime Plescia-Büchi
Maxime Plescia-Büchi

Maxime Plescia-Büchi’s collaboration with Hublot is exactly that: different. When the Hublot x Sang Bleu series was revealed in 2016, it was unheard of for a watch brand to take inspiration from tattoos. Neither party, funnily enough, had any idea that the partnership would be more than a one-off. But the collaboration clearly sparked something, and now, seven years later, we’re in Milan in the thick of Salone del Milano, for the launch party of the third edition.

“It’s a risk to launch this kind of watch in the beginning, as it’s never happened in the industry,” Guadalupe concedes. “I thought, let’s see what the consumer will say, and the commercial success has been incredible. There’s something that we’ve touched on, a new way of making watches that we thought would be quite segmenting. Some people might like them, or not at all, but when people loved them, they really loved them. The second edition was again, an incredible success. Now we’re at the third edition and it’s definitely a long-term relationship. I’m really happy about that.”

But Büchi isn’t just your average tattoo artist, he’s many things. A man of countless interests, he made his name as a pioneer of abstract and graphic tattoo styles, as well as for creating his Sang Bleu studio, from where he and his team work on graphic design, publishing, fashion and typography. There’s also the fact that Büchi is a watch collector, and well understands the desires and needs of the watch community. 

Hublot Spirit of Big Bang Sang Bleu in King Gold

“When I began designing the watches, my starting point was always to analyse the space and what I’m putting my work on,” says Büchi. “Whether it’s the body of a person or a watch, whether it’s the culture or the technology or the mechanics behind it. What’s interesting is that I’ve also evolved with my designs. When I started on my first Hublot, which was the Big Bang Unico, I made sure that at the end of the day the design would still be a Big Bang and I wasn’t going to compromise or override that. But the first watch became the boundary for the second watch I designed, and I was given licence to grow and adjust with each new design. That’s been a wonderful thing.”

The Sang Bleu series has always been characterised by bold geometric shapes, intricate and perfectly symmetrical linework and negative spaces. Büchi, reportedly, was deeply inspired by Leonard Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man.

The third collaborative watch sees the collaboration in the Spirit of Big Bang line for the first time, and while the watch is still distinctly Sang Bleu in aesthetic, the distinct tonneau shape was an important element that Büchi was excited to work with, for reasons both cultural and ergonomic.

Unique pieces come bedazzled with brilliant-cut diamonds

“With smart watches now, we’re creating a whole new system of reference for what a watch looks like, for a whole new generation of people for whom the smart watch is their gateway into the world of mechanical watches. And smart watches tend to have square or rectangular dials,” says Büchi.

“But of course, tonneau-shaped watches are a historical shape – and on top of that it’s actually so much more ergonomic,” he continues. “So for me, that’s two aspects that I wanted to play with. First of all, that it’s relevant in terms of the design zeitgeist, because of the prominence of rectangular smart watches. And secondly, because of ergonomics, which is something very important to me. I know there are people who like bigger watches, but I never liked big watches that were unpleasant to wear, and I wanted to go as far as I possibly could to make this watch extremely pleasant to wear. I want people to put on the watch and feel like it’s an extension of their bodies.”

His approach is like tattooing, I enthuse. But Büchi eschews small tattoos: his creations are often big, taking up the entire canvas of torsos and limbs. So was it a challenge to work on the much smaller dial surface of a watch?

Büchi wears the titanium version

That’s a very good question,” he replies. “While working on tattoos you’re always breaking up the work into smaller parts and building it up from there, sort of like stacking. It’s almost like tunnel vision, and however big the final piece is, at that moment that small space is your whole world. There’s a similar approach to both tattooing and watch design in that sense; when you build the design of the watch, you’re layering the different designs and complicated functions.”

A zoom into the new Hublot Spirit of Big Bang Sang Bleu timepieces will reveal a complex puzzle of hexagons, diamonds and triangles, expertly and artfully fitted together to form the barrel structure of the Spirit of Big Bang line. It’s the Spirit of Big Bang watch – and yet it isn’t. Büchi has managed to infuse the watch with his identity: his signature geometric aesthetic is present, from the case itself and the faceted sapphire glass down to the rhomboid motifs in the centre of the dial that also double as hour and minute indicators. The sub-counters of the chronograph also come with rhomboid-shaped indicators. The watch retains important details of the Spirit of Big Bang, including the sandwich construction and the six H-shaped titanium screws on the bezel, as well as the rubber screw-down crown and pushers. 

Sang Bleu designed rotor

There are three limited editions: 200 units in titanium, 200 in All Black ceramic and 100 in Hublot’s proprietary King Gold. There are also two unique pieces, one in titanium and the other in King Gold, both set with 180 brilliant-cut diamonds on the bezel. The 42mm-diameter watches come with water resistance of 10 bar.

The watch’s HUB4700 automatic skeleton chronograph movement draws on the reliable El Primero high-frequency automatic column-wheel chronograph movement designed in 1969. The Hublot calibre comes with an openworked geometric-shaped rotor, designed by Büchi himself. Beating at 5Hz/36,000vph, it provides a power reserve of 50 hours. 

“It’s a fusion that exceeds perfection,” CEO Guadalupe declares. “Maxime has infused the Spirit of Big Bang with a new spirit without changing its soul.”

The Hublot Spirit of Big Bang Sang Bleu launch party in Milan

And on that note, we zip off to the launch party – mingling with the likes of footballer Sandro Tonali, actor Ed Westwick, and Chinese model Xiayan over the pumping beats of DJ Laolu and the live vocals of Lous and the Yakuza, as the drinks flow and the lights strobe. It’s loud, it’s energetic, it’s Hublot. 

Source: Prestige Online

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