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Swiss watches + Italian supercars = my kind of event

I go to a lot of events for my job – product launches, cocktail parties – so unfortunately not much gets me really excited these days. But when Partridge Jewellers invited Idealog to the celebratory dinner for the launch of the Hublot Ferrari Big Bang watch (the first collaboration between luxury Swiss watch maker Hublot and Ferrari) something stirred deep inside me that I had not felt for a very long time – I think it was joy.

Robert Bruce SublimenzTo preface this story, I am something of a watch lover and truly appreciate the craftsmanship in quality timepieces. I personally wear a Tag Heuer Carrera Calibre 16 Day Date Automatic, which is lucky as Tag is also stocked by Partridge Jewellers and part of the LVMH Group, which owns Hublot, so I was not immediately evicted for treason. (These people take their watches seriously.)

The story of Hublot is one that reflects a true entrepreneurial spirit, commitment to innovation, and passion for excellence. The brand was founded in 1980 (making it a relative newcomer to the world of luxury watch making compared to say, Rolex or Tag) by Carlo Crocco, who named the watch Hublot (French for porthole). He made the brand famous by developing the first ever natural rubber strap in the history of watch making, and the brand quickly became famous with royals and sailors – and did very well from humble beginnings.

Next Jean-Claude Biver (then-president of Swatch Group’s Omega division) took over the reins and developed the immensely successful Big Bang Chronograph in 2004 and really sky-rocketed the company’s earnings. The company was purchased from Carlo Crocco for an undisclosed sum (probably quite a lot considering the company was turning over around $100 million francs by 2006) by luxury good company LVMH, which owns, well, pretty much everything.

Ricardo Guadalupe (the impeccably dressed CEO of Hublot, and our guest speaker for the night) is now the main man with Jean-Claude Biver chairing the company. Together they have helped position Hublot as a market innovator and leader by forging strategic partnerships with a number of small sponsorship properties (such as Ferrari, Manchester United and FIFA World Cup) whilst also launching several new products in recent years.

Hublot Ferrari Big Bang watch in magic goldThe Big Bang Ferrari is the flagship of the Hublot arsenal, and features a world first in terms of material with a scratch-resistant 18-carat gold created by the company, called ‘Magic Gold’. Yes, Magic Gold.

The UNICO chronograph movement (entirely developed and manufactured in-house by Hublot) powers the Ferrari Big Bang, which they say is similar to the engines from their namesake. With no fewer than 3230 components, oscillating at a frequency of 28,800 vibrations per hour it is a technically very advanced piece, and  the column wheel and dual horizontal coupling on the dial are reminiscent of Ferrari alloy wheels (if you look closely). You can read more to your heart’s content here.

After several glasses of the good stuff, Big Bangs started circulating our table so we could have a play. The first thing that struck me was the weight: the composite gold/ceramic ‘Magic Gold’ and the carbon fibre or titanium parts must really keep the weight down, because they are really big watches yet they weigh next to nothing.

It looked nice on my wrist and it crossed my mind to make a break for it, but I instead politely enquired how much. I heard “$20,000” and said it didn’t sound so bad, as I dug into my dessert. Hublot’s charming Asia Pacific director Miwa Sakai very politely corrected me in the way only a real pro can (in other words, without making me feel like a complete twat) that the price was actually closer to $120,000 – and could she please have it back.

The watch, and the whole Hublot brand, is audacious. Putting on my marketing hat for a moment, the quality of the video presentation, branding, and event production really gave guests an insight into what luxury brand marketing is like overseas: the words ‘no expense spared’ came to mind.

The face of the Hublot Ferrari Big Bang is big (much larger than my Tag, which I already hide when visiting the bank or IRD) and the exposed screws and visible inner workings surrounded by the ‘porthole’ face may not be everyone’s cup of tea. In New Zealand where “it is not polite to talk about one's wealth, dear” this watch is like a flashing neon light broadcasting your wealth. Mind you, if you can afford a $400,000 fire-engine-red Ferrari you probably don’t mind showcasing your status on your wrist – in which case this is the watch for you.

The facts:

-        Hublot Ferrari ‘Big Bang’

-        Exclusively available at Partridge Jewellers, ask for Glenn

-        Costs (if you have to ask, you can’t afford it)

-        More information: hublot.com

Robert Bruce is a seasoned entrepreneur; networker, and managing director of premium experiential marketing / brand activation agency SublimeNZ. As a regular attendee (and sometimes host) at corporate functions, cocktail parties and product launches he knows a thing or two about events and what makes a good one. Have an event or launch you want covered? Contact robert@sublimenz.co.nz