After winning the watchmaker’s Design Prize in 2019 and becoming one of its ambassadors in 2020, the British designer has turned his hand to watch design with a special edition of Hublot’s Big Bang Tourbillon.
“It started as abstract then we started to pair the ideas slowly until we landed on something which felt right, coherent and also very directional. I’m not interested in standardized designs,” said Ross, who still considers himself “first and foremost an industrial product designer” despite his success in fashion.
Hence his admiration for Hublot’s focus “not just on complications but the way in which material and color are brought into product,” he noted.
Bringing his vision to life was nonetheless a complex process, even by the watchmaker’s daring yardstick. Early concepts looked at paring back the casing, reducing the crown or looking at a finer composite, Ross explained.
“We were removing total movements from the interior, working on how to get this clinical, light approach, [not only for aesthetics’ sake] but also to give the movement space to breathe,” he continued.
Cutting away elements eventually snowballed to embarking a tourbillon-equipped movement, rather than the initially planned Unico one that usually equips the Big Bang range.
“It was this perfect balance of a minimalistic design and the precise intensities that go into making such a movement,” he said, pointing out that functionality-driven pragmatism attached to industrial design as the guiding principle in approaching the project.
The final design distills the stylized hexagon shape of the Big Bang case throughout the timepiece as a titanium honeycomb mesh that appears on the sapphire dial, entire case and strap, all of which make for a sportier direction for Hublot’s flagship model.
Ross described the electric orange hue, softer beveled corners of the band and the overarching “idea of lightness, movement and breathability” as “linking back to movement, sports and acceleration — a direct throughline with what [he does] in sportswear.”
Having a limited run of only 50 is another facet that reflects the ideals of the collaboration more than any other limitation. “If [the market] was to be saturated [with this item], we lose the core principles of the partnership, which is to build in value, to have an opinion. But not for that opinion [to become] a wide, sluggish, flattish commercial vehicle,” the designer said.
“This is not going to be a first watch purchase for anyone buying a watch. With that in mind, it opens a lot more opportunities to be directional in shape, tone, form and weight,” said Ross, who found creating a direct rapport with an audience he described as appreciative of fine objects “quite liberating.”
“What is so special about this collaboration is the direct interaction between design and object, ideas and form,” stated Hublot chief executive officer Ricardo Guadalupe, who applauded Ross’ 360-degree approach to the project, from watch to visual identity.
Cue the reveal of the watch on Wednesday, which Ross intended as “a many-layered installation that we’re descending upon New York” with a takeover of the brand’s store, projections on buildings and a flyposting campaign across the city featuring the works of creatives in Ross’ orbit such as filmmakers Gabriel Moses and Bafic.
“We’ve just known each other for years, so to have an almost artistic school of friends to work closely with on such an endeavor just means more. It’s not just great, but it’s also culturally succinct and reflective of the time,” Ross said.