Hublot's Big Bang Unico Berluti watch.

Hublot has a lot of confidence in Berluti. That’s why it entrusted its signature Big Bang Unico chronograph to Kris Van Assche, Berluti’s creative director, to redesign.

The result is a timepiece that blends Hublot’s craftsmanship with Berluti’s design aesthetic centered around Venezia leather. The leather is actually used on the dial and encased between two pieces of sapphire glass, cut out for the first time to allow the wearer to view the gears of the Unico movement. The leather is also used on the bezel of the watch for the first time, which was achieved by creating a new two-part bezel that will allow it to take on a patina over time, similar to that on the rubber and leather strap.

Ricardo Guadalupe, chief executive officer of Hublot, said the brand has been working with Berluti for four years — both brands are owned by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton — but this marks the first collaboration with Van Assche. The other models — all based on Hublot’s Classic Fusion model — were sportier than the Big Bang Unico. “The final result combines an exercise in style, due to Kris Van Assche’s flair for fashion, with an amazing technical feat made possible by the expertise of our watchmakers, designers and engineers, all of whose know-how was required to master the conception of this new bezel.”

He said Hublot worked closely with Van Assche to bring his vision to life while still retaining the heritage of the watch. “When we do partnerships, we always take into account the DNA of the brand we’re working with,” he said.

Van Assche said that “before working with the brand, I had always thought of Hublot as a brand that does everything with a sense of balance between traditional watchmaking savoir-faire and creative innovation. It’s a way of mixing the old with the new, a way of making craft contemporary. It’s a balance I enjoy and I apply myself to the collections I develop at Berluti.”

He described the process to use Venezia leather in both the dial and bezel as “a complex, painstaking process, and one that is not often used in watchmaking. But, since with this collaboration we were looking for innovation, we went all in, finding a way to adhere a 1mm-thick Venezia leather piece to a black ceramic base. Hublot has an extraordinary expertise when it comes to combining unexpected materials, it is in their DNA.”

He said the leather that Berluti uses in its shoes and leather goods was inspired by “an archive patina,” and is being offered in an Ice Brown patina with a glacé finish in the watch.

The Berluti version of the watch will retail for $26,200, which Guadalupe said is a few thousand dollars more than the standard Big Bang. Only 100 of the watches will be made. It will be delivered in a dual-branded case that will include the Berluti shoehorn key ring and travel case.

Although he has high hopes for this Berluti collaboration, as a luxury watch player, Guadalupe said Hublot has felt the pain of the pandemic. “It’s been a very difficult year for Old World companies and industries linked to tourism,” he said. With airports, hotel and restaurants all struggling and travel at a standstill, the brand has seen its sales impacted.

“A lot of our business is linked to tourists,” he said, especially in Europe. And while Hublot has been able to make up some of the lost sales in China and in some markets of the U.S., it could not replace all the lost business.

Like other brands, Hublot also turned to digital efforts to try and boost sales. Guadalupe said the brand launched an e-commerce site in June and also enhanced its social media efforts. But like the rest of the world, he’s hoping that the recent good news on the vaccine front will help the company rebound soon to pre-pandemic levels.

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