Since its establishment in 1980, HUBLOT has been committed to the ‘Art of Fusion’: a unique approach to watchmaking synthesising craftsmanship, meticulous sourcing and an eye toward contemporary aesthetics. This ethos has led the watch manufacturer to publicly explore some of its lesser known métiers in recent years. Journalists have been invited to learn about HUBLOT’s idiosyncratic style of embroidery and sapphire colouring, and this year, an invitation was extended to uncover the dazzling world of haute joaillerie. To that end, watch media assembled at The St. Regis Hong Kong last Friday — led by Mathias Buttet (R&D Director, HUBLOT) in an exhaustive masterclass, complete with new high jewellery timepieces.

Running parallel to HUBLOT’s reputation for materially innovative sports watches is a surprising, altogether more recent foray into high jewellery. The brand’s expertise in this area can be dated back to 2009, with the launch of the Big Bang One Million ‘Black Caviar’. That design — featuring a whopping 544 baguette-cut diamonds, invisibly set across lugs, case and bezel — went on to win the award for best ‘Jewellery Watch’ at the GPHG, thereby solidifying HUBLOT’s reputation as a serious contender in the high jewellery space. The Watch Academy event was an opportunity for journalists to explore the latest chapter in this narrative, via an in-depth look at certain gem-set models from the Big Bang collection: notably the Unico Paraiba; and ‘One Click’ Rainbow.

The new Big Bang 'Paraiba' is the first HUBLOT chronograph to be set with 436 tourmaline gems.
As a member of the cuprian elbaite mineral species, tourmaline possesses a naturally vibrant blue cast with minimal inclusions.

According to Buttet, HUBLOT’s longstanding expertise in the material sciences proved invaluable when it came time to master high jewellery. As with precious metals, the brand’s watchmakers procure gemstones from all across the globe, narrowing their final selection down to a relatively small number which meet international quality standards and are sourced in a sustainable way. (Diamonds, for instance, must possess a GIA grade of ‘H’ or higher, in order to be used.)

HUBLOT Watch Academy
According to Huttet, tourmaline is an extremely underrated gemstone. When appropriately cut and set, its lustre rivals that of emerald.

Unlike conventional precious stones, the challenge of tourmaline — leaving aside how difficult it is to cut and set — begins with sourcing. Each one of the 48 baguette-cut and 388 brilliant-cut gems has to be perfectly identical (in clarity and colour), necessitating a sample group five times bigger than what you’d need for the equivalent number of diamonds. The baguette-cut stones are especially tricky: even after a suitable batch has been identified, approximately 30 percent will be discarded almost immediately — deemed too dull and/or brittle for the purposes of bejewelled watchmaking.

For over a decade, HUBLOT has leveraged its considerable talent in traditional watchmaking for the pursuit of jewel setting. Each stone must be individually selected, cut, and polished — with attention paid to relational positioning — before being set into its channel. These challenges are thrown into sharp focus when you consider the Big Bang ‘Rainbow’: a design which requires five distinctive gem types in eight colours to be set across the case and bezel. Both the 39mm and 45mm models are a challenge to craft, though the latter has the advantage of an additional 37 gemstones plus an in-house movement capable of generating a 72-hour power reserve.

To learn more about ‘The Art of Fusion’ and to explore all high jewellery timepieces, visit HUBLOT online.

Randy Lai
Watches Editor
Having worked in the Australian digital media landscape for over 5 years, Randy has extensive experience in men's specialist categories such as classic clothing, watches and spirits. He is partial to mid-century chronographs and a nice chianti.