Hublot Big Bang Meca-10
It seems like it should be against the Geneva convention to say, but this near-on £20,000 Hublot Big Bang Meca-10 is actually—dare I say it—a bit of a bargain. I know, I know, there are places in the world where you could get shot for saying it, but given the right light and a good bit of dressing up, this Hublot presents a value for money opportunity in a very specific and rarefied corner of the market. Before you form a lynch mob, let me explain.
The brand Hublot is a very stark example of why it is so hard to create a watch company that focusses almost entirely on mechanical. A watch that sweeps instead of ticks, it’s a has-been, a relic of a past long dead that, to most people in the world, is extinct, buried and gone.
But not for all of us. Like the barnacle that clings to the bottom of a boat, there’s a group of us still proudly displaying our love for these antiquated devices, no matter how mad it seems. No one still insists on riding a horse to work, or powers their lights in their home with gas; to still rely on the machinations of a frangible arrangement of gears and springs is just as bonkers.
Yet, here we are, and not only do we wear our watches as badges of pride and not marks of our lunacy, but we’ve also come up with a random set of unwritten rules with regards to what we can and can’t do with our watches for good measure. These include things like not wearing them on the right, that is wrong, wrist, not wearing them over a sleeve—I didn’t say these wouldn’t be arbitrary—and extend all the way to the very manufacturers of the watches themselves.
The primary rule of the watch enthusiast for the watchmaker is simple: have heritage. Buy it, earn it, whatever—just have some. No matter how tenuous, you must have ties back to the earliest days of humanity’s fascination with timekeeping; no matter how marginal, you must have contributed to the process with which a mechanical watch is made that dates back no sooner than the mid-20th century.
These are the rules that let us feel warm and fuzzy about our watches, but it has to be said; they’re pretty restrictive. There are some exceptions: you, as a watchmaker, may produce watches that have no heritage or history, so long as the making of them conforms with the heritage and history of the industry itself. That is to say, if you want in on the game, you’re doing it the hard way, son. No electricity for you.
But there’s another way. Heritage be damned, history can do one—there is another way. This insurgent, who chooses to forego the unwritten rules of the community, has forged an alternate and to some unsavoury path, one that leads defiantly in the opposite direction. I am of course talking about the contemporary watchmaker—and what a fuss they’ve made.
It all started in 1972, when an ailing watchmaker—of whom was bequeathed much heritage and history—threw in the towel. They were broke and only getting broker, and the trade they’d plied for centuries had just crapped out on them. Watchmaking had betrayed them and so they thought, eh, fudge it, and betrayed it right back again it with a watch that barely cared about timekeeping at all: the Royal Oak.
What the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak did was teach not just watchmakers, but watch buyers as well, that there was more to watches than time. Glamour, style, wealth, status, cool—all of a sudden, the boring, aloof wristwatch of only the day before seemed rather staid. But we’ve matured since and understand that those boring, aloof watches are in fact reserved and restrained, what with being so brim full of lovely heritage and history.
But it was too late. The seed had been sown. There was now proof that not all of the watch-buying public was taken by the same fascination of the old, that some thirsted for something new and exciting; and so, at the beginning of the best and worst decade of all time, 1980, Italian Carlo Crocco decided to do something rash: he founded Hublot.
There was no doubting what Crocco was up to when he founded a brand called, in French, “Porthole” just eight years after the Royal Oak, a watch famously based on a porthole, was first exacted upon the public. I suppose he figured that if Patek Philippe could copy, and Vacheron Constantin could copy, and Seiko, too, and Bulova as well, on top of countless others—he could, too. He did something different, though, something daring: he put his on a rubber strap.
You may well snort in derision, but it was the first rubber strap ever worn on a watch, so it’s something. I’ll tell you exactly what it was—it was a mark of defiance against the ways of old, a vision of what was ahead rather than behind—and it was on the money. Richard Mille, MB&F, Urwerk—and even old school players like Zenith and TAG Heuer —have all since followed in Hublot’s footsteps, plying a different school of thought to the way they make watches. I mean, Richard Mille goes so far as to say that he’s not even a watchmaker at all.
Founded in 1999, Richard Mille makes no bones about where it stands in this complex and age-old industry, calling out these archaic brands for using modern technology to build what he deemed replicas of 19th-century watches. His idea was different—use that same modern technology to build modern watches. Makes sense when you put it like that. There are many people, however, who disagree with Mr Mille, but considering his watches sell for hundreds of thousands of pounds, there are definitely those who very much do agree, and they’ve got the cash to prove it.
But what if you also agree, and your wallet isn’t quite so well-endowed? Then look no further than the Hublot Big Bang Meca-10. It looks as much like a Transformer as it sounds, and sits firmly in the same camp as Richard Mille, not just in attitude, but appearance as well. In fact, if it said “Richard Mille” on the dial, you’d probably believe it. Only difference is you don’t need a mortgage to buy one, just a car loan.
You get that same sense of mechanical industrialisation with the Meca-10 as you do a Richard Mille, open dial revealing the stark machinery inside as it goes about its daily business of keeping you informed of the time. It’s more like looking into the bowels of a car engine than it is a wristwatch. I’d half expect that a service on one of these involves a four-post lift and a man wiping his hands with an oily rag.
Either way, it’s a watch designed to look its best on the wrist of an arm hanging out the window of a Lamborghini Aventador, and would look no more or less out of place than a Richard Mille in the same situation. There’s a carefree attitude about it that says, “I don’t know how much this cost, I just bought it” in much the same way the Royal Oak did way back in 1972, and just like a Richard Mille does today.
So, if you’re a part of that group of people who’s just a bit fed up with the pastiche of the whole industry but only have tens of thousands and not hundreds of thousands to spend, look no further. Your relative poverty can be easily accommodated with this relative bargain, and this leads me on to coin the following phrase: “A Richard Mille for Hublot prices.” You can have that for free.
I’ve got, at a guess, a good chance of being correct if I were to say that I know you don’t like this watch, but there are people who do. And why bemoan that? If Audemars Piguet hadn’t thumbed its nose in the same way in 1972, we might not even have a watch industry at all. If Hublot hadn’t jumped on the bandwagon in 1980, we might not have some of the greatest innovators and artists in watchmaking like Urwerk and MB&F. The taste of the cake is made whole by every single ingredient, whether we like them in isolation or not, and the Hublot Big Bang Meca-10 proves that a spicy kick could be just what this cake needed after all.
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