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Watches - Head-to-Head

Head-to-Head: Hublot Aero Bang VS Rolex Daytona (Ceramic)

Watch blogger and photographer Owen compares two of the hottest chronographs on the market, the Hublot Aero Bang Chronograph and the Rolex Daytona 16500LN.

This month in Head-to-Head, I’m looking at two highly popular modern sports chronographs and trying to decide which one is worth the investment. The Hublot Aero Bang Chronograph reference 311.SX.1170.GR and the new Rolex Daytona 16500LN are both fantastic options for anyone looking at everyday chronographs in the £10,000 to £15,000 range.

As usual, I’ll be comparing them in three categories; design, movement and wearability and seeing which one comes out on top. Let’s get to it!

Design 

The Hublot Aero Bang is a striking watch on first appearances. It has Hublot’s signature porthole case design with exposed ‘H’-shaped screws, like the other models in the Big Bang range. But the first thing that grabs me is the skeleton dial. For the uninitiated, a skeleton dial is a design feature that shows off part or all of a watch movement when viewing it from the front. The Big Bang uses a centre cut-away, which exposes a large section of the movement, including the date wheel and the inner workings of the chronograph movement

hublot big bang aero bang chronograph

I’m a big fan of skeleton dials and find it fascinating to be able to see inside the watch, but they can often mean sacrificing legibility, particularly at a quick glance. Hublot have been quite clever with this design in only having the cutaway in the centre, which leaves solid black space behind the thick hour markers and makes the watch much easier to read.

Elsewhere, the Aero Bang has many similar design elements to the rest of the range—the brushed steel case adds a bit of ruggedness and contrasts nicely with the black “ears” and rubber strap. The monochromatic colour scheme elsewhere really gives the watch a nice understated feel, which is not normally something I would associate with Hublot!

The Rolex Daytona 16500LN was released to much fanfare last summer and has been the watch to own ever since. Best viewed as a mid-life facelift rather than a full-blown redesign (if it ‘aint broke…), the main difference is the replacement of the steel bezel with one made from Rolex’s ceramic compound, Cerachrom.

rolex daytona 116500ln black

It may sound like a fairly insignificant change, but in the flesh, it dramatically changes the appearance of the whole watch, giving it a much sportier look that harks back to the highly sought-after Daytonas of the sixties and seventies. The Cerachrom has a great glossy quality to it without looking plasticky and the engraved tachymetre contrasts beautifully with it.

Moving away from the bezel, the rest of the watch is largely unchanged from the previous reference. The tried and tested 40 mm Oyster case is a design classic, offering a great looking shape that’s neither too small nor too bulky and the accompanying Oyster bracelet features polished centre links to add a luxurious touch to the watch.

Verdict

As a fan of the previous Daytona, this was a fairly easy decision for me.

Like many other Rolex fans, I had been patiently waiting for Rolex to add the Cerachrom bezel to the steel Daytona range and to finally see it in the flesh is fantastic. It just seems to add an extra something to an already great watch design. It’s not perfect though—I would have really liked a refresh on the dial, maybe dropping the applied hour markers for painted ones would open up the space a little more and fully white sub-dials would add a nice contrast.

The Aero Bang Chronograph is also a great looking watch and one of the more practical skeleton dial designs I’ve seen in awhile. I like the overall subtleness of the watch and the industrial feel that the exposed case screws give. The one thing I’m not keen on is the Hublot signature printed onto the crystal. I really feel Hublot should find a way of engraving or applying their name to the dial of the watch, as for me the print takes away a little from the luxury feel.

All being said, I can’t deny my love for the Daytona design, so it’s one-nil to Rolex!

Movement

The Rolex Daytona is powered by the 4130 calibre, a self-winding chronograph movement, which has been the beating heart of the range since it was introduced in the year 2000. Like all Rolex movements, the 4130 is fully manufactured in-house and is COSC certified. It has a power reserve of 72 hours and a frequency of 28,800 vibrations per hour.

rolex daytona 116500ln

Inside the Hublot Aero Bang is the HUB4214 calibre, which is based on a modified ETA and has a power reserve of 42 hours.

hublot big bang aero bang chronograph

Verdict

As is often the case, the winner here is the watch with the in-house movement. I’ve said this several times in Head-to-Head—there really isn’t an excuse for watches at this price point not to make the movement in-house. Hublot do modify the ETA base, but as far as I’m aware there aren’t a huge amount of changes to the inner workings of the movement and they are mostly cosmetic.

Hublot do produce an in-house calibre named the Unico, but it is only currently available on select models. It’s certainly something I would like to see rolled out across the rest of the Big Bang range.

The Rolex 4130 calibre is a brilliant movement and is a testament to Rolex and their dedication to building solid movements for a specific purpose. Granted, they may not set the horological world on fire with gyro tourbillons and the like, but they are the undisputed masters of making robust and reliable movements for everyday watches. Two-nil to Rolex!

Wearability

Before trying on the Hublot Aero Bang, I was a little concerned that it would be uncomfortable due to its 44 mm case size. I have fairly small wrists and for me watches in the 36 mm to 40 mm range tend to hit the sweet spot between fitting comfortably and not looking too small.

hublot big bang aero bang chronograph

But when I tried on the Aero Bang, I was pleasantly surprised as to how wearable I found it. The case is larger than I’m normally used to, but as the watch has a fairly slim profile, it didn’t feel bulky or cumbersome on the wrist. It’s also quite lightweight, which further adds to the comfort, especially for all-day wear.

The strap is also another plus point—Hublot call it “Gummy Alligator” which essentially means a rubberised strap with a crocodile grain on the outer layer. This gives the watch a slightly more formal look, but still retains the advantages of a rubber strap, protecting it from moisture and sweat damage. The deployant clasp is also well designed and is very easy to fasten and unfasten in a hurry. It’s also very easy to adjust, which can be a difficulty with deployant clasps on leather or rubber straps.

From a functionality standpoint, the watch is easy to operate. Winding the crown has a nice tactile feedback and adjusting the date and time is quick and precise. The chronograph is easily operated with the standard start/stop and reset pushers that need a little extra force to engage. This is a welcome addition as there are no lock protectors to prevent accidental usage. It’s also really cool to be able to see parts of the watch movement working while you operate it and I found myself just staring at the dial waiting for something to move!

rolex daytona 116500ln

With the Daytona, I knew what to expect having worn the previous 116520 reference. The Oyster case is a joy to wear, offering a perfect combination of comfort and practicality. It’s nice and slim for a modern chronograph, which means I can wear it with pretty much anything and not worry about it catching on shirt cuffs (or looking out of place!)

The Oyster bracelet is very comfortable and the deployant clasp has a reassuringly solid feel to it. However, I do wish that Rolex would add the glide-lock system they use in the Submariner, as on a hot day it would be nice to loosen the strap just a little.

Operating the Daytona is very simple too—just unscrew the crown to wind and then pull out one stage to adjust the time. The chronograph has screw-down pushers too, which are a little fiddly but do a good job of preventing accidental use and also look great. The Daytona is, and has always been, a time-only watch. Some may wish for a date display and this is something the Aero Bang has over it, but for me I think it would spoil the design of the dial were one to be added.

Verdict

I’ll be honest, I thought that this category would be an easy win for the Daytona, but the Aero Bang has really surprised me. I found it incredibly comfortable to wear, especially considering the size and it’s also a breeze to operate.

The Daytona is as great to wear and use as it has ever been, but the Aero Bang was such a surprise to me that I feel it has to win this category.

Overall Verdict

hublot big bang aero bang chronograph vs rolex daytona 116500ln

The Rolex Daytona 116500LN wins this showdown with two wins out of three and I think justifiably so. The Hublot Aero Bang is a great watch and I would probably say it’s my current favourite in the Big Bang range, but I think the Daytona packs more into it for the price point. Great looks, versatile wearability and a solid in-house movement—it’s easy to see why the Daytona is by far the most popular watch in the Rolex range.

This popularity is also reflected in the price. The UK RRP of a 116500LN is £9,100, but with waiting lists at Rolex boutiques as long as 10(!) years, people are willing to pay a premium to jump the queue. A black dial version in unworn condition like the one I’m reviewing comes with a price tag of roughly £15,000, putting it in the same ballpark as the Aero Bang and the other contender in this range—the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Chronograph (click here to read my Head-to-Head featuring that watch).

With the market showing no signs of slowing down and Rolex seemingly reluctant to increase production numbers of the Daytona, buying from pre-owned retailers is still the quickest way to get hold of an 116500LN. The main question is, is it worth the premium or should I opt for the Aero Bang or the AP Royal Oak? The answer to that is going to vary from person to person, but for me, the answer is yes and especially if you’re planning on keeping the watch for a long time and not looking for a short term investment. I think it’s a better watch than the Aero Bang and although it’s a close call with the Royal Oak Chronograph, I would still choose the Daytona in either the white or black dial versions. 

 

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