Spotlight On: Hublot Classic Fusion Chronograph
by Hugh Taylor ; @hughtaylor48 | December 08, 2017
Hublot don’t do things by halves. They experiment, they aim high. It’s a formula that typically breeds watches which test the boundaries between avant-garde and excessive. They also endorse more sports stars and celebrities than any other watch brand, which, at the same time as getting their name out there, can have the inverse effect of diverting attention away from the watchmaking talent and creative thinkers that sit at their core. It can be all too easy to forget that a number of Hublot’s watches are, truly, excellent and that they have played a strong hand in breathing new life to the watch industry as a whole. The Classic Fusion, in its stripped back form, is one of these watches.
The Hublot Effect
Since jean-Claud Biver picked up Hublot’s reigns in 2004 they have become a force in watches. Much of this shift owes to his eye for marketing and modern tastes, but Hublot already had some talent in place and their original watch, the Hublot, dreamed up by Carlo Crocco in 1980, caught the eye of a number of European watchmakers and even did the rounds of the royal set. It was a watch that sparked a new concept, a fresh take on luxury.
The Hublot, which is the French word for “porthole”, came eight years after Gérald Genta’s Royal Oak for Audemars Piguet, which was also shaped like a porthole. Obviously the Hublot was inspired by the success of the Royal Oak, but it went further down that path. Until then, luxury watches were considered too valuable to be sporty and they focused instead on classic styling and showing off their watchmaking prowess. The Hublot, however, had a circular gold case with 12 titanium screws in the bezel, a totally minimal dial and, most alarmingly, a rubber strap. This combination was a first and it gave birth to the most popular watch type of the past three decades—the luxury sports watch.
Biver describes the ethos at Hublot as “fusion”. It’s basically a development of Crocco’s idea of mixing materials and concepts with the aim of producing something new. Indeed, this is the very basis of creativity. At Hublot this translated to setting up a Research & Development department that experiments with metallurgy and blends materials usually at home in aeronautics or Formula 1. This approach has since been adopted by brands such as Rolex and Audemars Piguet, and it has been at the heart of Richard Mille’s success.
The Classic Fusion range is one of the most popular at Hublot and offers up some of their best watches. It’s based on the iconic shape of the original 1980 Hublot, but as it’s name suggests it plays on the idea of mixing materials and modernising. A huge variety has been produced, ranging from the minimal to the borderline obscene, including more than a fair share of dubious collaborations with anything from a cigar company to a Maldivian beach resort. It’s the official licensed watch of the UEFA Europa League since 2015 and even Jay-Z had his own model for a while. Needless to say, it works best in its most simplistic form.
The Classic Fusion “Black Magic”
The model we’re focusing on today is known at Hublot as a “Black Magic” version in reference to the all-black colour scheme that has become so popular in recent years and which Hublot has largely spearheaded. The case is made from an advanced ceramic mix of zirconium oxide. It’s harder and tougher than even titanium, and it’s light too. This means it doesn’t chip, scratch or even fade in colour. It also looks pretty high-tech, especially with its combination of polished and satin-brushed finishes.
In stark contrast to the ceramic is Hublot’s own “King” gold, a rose gold alloy with a high percentage platinum content, making it, again, much stronger. As well as being tough, its colour is contemporary and striking. Like with the ceramic, Hublot combines satin brushed and high polished finishes, which adds depth and character to the watch.
This strategy continues on the dial, whose background is carbon fibre with King gold applied markers and skeletonised hands. The carbon fibre effect is subtle enough to add a touch more depth without going overboard. The overall effect, with the six iconic “H” screws in the bezel and four in the centre lugs, is for a smart case and dial with lots of visual nuance. The strap, rubberised leather, blends in smoothly and is highly durable and comfortable.
Inside beats a first-rate in-house movement with a 42-hour power reserve, which is on display through a sapphire caseback. The finishing on the movement is good and it has a gold balance wheel. As far as its functionality goes, this is a top class watch and the pushers and crown work better than many in its category.
This 2015 chronograph version of the Classic Fusion sticks to the original Hublot concept and does it without straying too far from the conservative tastes of the watchmaking industry. It’s modern, original, high tech and well made. If there’s one thing that might hold you back here it’s the size. It’s a 45 mm watch, which is certainly on the large side. That said, it carries its size well and sits tight and firm on the wrist.
Of course, given, as we mentioned, Hublot’s commercial connections with sports and celebrity, many may find this image has already swayed their opinion, but beyond this the watch is a firm contender alongside chronographs of a similar calibre and in a similar price bracket, such as the Daytona or the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore.
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