Between eight-year waiting lists and resale values double their original retail prices, sport-luxe steel watches with integrated bracelets — we’re looking at you, Nautilus and Royal Oak — have been having quite the moment in the sun. But if you’re tired of the hype or just sick of waiting for your AD to call you back, consider some of the growing number of alternatives out there.
One of the more interesting ones that we have seen of late is the new Hublot Big Bang Integral. To mark the 15th anniversary of the Big Bang, the Swiss manufacture has put an integrated metal bracelet on its marquee flyback chronograph for the first time. Its 42mm case has also been given a slight, but not insignificant, overhaul, so the watch wears smaller, and looks sleeker and dressier.
One of the reasons we find the three new Big Bang Integral references refreshing is simple: They are not made of steel. Instead, they come in either black ceramic, King Gold (Hublot’s redder-than-red gold) or titanium. Our favourite, and undoubtedly that of many Hublot fans when they arrives in stores soon, is the all-black ceramic version, which is limited to 500 pieces. Its dark colour makes it the sleekest of the trio, which we appreciate especially since there’s a lot going on with the skeletonised dial and visible Unico automatic movement.
What we like most about the new bracelet is its sleek angularity: Each link has clearly defined facets thanks to its bevelled edges, as well as the use of highly contrasting polished and satin-brushed surfaces. The effect, taken together with the case, is fluidly architectural. What we are less fond of, however, is how darn shiny the bracelets are (the King Gold model is particularly dazzling). While we would prefer a higher brushed to polished surface ratio for the links, hey — it’s Hublot, and it’s not here to blend into the background.
Even though the Integral’s case retains its multi-part, sandwich construction, its case middle is made from the same material as the rest of its case, as opposed to the Big Bang’s usual composite resin insert. Its lugs have also been refined, allowing for a smooth fusion between the case and the first link. Further adding to this cleaner, more linear aesthetic, the chronograph pushers are angular instead of round, and the Big Bang’s Arabic numerals have been replaced by stick indexes. Hublot has made the Integral for a new audience, and we admit it’s working: The watches wear smaller and are less “Look at me! I’m sporty!” than most of the other Big Bang watches we have tried on, and is actually the first one we can imagine ourselves wearing and not feel totally overwhelmed by. Especially if they take off a bit of that polish.
The Big Bang Integral retails for $27,500 (titanium), $30,300 (black ceramic) and $68,900 (King Gold).