Hublot’s Big Bang series has always been slightly outrageous since its 2005 release, but intentionally so. Large, loud, and undoubtedly luxurious, there could be no better candidate for a collaboration with Maxime Plescia-Büchi. The Swiss tattooist is responsible for the sprawling platform that is Sang Bleu, covering and influencing tattoos, clothing, typography, art — both visual and performative — and much more.
Our first taste of a Hublot x Sang Bleu project was in 2016, with an intricately engraved wristwatch, covered in mesmerising geometric patterns across the dial, case, and even embossed into the leather strap.
2019’s Baselword witnessed the sequel piece, the Swiss fake Big Bang Sang Bleu II in titanium and King Gold, looking less like a modified Hublot and more like an occultist’s spaceship. Now, a new variation has been released with the same case materials, but freshening the dial with splashes of white and a complementing white rubber strap.
There’s no hiding from the visual feast that is the quality copy Big Bang Sang Bleu II. From top to bottom, its detail and artistry never stops providing something to look at. The evocative style is borrowed, understandably, from Maxime Plescia-Büchi’s tattoo designs — often focusing on the macabre, hedonistic, and occult side of life. Referring to the 45mm case as ‘design’ feels like a disservice, when it more closely resembles architecture.
The engaged and machined patterns all cascade off each other, with different facets of high polish and directional brushing creating a hall-of-mirrors effect. At 16.5mm thick, its chunky dimensions barely compare to the size of its personality, so going unnoticed on your wrist was never an option, especially if you go for the iced-out diamond-encrusted versions.
The dial is nothing short of entrancing, lattice-filled hexagrams entrapping your gaze from the bezel and sub-dials. Legibility may have been slightly compromised with the loss of contrast between the white hands and a darker dial, however the broad kite-shaped hour and minute hands, creating new intersecting patterns as they float around, tend to draw the eye regardless. Enhancing the mystical qualities is the hexagonally chamfered sapphire crystal, distorting and mirroring the edges of the dial in quite an alien way. The white highlights are tastefully balanced by a slate-grey background, occasionally opening up to reveal the workings of the HUB1240 UNICO Manufacture movement, which packs a flyback complication into the column-wheel chronograph.
Hublot’s history of rubber straps is strong, having created the first natural rubber strap on a watch, so it’s no surprise that this perfect fake Big Bang has a great one. The integration with the case is perfect, with arrowhead layers stepping down and continuing the geometry of the case. Black edges to the strap keep it looking constrained to the wrist, and reduces the visual real estate that too much white can take up.
The specifications are well up to scratch, with 100m of water resistance giving ample peace of mind for wearing it in the wet. The power reserve of 72 hours is a great bonus for those who like to leave their chronographs running, and it’s quite likely that with hands like these you’ll be wanting to see them move. A beat rate of 28,800 vph ensures that the sweep of the shapes isn’t too juddering and distracting, although you may end up distracted by the enticing view of the see-through caseback with another geometric web as the rotor weight. The release is highly limited, with only 200 of the titanium models and 100 of the King Gold varieties, priced at 23,900CHF (approx. AUD$36,700) and 44,900CHF (approx. AUD$68,950) respectively.
Ceramics have been around since primitive times, but it as in the 1980s that these artificial materials made their way into the watch world. Used for their scratch-resistant qualities, high tech ceramics are nonmetallic and inorganic, and they boast some seriously strong molecular bonds. This grants the material a high melting point and an extreme hardness—hardness that rivals diamonds. Certme is a ceramic-metal composite that is as light as titanium and as hard as a diamond. The aerospace, automotive and ballistics industries for high-performance ceramic inserts. Swiss copy Richard Mille used the material for the case and bezel of the RM 11-05. Richard Mille partnered with the IMI Group, a microtechnology solutions company that services the luxury goods market, to perfect the material.
The perfect replica watch has a lot more going for it than just a revolutionary ceramic. It boasts a skeletonised automatic winding movement that is made of titanium. The movement also includes a flyback chronograph that displays minutes and countdown counters at the 9 o’clock position, an hour counter at 6 o’clock, and UTC functionality. It also has a variable geometry rotor and offers 55 hours of power reserve. The watch comes on a Carbon TPT band.
As you might imagine, putting a quality fake watch like this together is no easy feat. Just to make the case, RM and IMI had to pioneer a new process called “flash sintering.” With that in mind, only 140 pieces will be made. If you’re looking for a nearly indestructible yet incredibly handsome watch, you can get an RM 11-05 automatic winding flyback chronograph GMT for USD$215,000.
Swiss TAG Heuer replica has been quite productive this year, creating more than one cool limited-edition chronographs. In addition to the two Carrera made for the brand’s 160th anniversary – Silver Edition and Carrera Montreal – the brand also renewed its partnership with designer Hiroshi Fujiwara and his streetwear brand Fragment Design. Following a minimalistic Carrera model in 2018, this year we have a new watch that not only looks brilliant but could also well be a teaser for new permanent motorsport-inspired models. Let’s have a closer look at the TAG Heuer x Fragment Design Chronograph.
TAG HEUER X FRAGMENT DESIGN
Hiroshi Fujiwara is an internationally renowned Japanese streetwear designer, influencer, musician and founder of Fragment Design. He’s also a watch lover and has been working with TAG Heuer since 2018, to create special edition watches infused with its unique sense of design, mixing boldness and minimalism.
The first watch resulting from this collaboration was based on a Carrera, fitted with a minimalistic black dial and discreet connection with the brand Fragment. Not only the watch was stunning in terms of design, but it was also the base for the Silver and Montreal editions to come next. And for 2020, both brands are teaming up again and bring an unprecedented watch, which isn’t based on something existing yet in the permanent collection.
A NEW TAG HEUER CHRONOGRAPH
Certainly, this new 44mm Automatic Chronograph will feel familiar to Heuer and TAG fans. Arguably, its shape and design are somehow close to both vintage watches or existing models. Yes, the mechanics inside the case aren’t new and have been used in multiple TAGs already. And yes, there’s an undeniable motorsport inspiration in this watch, and that’s not a surprise for a TAG Heuer. However… the combination of all these elements is not something we’ve seen before. This second TAG Heuer x Fragment Design watch is new and not just a different colour on an existing watch. That’s already quite interesting.
The base for this new watch copy TAG Heuer x Fragment Design Chronograph is named the “C-case”, a large and robust tonneau-shaped block of steel that easily refers to 1970s Autavia watches – specifically, the third generation ref. 1163. Indeed, we find here the typical pilot’s case with integrated lugs and highly raised bezel on top of the watch. Almost entirely brushed, the case, as some would have remarked, is also in line with the current Formula 1 watches, yet larger and built with more details (polished bevel on the side) but also more robustness… Maybe you can figure out what’ll be coming in the next month at TAG… This watch could easily become the top-tier extension of the F1 range. The references to the Autavia or the Formula 1 don’t end there.
The bezel’s insert, made of polished ceramic, includes a tachymeter scale with the same graduation (70-66-63) and deep notches as glorious 1970s racing models. The right side of the case features the crown, well-protected with guards, and recessed pushers for the chronograph. The screw-down crown and caseback allow for a comfortable 100m water-resistance.
Fujiwara’s touch is particularly visible on the dial of this TAG Heuer x Fragment Design Chronograph, which has been treated in a very minimalistic way – which mostly comes down to the absence of applied hour markers, creating strong negative space on the dial. This bi-compax chronograph plays on monochromatic tone – black and white – only with red accents on the markers and hands. A discreet “Fragment” inscription is found between 4 and 5 o’clock, as well as the two brands’ logos at 12 o’clock.
There’s something really special to this dial, and even though simplistic and flat, it has a great personality. Legibility is also perfect in daylight, while slightly compromised during the night – only the hands feature SLN. The watch is delivered on a new 5-link steel bracelet, with polished and brushed surfaces. As a personal note, I could easily see this watch worn on a 1970s-inspired perforated black leather strap, just to reinforce its classic appeal – and to make it more comfortable too, as the case is quite large and heavy.
Finally, while many of the TAG Heuer Formula 1 watches are powered by quartz chronograph movements, this new perfect fake watch Fragment Design Chronograph relies on the brand’s in-house movement, the Calibre Heuer 02 – an integrated automatic chronograph with column wheel and vertical clutch. The movement is partially visible under a red-tinted sapphire crystal with Fragment’s logo transferred on its surface.
So yes, TAG and Hiroshi Fujiwara have created another very cool limited edition watch. No doubt about it. What’s even more interesting is that it somehow announces what will be the upcoming top-of-the-range Formula 1 Heuer 02 watch. When and how, we don’t know yet, but it will surely come.
When most of us think of perfect Omega replica, the first thing to come to mind is probably the Speedmaster, followed closely by the Seamaster and other tough, technically advanced sports and tool watches. Something that probably does not readily spring to mind is the tourbillon, although it probably should – Omega made some of the very first generation of tourbillon wristwatches, in a time (the 1940s) when the tourbillon was not a visual entertainment for the titillation of horological enthusiasts, but was instead at the cutting edge of experiments in producing better chronometry. Omega’s first generation of tourbillon wristwatches virtually never appear for sale or at auctions, but when one did, at Phillips in 2017, it hammered for the rather breathtaking sum of CHF 1,428,500. The tourbillon wristwatches made in the 1940s used the caliber 30 I, and they were not made for sale – rather, they were intended to be entered in the observatory timing competitions. They had tourbillons which rotated, rather unusually, once every seven-and-a-half minutes, and they were, in their day, the last word in the pursuit of cutting-edge chronometry. Today, Omega has introduced another milestone in both its own history of tourbillon production and in the history of tourbillon watches in general – the new Omega De Ville Tourbillon Numbered Edition, which is, in addition to being the latest version of the De Ville Central Tourbillon, the first to be Master Chronometer certified and capable of resisting magnetic fields of up to at least 15,000 gauss. This latest version of the Omega central tourbillon has a three-day power reserve and a co-axial escapement, as well. The central tourbillon was first introduced in the De Ville family of watches by Omega in 1994, and it was both a remarkable achievement and a statement of purpose for one of Switzerland’s largest and most important watch firms. Omega had emerged from the Quartz Crisis having lost much of its internal expertise in movement manufacturing, but the company was determined to distinguish itself in this area again. The De Ville Central Tourbillon of 1994 signified its resolve to make the technical excellence of watchmaking at Omega a theme for its future as well as its past.
The original copy De Ville Central Tourbillon, 1994, as seen at Christie’s Hong Kong in 2018, with the original central tourbillon caliber 1170. The original De Ville Central Tourbillon was, as they say, just what it says on the tin – a wristwatch in which the tourbillon cage is placed at the center of the movement, rather than at a more customary location (often at 6:00). The project began in 1991 and, according to a very in-depth article on PuristsPro.com from 2007, was codenamed Project 33 (P33) by Omega’s Moritz Grimm and André Beyner (an interesting bit of trivia mentioned in the article was that Beyner gave special projects odd numbers starting from the year of his birth in 1927; P33 was his fourth such project). The team had just three years to produce the watch as it was meant to debut in time for Omega’s 100th anniversary in 1994. The single biggest technical problem was that the hands of a watch are, of course, normally mounted on pivots placed at the center of the movement, and the location of the central tourbillon made this impossible. A solution was found, however, which was to mount the indicators for the hours and minutes on two sapphire disks, which were driven on their peripheries from gearing under the case bezel (a solution similar in some respects to the Cartier mystery clocks). The project was, ultimately, completed in time for Omega’s 100th anniversary and was released in a De Ville case, with the central tourbillon caliber 1170. The watch was re-released, this time with a COSC chronometer certification, in 2002. The U.S. patent for the central tourbillon was granted in 1995 (no. 5,608,694) and expired in 2015, but central tourbillons remain extremely rare (one notable example, using a different technical approach from Omega, is the Haldimann H1 Central Flying Tourbillon).
The new fake De Ville Tourbillon Numbered Edition uses a new central tourbillon movement, which keeps the same basic architecture and some of the same basic technical solutions as the caliber 1170, but which is also, in many respects, a new movement. This new movement is the three-day central tourbillon caliber 2640. De-cased and viewed from the dial side, the system for driving the disks carrying the hour and minute indicators can be seen. The actual driving gears are at the one and two o’clock positions, and there are three retaining guides for the two disks at twelve, four, and eight o’clock; these have two recesses for the two disks. The keyless works for winding and setting occupy most of the space at three o’clock, with a quite beautifully shaped skeletonized cover plate (with integrated detent spring, which is the small, club-like projection at more or less exactly three o’clock). Though it’s a shame this particular element isn’t visible in the finished watch, it’s one of those hidden pieces of craftsmanship which historically has lent so much interest to fine watchmaking. The two mainspring barrels are prominently visible in recesses in the back of the movement; they are visually connected by an arc-shaped bridge which also acts as the sector for the power reserve. (While the original 1994 model was self-winding, the new model is hand-wound). Based on the placement of the jewels, the barrels appear to run in series, with the one on the right driving the actual going train for the central tourbillon (the jewels and pivots for the train wheels are located under the bridge that makes up the upper third of the movement). Plates and bridges are all in Sedna gold, and the movement in its design and finishing recalls both traditional fine finishing techniques, as well as more modern materials and approaches. The use of a frosted gold finish, rather than more conventional Geneva stripes is, to my eye, a bit reminiscent of the English pocket watch tradition. I don’t know if this was intended by Omega as a subtle homage to George Daniels, the inventor of the co-axial escapement, but it certainly gives the movement a very dignified appearance, contrasting as it does with the large jewels and highly polished steel-work. This is the first Omega central tourbillon to be Master Chronometer certified, and Omega has succeeded in creating a tourbillon which will continue to function when exposed to extremely high magnetic fields (the minimum resistance for Master Chronometer certified watches is 15,000 gauss). The carriage for the tourbillon is made of ceramised titanium, with the entire movement running in 50 jewels. The one-minute carriage also functions as the seconds hand for the watch. This is a quite major piece of news, albeit in the quite small (relatively speaking) world of high-end horology. The De Ville Central Tourbillon marked an historic moment when it debuted in 1994 for Omega’s centennial, and it remains one of the most groundbreaking tourbillon watches of all time, representing, as it does, a combination of great visual interest and very clever technical watchmaking. The original brainchild of Moritz Grimm and André Beyner has now been brought very much up to date with Master Chronometer certification and a co-axial escapement. It’s a watch I hope very much to be able to see in person at some point this year.