Sapphire is known for its toughness, and in the tech world has been used to cover phone screens and smartwatch screens due to its impressive scratch resistance. This, along with the beautifully unique sheen, is also why it has long been used on mechanical replica watches too, ensuring the dial stays free of marks and blemishes.
In 2016 luxury watch brand Hublot decided using sapphire over the dial just wasn’t enough, and launched the skeleton dial replica Hublot Big Bang Unico with a case made entirely of sapphire. The eye-catching piece was only the start, and Hublot’s ultimate goal was to develop a sapphire bracelet to go along with it.
Now, in 2021, it’s a reality. This is the quality copy Hublot Big Bang Integral Tourbillon Full Sapphire, and it’s an extraordinary, mesmerizing, audacious piece of technology. Hublot’s CEO Ricardo Guadalupe spoke to Digital Trends via email about the complexity of the project.
“For the Tourbillon Full Sapphire, it has taken us over two years to develop this product because sapphire is a really hard material, but at the same time really fragile. We had to totally reconstruct the bracelet to allow you to wear it without breaking it because pressure is sapphire’s enemy,” Guadalupe explained.
The challenging project encompassed multiple departments at Hublot:
“We have the technical department for the movement, the product department for the development of the case and the bracelet, and of course the research and development department to allow us to create the industrial process.”
The result is a watch with a 43mm case, bezel, dial, and anti-reflective crystal all made from polished sapphire, and attached to a strap made from the same material, complete with a titanium clasp. Because the watch is entirely transparent every component is on display, it had to be re-engineered and simplified to make it aesthetically pleasing, right down to the screws and pins used to hold the bracelet together. The top quality replica Hublot wanted the final product to appear as if the internal components were floating in space. We think it succeeded.
“With transparency,” Guadalupe said. “You have a really unique watch design which makes the piece totally different.”
The sapphire Hublot uses isn’t natural sapphire, it’s a synthetic version and actually grown in a lab, yet has the same appearance and hardness as the “real” thing.
“The challenge of sapphire is in the production, which is totally different to the production of titanium or gold. We had to rethink and use new technology, machines, and a way of polishing,” Guadalupe told us. “It is a similar production to synthetic diamond, and takes two to three weeks to grow. If any resulting block has an imperfection, it is rejected. The watch’s case, bracelet, and bridges are all sapphire components.”
Hublot’s history with sapphire started in 2016 and it has continued to innovate with the material since then, but moving to a full sapphire watch was a huge leap forward.
“Sapphire is a really important material for Hublot because we were the first brand to industrialize it. In 2016, we came out with our Swiss movement fake Hublot Big Bang Unico and since then, we have been able to develop new colored sapphires like blue, yellow, and orange that we presented in January 2021 with the Big Bang Tourbillon Orange Sapphire. We decided the ultimate goal was to develop a bracelet.”
“Instead of just having a case with five sapphire components,” Guadalupe continued, “we have been able to create and develop 22 components that fix the bracelet on the watch. All together, there are five components for the case and 22 for the bracelet. Even the movement has three bridges in sapphire. Every component has been created by itself, with a specific industrialization process. It is really an incredible achievement from a technological point of view.”