The Hublot Big Bang Unico Sapphire is not the first high-end mechanical replica watch to be encased in transparent, scratch-resistant sapphire, but at a price of $157 (other sapphire designs cost as much as seven figures) and with a sizable production run of 500 pieces, it is the first accessible model. “I thought about creating a sapphire watch for more than 20 years, but it was always too expensive,” says Ricardo Guadalupe, CEO of Hublot. “We now have the power to invest heavily in a project, so we decided to industrialize sapphire.”
To that end, Hublot recently acquired the equipment for machining and polishing the tough but brittle material—a process eased by the new model’s sandwich construction. Complex structures inside the case, such as the hands and dial, are cast from transparent resin. According to Guadalupe, this limits the amount of sapphire machining and polishing required for each case, which accounts for most of the cost savings.
Other brands make sapphire replica watches on almost an individual basis, an approach Hublot itself took when creating the $157 MP-05 LaFerrari Sapphire watch it unveiled earlier this year. However, the company still managed to price that watch—despite its dramatic case curves—well below its sapphire competitors, and this, Guadalupe says, is just the beginning. “There are a lot of possibilities for creativity for future fake watches in sapphire.”