A Hublot ambassador since 2020, visionary creative director Samuel Ross designs a limited-edition Big Bang Tourbillon Samuel Ross that envisions a bold future for watchmaking.
Ascendant fashion designer Samuel Ross brings searing color and the textures of raw concrete to Hublot’s iconic Big Bang.
With a small “h,” hublot means “porthole,” a window through which to glimpse the tantalizing shape of the world to come. Capitalize the “h” and Hublot (hublot.com) means much the same thing—a view of the future, absent the risk of sea sickness. Now, designer Samuel Ross is aboard to help craft a watch with a raft of historical references and an eye to the horizon: the Hublot Big Bang Tourbillon Samuel Ross. This is no superficial redesign. In fact, with his calls for material ingenuity and fanatical construction, Ross has brought Hublot back to its very roots.
Hublot announced itself as an innovator in 1980 with the Classic Original, a sleek, gilded-licorice confection of black rubber and gold. That year, alongside Paul Schrader’s American Gigolo—a film draped in yards of trend-setting Armani tailoring—the Classic offered a preview of the business-pleasure ethos that would define the 1980s. A burgeoning jet set needed double-breasted suits that really moved and sporting gold watches at home in the water. Material science met materialism. Two eras entwined: The Classic’s titanium screws evoked 1920s brass portholes as its wearers gazed through the ovoid apertures of Gulfstream IIIs.
Equal in influence to Hublot’s inaugural offering is the Big Bang, an outsized, militaristic watch released in 2005 that kept the sporting case and rubber band of the Classic Original but swapped that watch’s Richard Gere persona—lithe and sumptuous—for something more like midcareer Mark Wahlberg. (That is, muscular, mean and stocky.) It took off and remains Hublot’s bestselling watch, despite the dozens of imitators looking to replicate its swagger.
The distinctive, stylized hexagon of the Big Bang case is reflected in the titanium honeycomb mesh used on the sapphire dial, case, case back and strap.
Twice, then, Hublot watches have allowed views of what’s ahead in horological design. Do you hear a steam whistle? For they’ve done it again.
Ninety percent of directing is casting, and in Samuel Ross, Hublot has hired a star. Born a decade after Hublot’s founding, Ross is the powerhouse behind A-Cold-Wall*, a label that with every collection edges deeper into the space of French and Italian houses four times its age. Before that, he worked with the late, great Virgil Abloh, a mentor who didn’t elevate “streetwear” so much as demolish the category by incorporating its energy and roving aesthetic of reuse and reappropriation inextricably into fashion. Ross’ concerns, deeply abbreviated, are bold color, radical shape, the texture of steel and concrete rendered into wearables and the expression of deepest feeling through design. To fans, seeing his last collection was as incisive and soulful an experience as a first listen to Joni Mitchell’s Blue.
"I could not design for any moment other than my own.”–Samuel Ross
Here, Samuel Ross’ design is not laced around Hublot’s Big Bang like a cruise liner’s railing; rather, it provides the architecture of the very hull. Framed by a searing orange band, the 45 mm face of the BBSR has a major visual impact, with a glittering canyon of cutaways and a frame of hexagonal titanium lattice. Yet the watch is a featherweight, with a full titanium case. And unlike so many big watches, bulk is banished, leaving a dancing skeleton of a mechanism, its metal bones in four finishes: perforated, satin, vinyl and brush. This light-wearing watch, in concert with a propriety, breathable P/U polymer band, means that while a Classic Original owner could comfortably play pool volleyball, the holder of a Big Bang Samuel Ross could keep time on an ultramarathon. Actually, considering the 72-hour power reserve, make it two.
A proponent of color theory, Ross has chosen orange—representing energy and optimism—for the strap and accents on the crown and tourbillon bridge and lateral bumpers that protect the case, a glowing contrast to the sober gray of the satin-finished case and bezel.
In an interview with Watches International, Samuel Ross elucidated how he could not design for any moment other than his own. And this is a moment dominated by loss: of loved ones to disease or social injustice, of a stable and temperate climate, of peace in Europe. Without straining, this is a luxury watch that acknowledges the refugee. To Ross, the orange signifies “alertness and a sense of vigilance and movement”—the watch as beacon and warning. The P/U band and titanium case make the watch eminently transportable: an instrument for a wrist without a velvet cushion upon which to rest.
Here the hexagon is a visual symbol of the functionality of the watch—a key strand running through all of Ross’ design. Opposite page: Samuel Ross.
This is is also an era where to deny reality is done at great peril. So in Ross’ design is an embrace of the environment as it actually is. Ross chose titanium to evoke the cool gray tones of cast concrete, the world’s building block for structures from atmosphere-tickling skyscrapers to the modest silhouettes of public housing. Like architect Tadao Ando, Ross elevates concrete to a luxury material. Both men ask, gently, “Might we leave the mahogany and marble in hotel bathrooms?”
The choice of grayscale stems from Ross’ love of Brutalism, a modern architectural style named for the French term for “raw concrete.” Where detractors lean on the false cognate of “brutality,” seeing bleakness and rudeness in Brutalism’s blocky forms, fans like Ross see austere beauty and a material “to a degree ancient but also quite contemporary.” In using titanium with multiples brushes and patinas, Ross hoped to transfer some of the “mythology of concrete texture” into metal, to manipulate light, to—despite the cool tones— “inflame the levels of depth and shadow.” Samuel Ross built from “concrete” a prism, not a prison.
To Ross, the orange signifies “alertness and a sense of vigilance and movement”—the watch as beacon and warning.
What is the future of watches, then? Through the Hublot, we see a space of precision, playful color, intensity, material innovation and light weight, with designs that pull from a wider portfolio of lives and references than ever before. Samuel Ross is a young designer working for a young company; the only ossification here is the hardening process applied to the titanium.
The Big Bang Samuel Ross is a marvel of art and engineering, at once heavy and light, bold and demure, established and avant-garde. Yet, within it, as in much of Ross’ work, there is a melancholy, or at least an acknowledgement of the difficulty of our times. This is not a watch for a pleasure cruise, but for an emigration from a known world. Through this porthole, what we see most clearly is not what’s to come, but what we’re leaving behind.