This may have happened to you: You tell someone you’re passionate about watches and find endless beauty in these little anachronistic mechanical wrist machines. You wax poetic about the movement, and you might even casually use reference numbers as if the listener is supposed to know what exactly you’re talking about. When you finish extolling the virtues of horology and watchmaking in a soliloquy that sounds more like a last-ditch effort to inject a semblance of momentum into the conversation, the listener promptly tells you they simply don’t get it, and furthermore, they do not care to get it. For them, it’s just outside the scope of anything worth trying to understand. You either have it or you don’t, as they say.
While I often find myself waxing poetic about watches, if someone were to do the same to me about abstract art, I’d identify closely with the listener in the above scenario.
The Hublot Sang Bleu II limited edition chronograph brings together the world of haute horology and abstract art. It is the result of a relationship between Hublot and Maxime Plescia-Büchi, a self-described “tattooist” from Switzerland. His studio and creative agency, Sang Bleu, includes a magazine that explores fine art, fashion, sociology, kink culture, and tattoo culture. On top of that, the studio even dabbles in typeface. They’ve also worked on logos for fashion house Balenciaga and even the City of Stockholm, but perhaps a touchpoint familiar to American audiences is that Maxime Plescia-Büchi has tattooed Kanye West with the birthdays of his daughter and mother.
This is the second watch in a series of collaborations with Plescia-Büchi. Arthur Touchot covered the first release here, concluding that Hublot had certainly been challenged by Maxime’s asks, like creating a new bezel and time display unique to this watch, but the result was “Hublot at its best.”
Does the sequel stand up to the original?
Admittedly, I don’t have much background in the world of Sang Bleu. Fashion can sometimes be a bit of a hurdle (readers have noted that I should have the fashion police called on me). I’ve only taken introductory classes on sociology in college, and I don’t read much about kink or tattoo culture, either. But like Arthur, I find the watch charming as an exercise in stepping away from conventional thinking when it comes to watch design. The brand Hublot was built from an attitude of defiance, but the current product lineup has such a strong thematic visual identity throughout, and many models reference the same pronounced design features. For Hublot to hand over the reins to a third party is noteworthy.
One doesn’t necessarily need to have a full sleeve or a whip in the closet to appreciate what went into the Sang Bleu II. Imagine the Sang Bleu II side by side with a standard Big Bang, and the details start to jump out. Firstly, the 45mm case has been treated to a transformation featuring bevels, angles, and alternating polished and satin-finished surfaces. The watch comes in two materials: titanium and King Gold. King Gold is Hublot’s proprietary formula that’s a tad richer than standard gold. There’s a bit of red in it, and it takes to polishing quite well. There will be 200 made in titanium and 100 made in King Gold.
The main color featured on the watch is the very blue associated with Sang Bleu. In a 2016 interview with Something Curated, Plescia-Büchi explained the concept behind the tone of blue.
“Sang Bleu, meaning ‘blue blood’ in French, was really born from the idea of exposing this intersection of cultures in a way I thought made sense. Blue blood is symbolic of nobility, and the word play with blue ink and blood is almost accidental. The idea of referencing nobility was really a statement about contemporary culture. A culture where traditional values such as ‘high’ or ‘noble’ and then ‘sub’ or ‘vile’ or ‘popular’ don’t apply anymore. Young people have a transversal and holistic perception of culture.”
The only other watch that I’ve seen that compares in terms of dial color is the Sinn U1 B, and while the color is very similar, it’s perceived very differently on the wrist. With its angular case shape and geometrically adorned dial, it feels much more like a mystical talisman offering protection from evil spirits or a piece of technology from a civilization far into the future or past than a modern watch.
The latticework hands are the defining feature of the watch’s aesthetic. They’re an interesting exercise in geometry and design, and they’re derived from a Sang Bleu tattoo design. The triangular motif appears throughout the tattoo work the studio in London has done. Pushing the large hands around the dial is Hublot’s Unico HUB1240.
Remember those geometric puzzles from long ago that ask how many triangles are displayed? You can play that game with the Sang Bleu II’s hands, too.
Material is removed from portions of the dial so that the chronograph hands appear to be floating above the exposed bits of the chronograph module placed on top of the HUB1240 – but the “hands” are more like latticework discs that mirror the motif established with the hands and case. Even the rotor follows this theme. Again, there are triangles laden with lume on the chronograph discs that serve as a visual indicator.
There’s a lot of depth to take in with this watch. Complex elements exist on different planes, and it’s 16.5mm tall, which makes peering down to the exposed elements of the movement a visual journey. To me, this is the essence of the watch. Being able to find new details every time it’s observed.
With the Sang Bleu II, I didn’t end any closer to being able to speak the language of abstract art, but I did end up with an appreciation for what happens when the work of Plescia-Büchi meets mechanical watchmaking. Much like art itself, certain things aren’t for everyone, as illustrated by folks that don’t seem to understand mechanical watchmaking. But one thing’s for sure, my short time with the Sang Bleu II brought me one step closer to appreciating abstract art.
The Hublot Sang Bleu II utilizes a HUB1240 automatic chronograph caliber with a 72-hour power reserve. Both King Gold and Titanium models come in a 45mm case. The King Gold is limited to 100 pieces and it’s priced at $ 47,300. The Titanium version will see 200 examples and is priced at $ 25,200. For more, visit Hublot.