At first glance, one might think that the world of fine watchmaking and the world of football share precious little in common. One is a sport that is distinguished by its universality and egalitarianism; the other is a comparatively niche luxury product that thrives on the concept of exclusivity. However, for those who see things in terms of transformative power and the expression of mankind’s indomitable spirit, fine watchmaking and football are really all about the same thing. There is also that thing about their complementary approaches — the best football being about raw explosive talent channelled through keen strategising; the best watches being about finely honed skills elevated by untrammelled genius.
When Hublot first aligned itself with the beautiful game in 2008, it was the first time a Swiss watch company had ventured into the world of football. Six years later, Hublot is now partnered with the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and is associated with world-famous football clubs such as Juventus, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain and Ajax. Some of Hublot’s key innovations — such as red-tinted sapphire crystal and hour indices of epoxy-suspended grass — have been used in their football-related watches.
In the lead-up to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, Hublot have released the official timepiece for the biggest sporting event of the year: the Big Bang Unico Bi-Retrograde Chrono, featuring a new movement with a central chronograph display that is adapted to time the halves of a football game. To avoid clashing with the time display on the six o’clock counter, the chronograph seconds and minutes hands sweep across the topmost third of the dial. In accordance with the “bi-retrograde” in its name, the watch incorporates an instantaneous zeroing and automatic restarting of the chronograph hands when they reach the end of the chronograph scale.
Although football games are officially played in 45-minute halves (hence the bright red “45” on the chronograph scale), the scale runs up to 60 minutes, because of the added time that a referee may choose to implement at the end of each half to compensate for stoppage of gameplay (due to injury or the ball being out of play) during the official halves. The first 15 minutes of the chronograph scale are also marked with the words “extra time” to indicate the standard amount of time added after the game has concluded both 45-minute halves and extra play is required in order to break a drawn score. The chronograph mechanism is further modified so that each successive start of the chronograph as actuated by the pusher at two o’clock also advances the number shown in an aperture directly below the chronograph scale — this number indicates whether the game is in its first half, second half, or extra time. To aesthetically complete the strong mechanical connection with football, the dial prominently features the colours yellow and green, the colours of the Brazilian flag, commemorating the hosts of this year’s FIFA World Cup.
The in-house UNICO chronograph movement is the base calibre off which the self-winding HUB1260 powering the Big Bang UNICO Bi-Retrograde Chrono is built, and features 72 hours of power reserve.
On Thursday 13 March 2014, Hublot chose to launch the timepiece in Tokyo with the help of its ambassador — the undisputed king of football and tireless advocate for children’s charities, Pelé. In conjunction with the launch of the Big Bang UNICO Bi-Retrograde Chrono, which took place at the Japan Football Association (JFA) House, Hublot also took the opportunity to stage a fundraising activity to benefit victims of the devastating 2011 Tohoku earthquake. A team of under-14s were selected to attempt to hit, with their footballs, a wall printed with targets starting from JPY 250,000, with Hublot pledging to donate the sum total. Hublot CEO Ricardo Guadalupe was present and joined in the fundraising activity to boost the boys’ efforts. A total of JPY 1,750,000 was raised, which Mr Guadalupe then generously increased to JPY 3,000,000.
Fundraising continued the next evening with a gala dinner, at which items such as a team jersey signed by Japan national player and midfield star of English club Manchester United Shinji Kagawa, and photographic prints of Pelé’s career-defining moments signed by Pelé himself, were auctioned off. The highlight of the auction was a lot consisting of a jersey signed by Pelé and a Hublot Classic Fusion Pelé limited edition timepiece numbered with the highly desirable “000 out of 500” designation, presentation box also signed by Pelé. This lot fetched JPY 2,900,000, making up more than half of the total JPY 5,600,000 raised that evening. Together with the previous day’s activity, this put the total amount of funds raised to JPY 8,600,000 (USD 84,900).
With the funds to be directed towards rebuilding and the support of those affected by the earthquake, Hublot and the JFA have shown that even the most superficially unlikely of partners can come together — in a sort of fusion, one might say — to do great things. All that is needed, it seems, is a common goal.