The conflict of nature and science has long permeated legislative halls, denominational pews and the private domains of people’s personal beliefs. Technology has slowed down our natural evolutionary progression and draws our bodies away from our primitive selves and away from the faculties of nature. Yet from time to time, we see the two working in harmony, enhancing each other and proving themselves to be unassailable bedfellows. One example of which was recently unveiled in the Dominican Republic.
In Revolution’s sister magazine The Rake, I have waxed lyrical about the tobacco grown in the Vuelta Abajo in Cuba. The awesome transformative effects of a cigar have, for many years, given me pause for thought and a chance to be still and think. I have associated Cuba with this opportunity for contemplation but, in all honesty, I have done so with a guilty conscience. As all along I knew that there is a marque that is not part of the Habanos family, it is not even Cuban.
Arturo Fuente is a cigar family that dates back to 1912 and is run today by the charismatic Carlito Fuente, a man who Hublot CEO Ricardo Guadalupe describes as “the Jean-Claude Biver of the cigar world” – and he isn’t wrong. He has created within the Fuente family, a line that is to Arturo Fuente what Whispering Angel is to Chateau d’Esclans: The Opus X. This year marks 20 years since the launch of the Opus X and, in further evidence of its ability to align itself with almost every cultural cranny on the planet, Swiss watch colossus Hublot has created its third collaboration timepiece in celebration.
The Classic Combo
The watch is a Classic Fusion model of 60 pieces divided equally into three versions – all designed by the highly sought-after Cuban-born cigar photographer Manny Iriarte. The first features a satin-polished, black ceramic case and bezel. The second has a brushed titanium case and bezel engraved with tobacco leaves and the letter “X”. The third version is made in King Gold and again has engravings on the case. The dials of all three variants are blue with a subtle background design of Xs, cognac-coloured accents and red-gold plated hands and indexes. The legend “20 Years” is inscribed at 6 o’clock.
Each comes on an alligator-leather strap in black, grey or brown, respectively. Inside the 45mm cases beats the HUB112 self-winding movement – the same calibre used to power the previous two collaborations – with 42-hour power reserve. The watch box doubles as a humidor and each timepiece comes with a box of the 20th-anniversary Opus X, decorated with blue labels – the favourite colour of Carlito’s late father Carlos Fuente Sr.
Designed entirely in collaboration with the Arturo Fuente team, links to the cigar company are evident throughout the watch. These range from the XX marking at 12 o’clock that refers to both the Opus X and its 20 years of production, to the engraved image of Carlito and his father on the caseback and the wrought iron that is part of his heritage, which is represented through the metallic indices and the engraved cases surrounding the matte blue to brown Fuente 20th-anniversary decor.
For Hublot, there is a sense of excitement surrounding this project – there is less of a consideration of number-crunching, and more a consideration of passion. “Cigars are about emotion,” says Guadalupe. “When you smoke a cigar, it is the same as drinking a fine wine. Yes, alcohol may have health implications but when you drink good wine, it has an emotional impact.
“In our world of luxury, I think that when you like beautiful watches, you like beautiful cars, you can have a nice wine and a nice cigar. I think we are talking to our consumers with this partnership. Then again, there is no scientific approach to our business as it is all done by instinct. The day I need to have marketing research to know what product I should offer is the day I should quit the brand.”
A perfect complement to Guadalupe, Carlito Fuente is a walking pep talk, a man who leaves you in no doubt that he believes in every inch of his business. His new home, Chateau de la Fuente, has a slogan in the doorway, which reads: “The Birthplace of a Dream.” The whole farm is as eccentric as it is romantic. Symbols scattered all over the place, all with a back story, all turning a brand into a DNA, it makes it real and at the head of it is Carlito.
He speaks as if about to burst into either song or tears – and I don’t mean that mockingly. He truly talks from the heart and it is infectious. “It motivates me and inspires me to know that I have a responsibility to be loyal to our heritage and to my memories and to our consumers who are part of the story. I do it because I think it is going to make other people happy.” And on the point of watches, he is unequivocal: “From an agricultural point of view, growing tobacco is like growing vines, but making cigars, that’s more like making watches than wine. The concentration of putting parts together to create something functional, it takes an artisan. I think the collaboration between Hublot and Arturo Fuente is destiny, as things like this don’t happen to humble cigar makers.”
A Tale of Two Cities
The partnership reaches beyond launching limited edition watches with cigars though. The two worlds come together well and both Guadalupe and Fuente have taken from each other’s respective industries and applied it to their own. This is most clearly seen in the Arturo Fuente factory where a newly opened rolling room is configured to come close to what Fuente observed when visiting the Hublot factory in Nyon, Switzerland.
Fuente explains: “When I visited Switzerland, I saw master craftsmen sitting at their desks, focused under the light, working with components that I could not see with my naked eye and making this product work for generations to come – that blew my mind. I noticed that these desks were perfect for them and they had their own space with no one to disturb them, so I have changed the way cigars will be made in the future and rollers will now have their own space to make them.” Arturo Fuente makes 30 million cigars per year so quite how they can make things more efficient is hard to say, however, the concise and fluid way in which the two industries unite is fascinating.
In case you are interested, the cigar is extremely smokeable. The way in which Arturo Fuente creates cigars is different to how the Cubans make them. Firstly, the Cubans use three leaves to create a cigar, the ligero for strength, the volado for combustability and seco for flavour. Rollers line up leaves and rip from the top to fill in the gaps as they roll and then bind everything together with the wrapper. At Arturo Fuente, they use six types of leaf, including the celebrated medio tiempo leaf that the Cohiba Behike uses in its cigars. This is a leaf that grows last and requires the farmers to hold out on the harvest to collect, it is closest to the sun and has a slightly sweet flavour that mitigates any early age acidity in the tobacco. They also have an unusual but effective technique of rolling the leaves into tubes and lining them up. This reduces the risk of plugging and makes the smoke extremely smooth. There is nothing like a reliable smoke and these are a very good choice and worth buying – if you can find them.
Much like any limited-edition Hublot, the Opux X cigar isn’t easily found. The rollers in the Opus X room are limited to 75 cigars a day, two rollers work to each size so stock will always be very, very limited. Getting both this watch and cigars together is a treasure chest. To Ricardo Guadalupe, to Carlito Fuente and the brands they represent, I tip my hat to your ingenuity and nous in creating one of the more interesting and exciting luxury collaborations available today.