The Hublot Big Bang e has dropped. The brand’s entry into the smartwatch world is a big deal – but not for the reasons the company suits would have you believe. While they reckon the Big Bang e brings Hublot into the modern world, the smartwatch stands a good chance of undermining their unique selling point: traditional watch style. Let’s have a look . . .
The Hublot Big Bang e runs Wear OS – the same software that powered Hublot’s first foray into the all-digital market: the Big Bang Referee (above).
The TAG Connected is 45mm. The Big Bang Referee was an astounding 49mm. The Hublot Big Bang e is 42mm, and a portly 12.8mm thick. The Hublot has a better watch-looking watch face simulation – at least for now – but I think that misses the point.
The point is luxury! The Big Bang e comes in two case materials: titanium for $5,200, black ceramic for $5,800. Holy moly! The TAG Connected costs $1500 to $3100. More importantly . . .
A 40mm GPS + cellular Apple Watch Series 5 sells for $669. Hublot is asking a tremendous premium for . . . what?
A non-cellular smartwatch? The same one-day run time as an Apple Watch? (Hublot’s claims a battery life of “around one day.”) A Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100 processor? What Wear OS smartwatch doesn’t have that? Here’s a selection that do:
The Hublot’s Unique Selling Point is . . . wait for it . . . art. Specifically, #HublotLovesArt: a series of eight dials by French storytelling artist Marc Ferrero. Like this (skip to 2:41):
In Ferrero mode, the Big Bang e’s dial changes color every three hours – including the unfortunately named “Happy White” – offering a cheerful message . To change things up, a five-second animation appears every hour.
Hublot promises to release more Big Bang e dials created by “Hublot ambassadors” and “Friends of the Brand.” Feeling better about that six grand?
Anyway, Hublot now has a smartwatch. At what cost to the brand?
The titanium-cased Classic Fusion is Hublot’s least expensive dumb watch. Yours for $4500. As pricing is marketing, how does that work? Answer: not well.
The Hublot Big Bang e dilutes the brand. It reduces the cachet of Hublot’s low-end models, the $12,500 original Big Bang and their hugely expensive complications ($80k to $100k).
There’s another problem: the forthcoming rotating bezel $399 Samsung Galaxy Watch 2 (image courtesy tomsguide.com).
And the new Citizen smartwatch. Timex’s newbie too. And the Apple Watch Series 6. And Fitbit, Garmin and all the other smartwatch manufacturers developing new products on a very short product cycle.
Unless the Hublot Big Bang e offers something insanely great software-wise, unless it can continue to match the endlessly moving smartwatch target, Hublot’s entry will be obsolete before it leaves the gate, or soon thereafter.
Yes, yes, those smartwatches are all downmarket. Which still leaves the central question: how do you make an upmarket smartwatch? Is there a market for such a thing?
Apple went as far upmarket as they could by attaching a sumptuous Hermes band to their watch and charging $1249 to $1500. That’s well below Hublot’s happy hunting ground.
Not to put too fine a point on it, a TAG Heuer, Hublot, Bulgari, Chaumet, Hublot, Zenith or Tiffany & Co. smartwatch is a disaster waiting to happen. Or, in the case of the TAG Connected, happening. How this for irony?
Brand extensions like the TAG Heuer Connected and the Hublot Big Bang e are the cocaine of product development. If a brand extension yields a short term hit it’s followed by debilitating depression.
Bottom line: LMVH needs to come to terms with the fact that the traditional watch market is shrinking, and it’s never coming back.
LMVH needs to live within its new, limited means or throw a digital Hail Mary with a brand new brand. Given the competition and the money, time and talent it would require, I’d go with plan A.