So what’s a minute repeater anyway? First of all, it’s one of my favorite complications in all of watchmaking, not only because it’s a challenge to construct, but also because it adds an aural feature I really enjoy. Minute repeater watches comprise an independent chiming mechanism that strikes different tones for hours, quarter hours, and minutes with the help of two small hammers, actuated on demand.
Minute repeater watches are offered by a small and select group of brands due to the expertise required and the time needed to produce one. At one time it took up to six months to produce a single minute repeater watch, but modern watchmaking has shortened this considerably, though it is still a time- and labor-intensive pursuit.
There are many elements that influence the sound of a minute repeater, the case material being one, and the construction of the internal hammers and gongs for another. So I found Hublot’s new Big Bang Integral Tourbillon Cathedral Minute Repeater of particular interest, since ceramic is not a typical case material used for minute repeaters.
Hublot’s Use of Ceramic
Ceramic has shown up in many ways and in many Hublot watches over the years, highly regarded for its light weight and sturdy demeanor. Ceramic is two-to-three times harder than steel, yet 30% lighter, impervious to most affronts, yet difficult to machine. For a company that’s all about the art of fusion—and one that loves a good challenge—it fills the bill.
The limited edition of 36 pieces represents 18 watches in black ceramic and 18 watches in white ceramic. The Big Bang Integral Ceramic, with its ceramic case, bracelet, bezel and caseback, was introduced in 2020, but this is the first time an all-black version has been in the fold. It is also the first time Hublot has included a tourbillon minute repeater in the series.
The timepiece is powered by Hublot’s MHUB8001.RH. This manually wound 319-piece, 30-jewel movement offers 80 hours of power reserve, which is admirable for a tourbillon watch. The dial side shows off bridges, plates, and wheels with a range of finishes, and the namesake tourbillon is nestled at 6 o’clock. The see-through caseback offers a great view of the two brushed and polished minute repeater hammers and the bongs, along with other key elements. The caseback window reads: Hublot Big Bang Special Edition, along with the edition number as one of 18 pieces, and the watch’s serial number.
The Big Bang case showcases both polished and satin finishes—no small achievement given ceramic’s reputation as a difficult material with which to work. Even the integrated ceramic bracelets feature dual finishing. Both bracelets have titanium folding clasps, one with black PVD.
Dual-finished ceramic bezels frame the matte dials, which differ slightly depending upon the variation. The black-cased model has a black dial with rhodium-plated satin-finished appliques accented with black SuperLuminova. The white model has a gray dial whose rhodium-plated markers are accented with white SuperLuminova. Both are traversed by simple skeletonized hands.