10th June 2019

We take a look at the amazing mine-to-wrist story of Hublot’s Big Bang Unico and One Click Paraiba watches.

Hublot True Blue

Hublot has a reputation for making muscular watches for men who like the reassuring sight of something substantial on their wrist; these aren’t timepieces that slip discreetly under a shirt cuff, they are bold statements. So, its latest launch is a bit of a curve ball – a quartet of watches adorned with one of the most precious stones the Earth can throw up.

Hublot has, once again, flirted with the world of jewellery timepieces in its own inimitable style – by coating a Big Bang in Paraiba tourmalines making it the first-ever brand to use baguette-cut Paraibas on a watch.

“The Paraiba embodies nature at its most beautiful,” explains CEO Ricardo Guadalupe when asked why Hublot decided to work with these notoriously delicate and rare stones. “It is a stone unearthed from the rich soils of Brazil, a natural alloy of gold, copper and manganese, a captivating blue lagoon colour that holds the gaze in an almost magnetic embrace”.

Hublot True Blue

Down the mine

If you’re not familiar with these mesmerisingly blue stones that is probably because it is a relative newcomer having only been discovered in 1989, thanks to the efforts of Heitor Dimas Barbosa. An ambitious miner, he spent five years digging in the Paraiba hills in Brazil convinced that there was something special to be found there. He was right – what he unearthed was this fascinating stone that gets its unusual glow from the small amounts of copper found in each gemstone’s chemical composition.

These particular tourmalines – there are around 12 other types varying from colourless to a psychedelic pink-and-green mix – are only found in copper-rich areas, such as Brazil, Nigeria and Mozambique, which makes them extremely rare; they are also notoriously difficult to mine. Dynamite can damage the crystals, so they are mined by hand using underground tunnels dug up to 60 metres deep into the earth. As if that wasn’t tough enough, the rough stones are only found in small veins the width of a pencil, which explains why, on average, a single Paraiba tourmaline is mined for every 10,000 diamonds.

It was enough of a challenge sourcing the stones, which Hublot receives from a mine in the Rio Grande region of Brazil. Thanks to a relationship with Pierre Salanitro, one of the most influential men in watchmaking you’ve probably never heard of who sources stones and sets for all major brands. It has an exclusive agreement with an environmentally sustainable mine; this means it complies with ethical standards and also takes steps to ensure the area around the mine isn’t damaged by committing to reforestation and using only clean water for its extraction operations to prevent soil pollution.

Having got the stones, Hublot could easily opt for a simple round cut, but instead it decided to go for a watchmaking first and cut the Paraibas into baguettes.

Hublot True Blue
Hublot True Blue
Hublot True Blue

Going for the cut

Just like the Paraiba, the baguette is a relatively new way to cut a stone. Created in the early 20th century, it was a more directional alternative to a round cut but also, thanks to its shallowness, gave the impression of a larger carat diamond for a more reasonable price. The downside was that because, each of the cuts to make the 14 facets had to be absolutely precise, any poor craftsmanship is instantly obvious. Paraiba tourmalines have an extra dimension of difficulty – the complex faceting structure of the stone that gives you that neon glow combined with the need for the stone to be entirely of a uniform colour makes it very difficult to cut. This is why five times more raw material was required for the initial stone selection, and also why, when each stone was baguette-cut, only 70 per cent of these could be set – 30 per cent were rejected due to breakage or insufficiently uniform quality or colour.

The skill needed to cut and set Paraiba tourmalines is why Hublot decided to work with Salanitro. Founded in 1990, by the eponymous Pierre, the company started out life setting for jewellery brands at a time when watch brands were watching the pennies because people weren’t buying luxury mechanicals, favouring cheaper quartz instead. After the watch business picked up, big names started coming to Salanitro to work magic with stones in a way they couldn’t in house. This isn’t the first time Hublot has flirted with high-jewellery or worked with Salanitro. They partnered on the Big Bang Tourbillon Chronograph from last year; a unique piece featuring 380 baguette diamonds each of which had been cut to a slightly different shape so the layout of the stones mimics the pattern of crocodile skin.

Which is how Hublot came to trust him with the four Big Bang Paraibas.


What women want.

Speaking in 2015, CEO Ricardo Guadalupe said that Hublot was “dedicat[ing] ourselves to our ladies’ collection, and our female customers will see a series of new timepieces that will embody the notion of the Art of Fusion, where innovation meets luxury and fashion.”

Since then it has introduced its One Click system so women can switch straps as easily as they change outfits; adorned bezels with gemstones in a rainbow of colours and covered dials with embroidered Mexican Dia de Los Muertos skulls.

It may still count boxers, cricketers and golfers as ambassadors, but its watches are being worn by more and more women who don’t want to default to delicate cases in petite sizes with their diamonds.

Although these four Paraiba-encrusted watches are unique pieces, it shows that, when Hublot embarks on its own style of high-jewellery watches it doesn’t opt for easy solutions but instead does everything it can to create a timepiece that showcases the precious stones in a breathtaking way.

And, while not every woman will be able to own a Paraiba-studded stunner, you can get a little of that flair from the incredible stone-set watches that Hublot nonchalantly calls its core collection. And when a core is that beautiful, the rest is just icing anyway.

Hublot is available online and at ROX Argyll Arcade, ROX Edinburgh & ROX Newcastle.



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