Hublot Big Bang Millennial Pink And Zenith Defy El Primero 21 Pink Edition: Is Pink The New Blue? And Does It Even Matter?
by Martin Green
A few weeks ago I had to fill out a government form. Under gender, I noticed that I had three options: “male,” “female,” and “other.” Which confirms to me that in this day and age gender is both varied and fluid, and is increasingly being recognized as such.
Hublot always seems to have a finger on the pulse of what is currently moving people. And in this spirit the brand has recently launched a “gender-neutral” Big Bang in a color marketed as “Millennial Pink.”
This watch is a collaboration with Garage Italia and its founder, Fiat heir Lapo Elkann. Elkann knows a thing or two about gender fluidity: in 2016 he claimed to have been kidnapped by a transgender prostitute and has also been involved in a few other scandals with transgender people, often involving sexual acts and cocaine.
While Elkann’s exploits have played a role in establishing his bad-boy image, there is more to him than his turbulent history. Elkann has a rare sense of style that might be termed “progressive,” and the Hublot Big Bang Millennial Pink is a perfect example.
It is refreshing to see a brand launch a watch that is deliberately gender neutral. But it is valid to ask whether we need a particular watch for that. Aren’t all, or at least many, watches already gender neutral?
Not to toot my own horn, but in quite a few articles on Quill & Pad I have already stated that it would be good business sense for watch brands to follow the examples already set by high-end scent brands, which don’t mark or market their products as being for men or women, but allow clients to choose whatever smells good to them.
However, the vast majority of the (Swiss) watch industry does not seem to be ready to embrace this concept and continues to maintain traditional male- and female-oriented collections.
How “gender neutral” is pink?
First of all, there is nothing historical or traditional about “pink for girls, blue for boys.” That’s a fashion that has developed over the last century.
According to Jezebel.com, in June 1918 a Ladies’ Home Journal article stated, “The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.”
Other sources have offered that blue was flattering for blonds and pink for brunettes; or that blue was for blue-eyed babies and pink for brown-eyed babies.
And in 1927, Time Magazine printed a chart showing “sex-appropriate” colors for girls and boys according to leading U.S. stores, revealing that the most recommended and sold color for boys was pink.
It was only in the 1940s that the genders seem to have swapped colors.
Now we come to the question of how gender neutral pink is. In much of the western world today children’s rooms are often decorated in pink for a girl, and pink is generally found in more female clothing collections than those targeting males.
This alone would imply that pink is predominantly associated with the fairer sex, but women don’t have a monopoly – especially when it comes to watches. As I pointed out in Serving Up Salmon: Watches With Sublime Salmon-Colored Dials And Why They Remain Rare, pink watches – and even pink dials – are a relative rarity. Yet what they all have in common is that they can quite easily raise the heartbeat of any male watch connoisseur.
By making the new gender-neutral Big Bang Millennium Pink this particular color, Elkann and Hublot have shown that they know how to draw attention and stir up a discussion. While most watches wanting to appeal to a clientele identifying as male limit pink to just the dial, this new Hublot is all pink.
I think that for many men, this might be a bit too much. However, it might just be a matter of trying it on.
I remember trying on the Zenith Defy Classic with skeleton dial in white ceramic for the first time. I would never have thought that an entirely white watch would look good on me, but it did. In fact, I liked the all-white so much that I preferred it over the blue and black versions.
While I am not saying that this Big Bang will be a crowdpleaser, but I do think that Hublot will not find it very difficult to allocate the 200 pieces the brand intends to make.
50 shades of pink
And speaking of Zenith, this LVMH sister brand to Hublot has also released a stunning watch with pink taking center stage. In support of Pink Ribbon Switzerland, an organization that fights breast cancer by funding research, raising awareness and supporting those affected, Zenith’s designers have transformed a Defy 21 El Primero – in my view, a decidedly masculine watch.
The movement features plenty of pink PVD. And it is really, truly pink like the pink ribbons in support of breast cancer. Further hammering home the statement, the watch is housed in a pink gold case set with 288 brilliant-cut, colorless diamonds, while the bezel is adorned with 44 baguette-cut pink sapphires.
With a pink alligator skin strap to match, this is without a doubt a watch that makes a pink statement.
While it is the diamonds and pink sapphires in combination with the pink gold case that give this watch a distinctly feminine touch – not to mention the pink strap! – it is also the shade of pink used that makes a difference.
Where the almost pastel tones of the Hublot could have very well been the same color as a suit jacket worn by Don Johnson in Miami Vice or the Cadillac famously driven by Elvis, the shade of pink chosen by Zenith is simply too rich, too vibrant, and, dare I say, too pink to be considered gender neutral today.
It is primarily the lighter and softer tones of pink that achieve a more unisex appeal.
It is also interesting to note that today, the words “gender neutral” seem to have replaced the term “unisex” – and for all the right reasons. “Unisex” is specifically designed to appeal to both sexes. As a result, it often fails miserably at attracting either one. “Gender neutral” offers much more freedom as there is no particular focus during the design process.
Designing such pieces do come with risks, as they could easily result in something bland. But I think you’ll agree these two watches are anything but bland.
The size is right
Color is not the only element with impact on which gender it will appeal to. One of the most important things is size. Men seem to be a bit more conscious (some might say insecure) in this as they have a natural tendency to go for larger watches, and men do generally have larger wrists.
However, it’s not uncommon to spot full-size sports models by Rolex and Panerai gracing female wrists.
If you want your watch to stay above the gender line, you need to find a sweet spot that appeals to a wide range of different people. For Hublot, this seems to be 42 mm – which feels right to me.
While 42 mm still makes for quite a substantial watch, the Hublot Big Bang Millennial Pink’s case is in aluminum, keeping its weight pleasantly, and comfortably, low.
The Zenith is not gender-neutrally sized at all – Zenith obviously didn’t feel a need to discriminate – leaving the Defy 21’s case at 44 mm in diameter just like the other models in the collection. In the case of this particular watch, it works well as it creates a proper statement.
A Zenith Pink Edition unique piece is set to be auctioned on September 26, 2020 during the 10th Anniversary Pink Ribbon Switzerland Music Gala in Zurich, where all proceeds from the auction will go to the charity. A regular-collection Pink Edition goes on sale in Europe in August and the U.S. in the fall. Pink Ribbon Switzerland is a non-profit organization conducting clinical trials in oncology with the goal of providing breast cancer patients better and gentler care.
While I applaud Zenith for supporting such a great cause from a male perspective, I also regret that the brand didn’t make a watch supporting a similar cause for men as well. While there is a minimal chance that a man will get breast cancer, the fact that our mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, and other loved ones are at risk should make this just as much our fight as theirs.
A gender-neutral future?
Can we now expect a stream of gender-neutral watches, at least from Hublot? I don’t expect that to happen.
Hublot doesn’t work with specific male/female collections, and many of the brand’s watches can already “go both ways.” Size aside, Hublot might very well already be the most gender-neutral Swiss brand there is.
On the other hand, watches like the Big Bang Millennial Pink and the stir they create might help other brands rethink their market approaches and let clients decide which watches make them happy by not pre-labeling them.
Quick Facts Hublot Big Bang Millennial Pink
Case: 42 x 14.5 mm, satin-finished and polished pink anodized aluminum
Movement: automatic Caliber HUB1280, 28,800 vph/4 Hz frequency, 72-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date, flyback chronograph
Limitation: 200 pieces
Price: €20,700 / $20,900 / 19,900 CHF
Quick Facts Zenith Defy El Primero 21 Pink Edition
Case: 44 mm, pink gold set with 288 VVS brilliant-cut diamonds (5 cts) and 44 VVS pink baguette-cut sapphires (2.12 cts)
Movement: automatic Caliber El Primero 9004, 36,000 vph/5 Hz frequency, separate escapement for chronograph function running at 360,000 vph/50 Hz, pink-colored main plate, bridges, and oscillating weight, 50-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date, 1/100th of a second chronograph; power reserve indication
Price: CHF 64,900