History Of Ferrari Watches: Hublot, A High-Speed Partnership
by Martin Green
Benchmark: the dictionary definition states, “A standard or point of reference against which things may be compared.” In the watch world, becoming a benchmark is something many aspire to but few achieve. As a journalist, I am cautious in using this word as it has the potential to falsely inflate a subject, similar to a term like “icon.”
Getting it right
Before this partnership, Ferrari had already gone through quite a few different watch brands featuring its logo. Cartier, Girard-Perregaux, and Panerai are forces to be reckoned with, yet it was Hublot who enjoyed the greatest success in partnering with the famed car brand from Maranello.
I think that it is safe to say that this might be the most successful car/watch partnership that the industry has seen so far, although that of IWC and AMG comes very close. What lasted a decade, ending in December 2020, was very exciting at many levels.
While the partnership with Cartier was a different era, and that of Girard-Perregaux was perhaps too focused on the carmaker’s heritage, Ferrari and Hublot aligned so well that it reached a synergy in tune with the brand’s then-current clientele. Moreover, the “DNA” of both brands remained recognizable and strong in all the watches, becoming even more powerful toward the end.
Going the extra mile
One key element of success in this was the ability and desire of Hublot to go the extra mile in creating special models. While coming from a time when a limited edition often meant merely changing a dial color and plastering an additional logo on it, Hublot had a different approach from the beginning. One might say that Hublot rewrote the manual on how such partnerships should look, having no problem making significant changes to existing models or creating new watches altogether.
When the Ferrari/Hublot partnership was first announced on November 5, 2011 – following the demise of the Panerai collaboration – it turned out to be an extensive one. Hublot would not merely make watches featuring the Prancing Horse, but became the official timekeeper of Ferrari and the Ferrari Challenge competition, the official watch of Ferrari Scuderia (the Formula 1 team, back then with Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso as drivers), as well as sponsor of the GT Competizioni.
This momentous partnership was forged by Jean-Claude Biver, who was still Hublot’s CEO at the time, and the brand’s current CEO, Ricardo Guadalupe. On Ferrari’s side, it was Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, then-chairman of Ferrari, committing to this alliance. Each entity had already proved that it had a finger on the pulse of the public in its own field and knew exactly what to give it.
The first watches dedicated to this partnership were already on display at Baselworld in 2012. Hublot had taken its flagship model, the Big Bang chronograph with Unico movement, and given it a significant Ferrari overhaul. Many design features from the cars became visible in the watches, with Hublot going very far to get every detail right. Owners of a Ferrari 458 would recognize many of their dashboard features in these timepieces, and even the leather straps were crafted like Ferrari seats.
Hublot offered the watches in titanium, but this was also the year that the brand introduced its Magic Gold, a proprietary precious-metal gold-and-ceramic alloy highly resistant to scratches. A true innovation and perfect for the Hublot Ferrari watches as the Maranello-based brand also had a firm reputation when it came to pushing the envelope.
A good start for an even better race
As good as these watches were, it turned out that it was merely a prelude of things to come. A year later, Hublot expanded the collection by also introducing the Big Bang Unico Ferrari in ceramic and King Gold, another of the brand’s proprietary precious-metal alloys. But the true potential of the partnership became abundantly clear when Hublot launched the MP-05 LaFerrari.
The Hublot MP 05 LaFerrari was inspired by LaFerrari, the supercar that Ferrari introduced at the Geneva Auto Salon in 2013. LaFerrari was the most extreme car Ferrari had to offer, continuing the legacy of the F40, F50, and its direct predecessor, the Enzo. Powered by a 6.3-liter V12, it delivers an incredible 789 horsepower, while the Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS) added another 161 horsepower to this for a total of 950 hp. LaFerrari is the perfect blend of Formula 1 technology in a street-legal sportscar.
Inspired by this creation, the MP-05 LaFerrari was a watch unlike any other. With a sleek and unusual design, crafted through Hublot working closely with Ferrari design director Flavio Manzoni, it sits on the wrist like nothing else. Thanks to a curved sapphire crystal, it looks like the engine bay of a sportscar, offering views to the 11 mainspring barrels providing an incredible 50-day power reserve. That is an unprecedented form of endurance racing. The hours, minutes, and power reserve are all indicated on rollers, while the movement also features a suspended vertical tourbillon.
Here we also recognize another clever aspect of the partnership: like Ferrari, Hublot also tiered its models. With the MP-05 LaFerrari costing as much as a regular-production Ferrari automobile, the watch was as much an aspirational piece as its automotive namesake, meant for the few with the disposable income to afford them.
Over the years, the MP-05 LaFerrari would become the poster child for the Hublot Ferrari collection, very much akin to its automotive sibling, of which only 500 examples exist.
In 2014 Hublot launched the watch in brushed titanium with yellow details as a nod to the corporate color of Modena, the hometown of Enzo Ferrari. An imposing piece, it was however the sapphire crystal version launched in 2016 that took my breath away when I first saw it.
Hublot has become one of the big names in making watch cases, case backs, bezels, and now even movement parts in sapphire crystal. While it is already complex to machine the case of a Big Bang Chronograph from this material, doing that with the almost organic curves of the MP-05 LaFerrari is even more demanding. Because of its unique construction, all 637 components of this watch can be studied in detail. The brand even went so far as to make the indication rollers translucent.
There was even more to come: in 2015 the MP-05 LaFerrari was introduced in All-Black configuration. At Hublot, “All-Black” means that anything that can possibly be made black is. For the MP-05, it resulted in a blackened titanium case and many blackened movement components. It showed a different side of the watch as it became somewhat more understated than its siblings, if such a thing is possible with such a large and unusual-looking timepiece.
How tightknit the relationship between Ferrari and Hublot was became especially clear to me in Baselworld that same year. Hublot not only had a Ferrari prominently displayed at its booth in Hall 1 but also various models at the dinner held in a nearby hotel. It was an imposing sight, underscored by the presence of many of the top people of both Ferrari and Hublot.
Jean-Claude Biver was in attendance as was Ricardo Guadalupe, but also Sergio Marchionne, who was wearing his signature black sweater. This automotive industry legend, who unfortunately passed away in 2018, was at the time CEO of Fiat Chrysler, having turned around both brands. In that position, he was also responsible for Ferrari, which was part of the conglomerate.
Such closeness also had a positive effect on the watches, which were getting better and better. In 2015 Hublot introduced the Big Bang Unico Ferrari Speciale to celebrate ten years of Big Bang. Crafted in black ceramic, it was in essence a tweaked design of the previous Big Bang models featuring the Prancing Horse.
It was a captivating watch with lots of red details and a grid over the movement that served as dial, all housed in a black ceramic case. The Schedoni leather strap made for an eye-catching finishing touch, featuring the same striped motif as the Ferrari 458 Speciale it was inspired by.
Picking up speed
As of 2016, the partnership gained even more speed as Hublot completely revised the core of the collaborative collection to come out with the Big Bang Unico Ferrari. Hublot did this in a subtle yet distinguished way, making the bezel a bit more distinct, revising the dial, and making the case flow more, in particular around the crown. While it remained an oversized 45 mm, the wearing comfort is surprisingly good for such a large watch. With this revamp, the “DNA” of both brands merged even further; the overt Ferrari branding remained rather subtle with only a Prancing Horse just above the 6 o’clock position. Initially, it was launched in three limited editions: 1,000 pieces in titanium, 500 in carbon fiber, and 500 in King Gold.
In 2018, Hublot launched two additional limited editions of the Big Bang Unico Ferrari. The first, comprising 250 pieces, saw the return of Magic Gold in the collection. This proprietary high-tech precious metal alloy that sees gold mixed with ceramic is much harder than most gold alloys. It changes the look of the gold ever so lightly, perfectly matching the high-performance looks of modern-day Ferrari automobiles.
Hublot masters many fields, and one is the production of ceramic. As one of just a handful of watch manufacturers able to produce cases in this material, Hublot has also discovered how to make it in vibrant colors, with “Ferrari red” – “Rosso Corsa,” or racing red – being one of them. Here, Hublot once again shows how well it is able to make a bold, visual impact through clever design. By keeping the watch nearly completely black apart from a few details, the red ceramic bezel grabs all the attention.
It’s a celebration . . .
In 2017 there was plenty to celebrate for both Ferrari and Hublot. The brands not only renewed their partnership, but Ferrari also celebrated its seventieth anniversary as a car manufacturer. To mark this special occasion, Hublot gave Flavio Manzoni, Ferrari’s design director, carte blanche to create a watch unlike one seen before.
Closely working with the manufacture, Manzoni designed a monopusher chronograph with tourbillon whose caliber was developed especially for it. Available in 70 pieces each of titanium, PEEK carbon, and King Gold, the Techframe Ferrari Tourbillon Chronograph was a unique watch. The movement was placed in a container connected to a skeletonized frame to which the strap was attached. The crown was moved to the 4 o’clock position to make room for the bright red chronograph pusher. The dial was partially skeletonized so that one could appreciate the technical delicacies that the watch had to offer, similar to the way that Ferrari always likes to show the engines of its cars.
Hublot also did not forget the MP-05 LaFerrari, launching a special Aperta version of it that paid tribute to the LaFerrari Aperta, the convertible version of the supercar. At nearly twice the price of its “closed” sibling, this more expensive version of the LaFerrari is also more exclusive with only 209 cars made despite engine and performance being identical.
The MP-05 LaFerrari Aperta is also very closely related to the sapphire crystal version of the watch released in 2014 with main the difference being that it is made of what Hublot refers to as black sapphire crystal. I would rather call it “smoky” as it has a rather subtle tint to it; to my mind, black means that it is no longer translucent. This is just enough to tone down the overall looks of the watch and give it a sense of mystery, which makes it my favorite version of the MP-05 LaFerrari.
. . . or two
Ferrari’s racing team is nearly two decades older than the car brand, founded by Enzo Ferrari with Mario Tadini and Alfredo Caniato in 1929 and first racing with Alfa Romeos. In 2019 Ferrari’s racing team celebrated nine decades of putting the pedal to the metal, with Hublot launching six watches to commemorate.
Three of them are what we can comfortably call the ultimate versions of the Big Bang Unico Ferrari, for the occasion renamed the Big Bang Scuderia Ferrari 90th Anniversary. These included cases made of 3D Carbon, transparent sapphire crystal, and platinum with a bezel in ceramic carbon. This is the same material Ferrari used for the brakes of their Formula 1 cars.
Hublot also played extensively with innovative materials for the straps on these watches. The version in 3D Carbon had one made of Nomex, a synthetic fiber that is highly resistant to fire and is used for the suits of racecar drivers. The sapphire crystal-encased Big Bang Scuderia Ferrari 90th Anniversary got an even more high-tech look thanks to a strap made of Kevlar, while the platinum version had to settle for perforated leather. Not at all a bad thing as this is also a more classic material than the other two.
The other three watches that Hublot launched in 2019, designed in collaboration with Ferrari, did come as a surprise: the sleek lines of the Classic Fusion were reimagined as the Classic Fusion Ferrari GT. They represented the Gran Turismo spirit, which, along with racing is the other pillar of the Ferrari legend. These watches showed some resemblance to the Techframe Ferrari as here the movement was also placed in a container and not connected to a more solid frame.
Titanium and King Gold versions were offered, but 3D Carbon was also present. Featuring a distinctive pinstripe pattern, 3D Carbon has a more elegant appearance than regular carbon fiber, perfectly matching the soul of the Classic Fusion Ferrari GT. With its very sleek design, it fit like a glove on most wrists, ready to accompany anyone on the drive of a lifetime.
The finish of a great race
Then in December of 2020 it all ended quietly. Ferrari and Hublot decided to part ways by not renewing their agreement. While this might be disappointing to some extent, neither brand will suffer much as they remain strong and at the top of their respective games.
For the watch world, it meant the end of one of the strongest car-watch collaborations, one that has resulted in meaningful watches and rewrote the manual on bringing such a partnership to full bloom. It has also given us some unique timepieces and great memories, but most of all a benchmark by which to judge all others – including the upcoming Ferrari and Richard Mille partnership.
Quick Facts Hublot Techframe Ferrari Tourbillon Chronograph
Case: 45 x 14.8 mm, titanium, red King Gold, or PEEK Carbon
Movement: manual winding Hublot Caliber HUB6311 with one-minute tourbillon and column wheel chronograph
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; chronograph
Limitation: 70 pieces each in titanium, red gold, and PEEK Carbon (Polyether Ether Ketone)
Price: $127,000 (titanium), $158,000 (red gold), $137,000 (PEEK)
Quick Facts Hublot Classic Fusion Ferrari GT
Case: 45 x 13.15 mm, titanium, 3D carbon or King Gold
Movement: automatic Caliber Unico HUB1280, 72-hour power reserve, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency, column-wheel chronograph
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date, flyback chronograph,
Price: €21,700/$22,000 (titanium), €26,900/$27,300 (3D Carbon), €38,300/$38,800 (King Gold)