When Stars Align
Hublot CEO Ricardo Guadalupe explores the atelier’s culinary alignment – over a Michelin-designed menu, no less.
A Parisian dinner invite is always served with a heady side of allure. Because, well, Paris is the city of oh-so-so much, especially when such beckoning folds into the outer crease of an already lengthy summer. The thick card entrée came care of Hublot, the Swiss house that continues to defy and skip ahead with vigour and a release schedule that this year has been a breathless flurry of activity.
The past few months alone has meant rekindling a relationship with artist Shepard Fairey (Classic Fusion Aerofusion Chronograph All Black Shepard Fairey), encircling meccas of the Mediterranean (Classic Fusion Aerofusion Chronograph Ceramic Blue Ibiza Boutique; Big Bang Unico St. Tropez Boutique; Classic Fusion Aerofusion Chronograph Ceramic Capri Boutique) and strutting to a bold summer style (Big Bang Unico Summer Purple).
And all of this (and more) after landing a one-two punch at April’s Watches & Wonders convention with the knockout Square Bang Unico collection.
It is, ultimately, the march of a marque that knows not only what it’s about and who it speaks to, but where it’s going. On that warm Wednesday in Paris, Hublot and Robb Report were headed for the 11th arrondissement and an evening of Michelinstarred French finery—the launch of an aligned piece (the limited-edition Hublot Big Bang Unico Gourmet) and a dinner helmed by revered French chefs Anne-Sophie Pic and Yannick Alléno.
To place some context on the table, each helms three-Michelin star establishments: Pic with a total of 10 stars across her various restaurants and Alléno, well, at last count he’s at 12. By comparison, Gordon Ramsay has seven.
To have either chef create a bespoke menu is impressive. To have both work on the evening’s exquisite offerings is something quite incredible—an achievement furthered by the presence of other Michelin-starred chefs in Spain’s Eneko Atxa and Frenchman Paul Pairet, both friends of Hublot and both happy to find a seat away from the burners for the night.
“Gastronomy and food share many values,” Hublot CEO Ricardo Guadalupe had explained over a sparkling water at the Place Vendome boutique earlier in the day. “You have to be passionate and accurate; there are many details and timing is important.”
Sport, specifically football, art, architecture, and now food, it’s a broad, exciting brush with which Hublot currently paints—as seen through a release such as the bold 42 mm Damascus steel Gourmet, working in alignment with ambassadors like Pic and Alléno, and closer to home, given the opening of Sydney outpost Oncore, British chef Claire Smythe.
“Yes, it’s about creating a ‘world of Hublot’, a universe in which our consumer can identify themselves. Gastronomy is one, art is another and then lifestyle and design and architecture. And then we also enter into exploration [Vendee Globe] and sustainability [Polar Pod] and the environment [Sorai].”
And it’s working. Hublot’s numbers are ascendant globally (annual sales alleged to now top $231 million) and the brand is setting agendas, regularly mimicked by historical players for its bold and original use of material (particularly ceramic and rubber) and colour.
“It’s all fantastic, yes. We want to be compared to them [historical marques] and of course that comparison is not easy because being a young brand we don’t have the history. Our challenge is to be part ofthat group but we also want to represent a different way of making luxury watches —through our ‘Art of Fusion’, our DNA.”
That DNA—a want to innovate and to offer an alternative; to look at and appreciate what’s gone before but to then elevate to new and unique levels—is why the fairly fresh alignment with gastronomy, specifically the new association with chefs Pic and Alléno, works so well.
Both are central to the rethink around French cuisine, and its return to an exciting and revered setting, moving away from a framework of stuffy tradition and, arguably, arrogance.
“That is right,” Pic tells Robb Report. “After the many successes of [Catalan award-winning restaurant] El Bulli, that had an impact and the reaction for us was to work hard and to be more creative— something happened in that time [early 2000s] and we knew we were going to work hard to make a difference.”
The difference Pic has made is seen in her pair of Hublot dishes, specifically a plural beet affair, “la betterave plurielle”, that proves to be refined and layered and unexpected—a ravioli of madras curry enhanced by crushed pine needles. Elsewhere, Alléno’s wagyu beef— cut so finely that it literally melts in the mouth—is a Parisian memory that will long be held close.
“Since two, three years, everything that can exist in French gastronomy [fine dining, bistros, bars, restaurants] can co-exist without saying what is French gastronomy and what is not,” adds Pic. “It’s the richness of all these trends together and it’s okay now.”
What’s equally accepted this night — inside the Atelier des Lumières, a display space known for light and sound shows— is the new Big Bang Unico Gourmet. It’s certainly bold. Its striking steel is the same material used in the knives favoured by chefs, the wave pattern casing similar to Japanese blades. The gastronomic spirit extends to the bracelet, which comes cut from the fabric of cooking aprons. The openworked matte black dial allows a peek into the engine room, driven by the automatic manufacture calibre HUB1280, offering an impressive 72-hour power reserve. “It’s very good, I like it,” offers Alléno, who, alongside Pic, recently visited the Hublot manufacture to understand more.
“To learn more was certainly interesting,” says Pic. “To see how many people are [involved] in making a watch, you know it is like a service for us—all the staff working together to make a Michelin star. “And for me, I am very proud to be asked by Hublot [to become an ambassador]. It is a brand I have known for a long time— I know them from Switzerland where I have a restaurant and so it makes sense too. And now I wear a watch again every day.”
The impressive, star-filled Parisian evening—capped by a haunting performance by standout local musician Aime Simone—sits within a celebratory year for Hublot’s Guadalupe.
A protégé of fabled former Hublot CEO and watch industry icon, Jean-Claude Biver, 2022 marks 10 years at the top, as, ahem, “le chef ”.
“I’m proud of what has been done and where we have brought this brand the last ten, 15 years. I also now think about the future and I would like to be able to transmit myself and what I have learnt to that new person … I’m not going anywhere yet, but the idea is that the brand lasts for years and becomes a reference in our Swiss watch industry—but we still have work to do.”
And magnificent dinners to organise.
Big Bang Unico Gourmet is available now, limited to 200 pieces, approx. $35,900; hublot.com
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