Hublot Big Bang Referee hands-on review

Hublot’s audacious and expensive Big Bang Referee runs Google’s Wear OS

Totally over-the-top in terms of size and price, the Hublot Big Bang Referee is still desirable, but entirely out of reach for most of us.
Totally over-the-top in terms of size and price, the Hublot Big Bang Referee is still desirable, but entirely out of reach for most of us.
Totally over-the-top in terms of size and price, the Hublot Big Bang Referee is still desirable, but entirely out of reach for most of us.

Highs

  • It’s a Hublot
  • The World Cup watch faces and straps look great
  • High-quality materials and build

Lows

  • Limited edition
  • Very expensive

Every football referee needs a watch. For the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the referees won’t be wearing just any old watch, they’ll be sporting (sorry) a Hublot Big Bang Referee smartwatch, specially produced by the famous luxury watchmaker for the event.

It’s the first time Hublot has produced a smartwatch, and the brand has gone all out with both the technology and the football tie-in — it runs Google’s Wear OS. The good news is, if you’re rich and keen enough, you’ll be able to buy a Big Bang Referee watch for yourself. The question is, will you want to buy it? We visited Hublot’s massive booth at Baselworld 2018 — actually, it’s more like a high-end detached house in the best neighborhood — to try one out.

Luxurious vibes

Hublot decided to style the special edition after its enduring, and very popular, Big Bang range of mechanical watches, and the family ties are obvious. The body is made from titanium with a Kevlar insert; there are six H-shape bolts securing the body together; and the angles are bold and sharp. The model we saw had a rubber strap, but there will be other bands available too. The satin-finish bezel catches light beautifully, and the whole watch oozes the luxurious, ostentatious, no-nonsense vibe we expect from a Hublot watch.

But if you’re looking for the beautiful colors some of Hublot’s Big Bang watches boast, you won’t find them here. The metal body is surprisingly muted, color-wise, and is sci-fi in a robotic fashion. It’s no surprise Hublot is running with the robot theme in its advertising. It’s shaped and designed to be the kind of watch Optimus Prime would wear. It also stands out. This is a massive watch with a 49mm body, dwarfing our hardly-small Seiko diver watch when placed next to it.

Football and Wear OS

What about the footballists who Hublot wants to buy this watch? They’ll get custom notifications 15 minutes before a game, live score updates, and more notifications when someone kicks the ball into the goal. There are 32 specially-designed watch faces to show support for your home country, and a regular Hublot-styled one for when the World Cup is a distant memory. The watch runs Google’s Wear OS — formerly Android Wear — and it ran smoothly when we swiped through the menus. Choosing watch faces is a little tough, as we’ve found with other Wear OS watches, as the watch face doesn’t enjoy swiping to the side very quickly. A selection of football-centric apps are pre-installed, but without connectivity, we couldn’t test them out.

Underneath the skin, the Big Bang Referee is powered by an Intel processor, and it has a 400 x 400 pixel AMOLED screen. There’s also a built-in GPS, NFC with support for Google Pay, and a battery that lasts about a day.

Price and availability

So how much is it? There are just 2,018 being made, ready for sale on May 1 — but it will set you back about $5,000 or 3,700 british pounds. That’s three times what you’ll pay for a Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45, and twice what you’ll spend on the Montblanc Summit. Hublot mechanical watches can reach obscene levels of money, and it’s hard to find one for less than $10,000, so taken purely as a Hublot watch, it’s a bargain. Whether purists will see it as one depends on their viewpoint; but to most people who will consider buying a Hublot watch, the amount of money it costs is little more than pocket change.

It’s the first time Hublot has produced a smartwatch.

If it’s popular enough and demand exists, Hublot will be inspired to make further versions in the future. Tag Heuer said something similar to this when the Carrera Connected launched, and the company has since gone on to make two more versions, plus a range of special editions. Demand, at least in Tag Heuer’s world, is obviously there. Hublot is a part of the LMVH family of brands, just like Tag Heuer.

The Big Bang Referee caused a stir at Baselworld, and it’s one of the most talked about new products we’ve seen at the show. For the vast majority of us, it’s a novelty, and another aspirational product from a brand that’s vastly out of reach. However, that doesn’t stop it being a further, intriguing glimpse into what a famed luxury watch brand envisages a smartwatch should be like.

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