40 Hublot x 40 The Hour Glass

News • 03 Feb 2021

40 Hublot x 40 The Hour Glass

Celebrating a 40-Year Partnership Between Hublot & The Hour Glass 

Unique and fortuitous sums up the 40-year relationship between Hublot and The Hour Glass, Swiss luxury watchmaker and renowned specialist watch retailer, that have been partners since the beginning.

The Hour Glass was established in October 1979 by Dr Henry Tay and Jannie Chan. Dr Tay’s family had been watch merchants since the 1940s, but he, along with Ms Chan, envisioned a new kind of specialist watch retailer. The couple envisaged a store that was refined, upscale, and focused on fine watchmaking – the norm today but almost half a century ago, was daring and so innovative. But their vision was generous enough to see beyond the traditional haute horlogerie Maisons, which led them to seek out the avant-garde and unusual.

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10th Anniversary of the Hublot Big Bang in 2015

Carlo Crocco – The Beginning of Hublot

Halfway around the world, at almost exactly the same time, Carlo Crocco’s destiny was unfolding in an uncannily parallel manner. Possessed of an intense ambition to creating a radically different luxury-sports watch – the very idea of a luxury-sports watch had only been invented a few years before – Mr Crocco started his family’s watch distribution and licensee business, Binda Group, then and now a giant in the Italian watch industry.

Four years later, the world encountered the realisation of Mr Crocco’s ambitions when he revealed the first Hublot at the Basel Fair 1980, which took place in April of that year, barely months after The Hour Glass had opened its doors. Mr Crocco’s inaugural creation was a slim nautical-inspired wristwatch that fused gold and, for the first time in watchmaking, rubber, while managing to be both minimalist and contemporary at the same time.

Just as The Hour Glass was becoming the watch purveyor of choice for the great and the good in Southeast Asia, Hublot quickly became the must-have timepiece of its era. Seen on the wrists of royalty, tycoons, and celebrities – King Juan Carlos, Silvio Berlusconi, Giorgio Armani, and Sylvester Stallone all wore a Hublot – Mr Crocco’s invention became the epitome of 1980s European chic.

Hublot Loves Women event in Bangkok, Thailand with PMT The Hour Glass

Partners & Friends

But the partnership between Hublot and The Hour Glass was rooted in more than just commerce, this is also explaining its longevity.

Carlo is the same age as myself – a fine gentleman – and we became close friends, sharing issues of work, family, and our passion – charity work,” recounts Dr Tay. “At the time, when we first met at Basel Fair 1980, Carlo had already been visiting India every year, sometimes several times each year, to do charity work while also donating money, something he still continues to do today.” Dr Henry Tay, The Hour Glass Executive Chairman

The partnership became one that endured the vagaries of life and business. Hublot remained steadfast with The Hour Glass throughout the Asian Financial Crisis, and several years later it was the retailer’s turn to aid its counterpart as Mr Crocco began planning his final bow.

The worlds largest Hublot pop-up at Ngee Ann City, Singapore

At Baselworld 2004, I had lunch with a dear friend, Jean-Claude Biver, who had several years before, sold Blancpain to the Swatch Group and was subsequently appointed by Nicholas Hayek Snr to lead the relaunch of Omega,” recalls Dr Tay, “After the success of Omega, Jean-Claude was restless and was seeking a new challenge.”

“I advised Jean-Claude to contact Carlo, whose children were not interested in managing Hublot, and to come to an arrangement with Carlo to gain full operational control of Hublot and build another success story with this unique and avant-gardiste marque,” continues Dr Tay.

“A few months later, Jean-Claude called to say he was on board as a partner in Hublot,” says Dr Tay, “Not long after, he launched the Big Bang, which I instantly knew would be a great success – and the rest is history.”

Hublot CEO Ricardo Guadalupe and Lang Lang at the opening of the Hanoi Hublot boutique in Vietnam

Jean-Claude Biver Launches The Hublot Big Bang

Jean-Claude Biver reimagined Hublot by developing the Big Bang, a wristwatch radically different from the Hublot timepieces of the 1980s. Oversized and exuberant, the Big Bang nonetheless hewed true to the brand’s founding concept – the fusion of materials – while managing to capture the zeitgeist of the 21st century’s opening two decades, just as the original Hublot came to be an emblem of the 1980s.

Originally launched in 2005 in the familiar mix of gold and rubber – with the addition of a little carbon-fibre composite – the Big Bang is now an icon and the signature Hublot wristwatch. Like the 1980s original, the Big Bang and its variants can be seen on an all-star cast of boldface names, while also being a receptacle for a growing range of proprietary watch movements developed by Hublot’s watchmakers and engineers. With the years, the Big Bang became a canvas for a diversity of collaborations.

2018 Charity Friendship Match in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Now helmed by Mr Biver’s successor, Ricardo Guadalupe, Hublot has continued to flourish in the third decade of the century. Its partnership with The Hour Glass has grown alongside, with the retailer now operating 30 points of sale for the brand, concentrated in Southeast Asia but as far afield as New Zealand, Australia and Japan.

Thanks to The Hour Glass, Hublot has had an incredible development in South East Asia in the last 40 years with now 7 Boutiques. The Hour Glass has really been key in the success of the Hublot brand, in particular since 2005. I would like to thank Dr Tay for the great partnership and friendship as well as the whole team at The Hour Glass for their commitment in making a success story out of Hublot”, said Ricardo Guadalupe, Hublot CEO

Reflecting the strength of both the partnership and the importance of The Hour Glass’ home market, Hublot has created 11 limited edition wristwatches for the region in the last decade, capped by last year’s launch of five Southeast Asia editions, including the flagship Big Bang Chronograph South East Asia Special Edition 44 mm.

Two generations later, one half of the duo there at the very beginning remains upbeat. “I firmly believe that Hublot at 40 will continue to thrive under the talented and experienced Ricardo Guadalupe”, said Dr Henry Tay.

Discover the Hublot collection

The Hour Glass is proud to be the exclusive retailer of Hublot in South East Asia.

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