We borrowed a Big Bang for Baselworld, but could it last the trip on a single wind?

My quest to examine the Hublot Big Bang Meca-10 (£15,900) over the course of my annual pilgrimage to Baselworld came together in particularly fluid fashion, all told. Elbow deep into the planning stages of the trip, I found myself faced with the same question I face every year – which watches do I pack for the trip? While taking multiple watches would satisfy that faint shade of attention deficit disorder that plagues many collectors, narrowing things down to a single piece would help streamline packing as well as the morning ritual of choosing a timepiece. Struck with the idea of calling in one of our favourite releases from the previous year’s show – a romantic notion, indeed – it was the fact that Hublot’s Meca-10 could survive the excursion on a single wind that made it the ideal selection. It would arrive the day before my departure, and with a full wind it would run until two days after my return. Would I still be smitten with the industrial-style wonder by the time it runs out of steam? Only time would tell.

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Considering it had been nearly a year since the last time I had crossed paths with the Meca-10, I’m happy to say that second impressions certainly lived up to the first. The micro-blasted titanium of the Big Bang case is a perfectly understated match to its skeletonised inner workings. The Hublot HUB1201 manual-winding calibre was the talk of the town at Baselworld in 2016, being one of very few in-house designed and built skeletonised calibres to boast such an impressive level of visual appeal – not to mention its significant power reserve. The brand’s movement designers drew inspiration from the vintage Meccano sets, including round cut-outs in bridges and a cleverly executed subdial/gear wheel at the three o’clock position that doubles as a secondary power reserve indicator. After an initial examination, suddenly the idea of relying on a single watch for 10 days wasn’t all that difficult after all.

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At 1:50 pm on 20th March, the countdown began. Wound up to its full reserve, I began the last of my preparations for Baselworld. Packing, preparing last bits of pre-Basel content, and coordinating my last few remaining appointments through the next 28 hours before heading to the airport, I found an instant level of comfort in the Meca-10’s supple rubber strap. Integrated rubber straps can be a bit of a crapshoot – when they’re bad, they’re awful, but when they’re good, they’re outstanding, and thankfully Hublot is no stranger to the game. Add in the piece’s remarkable lightness, and the Meca-10 quickly falls into the category of featherweight, though not to a point where you question its sturdiness.

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Fast-forward a few days onto the show floor, and the Meca-10 is continuing to make friends wherever I go. From brand meeting to brand meeting, and through countless conversations with fellow horology scribes, the response revolves around a collective shock and surprise at how appealing the piece is in person. Sure, certain pundits would frame their response along the lines of ‘I really love it, even though it’s a Hublot,’ referencing their disagreement with the brand’s brilliant yet polarising chairman, Jean Claude Biver, whose tactics for growing the brand can occasionally be off-putting for its core collectors. But even in this framework, Hublot should consider this a win. What’s more, as I creep to the mid-way point of testing, the Meca-10’s power reserve indicator is reading as though I have an extra half-day of power reserve in the bank that I was not expecting – and that’s fully accounting for the time difference between New York and Switzerland.

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Five days on the show floor… 45 hours, 63 appointments, miles of walking between meetings, conservatively well north of 1,000 watches viewed and handled, all book-ended by social obligations, dinners, and brand meetings. Interspersed throughout were (far too short) windows to rest my head and make a vague attempt at a reset to start the next day. In a way, wearing the Meca-10 throughout the buzz of Basel was a help – providing a vague sense of consistency and continuity. It also provided an entertaining countdown of sorts, as I knew that hitting the mark of three days of power reserve meant that it would be time to head back to the airport, back to New York, and back to some semblance of normality. As I boarded the plane home and reset the Meca-10 back to Eastern Time – the second time the Meca-10 required adjustment – I noted a clear lack of deviation from the atomic clock from which I’d originally set it. Stability is one of the bigger concerns when it comes to any piece with a significant power reserve, as the rate at which a spring unloads power when fully wound can be quite different from barely wound. Hublot has had much practice in this realm with pieces like the MP-05, whose power reserve is an astronomical 50 days, and it would seem at least some of the lessons learned have trickled their way down the food chain.

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As you can well imagine, the Meca-10 – as well as our team – made it back from Baselworld in one piece. After a brief recovery period, an additional quick wind was needed before its time in the photo studio (as anticipated, the piece did in fact run for 10-and-a-half days in total before coming to a halt). Upon its return to Hublot HQ, I found myself feeling a mild touch of separation anxiety, which is uncommon in an environment where new pieces of hardware come and go on the weekly. Even now from behind the keyboard with the latest ‘Watch of the week’ candidate on the wrist, the Hublot Meca-10 still nags at the back of my mind. Since the beginning of the year, Hublot has expanded on its success by offering Full Magic Gold and King Gold variants to the lineup to broaden its appeal, but even without those additions, the Meca-10 makes a compelling case as one of the few Hublot models out there that falls fittingly into the category of understated… For a Hublot, that is. hublot.com

Justin Mastine-Frost