It’s just past the stroke of nine, and I’m packed into the Silver Queen — a sleek black gondola flying up Aspen Mountain into the “white room.” Inside are a half-dozen other hopefuls, all keenly anticipating making the first tracks in last night’s freshly fallen snow, which casts a dreamy contrast against the sharp blue skies of another bright Colorado morning. Skiers call this glorious type of day a “bluebird,” and short of going chest-deep on an early spring blower, this is probably about as good as it gets.
It’s been a little over a year since Hublot became the official timekeeper of Aspen Snowmass, one of North America’s longest-running, and most prestigious ski destinations. But this year, Hublot is taking its partnership with the storied mountain (whose mid-century history dates back to the Army’s legendary 10th Mountain Division) a step further, opening its first seasonal monobrand boutique in the resort’s town center. It’s a unique move, considering most of these types of retail spaces in the United States are usually relegated to metropolitan centers on either coast, but Aspen is a truly international ski destination, not unlike Courchevel 1850 in the French Alps or Zermatt in Switzerland (both of which also house a mountainside Hublot boutique), and something about a Swiss watch brand operating in this crisp high alpine air just feels right. To punctuate this opening, Hublot is also introducing a 25-piece limited Spirit of Big Bang watch with the help of Olympic gold medalist and world champion ski racer Bode Miller, who’s made his home on these steep slopes as a friend of the brand for the better part of the last decade.
Using the standard titanium Spirit of Big Bang as a blueprint, the Rockies edition is housed in a bright white ceramic case with contrasting blue subdials and a blue integrated rubber strap, which lends it a decidedly wintertime feel, albeit a cheerful one — a clear bluebird day on the mountain, with sharp contrast between snow and sky. More often than not, white ceramic watches come off as too smooth or glossy, with a “flat” aesthetic that doesn’t exactly endear itself to a high-end luxury product. But this one is different — and if you’re new to the tonneau-shaped Spirit of Big Bang, it’s one of Hublot’s signature collections; unapologetically bold and bristling with interesting lines, facets, and contrasting blasted and polished finishes. All this textured variety thankfully breaks up the surface of the watch, lending it an extremely dynamic and, ahem, “cool” presence on the wrist.
Better still, the new Rockies edition only measures 42mm across, making it wholly wearable on a wide range of wrist sizes, despite the fact that it’s obviously not for everyone (though that’s hardly the point). On Bode Miller’s massive ski-racer wrist, the flared strap is fully flush against the wrist with the clasp secured at its furthest extension. On my skinny 6.5” bike-racer wrist, though, the strap flares out a bit, leaving small gaps to the skin on both sides, though the case itself rests right where it should. I’d imagine this would make for a much more comfortable wear on one of Hublot’s leather strap options. Like much of the rest of the Spirit of Big Bang watches, the whole package is highly technical, yet sporty and playful, and maybe even a little bit defiant in the sense that it feels like an expression of counter-culture — a friendly jab at the traditional skiing establishment and an about-face on what a Swiss watch “should be.”
It’s this ethos that has also defined Miller’s storied ski racing career, one that has obsessed over craft, detail, and precision timekeeping — he credits his early interest in watches to a Casio calculator watch used to time downhill runs on the mountain — while expressing a strong understanding that the only way to be heard, and ultimately be the best in his own realm, was to go against the training and racing conventions of his peers and competitors. Interestingly, Miller’s introduction to Hublot was also one of happenstance, via his primary ski racing sponsor back in the early aughts, which was an apparel brand called Kjus (pronounced “shoos”), also headquartered in Switzerland. He immediately hit it off with Hublot’s then-CEO Jean-Claude Biver, who also relishes a similar defiance of convention, and the rest is more or less history.
Like the rest of the Spirit of Big Bang chronographs, this reference is fitted with Hublot’s in-house-produced HUB4700 calibre, a high-frequency (5Hz) automatic chronograph movement that’s a brand staple, deployed in its more premiere offerings. It’s worth noting that, though Bode Miller didn’t play a role in the design of the Aspen edition, he does already have his own signature model: a black ceramic Big Bang designed in collaboration back in 2011, with a portion of its proceeds benefiting Miller’s Turtle Ridge Foundation, a nonprofit that supports adaptive and youth sports programs.
Miller is one of ski racing’s most decorated athletes of all time (33 world cups, six Olympic medals, four World Championship gold medals, and six World Cup globes, but who’s counting?), so his palmarés fit in neatly with the rest of Hublot’s deep ambassador pool, which routinely taps thought leaders in sport, culture, art, and fashion to create a singularly interesting and diverse roster. This includes the likes of football legend Pelé, runner Usain Bolt, artists Shepard Fairey and Sang Bleu, and also once included the late Kobe Bryant.
Hublot turns 40-years-old this year, having been founded in 1980, so I think it’s safe to assume we’ll be seeing plenty more from the progenitors of “fusion” come Baselworld in April. The price of the Hublot Aspen Boutique-exclusive Spirit of Big Bang is $26,700 USD. Learn more about the Spirit of Big Bang collection at watchesaustralia