Hublot has released a new Hublot Sapphire MP (which, by the way, stands for Masterpiece, and which I confess I only just figured out last weekend – we are all learning) with Japanese artist Takashi Murakami. It’s completely clear and flower-shaped and technically has no dial, just a flying tourbillon that sits inside of a smiley face with little hands that poke out and indices that become visible if you squint hard enough. I think we all understand that checking the time on this thing is hardly the point.
Before breaking down the technical specs, let’s first examine Murakami’s impact on the zeitgeist. Because it’s not often that somebody so prolific in their field takes to watch design. In fact, I would go as far as to say outside of Swatch and G-Shock licensing agreements, this has to be the most prolific art and watch collaboration that exists currently. Name another one. I challenge you.
Murakami may seem like the kind of guy who loves to jump on a collab but he is quite literally the forefather of modern fashion collaborations. He acted as the bridge between regular consumers and fine art, high fashion and streetwear, long before Virgil came into the conversation.
Murakami’s “Superflat” take on pop art (I don’t think we have time for an art history lesson here) has permeated contemporary visual culture to the point of becoming gift shop pillows at the MoMa. And this was long after Marc Jacobs commissioned Murakami to make Louis Vuitton mixed media prints (long live the multicolor Murakami Speedy) in the early aughts. From Kanye West album art, to a Ben Baller diamond-set chain worn by Kid Cudi at the 2021 Met Gala, to Supreme box logo collabs, Murakami has done it all. You cannot really fault his instinct for commercialism – his approach is uniquely democratic with entry points starting at stickers and pillows and shirts all the way through to 15 million dollar sculptures. Really, anybody can take home a piece of Murakami.
Back to the watch. This is technically the fourth release from Murakmai for Hublot (if you count Only Watch).
There is no dial, well there is a dial but it’s sort of conceptual, because instead of the dial being located at the center of the watch, there’s a flying tourbillon designed without an upper bridge (Hublot’s first serially-produced central flying tourbillon if you must know). The tourbillon is surrounded by 12 petals made entirely of transparent sapphire, so the watch is inherently skeletonized. The MP-15 was made of clear sapphire in order to maximize the luminosity: sapphire case, sapphire caseback, sapphire crown, translucent flange and strap. Murakami told me “It’s monochrome but with no limitation of color.” The point is total transparency for the light to refract through the crystal and create a rainbow. This central flying tourbillon features a power reserve of 150 hours, which I genuinely thought was a typo because why? To help with winding Hublot has made a rechargeable stylus which when placed on the crown winds it through 100 revolutions (one can only imagine the labor of this many revolutions for ordinary human fingers!) until both barrels that drive the central tourbillon are fully wound.
Having seen this thing in real life. I think it’s close to perfect. Knock me or knock Hublot MP-15 Takashi Murakami Tourbillon Sapphire if you so desire, but I’ll hang on to my positive opinions today. This watch isn’t for me but it fulfills what I am so often looking for in watch design that I can never find: a modern approach. I don’t want everything to look like a vintage reissue. Anyway, that’s certainly not what Hublot is for.
The Hublot MP-15 Takashi Murakami Tourbillon Sapphire has a sexy silhouette with pop appeal – let’s take a moment to acknowledge that this is a very very hard feat to achieve. It’s thoroughly modern but it’s wearable, in the same way I praise RM for thinking outside of the often-very-tired-watch-design box. It’s so progressive that it makes us ask questions. I’m no devout Hublot disciple, but the brand pushes me, like RM pushes me, to question what it is I even want out of a watch. I don’t always want an orthodox concept of glamor. Not everything has to be an ornamental ode to the past with complications wrapped up in classical design. It’s so easy to overstate the importance of tradition and to fall prey to techno cynicism.
Perpetual calendars are beautiful and classical. Like vanilla, the most beloved of spices, they can also be the most boring. It’s a duality of taste. It’s okay to like both! Or none. I can’t tell you what to do. Here, I think of AP concepts and Smiley RMs. With technology reducing our dependence on the physical realm, it’s not a coincidence that these brands look to push outside of the traditional time-telling functionality. For the record, I’m not saying I would wear it but you can imagine Murakami wearing it, you could imagine Lil Uzi wearing it, you could even imagine Pharrell wearing it. You wouldn’t think twice.