Introducing The Hublot Classic Fusion Ferrari GT
If you’re looking for a dashboard clock in a Ferrari, you won’t find one. “We would never put one in our cars because it is an additional weight, so there’s no rational way of doing it,” explains its senior vice president of design, Flavio Manzoni.
The unbending rules of results-based engineering may well be a branding opportunity lost, but it’s very much the watch market’s gain. Thanks to Mr Manzoni’s vision of pure, unfettered design, it's meant the opportunity to create the “perfect expression of the human-machine interface” in a series of high-performance, limited-series timepieces produced in partnership with Hublot – the latest of which is evocatively dubbed the Classic Fusion Ferrari GT.
According to the accompanying brochure, “Driving long distances at high speed in comfort and with style is what the gran turismo spirit is all about.” So, which would you rather, a ticking (or purring) weight-bomb under the bonnet, or a supremely ergonomic, one-of-a-kind case design (containing a manufacture flyback chronograph movement, natch) strapped to your elegantly bronzed wrist?
No contest, as the Tifosi might say...
Each founded by an Italian with a reputation for both daring and delivering, supported by the necessary crafts and technologies to allow for genuine autonomy, it’s a wonder it took Hublot (Carlo Crocco, 1980) and Ferrari (Enzo Ferrari, 1947) so long to form a mutually beneficial relationship.
That they did so is down to watch business legend Jean-Claude Biver, who having sold the business to LVMH in 2008 set about expanding the watchmaking operation at Nyon, Switzerland, as well as the brand’s "footprint" in world sport. By 2010 it was official sponsor of Formula One (a position it would eventually give up to Rolex) and eyeing up other commercial collaborations. Enter Ferrari, which the same year hired Manzoni and charged him with setting up the marque’s first in-house styling centre.
With the help of Ferrari heir and Hublot fan Lapo Elkann an innovative deal was struck, which sees the watch brand offering a range of branded timepieces under licence as well as sponsoring its F1 team (although not its drivers), the Ferrari Challenge series and numerous other national car and racing clubs.
By 2013 it had unveiled the first fruits of Hublot's new haute horlogerie – commemorating the launch of Ferrari’s first hybrid production car with the fifth instalment of its high-complication "Master Piece" series – the La Ferrari MP 05. Fitted with a vertically mounted tourbillon powered by a series of eleven separate barrels delivering 50 days’ power reserve, it even came with its own "wheel gun" power tool with which to wind it.
In 2017 came the first true collaboration with Mr Manzoni’s team, a limited-series one-button chronograph fitted with a flying tourbillon dubbed the Ferrari Techframe on account of its ingenious honeycomb-style case. Marking 70 years of Ferrari, it also represented the first time the Ferrari Styling Centre had worked on all elements of a watch’s design.
Now comes the latest expression of the two companies’ category-defining ambitions in the new Grand Fusion Ferrari GT – a limited-to-2000 series in titanium, 3dCarbon and "King Gold" that benefits from a no less novel, intricately constructed case.
Whereas the Techframe re-created the complex system of struts and rods that underpin a Ferrari sports car, the new GT model resembles more closely the smooth lines and ineffable elegance of the Prancing Horse at play – the natural environment for the gentleman "grand tourist" and an important marker in what can be achieved in terms of modern, as opposed to merely heritage-inspired, design.
“We didn’t want to have any nostalgic effects whatsoever,” Mr Manzoni told GQ during a flying visit to London in June, during which he sported a set of exquisite silver mangles on one tanned wrist and the new Grand Fusion GT in titanium on the other.
“Here we wanted something very pure, very simple [and] rigorous in terms of shape. Of course, it's not as complex as [the Techframe], where we wanted to basically re-create our chassis and the form of the structure is determined by the distribution of the forces. Here the idea was to keep the dial floating, grasped by this very lightweight structure.”
The 45mm case is conceived as a single concentrical element (containing an in-house Unico flyback chronograph movement) suspended within a "frame" comprising its outer shell and integrated lugs. These two elements are tethered by four minuscule bridges, creating a void where the Techframe (using a reverse process of drilling out monoblocs of Peek carbon, titanium or platinum respectively) sought to reveal volume.
According to Mr Manzoni, the inspirations behind this modular yet perfectly unified design include the series of dials arranged along the dashboard of a 1959 California and the air vents on the current GTC4 Lusso: a perfect blend, as Mr Manzoni puts it, of the perfectly rational (a Ferrari byword by all accounts) and the bracingly modern, in which all extraneous decoration is removed to allow pure design to illustrate the aesthetic goal.
“Materials in watchmaking are more about aesthetic than performance,” concurs Mr Manzoni, “[whereas] every part of a Ferrari is [mindful of] certain objectives. And while the formal language of a watch must respect certain rules, we must be always creative, because our point of view is different from a designer who is an expert in watchmaking products. We start from another perspective. I think we must always be provocative and to propose something fresh.”
So now that the sports-inspired Techframe has been joined by its more gentlemanly GT sibling, how does Mr Manzoni view his new family of Ferrari-forged timepieces?
“They are complementary. The inspiration of the Techframe comes from our La Ferrari hyper car, which is why I suggested we look under the skin of a Ferrari, at what I would call its 'intrinsic beauty', hidden aspects that add to the richness. Here the idea was to arrive at a design without compromises. So this a GT – gran turismo – interpretation, so it's more elegant, more sophisticated, but still a combination between elegant and sporty.”
Hublot Classic Fusion Ferrari GT Titanium (limited to 1000), $23,520. King Gold (limited to 500), $40,812. 3dCarbon (limited to 500), $28,734. hublot.com