Hands-On: Hublot Classic Fusion Original

The 1980s original makes a comeback.

One of the “it” watches of the 1980s, Hublot’s porthole-inspired watch on a rubber strap has been revived. Forty-two years since the brand made its debut with the iconoclastic hublot watch – it was the first watch to combine a gold case and rubber strap – the brand is paying tribute to its founder Carlo Crocco with a new range modelled on the original design. Taking after the original in look and feel, the Classic Fusion Original collection comprises three sizes, each available in three material configurations.

Initial thoughts

Almost minimalist in its design, the Classic Fusion Original is simpler and sleeker than the typical Hublot. It is relatively compact and thin in all three sizes – the largest model is 10 mm high – giving it a surprisingly elegant profile on the wrist.

The no-frills design is strongly appealing, except for the date window, which isn’t too prominent but still unnecessary. And I would have gone even further in the minimalist direction by doing away with the seconds hand. That said, both the date and seconds are part of the original 1980 design.

Despite the clean styling, the watch is instantly recognisable as a Hublot. In fact, the Classic Fusion Original is arguably more distinctively Hublot than the some of the brand’s other models, which occasionally resemble offerings from Audemars Piguet and Richard Mille.

Starting at around US$8,000 in titanium with an automatic movement (the smallest, 33 mm versions are all quartz), the Classic Fusion Original is amongst the most affordable Hublot offerings.

Admittedly, it is relatively pricey for a watch equipped with a Sellita automatic, but while some of the competition might offer more sophisticated in-house calibres in the same price range, they lack the appealing style of the Classic Fusion Original.

The porthole

Founded as MDM Geneve by Carlo Crocco in 1980, Hublot gets its name from what was then it flagship product, a wristwatch with a bezel shaped like a porthole, or hublot in French. The original model was the first luxury wristwatch with a precious metal case and a rubber strap, a strikingly novel concept at the time.

Compact at just 36 mm in diameter, the original Hublot watch was thin, both in terms of the case and rubber strap, making it elegant and sporty in equal parts. The original was revived for the brand’s 40th anniversary in 2020, but with a 45 mm case.

The Hublot Classic from 1980. Image – Hublot

The Classic Fusion Original is essentially a scaled-down version of the 40th anniversary model. It has the same overall design and mostly the same details. I would have gotten rid of the date window at three, but otherwise I like the dial.

Like the anniversary model, the Classic Fusion Original reproduces the minimalist feel of the original by removing almost all superfluous elements from the dial. Finished with glossy black lacquer, the dial has just the Hublot logo at 12 o’clock. The glossy dial contrasts especially well with the bezel and helps to bring out its brushed finish.

Admittedly the emblem at 12 o’clock is oversized but the overall look remains restrained because the dial is otherwise free of other markings. But the dial is not quite as fancy as that in the 40th anniversary model, which had a substantial applied logo that was distinctly three-dimensional. In contrast, the logo on the Classic Fusion Original is almost flat.

The Classic Fusion Original has the same case as the standard Classic Fusion and thus the same case sizes of 33 mm, 38 mm, and 42 mm. All three sizes are slim and unusually sleek for a Hublot. Even the biggest version is thin at 10 mm high.

The largest 42 mm model is just right for modern tastes since it is big enough to be sporty but not quite oversized, while the 38 mm feels almost like the vintage original that was 36 mm.

Like most Hublot models, the Classic Fusion Original is available in titanium, Black Magic (a mix of black ceramic and black-coated titanium), or 18k yellow gold. All three materials have the black resin insert under the bezel that is a key part of the Hublot design, but the material (which is basically matte-black plastic) feels out of place in an expensive watch.

Being the most affordable, the titanium model is good value as far as Hublot goes, but the ceramic and gold versions are more appealing. The ceramic model is quintessential Hublot in its all-black finish, while the yellow gold version is a perfect homage to the 1980s original that was similarly available in various metals but also most appealing in gold.

While Hublot does have a stable of in-house movements, including time-only calibres, the Classic Fusion models are mostly Sellita powered. So it’s no surprise the Classic Fusion Original 38 mm and 42 mm are powered by the HUB1110, which is actually a Sellita SW300-1 fitted with a Hublot-branded rotor. (The 33 mm model is powered by the HUB2913, probably an ETA quartz movement.)

A clone of the ETA 2892, the SW300-1 is a tried-and-tested calibre, but it’s been around a long time so it has a short power reserve of only 42 hours. The movement offers both reliability and ease of service, but it isn’t impressive.

It’s an acceptable choice in the somewhat-affordable titanium and ceramic versions of the Classic Fusion Original, though the watch would have been much compelling with a more sophisticated calibre, even for a slightly higher price.

The final noteworthy element of the Classic Fusion Original is the double-fold clasp, a big improvement over the single-fold clasp that is standard issue for Hublot. Not only is it less bulky on the wrist, the double-fold clasp is more comfortable. And it is also easier to achieve a comfortable fit with the double-fold clasp.

That said, this clasp requires the rubber strap to be cut down to size, meaning that the strap size is largely fixed once it has been adjusted since it can only be made smaller and not larger. But the increased comfort certainly makes it worth it.

And it’s also worth pointing out that the new clasp has more refined finishing than the standard buckle, which has lots of sharp edges.

The double-fold clasp features bevelled edges

Key facts and price

Hublot Classic Fusion Original 42, 38 and 33 mm

Diameter: 42 mm, 38 mm, or 33 mm
Height: 10 mm, 9.85 mm, or 8.5 mm
Material: Titanium, black ceramic or 18k yellow gold
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 50 m

Movement: HUB1110 (42 and 38 mm), HUB2913 (33 mm)
Features: Hours, minutes, seconds and date
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Winding: Automatic (42 and 38 mm), quartz (33 mm)
Power reserve: Approximately 42 hours (42 and 38 mm)

Strap: Rubber strap with buckle clasp

Limited edition: 4,500 pieces, with 500 examples for each model
At Hublot boutiques and retailers beginning January 2023

42 mm, titanium: US$8,200
38 mm, titanium: US$7,900
33 mm, titanium: US$6,500

42 mm, black ceramic: US$10,000
38 mm, black ceramic: US$8,500
33 mm, black ceramic: US$7,300

42 mm, 18k yellow gold: US$24,100
38 mm, 18k yellow gold: US$20,500
33 mm, 18k yellow gold: US$17,800

For more, visit Hublot.com.


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Zenith Introduces the Defy Skyline 36 mm

Now in a more compact size.

In 1971, Zenith introduced the Defy, a steel sports watch with an octagonal case and tetradecagonal bezel that was the inspiration for the Defy Skyline, a simple three-hander in steel with an integrated bracelet. Today, the brand has updated the Skyline with a smaller case of 36 mm and three new dial colours. While its design is nearly identical to its larger sibling, the reduced size of the new Skyline makes it more wearable.

Initial thoughts

The highlight of the Defy Skyline is its compact, 36 mm size. For someone like me who leans towards classic proportions and prefers smaller watches, the size is a plus while also making it more wearable. Along with the size, the clean, simple design is also versatile enough for both genders. And the option of a diamond-set model and bright dial colours certainly elevate its appeal for a wider audience.

At US$8,500 for the standard model and 50% more for the diamond-set variant, it is priced competitively against comparable sports watches. And while it might not have all the bells and whistles of some of Zenith’s signature chronograph offerings, it’s easy to like for someone looking for a straightforward sports watch with an in-house movement.

More colours and a compact size

While the original Defy Skyline was 41 mm, the new version is considerably smaller. In spite of its reduced size, the case still retains the distinctive octagonal form with a brushed finish and matching bracelet. But it is equipped with a strap-change mechanism allowing a quick swap of the bracelet for a rubber strap.

The rest of the watch is identical to the standard Defy Skyline. The dial is available in three dial colours: blue (first seen in the original 41 mm model), metallic pastel pink, and pastel green.

A few tweaks have been made to the dial, notably removing the seconds at nine o’clock for symmetry. The brand has also updated the repeating star pattern that covers the dial, which is based on the vintage Zenith logo from the 1960s.

As with the smaller models from Zenith, the new Defy contains the Elite 670, the brand’s mainstay automatic calibre found in its dress watches. While reliable, the Elite 670 is a relatively old calibre, so it has a power reserve of 50 hours, rather than the 70 hours or so that’s now the industry norm.

Key facts and price

Zenith Defy Skyline 36 mm
Ref. 03.9400.670/51.I001 (blue dial without diamonds)
Ref. 16.9400.670/51.I001 (blue dial with diamonds)

Ref. 03.9400.670/18.I001 (metallic pink without diamonds)
Ref. 16.9400.670/18.I001 (metallic pink with diamonds)

Ref. 03.9400.670/61.I001 (pastel green without diamonds)
Ref. 16.9400.670/61.I001 (pastel green with diamonds)

Diameter: 36 mm
Height: Unavailable
Material: Steel
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 100 m

Movement: Elite 670
Features: Hours, minutes, seconds and date
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Winding: Automatic
Power reserve: 50 hours

Strap: Steel bracelet with folding clasp

Limited edition: No
At Zenith boutiques and retailers beginning January 2023
Price: US$8,500 for the standard model, US$12,000 for the diamond-set model

For more, visit Zenith-watches.com.


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Hands-On: TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph “60th Anniversary”

A revival of the "Panda".

Jack Heuer introduced the Carrera in 1963 as a chronograph for race-car drivers. No frills yet stylish design, the Carrera was perfect blend of form and function. Sixty years on TAG Heuer is celebrating its signature chronograph with a faithful revival, the Carrera Chronograph “60th Anniversary”, the first in a series of commemorative models that will be launched over the year – but it will be the only vintage remake amongst the commemorative editions.

Presented in the modern-day Carrera case of 39 mm, it is a near-identical replica of the classic Carrera ref. 2447 SN with its distinctive “panda” dial. While it incorporates the key elements of the original, the brand has updated the watch with its in-house automatic movement and of course scaled up the design to match.

Initial thoughts

I was struck by its understated styling of the Carrera Chronograph “60th Anniversary”. It’s a remake that doesn’t try to do too much but performs well. The original was clearly a functional sports chronograph but still elegant, something that this remake inherits. And the simplicity of the original ensures that it doesn’t look dated.

Admittedly, this is not exactly novel since TAG Heuer already released the remake of the ref. 2447S with an all-silver dial in 2020. But the “panda” dial is undoubtedly more appealing. It’s perfect homage to the 1960s and the brand’s history in motor racing. The dial gets the details right, including the “Heuer” logo, brushed finish, recessed registers, and even the perforated “racing” strap. And I like that fact that the brand stuck to the original design entirely and left out a date window at six.

The dial also sports faux-vintage Super-Luminova. Such “lume” is overused in vintage remakes, but in a few instances it works, including this one. The parchment lume goes well with the silvered, “panda” dial.

But as is the case for all of TAG Heuer’s vintage remake, the large is quite large, especially when compared to the original. The 39 mm is manageable, even appealing when considering modern sizing norms, but it is pretty thick at over 14 mm. The tall case mean that the proportions are not quite the same as the original. 

Retailing for US$7,400, it is slightly more expensive than the standard models in the present collection (that are also larger in diameter), but not much more so. With the in-house movement and good execution, it is well priced.

And this has a bit of extra appeal as the last Carrera vintage remake. Subsequent Carreras will sport a different case and modernised dial design.

A long way since 1963

TAG Heuer’s affinity for motor racing is rooted in its history, which is replete with famous drivers, champion teams, and major races. No watch encapsulates that like the Carrera (except maybe the Monaco). The original was named after Carrera Panamericana, the road rally that took place across the rugged terrain of Mexico. Notorious due to the multiple casualties that occurred during the race, the Carrera Panamericana was cancelled in 1954.

Not long after, Jack Heuer, great-grandson of the brand’s founder and then its chief designer, sought to create a chronograph that was legible and minimalist, one that did away with the scales common in chronographs of the preceding decades. He learnt about the Carrera Panamericana in the early 1960s, leading him to christen the new creation “Carrera”.

An example of the Carrera ref. 2447SN that sold in 2017. Image – Phillips

Over the years, the model has been updated with assorted features and redesigned several times. While some ventured far from the original in terms of styling, recent Carrera models have returned to the aesthetics of the original, culminating in the 60th anniversary “panda”. The anniversary model replicates the ref. 2447SN (“S” for silver and “N” for noir), which stands out for its restrained yet high-contrast design.

The dial stays faithful to the original in both design and finish. The dial is silver with a sunray-brushed finish, while the sub-dials are recessed and stamped with a concentric pattern.  Importantly, the dial recreates the proportions of the original, more or less, resulting in a pleasing, balanced layout.

But of course, as is often the case with remakes, the new dial feels, well, new as compared to the original. The printing and finishing are more pronounced, particularly with the patterning on the registers.

The case is the same one found on past Carrera remakes. It sticks to the form of the original but on a larger scale at 39 mm by 14.3 mm. The diameter is a good size that still gives it a vintage feel, though the thickness takes away from that. 

The case height is inevitable due to the movement inside, which is the same calibre found in  TAG Heuer’s more premium chronographs. The Heuer 02 is the brand’s workhorse in-house movement, featuring a column wheel and vertical clutch, along with a substantial power reserve of 80 hours.

The Heuer 02

Concluding thoughts

The Carrera 60th Anniversary is a good-looking watch that is fairly affordable. The vintage design is simple enough that it remains fresh, a quality that has been preserved in the remake. Overall, this strong release from TAG Heuer that will please both longtime fans of the brand and those who have just discovered it.

Key facts and price

TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph “60th Anniversary”
Ref. CR5090.FN6001

Diameter: 39 mm
Height: 14.3 mm
Material: Polished steel
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 100 m

Movement: Calibre Heuer 02
Features: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, and chronograph
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Winding: Automatic
Power reserve: 80 hours

Strap: Leather strap with folding clasp

Limited edition: 600 pieces
At TAG Heuer boutiques and retailers beginning January 2023
Price: US$7,400 (10,150 Singapore dollars inclusive of GST)

For more, visit Tagheuer.com.


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