In 2013, Hublot announced a new partnership with the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team as their official timekeeper and presumably watchmaking partner. At the same time, Hublot announced a watch collaboration with Lakers star player Kobe Bryant and aBlogtoWatch went hands-on with the Hublot King Power Black Mamba limited edition watch for Kobe Bryant here. For 2014, Hublot now releases a watch exclusively for the team with the Hublot King Power Los Angeles Lakers timepiece.
Swiss watch brands Hublot and Audemars Piguet have for a while been competing over visibility when it comes to attracting American basketball fans with the resources to purchase high-end luxury watches. Back in 2011, I discussed the beginning of what was a turf war for the best basketball teams and personalities between Hublot and Audemars Piguet. While Audemars Piguet has players such as LeBron James on their ambassador roster, Hublot has people like Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant. Interestingly enough, while both brands continue to push forward into entering the world of basketball, Audemars Piguet has quietly announced that it will be vastly reducing the number of limited edition watches they produce while Hublot will presumably continue in full force to release regular limited edition timepieces such as the King Power Los Angeles Lakers.
At 48mm wide in a black ceramic, titanium, and carbon fiber case, the Hublot King Power Los Angeles Lakers is very much a standard King Power chronograph with some decorative enhancements to fit the Lakers theme. Maybe the most interesting detail is that one of the two straps supplied with the watch is produced from an authentic Lakers jersey stitched to a rubber backing. Growing up in Los Angeles myself, the golden yellow and purple colors of the Hublot King Power Los Angeles Lakers watch feel familiar. As a team, the Lakers have a swathe of celebrity followers – some of whom (like Jack Nicholson) are known to very regularly attend games. It will be interesting to see which of them end up wearing Hublot King Power Los Angeles Lakers watches in order to signify their dedication to the team. Hublot is very aware that timepieces such as this are not intended for consumption by the majority of fans, but they are banking on the placement of their name in the stadium to have long lasting residual effects on aspirational buyers.
The dial has a central chronograph counter for both the minutes and the seconds. The skeletonized dial of the watch is further decorated with LA Lakers team colors and logo. The chronograph in the Hublot caliber HUB 4248 automatic movement has been designed to count a maximum of 48 minutes – which is the length of a professional basketball game. The rear of the movement has another Lakers logo printed on the sapphire crystal display back.
Hublot is a luxury brand that relishes in appealing to niche enthusiast groups with a host of annually produced limited edition watches. Whether those groups are into sports, cars, or a number of other events and interests, Hublot’s marketing tactics dictate that there has to be a watch for them. This practice can make watch enthusiasts a bit annoyed because Hublot is essentially re-branding existing timepieces with minor decorative changes. What serious watch lovers want is novelty and fresh designs – something that happens far less commonly in the watch world, given the costs of research and development. Hublot, however, can be considered to be doing the larger watch enthusiast community a great service by spreading “word” about mechanical watches much farther, and in a much wider way than most traditional watch brands are able to do. We always subscribe to the philosophy that whatever is good for watches is good for the watch industry.
Nevertheless, Hublot might want to consider a bit more structural design experimentation with many of their limited edition watches in a similar way to what Audemars Piguet has done for years. The latter brand often used its limited edition Royal Oak Offshore models as a testing place to experiment with new design elements and materials – which allowed for watch lovers to find more interest in the many limited edition models that may have otherwise not interested them. The ref. 748.QX.1199.NR.LAK14 Hublot King Power Los Angeles Lakers Watch will be released as a limited edition of 50 pieces, priced at $27,900, and available exclusively at the Hublot boutique in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles.