INTRODUCTION Over the last couple of years Iâ€™ve taken quite a lot from this community. Not only have I learned everything I know about reps here, but Iâ€™ve learned more about genuine Swiss watches here than I have anywhere else on the internet. I feel itâ€™s time for me to give something back. I thought about it, and I believe the HBB rep is the one area where I can contribute the most. The HBB is hardly my favorite gen, but itâ€™s probably my favorite rep for a variety of reasons which youâ€™ll read about below. At the time of this writing, I own six of these amazing reps, representing most of the known sources of HBB reps. The purpose of this post is not merely to review this fine rep or to act as a simple buyerâ€™s guide. Rather, my goal is to review the history of HBB reps, and to untangle the complex web of different versions that have hit the market since the very first one appeared just a couple of short years ago. THE WATCH In April of 2005, the Swiss watch community was hit with a bombshell. Hublot called it the â€œBig Bangâ€ â€“ a brand new chronograph design that made its debut at Basel and took the watch world by storm. By the end of 2005, the design had won no less than four international watch awards. Fresh from revitalizing Blancpain, new CEO Jean Claude Biver developed the design from the ground up, while still taking care to retain the brandâ€™s identity. Previous Hublot designs shared the maritime-like bolt on bezel (â€œHublotâ€ is the Swiss word for a shipâ€™s porthole) and the natural rubber strap, but they looked pale and pedestrian in comparison to the flashy Big Bang. Biver took the brandâ€™s concept of â€œfusion,â€ the blending of very different materials like steel, gold, ceramics, and rubber, together to make a harmonious design on a new level. Whether he realized it at that time or not, Biver had hit the proverbial jackpot. Not only was his design a massive hit, but it used an inexpensive base movement that left plenty of room for profit. The modular design of the watch also made it possible to introduce an enormous number of different models by simply changing the color scheme of the watch caseâ€™s many component parts. Biver eventually purchased a controlling share of the company, and ultimately sold it to LVMH, for what must have been a small fortune. Pursuant to the deal with LVMH, Biver remains CEO and retains unprecedented control of the company. THE DESIGN While the Big Bang design was an instant hit, it is not without its detractors. First and foremost, while the Big Bang may be revolutionary in design, its horologic value is rather paltry. After all, the watch uses a $400 ETA Valjoux 7750 as itâ€™s movement. The movement may be a well respected workhorse, but the watch enthusiast certainly expects something more in a design that retails for at least $9,000 and is rarely discounted. Others have attacked the design itself, claiming it borrowed too heavily from the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore, and calling it nothing but a gaudy version thereof. While I very much agree with criticism of Biverâ€™s choice of movement, my personal take on the HBBâ€™s design is that these claims are sheer nonsense. The Offshore itself is nothing but a grotesque bastardization of Gerald Gentaâ€™s original Royal Oak design. Where the original Royal Oak was elegant and understated, the Offshore is bulbous, overweight, and downright ugly. Many have criticized the design of the H-screws on the HBBâ€™s bezel because the screw heads are not symmetrically positioned, as they are on the Offshore. I, for one, feel quite the opposite. These large, oversized watches are supposed to appear rugged and masculine. Like a piece of machinery, the H-screws on the HBB are functional. Once tightened down, the screw heads are positioned wherever they end up. Alternatively, due to the construction of the Offshoreâ€™s case, each bolt head on its bezel is always perfectly positioned. Although these bolts are, in fact, functional, the perfect positioning makes them look like mere decorations on the bezel â€“ something that might look more appropriate on a womenâ€™s design. In the end, this makes the Royal Oakâ€™s bezel look just plain silly, especially at the larger size of the Offshore version. VARIOUS REPLICA VERSIONS There seems to be a lot of confusion out there over how many different â€œversionsâ€ exist of the Big Bang rep. Personally, I believe this confusion largely stems from the use of improper terminology. Many mistakenly use the word â€œfactoryâ€ when referring to the different versions of the Big Bang, when they really mean â€œwatchmaker,â€ or my preferred term, â€œrep maker.â€ I feel the use of â€œfactoryâ€ is improper because it is very misleading. Each rep watch, much like its genuine Swiss counterpart, is not made in one single â€œfactory.â€ It may be assembled in one factory, but certainly all of the components that make up a watch are not produced under one roof. This is mere speculation on my part, but I have to assume that the Chinese watch industry is set up much like the Swiss watch industry. Accordingly, Swiss manufacturers that make each and every part of their watches in-house are few and far between. Instead, most Swiss watch â€œmanufacturersâ€ have numerous component parts produced by outside OEM suppliers. For example, movement ebuaches are often sourced from ETA, dials from another supplier, hands from another supplier, leather or rubber straps from yet another supplier, common findings (like bracelet screws, bolts, and clasps) from another supplier, and so on. There are component specialist manufacturers all over Switzerland. It is well known that very few high end Swiss watch manufacturers have the facilities to produce their own ebauches, dials, hands, straps, and other components. All of these parts are typically outsourced. In Hublotâ€™s case, it is common knowledge that the Big Bangâ€™s movement ebauche is the venerable ETA Valjoux 7750. However, some may not realize that Hublot has openly admitted that it uses outside suppliers for numerous other HBB components. There are at least two different suppliers for the carbon fiber dials. Hands come from another supplier. Ceramic bezels are supplied by Japanese ceramics specialist manufacturer Kyocera. Any number of these outsourced components may be produced nearby in Switzerland. However, whoâ€™s to say many of them arenâ€™t produced in mainland China? An international corporation as large as Kyocera surely has plenty of manufacturing plants in China. Whoâ€™s to say the ceramic bezels arenâ€™t produced there? What about hands and dials? Is it really so hard to believe Hublotâ€™s suppliers have them manufactured in China? The fact is, the definition of â€œSwiss Madeâ€ is a very loose one. As long as final assembly occurs in Switzerland, it matters little where the component parts are produced. My understanding is that the Guangzhou province of China is set up very much like Switzerland in that the various factories throughout the region each specialize in different watch component parts. For example, the high beat A7750 movements are manufactured by one factory, while the low beat version is manufactured by another. Large Chinese movement manufacturers like DG and Sea-Gull make many of the movements used in other reps. Likewise, there are specialist factories throughout Guangzhou making cases, crystals, dials, hands, straps, findings, etc. As a result, itâ€™s entirely possible for a rep maker to pick and choose different component parts when putting together a rep for sale to the public. All of this history brings us back to the various â€œversionsâ€ that exist of the HBB. When we refer to each version of this rep, we really need to use the term â€œrep makerâ€ or â€œmaker.â€ The maker of the original HBB rep, sometimes known as the â€œUltimateâ€ version, burst onto the rep scene a couple of years ago and shocked us all with his staggering attention to detail and commitment to quality. That same maker has since brought us such other outstanding reps as the Chopard GT XL 7750, as well as the Concord C1 and Chopard GT Chrono, both with an amazing copy of the oversized Valgranges movement. At one point, he even considered repping the incredibly complex Porsche Design Indicator module for the 7750 movement! This original version of the HBB, which weâ€™ll refer to as â€œV1,â€ is still considered a benchmark in rep quality to this day, and with good reason. However, that doesnâ€™t mean the V1 is the be-all and end-all of HBB reps. Right from the beginning, there were some minor complaints about the V1. First, there are some issues with the dial. The first thing the rep world noticed was that the â€œ20â€ printed inside the 3 oâ€™clock subdial is improperly positioned slightly higher than the â€œ10â€ printed just a few millimeters to its right. Second, the font used to print â€œHUBLOTâ€ on the dial is an incorrect older font never used the Big Bang. Luckily, this little error is noticeable only upon very close inspection with a loupe. Last, but certainly not least, was the V1 repâ€™s rotor. Rather than engrave the â€œHUBLOT GENEVEâ€ lettering on the rotor, the maker chose to use decals instead. The alleged reason provided by some rep dealers for this apparent lapse in judgment is that this was done because the manufacturer of the high beat A7750 movement used in this rep refuses to accept returns on defective movements if the rotor has been engraved. In reality, this is hard to believe given that the entire rotor on this rep is custom made to begin with. Nevertheless, this was the reason given at the time. To this day, all V1 HBBâ€™s still use decals on the rotor rather than proper engraving. Also with the initial release of the V1 came a barrage of complaints about the high cost of the rep. Even if many could justify the extra cost after examining the amazing quality of the genuine article in the flesh, the rep world had never seen such a costly replica. When fist introduced, the basic SS model of the HBB cost a good 35% more than any other rep on the market at the time. Its price eventually dropped slightly, but the V1 HBB still costs more than most other reps on the market. The V1 maker surely knew that other rep makers would soon issue their own versions of the HBB, likely using his own rep as a model. His solution was to release a â€œLiteâ€ version of his own HBB rep at a significantly lower cost. These Lite versions of the V1 differ in only two (or three) areas. First, they use the older, low beat version of the A7750 movement. Second, they have no AR whatsoever on the sapphire crystal. Finally, if the HBB model in question has a ceramic bezel, the V1 Lite will have a PVD-coated steel bezel, rather than use real ceramic parts. While these Lite V1â€™s are significantly less expensive than their counterparts, many feel that the lack of AR is devastating to this particular watch design. There is an extraordinary amount of detail in the dial of the HBB. Without a good AR coating to eliminate unwanted reflections on the dial, much of that detail is obscured. Further, the low beat A7750 movements used in the V1 Lites are notoriously unreliable. These movements often arrive very dirty out of the box. Unless youâ€™re willing to pay for a complete service of the movement, youâ€™re often stuck with a watch that simply wonâ€™t keep very good time. As expected, it wasnâ€™t long before a second maker began producing HBB reps. This V2 HBB rep was mostly likely created using an HBB V1 as a model (thus making it a â€œrep of a repâ€). The V2 maker chose to stick with the high beat 7750 movement, and very wisely priced his HBBs to compete head to head with the V1 Lite. However, it also offered the unique advantage of having a properly engraved rotor. In essence, buyers could get a watch that was practically identical to the V1 for a good $200 less. In response, the V1 maker started offering his Lite version with the high beat 7750, albeit with the decals on the rotor instead of proper engraving. Upon release of the V2, it wasnâ€™t long before collectors in the rep community began sourcing their own AR coatings for these HBBs, as well as other reps in their collections. Collectors on both sides of the Atlantic soon started offering other members in the rep community an AR coating service for their rep crystals. The cost of adding an outstanding quality double sided AR to a crystal was in the $50 - $70 range, significantly less than the $200 premium the V1 HBB still commanded. Again, not much time elapsed before a third HBB maker emerged. These models were initially offered buy one rep dealer, and have therefore come to be known as the â€œSilix versionâ€ after him. At first, these interesting reps seemed to offer the best of both worlds. They use the high beat A7750 movement, the crystal is coated with double sided AR, and the rotor is engraved. However, it did have some drawbacks as well. First, the crown on the Silix version screws down. All genuine HBBs have a standard push-in crown. This somewhat obvious â€œtellâ€ bothered many buyers. The Silix version also differs from the other HBB reps in that the date window on the dial is slightly smaller that it should be. The smaller date window does have one advantage, however. Due to its smaller size, it makes the date wheel appear less recessed (a common criticism about all HBB reps, as well as any other rep that uses the tricompax dial layout with the 7750 movement). The Silix version had some other minor advantages as well. The rubber straps on this version are often softer and more comfortable than the straps on the V1 and V2 models. In addition, the deployant clasp on this version is less likely to pinch the wrist than the V1 or V2 clasp. From here, the trail gets rather murky. There have been claims by some dealers to have a â€œV3â€ HBB. However, there is little evidence to support yet another maker producing a completely different version of the HBB case. Rather, it seems likely that some makers (and perhaps dealers) are commissioning their own HBB reps built from the variety of rep HBB parts being produced in the various Chinese factories that supply the makers of the V1 and V2 versions. The result is mixed and matched rep models with the attributes of several different versions. For example, it appears that V2 cases with low beat A7750 movements are quite common these days. There are also numerous high quality quartz movement based HBBs on the market now that offer surprising quality and outstanding value. These quartz models will be addressed in a separate section below. THE QUARTZ REPS Of course, no genuine Big Bang has ever used a quartz movement. Frankly, no serious watch has ever used a quartz movement, period. As a result, any quartz HBB is technically a â€œfantasy rep.â€ However, all things are not so serious in the realm of rep collecting. Frankly, itâ€™s nice to have a couple of good, reliable quartz reps in the collection for those hurried mornings when you just canâ€™t be bothered to set the time and wind your mechanical movement. A quartz watch is pretty much always set to the correct time, never needs winding, and for the most part, never needs service. They may have no â€œsoul,â€ but at least theyâ€™re reliable. Before getting into details, I want to point out which quartz models will NOT be covered by this guide. Iâ€™m speaking of those very low-end reps that donâ€™t even make an attempt to look like the genuine article. They are most often sold as novelty items to clueless tourists on big city street corners. Such low-end reps typically use very poor movements, are made of inferior grade steel or even tin, and wonâ€™t even impress the clerk at the Wal-Mart watch counter. Of course, with very popular models like the HBB, there can be dozens of different quality grades on the market, making it hard to know were to draw the line between quality replica and low grade fake. Personally, with HBB reps, I draw the dividing line at reps that use standard slot-head screws in the bezel rather than the proper H-screws. This â€œtellâ€ is so obvious that no one should even consider buying an HBB rep without H-screws for any reason. These models often come with numerous other obvious tells like incorrect straps and deployants, incorrect chrono buttons, incorrect hands, and incredibly bad color schemes. The quartz models worth considering unfortunately are sold by only a handful of dealers. Considering the very different case backs and bezels used in these quartz reps, they appear to be constructed by at least two or three different rep makers. All of these high end quartz models borrow most of their parts from the A7750 automatic versions. These parts may not be identical to the V1 and V2 reps discussed above, but they are certainly made to the same specifications, likely using parts from the V1 or V2 reps for a model. Judging by the quartz HBBs Iâ€™ve examined in person, it appears that for most models, the case, crown, chrono buttons, bezel, strap and deployant are all identical or nearly identical to those parts used on the V2 models. That means that for all intents and purposes, the only parts that differ are the movement, dial, caseback, and in some cases, the crystal. Iâ€™ve left the hands out of these lists on purpose. That is because the hands on the quartz models appear identical to V2 hands. However, because the quartz movement likely uses different sized mounting posts, the mounting holes in the hands are probably a different size. Most of the quartz HBBs use mineral glass crystals that are cut exactly the like the sapphire crystals used in the automatic versions. A few models even claim to use quartz crystals, albeit at a price premium. One thing all of the quartz HBBs do have in common is the Miyota OS20 quartz chronograph movement. This respected Japanese movement is used in many genuine watches. It has long been praised for its accuracy and reliability. Use of this movement obviously results in some significant changes in the appearance of the HBB dial. The subdials are spaced slightly closer together than they are on the genuine HBB or the automatic A7750 based reps. The date window is also slightly smaller, and it is located slightly closer to the center of the dial. The actual functions of the 3 subdials on the watch differ in the quartz models as well. While the 9 oâ€™clock subdial on the gen HBB and the A7750 based reps displays the running seconds, this function is moved to the 6 oâ€™clock subdial on the quartz models. The quartz models use the 9 oâ€™clock subdial as an elapsed chronograph minutes counter instead. The quartz models also use the 3 oâ€™clock subdial to display the hour in 24 hour time. Although these functions are different, the quartz rep makers have chosen not to re-label all of them, likely for fear that the appearance of the design might suffer. The elapsed chrono minutes counter at 9 oâ€™clock contains no markings, as it is on the gen HBB. The 24 hour counter at 3 oâ€™clock is actually labeled properly on most quartz models. Compared to a genuine HBB, the most obvious difference on the quartz HBB reps is the movement itself and the different subdial functions and placement as a result of the use of the quartz movement. Beyond that, there is very little about these quartz models that differs from the genuine article. All said, many of these high end quartz HBBs can be very, very impressive watches for the price. In fact, one dealer even carries numerous quartz models for just $108.00 US, including the shipping fees! At that price, these models may just represent the most â€œBangâ€ for the buck in the entire rep world (pun intended). Placed side by side with one of the famous â€œNoobmariners,â€ many non-WIS would be hard pressed to choose one over the other. Pitting the flashy HBB vs. the understated Noob makes for quite a fun comparison. The Noob may gain points for its automatic movement, but it loses just as many for its questionable reliability compared to the rock solid performance of the Miyota quartz movement in the HBB. The Noob also scores points for its near bulletproof sapphire crystal, but the HBB catches up with its chronograph features and the incredible detail in its complex case. In the end, the winner comes down to personal taste.