When I checked a few days ago I learned that Kobe Bryant has over 15 million fans on his Facebook page. That is a ton of people that Hublot just earned access to in their recent acquisition of Mr. Bryant as their newest mega-popular athlete brand ambassador. I covered that story more here on Forbes. Here on aBlogtoWatch I'd like to cover the limited edition watch (at least the first one) Hublot has produced for Kobe, unsurprisingly named the "King Power Black Mamba." I should remind you that as of 2013, Hublot is also the official timekeeper of the LA Lakers.
Here in Los Angeles I was afforded the opportunity to meet Kobe for a bit while Hublot CEO Ricardo Guadalupe showed the sharply dressed Lakers MVP around the brand's Beverly Hills boutique off Rodeo. Our party waited eagerly for Kobe's arrival. Someone mentioned "we have him for about 20 minutes." Kobe's personal watches aren't done yet. The two King Power Black Mamba watches are prototypes, but he and his entourage will likely get Hublot-ed out with timepieces galore helping to marry the Swiss watch brand with the basketball star turned lifestyle icon brand. Unlike any other luxury brand, Hublot has successfully captured the world of sports, especially in the US, in a big way.
Meeting Kobe under the horological circumstances was quite interesting as Mr. Bryant isn't exactly new to the high-end watch business. He was involved in a start-up watch brand a few years ago which actually partnered with Kobe to produce a line of Black Mamba watches. The brand was a favorite of mine and I was sad to see them go - it was Nubeo. The financial crisis killed them, and it is possible they will resurface one day. That won't include their relationship with Kobe. Through conjecture I learned that Kobe more than likely lost money in the deal. And as friendly as he is - with his collected and polished social coolness - the "Nubeo situation" is a sore topic. I didn't press the topic as others did. No matter, there is a new Black Mamba watch in town.
Interestingly enough, the new and old Black Mamba watches (Bryant's court nickname) are priced similarly. That is likely just a coincidence, as this limited edition King Power is priced on par with similarly configured models. The 48mm wide case is in mostly matte black ceramic, with titanium, and a slew of other materials that go in to Hublot's "Fusion" construction. The first thing that I noticed about the watch was the strap - black python. Not exactly actual African Black Mamba snakeskin - but python is more than likely better. The smooth scales offer an interesting look that is rare (to say the least) for watch straps. Under the strap is a customary Hublot rubber liner that makes it more comfortable (and helps it last much longer).
The dial itself is a predictable homage to Kobe and the Lakers. The purple and gold (versus yellow) accents honor LA's [more popular] basketball team, and Kobe's "24" jersey number sits at the bottom of the dial over 6 o'clock. On the back of the watch over the exhibition caseback window is a print of Kobe's signature. One of the more unique elements of the design is a black snake figurine placed into the dial that is wrapped around the subdial. It is almost easy to miss at first glance, but is charmingly (or cheesily) present complete with gold-colored forked serpentine tongue.
Hublot includes a feature on the watch first seen in the Big Bang Ferrari watches from last year. That is the new locking crown system. Similar to what is used on some Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Compressor watches, rather than having a screw-down crown, it has a locked and unlocked position. Inside the watch is the Hublot caliber HUB 4248 automatic chronograph movement. This movement has a centrally mounted 48 minute chronograph, subsidiary seconds dial, and the date. It offers an acceptable feature set, while also providing a good view of the movement through the dial. 48 minutes of course is the length of a basketball game.
Kobe seems to genuinely like the watch though it will be a bit more time before he is well-acquainted with the brand. As Hublot prefers to do, at some point in the future, Kobe will no doubt make his way to Nyon to check out the growing Hublot manufacture. Expect to see the limited edition of 250 pieces King Power Black Mamba watch in stores soon, as well as Kobe's persona in some Hublot advertising. Price for the piece will be around $25,000. hublot.com
TECHNICAL DETAILS - Hublot King Power Black Mamba
Series Limited series of 250 pieces numbered
Case: “King Power”, diameter 48 mm, in micro-blasted black ceramic
Bezel: Black micro-blasted ceramic and micro-blasted titanium,6 black PVD H-shaped relief titanium screws
Crystal: Sapphire with interior/exterior anti-reflective treatment, Purple number indication
Bezel: lug Black composite resin
Lateral inserts: Black composite resin
Crown: Black PVD titanium with Hublot logo 3N Gold 18K, Black rubber insert
Push-buttons 2H in black PVD titanium, rectangular in polished steel, Black rubber inserts, 4H in titanium satin-finished and “reset” engraved
Case-back: Open micro-blasted black ceramic with Kobe Bryant signature on sapphire
Dial: Sapphire dial with 4 zones of 12 minutes in black and gold, Indexes in satin-finished 3N Gold plated with black SuperluminovaTM, ‘’Snake’’ appliqué polished black PVD
Hands: Satin-finished 3N Gold plated hands with black SuperLuminova™
Movement: HUB 4248 Mechanical self-winding
Chronograph with central 48’ counter
Date: Trapezoidal window at 4.30
Frequency: 4 Hz (28,600 Alt/h)
Power reserve: 42 hours
Water resistance: 10 ATM or approximately 100 metres
Strap Python snake strap sewed on black rubber
Clasp Deployant buckle clasp in micro-blasted black PVD titanium and ceramic