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The fashion world received it with great fanfare. To those in the world of fine timepieces, it was seemingly a softer launch, but the watch crowd should have taken more notice — because this, my friends, is the ghost of Christmas future. What does a shoe have to do with a watch, though? On the surface, nothing. Up higher, though, in the more rarefied air, the answer is everything.
The World's Most Expensive Watches, my take on "luxury" - or, really, "luxury goods" (the terms are not synonymous; the latter is just a subtly disguised description for products with heritage, craftsmanship, and high prices) - is a polymath's approach to connoisseurship and collecting. I've been to the manufacture; I've seen Magic Gold being made. As both consumers and the world of luxury evolve, so must the level of collaborations: co-branded and/or private label simply won't do in the long run.
Consider the Ermenegildo Zegna watches made by the Sowind Group, the La Chaux-de-Fonds-based watch manufacture that produces Girard-Perregaux. I know them; I get them. And while Hublot is not a fake sundresses watch for everyone, nor is Berluti a shoe for all. Neither is for the shy, reserved, or conservative. The partnership yielded a number of timepieces, including the High Performance sports Replica Hublot watches and the limited-edition rose-gold Zegna Centennial Limited Edition dress watch. Both were essentially slightly altered Girard-Perregaux watches — and that just won't do any longer. You never forget a pair of Berlutis — sublime and timeless, they're art in leather. There needs to be a sense of integration in these collaborations that's purer than just slapping on a label and saying, "Voilà!" DNA from each brand has to be present to innovate true progeny — and now Hublot, for which fusion is one of its corporate values, is leading the charge for what luxury joint ventures ought to look like. I've written a lot about the brand. I did several book events for DRIVE TIME at Hublot boutiques.
Which brings us to the 45-millimeter Hublot Classic Fusion Berluti in 18-karat King Gold, a pairing of Italian-cum-Parisian bootmaker Berluti with the Swiss luxury watchmaker. With an anti-reflective sapphire crystal, 100m water resistance, and a screw down crown, this is no pit queen. On the surface, it seems to be two LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton brands thrown together and put in a blender, out of which pops a leather-clad timepiece. (We'll leave the BDSM jokes aside — oh, wait. Too late.) That's true as far as it goes. I'm as familiar with Hublot as I am with Berluti — though I've owned only one, a Classic Fusion, But the fact is that Berluti customers — actually, at those price points, let's call them "collectors" — are Hublot clients as well. Dig a little deeper, then, and it all becomes more intriguing. My second pair I bought in Milan, my third in New York at the original Madison Avenue flagship. Let's start with Berluti, a shoe line I know quite well. I purchased my first pair of Berluti Andy loafers (so named because they were designed by Warhol himself) in London's Berluti boutique in Mayfair going on 15 years ago. Now, take Hublot replica watches. Yes, we can all agree that it never met a co-op branding or licensing deal it didn't like, but those prolific partnerships don't diminish the care that goes into the final product. I've purchased a dozen or more Berluti varieties, from the Ultima to the Playtime sneakers, and I could tell you exactly where I bought each, and who artfully executed each shoe's colorful hand-applied patina.
Thus, the fusion — to borrow the Hublot term again — of the two came as little surprise. In fact, over the years I've mentioned to Patrick Ottomani - a longtime chum and the managing director of Berluti USA, and Alessandro Sartori, the brilliant former Berluti creative director - that they really should do something with Hublot. And when I last had lunch with Jason Morrison of Hublot USA (just prior to the announcement of the collaboration, as it happened), I told him, "You guys must do something with your Berluti brethren."