How do you review an art piece? Design is subjective at the best of times, but art is defined by its subjectivity and what evokes strong feelings in one person might glance off another. You can sort of objectively review a gallery exhibition, but you can only really describe how a single piece of art affects you. I mention all this because I’m going to talk about Hublot’s new collaboration with Takashi Murakami, the Hublot MP-15 Takashi Murakami Tourbillon Sapphire and it’s definitely not your usual timepiece.
First a bit of background. Hublot have been working with Takashi Murakami for a few years now, rendering the eccentric Japanese artist’s signature happy sunflower in various gemset ways, be that full diamonds or the rainbow of colours you’d expect from Murakami’s work. Like many of Hublot’s collaborations – with the likes of Richard Orlinski and Sang Bleu – it’s generally been variations on the same theme, the same layout done in slightly different ways. Well, now there’s the MP-15, and it’s a lot different than what came before.
The sunflower theme is still front and centre. But where it was simply decoration on the dial, here the sunflower has become the entire watch. The case has been made from 12 sapphire crystal petals, still using the same proportions as Takashi’s floral mascot, along with a sapphire crown, sapphire lugs and even a sapphire caseback.
This is why I say it’s a piece of art. This is less a watch, more a sapphire crystal sculpture that just so happens to fit on your wrist. It’s an odd experience. At 42mm it’s not actually that big by Hublot standards and is much more comfortable than you might expect. Those petals are beautifully tactile and the whole construction sits nicely. But nobody’s going to buy this thing because it’s a comfortable bit of wristwear for a long day at the office. They’re going to buy it because Takashi Murakami is an incredible modern artist and the MP-15 is horologically-slanted modern art.
Not that there’s not plenty of watchmaking in here too of course. The case is an achievement in and of itself, but for a limited edition of this calibre, Hublot didn’t leave it there. The HUB9015 manual-wind movement is on full display, so you can likely already tell that it includes a central tourbillon; Hublot’s first central tourbillon, in fact.
Central tourbillons are incredibly unusual. Omega have one in their De Ville collection, MB&F have the jellyfish adjacent HM7 Aquapod, Hysek have the supremely cool Hysek 10, but compared to the prevalence of non-central tourbillons, they’re a weird pocket pick. In the MP-15 though, it makes visual sense. You need something to represent the face of the sunflower (other than its happy eyes and mouth printed onto the sapphire), and in lieu of an actual dial, a central tourbillon’s an inspired choice. It’s also a flying tourbillon, so the whole thing feels like its floating in the middle of the flower.
That all said, it’s not actually super readable. Practicality’s not really at the forefront of a piece like this, but even then, the peripheral minute and hour indicators are a bit awkward to tell the time with. With all the skeletonisation and curvaceous glass, there’s enough going on that it takes a good amount of time to get used to reading it. It is impressive that the indicators seem to move below the central tourbillon though. Firmly form over function here.
Perhaps the one nod to practicality – more to underline Hublot’s horological flex more than anything – is the power reserve, which has been stretched to 150 hours. That’s 18 hours short of a full week. But, as you may have noticed earlier, this is a manual-wind movement, meaning that if you happen to let it wind down, you could cramp up your fingers winding that sapphire-smooth crown. And so we come to yet another fun little twist, the stylus.
Now, this didn’t arrive with the sample we were sent, so I can’t really say what it’s like to use – which is a shame as it sounds worryingly fun. Essentially, it’s an electronic stylus that you plug into the crown to wind the watch. It turns the crown exactly 100 times, which should be enough to wind both massive barrels and remove the need for the owner to wear out their delicate fingers.
Finished on a transparent rubber strap to match the rest of the watch, there’s a lot going on with the MP-15 no matter which way you look at it. It’s not just refreshing to see Hublot mix things up with one of their ambassadors (something they also did in the latest Sang Bleu mind you), but to do so in a way that elevates both their watchmaking and Takashi Murakami’s instantly recognisable sunflower.
Would I recommend it? No. It costs £273,000, it’s a huge chunk of sapphire, and there are only 50 of them. What would be the point? But, it’s a watch I’m happy to have tried on, one that’s genuinely cool in a multitude of ways. It’s not for everyone in more ways than one, but that’s the point. After all, art is subjective. And the MP-15 Takashi Murakami is art.
Price and Specs:
More details at Hublot.