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One month ago, inside the Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy in the 12th arrondissement of the French capital, DJ Snake performed to a crowd of Hublot pundits and teenagers enamored by the French musician. It was a crowd of adept horologists, dancing into the early hours of the morning alongside eager tweens, both awaiting the launch of the Big Bang watch, unveiled that evening. 

One month later and a slightly different setting inside London’s Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Gardens, a roster of designers grouped together to announce the winner of Hublot’s 7th annual design prize. “Hublot speaks to different kinds of consumers,” explains CEO Ricardo Guadalupe of the brand’s versatile audience. “We can talk to the younger generation, bringing them together to listen to the electric music from the likes of DJ Snake, but then we bring our consumers to places like here today. We’re a serious brand, investing in research, development and innovation because at the end of the day, design is so important to our brand.”

While Hublot marked its 40th anniversary last year, a relatively novel milestone compared to its early 19th century Swiss competitors, the contemporary watchhouse with a small history, has garnered its space on the world stage, earning cultural cadence through the likes of Kobe Bryant and Beyonce. But the recognisability of a Hublot watch isn’t just centered around who wore what. It’s about a brand pushing boundaries, both internally by the selection of unorthodox material pairings such as steel-cases with rubber straps, right down Guadalupe’s emphasis on external: what is happening outside of the watch world and what does that mean for consumers?

“It’s a really digital universe today. A watch to tell the time? That’s history,” reflects Guadalupe. “It doesn’t make sense anymore and that’s why we must reinvent ourselves, to propose a product that is a piece of art, that is a part of who you are and how you dress.” Receptive to the tone of the times, Hublot has been quick to harness the attention of young people and newcomers into the industry by centralising the narrative around not only their interests, but their voices. “That’s why we decided to create this prize, to really promote the work of young people working in this field, and through their work and overtime, who knows, they might be inspired to apply it to one of our watches.”

In 2015, Hublot rendered a space to celebrate the artistry of vision of upcoming designers, offering exposure and guidance for their practice. Highlighting their unique and innovative stories that often challenge conventions and reflect over an environmental approach, Jean-Claude Biver – the Luxembourgish watchmaker and previous senior authority at LVMH – alongside Pierre Keller, the Swiss photographer and graphic artist created the competition to mark the 10-year anniversary of the Big Bang model. Championing the work of the designers of tomorrow, the aim of the Hublot Design Prize  is to provide an already accomplished designer with a platform to launch and increase the exposure of their work, a career boost so that, one day, they will rank amongst the great names in design.

To mark the return of this year’s contest, The Next Hour caught up with some of the designers leading the frontier for ecological and spearheading design.

MOHAMMED IMAN FAYAZ, WINNER

Mohammed Iman Fayaz is an illustrator, designer and contemporary artist born and raised in New York City. Documenting the lives of his community of queer and trans people of color, Mohammed Iman’s art works document the joy, pain and intimacy of his community’s needs, and was most recently acquired into the Museum of Modern Art. 

“I’m born and raised in New York, I’ve always been around like an extremely diverse community and I feel like I haven’t quite seen it in print or media. Ao when I realised I had this gift, it just felt natural to show what I already know and to share that with the world right now is incredible, there’s so many stories to be told.” 

THEBE MAGUGU

Thebe Magugu is a luxury South African  brand, establishing a space in the fashion world centered around timelessness. Seeking alternative ways of presenting garments that enhance the everyday experience, Magugu draws upon stories past and modern technology to create multifaceted clothing for the present day.

“The brand is really about exploring my own culture and heritage. My work is detailed in that the look presented for the Design Prize uses a white fabric, rolled up with plants like cannabis and tobacco – plants that are typically associated with the idea of healing – and boiled it, speaking to the spiritual side of garments. But the fabrics was then taken to a laboratory and dipped into antiviral solution. In the garment level, there’s also a chip where you can view the information about the garments provenance and really open up topics around transparency. I think these are really important conversations to have right now because behind closed doors, fashion has been so much about cruelty. But now the light is finally being shown.”

FEDERICA FRAGAPANE

Federica Fragapane is an independent designer, visualizing data and research, often in fields such a human rights, documenting the recordings in new visual experimentation. Designing projects from the likes of Google to the United Nations, Fragapane’s inviting work aims to make data more engaging for readers. 

“I am an information designer and the scope of data localization is informing people through visualising data numbers and visually sharing stories to spread awareness. I like to work with organic visually appealing shapes, focused on the environment, immigration, human rights, making this data more appealing to people. Information design data is so current, and it’s so important right now, to properly communicate and to inform people. But also to let people know that data can be manipulated, and for wrong reasons – and it’s important that we guide them.

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Scarlett is a writer, editor, and creative consultant specializing in art, fashion, culture and digital strategy. Drawing on her work from previous titles including Dazed, LOVE Magazine, The Perfect Magazine, AnOther and 1 Granary, as the Editor-in-Chief of The Next Hour, Scarlett is leading the editorial vision toward new territories providing an alternative lens of social commentary to recontextualize the world of watchmaking for the next generation.