- Slick World Cup alert features
- Built-in GPS and Google Pay
- Nice interactive watch faces
- Design is an acquired taste
- Fiddly to swap out straps
The Hublot Big Bang Referee 2018 Fifa World Cup Russia is the ridiculously long name of the Swiss watchmaker's first – and possibly only – Wear smartwatch.
As the name pretty much suggests, Hublot's smartwatch is a tie-in with this year's World Cup, where it's sponsoring and powering all things timekeeping-related at the tournament. That includes the refs who will be keeping Ronaldo, Messi, Kane and company in check. Over in Russia all of the men in black are wearing a Big Bang watch with dedicated features onboard to help them track events on the pitch.
Supporters and Hublot watch fans with deep pockets can get hold of the Big Bang too, with a limited 2,018 pieces (see what they did there?) being made available for the princely sum of 5,000 francs (around ). That puts it up there with the most expensive Tag Heuer Connected Modular you can currently get your hands on.
What sets this Wear watch apart from the others (aside from the price) are the football-centric features designed for anyone that's not managed to organise their life to fit around the tournament. It will keep you in touch with matches in real-time, offering key match details including goals scored and when cards are dished out, as well as letting you know about every impact sub that gets made.
So does the Big Bang Referee do enough to stake a claim that Hublot should make smartwatches a full time thing? We've been wearing it during the first round of World Cup matches to find out if the Swiss brand is onto a winner.
Hublot Big Bang Referee: Design
Big in name, big in nature. There is nothing subtle about the Big Bang Referee's hulking frame. It's a 49mm beast of a watch with a design-dominating titanium case and sapphire glass inner casing that surrounds the touchscreen display. People are going to notice you wearing it and for those with small wrists, this smartwatch is probably not for you. How nice a watch looks will always be a subjective thing and while it's been closely inspired by Hublot's non-smart Big Bang watches, it's a look that's certainly an acquired taste. If you're all about showy watches, then it could very well appeal.
It's not a slender watch either, at 14mm thick, and the sandwich-style construction of materials used does nothing to disguise that this is anything but a bulky number. That extra heft is no doubt as a result of the GPS sensor on board and the NFC tech that unlocks Google Pay contactless payments. These are features that other Wear smartwatch makers have opted against including to help keep their watches slender. As a result it can rest a little heavy on the wrist (especially slimmer ones). But if you're used to big watches, it's going to be less of an issue.
At the heart of the watch is a sizeable 35.4mm, 400 x 400 (287ppi) resolution AMOLED touchscreen. While it's not matching the LG Watch Sport's class leading 480 x 480 resolution display, we don't have any complaints about the quality of what the Big Bang is packing. It's bright, sharp and offers good visibility. It's up there with the best we've seen on other luxury Wear smartwatches and that's good enough for us.
Completing that watch look is the strap, and out of the box you've got a black lined rubber band that's more in line with the overall look of the watch. It's also more suitable if you're planning to hit the gym or go for a run with it. The fact that Hublot has also managed to make its watch water resistant up to 50 metres deep makes it a better fit for taking it for a dip in the pool as well.
Hublot does also offer a World Cup strap alternative, with themed bands for all 32 nations participating in the tournament. Those softer World Cup straps certainly sit more snugly on the wrist and even our England one didn't feel as tacky as we anticipated it might do once it was on.
Switching between the two bands is not simply a case of unclipping one and putting the other in its place. The two buttons above and below the watch screen to release either parts of the strap are the easiest stage of the process, but Hublot's cuff-style strap also uses an awkward buckle clasp that took us a fair bit of time to work out. A simpler watch style buckle may have made more sense, although it wouldn't have been in keeping with the eye-grabbing nature of this smartwatch.
Hublot Big Bang Referee: Wear OS
So you know what we think of the Big Bang Referee's look, but what has it got to offer in the smarts department? The iOS and Android-friendly smartwatch is powered by the kind of Intel processor and RAM combo we've seen packed into Tag Heuer's smartwatches, and it delivers a pleasingly zippy performance. We've had no laggy moments swiping through screens or launching apps, and overall it's good news to report on the performance front.
Essential reading: Best Wear OS apps to download
Wear 2.0 runs the show here so you get pretty much the full gamut of what Google's smartwatch operating system has to offer. Swiping down from the main watch face reveals notifications, swiping left from that watch face reveals additional faces and tapping that solitary physical button on the side of the watch launches the app drawer, with a firmer press giving you access to Google Assistant with an onboard microphone to bark your commands at.
Inside that app drawer are some familiar suspects including Reminders and Fit, which lets you can take advantage of the built-in GPS to track workouts. You do also have access to Google Pay, which is a feature that has been omitted from other luxury and fashion Wear smartwatches.
Hublot Big Bang Referee: World Cup 2018 features
Hublot offers two of its own Big Bang Referee exclusive apps – Referee and Chronometer.
The Referee one is pretty self explanatory, and clearly designed with the officials that will be wearing them out at the World Cup in mind. It simply keeps track of matches, breaking things down by first and second halves and extra time if the game goes beyond the full 90 minutes.
Once the game is done, you'll get a 'match report' simply breaking down duration of those periods. Aspiring referees might find it helpful, although dedicated referee apps and stopwatch apps could offer a cheaper alternative to keep track of the action. The Chronometer is well, a chronometer quite simply with Hublot branding. Nothing groundbreaking to see here, folks.
The most impressive World Cup-centric feature lies within the Big Bang Referee's watch face. Hublot has preloaded its watch with themed faces featuring all 32 nations' flags, just in case you want to match that England strap with an England watch face.
One of our favourites was one that reminded us of the My 24 Hours watch face featured on the Louis Vuitton Tambour Horizon, which displayed details of the next upcoming World Cup match along with a countdown of how long you've got left to get yourself in front of a TV.
These interactive watch faces display the real-time score of the current World Cup match in play, including how long is left to play in the match. When you tap on the score you'll see a secondary screen that displays goal scorers along with details of yellow and red cards that have been dished out. What happens when there's two games on at the same time, we're not sure yet, but it's a nice touch if you need to know exactly what's happening in the latest game without looking at your phone.
You'll also get real-time match alerts that appear on the watch face. From when the game kicks off to substitutes, bookings and of course goals, this watch will tell you about it and it'll tell you exactly at the time it happens. Having watched a bunch of World Cup games with it on, it was always on the money in terms of timing.
Unlike some of the software add-ons we've seen from other LMVH branded smartwatches like Louis Vuitton, it's a feature that will obviously only work for this year's World Cup, which limits its uses after the tournament has finished. While there are a host of apps that will serve up notifications on games, Hublot's take on match alerts should be commended.
Hublot Big Bang Referee: Battery life
If you're hoping you can make it through the entire World Cup without charging the Big Bang Referee, that is simply not going to happen. Like most of the luxury Wear watches we've had on our wrists the last couple of years, Hublot's smartwatch promises you a day's play and then that's back onto the charger. Based on our time with it, that is exactly what you get and it struggles to go further than that. Especially if you have those match alerts running and you're intending to tap into any Wear extras like GPS and Google Pay.
When it comes to charging, there's a charging disc that looks very similar to the one you get with Tag's smartwatches, where the watch magnetically clips into place. It takes about half an hour to get up from 0-25% so it's not the zippiest of chargers either.
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