It's been a quiet Baselworld for all things Wear (the OS formerly known as Android Wear), but there has been one new smartwatch running Google's operating system and that watch goes by the name of the Hublot Big Bang Referee 2018 Fifa World Cup Russia. Yep.
The Swiss brand's first ever smartwatch will be worn by referees at this summer's tournament where they will have additional access to goal line tech and VAR. There will also be 2,018 pieces made available for anyone to buy from 1 May coming in at the rather wallet-busting price of 5,000 francs (around $5200). Those watches will come with some football-centric extras too that Hublot hopes will help you keep in touch with the action.
Hublot Big Bang Referee: Bold look and many straps
It's fair to say that there's nothing subtle about Hublot's Big Bang watches and the same can similarly be said about the Wear OS version. It's big, brash and definitely more focused towards male, football fans. This isn't one for daintier wrists.
While it dominates on the wrist, there's no doubting that there's luxury materials on show here. From the titanium satin bezel to the titanium crown, it's a well made watch first and foremost. The 49mm watch is surprisingly light to wear as well despite its hulking frame and while it's almost 14mm thick and packing in GPS, it feels surprisingly slender too. There's no heart rate sensor around the back either so that no doubt helped keep the profile down.
One thing you don't have to worry about is screen quality. There's a 400 x 400 AMOLED display at the heart of that metal frame and it's up with there with the best. It's bright, crisp, vibrant and there's no signs of lag when you're swiping through the screens. There's definitely superior touchscreen displays out there, but this is one of the better ones we've seen crop up on a luxury smartwatch.
The other big design aspect of the Big Bang Referee is the watch bands. There's two kinds available. The first is a rubber cuff strap that gives the watch a sporty look. It's a bit on the basic side, but it will no doubt be the more durable option. The bands use the same kind of one click mechanism to change straps and you'll probably want to change things up when you see what the other band option is. Hublot is also offering a soft leather strap that is themed to tie in with all 32 nations competing at the World Cup finals. We obviously had to try out the England one and it actually wasn't as tacky as we anticipated it would be. The Brazil one was definitely a fave.
Hublot Big Bang Referee: Wear OS
The Big Bang Referee will come packing the latest version of Wear OS, Google's recently renamed and rebranded operating system. So if you've picked up a Wear OS smartwatch recently, a lot of what we're about to talk about here will feel familiar.
The user interface still requires you to swipe down from the main watch screen to get to your settings, and swipe across to change the watch faces. I swiped to the app screen and found all the usual app suspects; native Google apps like Google Fit and the Calendar app. With the inclusion of NFC, Hublot has managed to squeeze in Google Pay support as well, which should definitely be considered a staple for all smartwatches going forward.
With Google's own I/O conference happening in May, which is around the time the Hublot smartwatch launches, there could well be some other software extras to look forward to. But we're glad at least that features like Google Pay and Google Assistant are on board.
Hublot Big Bang Referee: Football features
There are a few software extras added to continue that World Cup theme. The first is a dedicated referee application that lets wannabe officials (and World Cup ones) keep track of the game time. Simply launch it, tap to start and the time will start on the black screen. Swiping left inside of the app lets users stop the clock at half time, resume for the second half and end the match.
Another World Cup extra is the themed watch faces. The first looks a lot like the My 24 Hours watch face on the Louis Vuitton Tambour Horizon but here with flags of all 32 nations competing displayed all the way around the watch face. A handy one to have if you need a quick reminder of what teams actually made it to the Finals.
There's another feature that will only become useful when the tournament starts. The Hublot smartwatch also gives you a real-time display of matches including minutes elapsed in games, which is displayed around the edge of the watch face. You'll also be able to see scores, scorers and it'll even flash up with notifications when a player has been booked or given their marching orders.
Obviously the tournament hasn't started yet, so until then we don't know how well this is going to actually work and how it picks matches when there's two games on at the same time. There's also a bunch of decent football apps that deliver notifications about games. The extra details that it delivers in real time could be a nice addition and something that would be quite nice to see pop up on other smartwatches.
It's fair to say that there's no other smartwatch that looks like the Hublot Big Bang Referee 2018 Fifa World Cup Russia. It certainly has a unique and ridiculous name as well that's for sure. In terms of looks and design, it's definitely going to be an acquired taste and its big frame dictates that it's a watch that's going to appeal to men. Looking beyond the World Cup-themed extras, the Wear OS experience looks like a very familiar one.
So paying that $5200 it costs to own one of those 2,018 models rests on how much you really value those extras, how much of a fan you are of Hublot's Big Bang range and how much you just want something limited edition tied to the 2018 World Cup. Something tells us that making a small number was a wise decision and we think you're more likely to spot it on the wrist of a referee while watching the World Cup games on TV as opposed to seeing someone walking around the street wearing one.