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Timely vision

By Vilma Barr
February 25, 2013

Photo: Courtesy of The Hour Glass, Singapore
Over the past five years, pop-ups have been adopted by retailers and manufacturers as an accepted strategic retail format. They can be in existence from one day to several months, brought to life to commemorate an event or promote a special merchandise collection, and have grown in high-buzz popularity.

Pop-ups usually contain a minimal amount of fixtures, and are lit to deliver basic product illumination. Typically, the primary objective is concentrated sales generation, rather than the creation of a dramatic, memorable merchandising environment.

That wasn’t the case for luxury watch brand Hublot, which saw the pop-up as a differentiation strategy in the rarefied market of ultra-pricey timepiece makers. The Nyon, Switzerland-based company invented a new top-tier approach for a 10-day pop-up in Singapore in the fall of 2012, and commissioned two Singapore-based design firms, Asylum and Switch, to make it happen.

Part mega-kiosk and part sculpture, the pop-up was created as a showpiece of advanced
industrial design technology with integrated lighting, combined into a one-of-a-kind example of retail bravura.

Constructed within the main atrium of the upscale Paragon Shopping Mall, the enclosure displayed $20 million worth of Hublot watches, including the $5 million “Big Bang,” reputed to be the world’s most expensive timepiece.

Hublot (French for “porthole”) collaborated with local watch specialty dealer The Hour Glass to install the pop-up structure in Paragon’s soaring, double-height atrium. “Our vision was to create something that was structurally monumental [and] at the same time was almost an illusion,” says Chris Lee, founder of Asylum. “We had an atrium space to work in measuring 105 ft. long by 30 ft. wide. From the top of the atrium, we suspended a grid from which were hung tens of thousands of folded pieces of shiny black paper, which we called ‘black gems,’ to give the illusion that the display seemed to have emerged spontaneously from [the] earth below.” The 23-ft.-high Hublot enclosure was 40 ft. long and 23 ft. wide.

Lee collaborated with Takeo Sugamata from lighting design firm Switch to provide illumination for the pop-up. Rows of 50-watt MR16 halogen uplights on both sides of the structure were located inside a floor recess that outlined the space and emphasized the black sculptural rows of artfully folded paper shapes. The displays of watches, many gem-encrusted, were accented overhead by a frame of black track fixtures also fitted with 50-watt MR16 halogen lamps.

Freestanding pyramid-shape display fixtures were mounted several inches off the floor to
accommodate 28-watt fluorescent lamps casting a soft blue shadow. The identifying Hublot logo was illuminated above the structure’s front opening.

To bring down the scale of the pop-up and focus the visitor on the scale of the watches on view inside, Lee poised a circular, double-tier chandelier on a single stem. “We used exposed lamps as a visual magnet to draw visitors into the space,” he said. The top circle has 100-watt lamps, with smaller 60-watt lamps for the secondary circle.

Hublot’s 10-day pop-up stage setting drew wide media coverage for the brand.