Kobe Bryant plays team ball with Nubeo and his Black Mamba Signature Line. There’s no question about Kobe Bryant’s prodigious talent with a basketball. On the court, he’s as majestic as he is dangerous, leaving spectators and players alike with their jaws swinging from his swift precision when targeting the swoosh of the net.
What might come as a surprise, however, is that Kobe exhibits these same characteristics in other aspects of his life. ”My parents raised me to be intense,” he explains about his personal approach. ”If your going to do something, do it the right way.”
Kobe demonstrated this philosophy in action with his cover of the October issue of L’Uomo Vogue featuring his watch collaboration with Nubeo called the Black Mamba. In celebration of the event, Kobe and L’Uomo Vogue hosted a party at Philippe in West Hollywood, the most recent culinary delight in the oeuvre of Philippe Chow, and invited International Watch to attend.
You might be wondering how a small watch company like Nubeo that only launched it’s first model in 2003, the Jellyfish, attracted the attention of Kobe Bryant. After speaking with co-owner Ivan Castro, a jewelry designer born in Madrid, you understand. The man brims over with passion, and his enthusiasm is extremely contagious. Plus, he’s been an exuberant fan of the Lakers since his college days in Spain.
Of the people involved in the company, Kobe says, “They are as focused on their craft as I am on mine, so there’s mutual respect.”
At this stage in his career Kobe has a silver platter of project choices. ”I don’t want to do deals where you sign an endorsement and get a royalty check,” he told me. ”I want to be involved in the process.” Castro provided Kobe the opportunity for real partnership. While many athletes have signed on with companies to promote their existing watches, no one has developed a signature line – until now.
For his ability to strike and score with a startling yet poetic motion, Kobe earned the sobriquet of the deadly African snake, the Black Mamba. The Black Mamba watches capture they mystery, craftsmanship and subtle complexity that define Kobe Bryant’s game. But the superstar doesn’t make any claim to being a designer. he provided the raw elements of his personality and convictions, and then left it to the professionals to translate that vision into a watch.
Pushing the envelope
As evidenced by his basketball game, Kobe likes to do things differently and push the envelope. Nubeo works from the same premise. Traditionally, watchmaking has staked it’s reputation on the technical advancement and refinement of the movement. Castro deliberately transgressed from these tenets and instead applied the concept to the case.
Composed of 131 separate parts, the case is reputedly one of the most complex constructions ever in a watch. ”The case is more difficult to shape because it’s like sculpting,” Castro says. ”It can’t be stamped because it’s too complicated.” One watchmaker assembles each timepiece from start to finish and the process takes up to two days to complete.
The case shape also breaks free from the customary form. Nubeo sources inspiration from the eternal design of the natural organism. The Jellyfish, the establishing model of the brand, references the graceful beauty of that ocean invertebrate, even down to it’s flowing tentacle like straps, because, as Castro notes, “these prehistoric creatures are eternal and timeless.”
In Darwin’s theory of evolution, organisms adapt to their environment, elegantly changing to meet new challenges. Castro adhered to this scientific strategy when he created the Black Mamba, which he calls an “intelligent mutation” of the Jellyfish watch. “We have the symbolism of Kobe’s personality and values in the watch with the DNA of Nubeo,” he says.
One of the most crucial aspects for Kobe in any endeavor is the level of details, and the Black Mamba revels in them. And yet there is no frivolity in the execution. Each component on the watch exists for a specific reason. As an example, an anodized orange disc assembled in the crown indicates when the crown is open and the watch not airtight for submersion.
“With my game, nobody knows what I’m going to do or what’s coming,” Kobe says. ”It’s that mystery that can be intimidating. That’s something I wanted to get with the watch.” He help up his wrist to show me his Black Mamba MVP, which is a limited edition encrusted with black sapphires. When Kobe pointed out how the light bounced off the sapphires and resembled the scales of a snake, his eyes sparkled with appreciation. The snake theme also continues to the hands coated in SuperLuminova in a scaled pattern for nighttime legibility.
Castro acknowledges that his small company doesn’t have the resources to produce its own movements. Nubeo chose to equip it’s watches with the tried-and-true ETA Valjouz 7750 as a base because reliability is of the utmost importance. However, Castro revealed that his company is at work on several in-house modules. Rather than try to compete with high complications, he concedes that territory to other brands. He prefers to find creative approaches to established complications, which is in line with the company philosophy. Castro tells me a double chronograph with a power reserve is in the pipeline as a GMT that puts a new spin on the presentation.
While Kobe displays a dominance and intensity that is threatening on the court, in person he is soft spoken, charming and has impeccable manners. After a waiter brought him a drink, he immediately offered it to me and requested another for himself.
When asked to name his most precious and memorable moments in time, Kobe immediately said with hesitiation, “The birth of my two kids.”
Kobe is in the pantheon of the greatest talent to ever handle a 29.5 inch leather ball, be he still respects the synergistic power that can be generated from the players around him. ”When I decide to into a relationship, we become a team,” he says. ”We’re all working hand in hand. There’s constant dialogue and communication. You have to have that rapport and good energy.” He’s found that dynamic with Nubeo.
Just like a basketball game isn’t over until the final buzzer, Kobe affirms he’s committed to Nubeo and the Black Mamba project for the long haul because “that’s what makes it fun.”