After a particularly amazing win for the Los Angeles Lakers in 2013, Kobe Bryant procurred the nickname “Vino.” This moniker was particularly fitting because, like fine wine, the basketball great only gets better and more legendary with age. Coincidentally, 2013 also happened to be the year that Bryant joined forces with Swiss watch brand Hublot, which has now created a second timepiece in the all-star’s honor as a fabulous follow-up to his King Power Black Mamba: the Big Bang UNICO Chronograph Retrograde Kobe “Vino” Bryant or “Big Bang Vino”. The timepiece is extra special, as it’s the world’s first mechanical watch designed to time the two halves of a basketball game. Its design reflects Bryant’s off-court style: burgundy embellishments are reflected on the strap, stitching and dial of the timepiece which also features a prominent basketball design integrated into a matte burgundy multilayer disc. On the case back, a green glass in rare earth minerals, inspired by the wine bottle, with an interior anti-reflective treatment carries Bryant’s signature. The Vino Edition is available in two versions: 18K King Gold—produced in a limited edition of 100 pieces—and Black Ceramic, of which 200 pieces were produced. We sat down with the NBA great just after he and Hublot CEO Ricardo Guadalupe debuted the new timepiece in Napa Valley this April to discuss wine, watches and why Kobe will never, ever leave Newport Beach.
Why [did you decide to call the watch] “Vino?”
The name “Vino” came from a friend of mine who was a creator—a copywriter—by trade, and he came up with the nickname because he said I kept on getting better and better with time. So I started to transition from the “Black Mamba” to “Vino.”
If you were a vintage, what year would you be?
Honestly it depends on your palette; I’m not for everyone. It all depends.
Where does your wine knowledge come from? Does it come from growing up in Italy?
Growing up in Italy, I wasn’t old enough to sip on wine, but my knowledge of wine is growing. I don’t know enough to sit and have an educated conversation about it yet. Interestingly enough, I know what tastes good, so when I go to restaurants I have them select the best wines and then we have a conversation about it, and that’s how I build my knowledge.
Were you a fan of Hublot, a watch lover and Hublot watch owner before this partnership began?
I’d heard of the company, and I make it a habit to look outside of my industry and look at other industries that are doing things differently and doing things well; I try to see if there are lessons that I can learn from and apply to my career. [Hublot was] doing things differently: it was provocative, it was edgy, and it was shaking things up. When the opportunity came across the table, I had to do a little bit more digging on the company once it became real, but I most certainly had heard about it before.
How many timepieces do you have in your collection?
Between 10 and 15. I have a passion for it, but not an over-the-top passion for it.
Do you have one that means the most?
My Black Mamba Hublot watch, because it’s not something I ever expected to have. As a kid growing up you hope to have your own signature shoe, but a watch wasn’t something that was on the radar. To have one like that is pretty special.
What’s the best thing about being an Angeleno?
The versatility of being an Angeleno. If I want to go to the beach, I can go to the beach. If I want the city life, I can have the city life. If I want to go to the mountains, I can go to the mountains. It’s like the only place in the world where in December you can go to the beach or go skiing.
Can you talk about how your watches change from the winter to the summertime?
Lighter colors and materials. It also depends on what I’m doing and where I’m going. I always try to be comfortable, but when it comes to events like this when I have to dress up, you won’t see me doing anything crazy like some of the young guys who wear the really tight pants; the pedal-pushing pants. I can’t pull that off. I’m not doing that. This is my zone. This is where I stay.
What’s your favorite beach?
It depends on how crowded it is. I can go to Huntington Beach; I can go to Laguna Beach; I can go to Newport. I tend to stay in the O.C. area. When I first came out here, obviously Santa Monica Pier was a big place for me, Malibu was a big place for me, [as was] Zuma Beach. Now I tend to stay more in the south.
What do you do at the beach?
I do nothing. If it’s me and [my wife Vanessa], I sit and chill. If I have the kids, I’m up and about we’re playing soccer at the beach, beach volleyball—all kinds of activities—because they’re really active.
What are your favorite spots in L.A. and the O.C.?
My favorite Italian restaurant in Orange County is a beautiful Italian restaurant called Antonello Ristorante. Javier’s is also a good spot, [along with] Mastro’s in Laguna and La Fogata. There are a lot of hidden gems in the Orange County and Newport area.
What are you going to do when you retire? Are you going to stay [in L.A.] or come to San Francisco?
I’m south—I’m Newport. I’m not going anywhere. [Newport is] our home; it’s our anchor. I’m sure we’ll bounce around and visit places, but Newport is our home.
Do you think “powerful” is the best way to describe yourself?
I would say “flexible” [is how I describe myself]. I think “powerful” is a very enticing word for most people, but to be honest, true power comes from flexibility—being able to adapt to situations and learn from situations and being able to evolve—being able to accept things for what they are, and find comfort in them.