So, here’s the deal, the thing about watch design is that there are limited ways a case, hands and dials can be done. While I don’t want this to sound like a gloomy outlook on what’s to come, we may have seen the majority of significant aesthetic developments already. That said, one element of design, which every year we see, are new applications is in the mechanics of how watches are made.
In the last 5/10 years, there has been a rise in the collector market around independent brands, who tend only to make a few hundred watches each year. Knowing, sharing and developing watches with the maker directly is no doubt a special thing. And with that, has come the rise of technical innovation. The freedom that comes with being independent, as opposed to being part of large multinational groups, allows makers to be creative in ways others can’t. Brands that come to mind are RESSENCE, MB&F and HYT. All three are independent, small, nimble and creative. Each have also pioneered different elements of the technical side of watchmaking. We have been hugely fortunate to take on a number of stellar HYT references in the last few months, and while they aren’t for the faint hearted, there simply isn’t anything else like them out there! So why? let’s have a look at the brand history.
While HYT launched in 2012, in Geneva, the brand was already well known to watch world insiders, quietly going about its business as early as 2002. The visionary, a chap by the name of Lucien Vouillamoz dreamed reinventing a perfectly watertight wristwatch. He needed a team, so in 2010 he brought Patrick Berdoz, Emmanuel Savioz and Vincent Perriard in on a project that would break all the rules and introduce fluids into the heart of a mechanical watch.
Looking at the watches from a technical perspective, they are effectively portable hubs of technical firsts, dedicated to time keeping in a radical new way. Liquid timekeeping is the HYT answer to capturing time’s flow and context as opposed to an isolated current moment. Two bellows, with walls four times finer than a human hair, form the engine of the fluid module. As each one compresses or expands, it releases or receives one of two immiscible liquids, one coloured and one transparent.
These correspond to elapsed or imminent time respectively.
Dial side, accuracy is the domain of a curved 0.8 mm thin glass capillary. The capillaries’ coating, eliminating any obstacle to flow, ranks as one of the watch’s most expensive elements. Technicians spend a full year perfecting the technique of filling the capillary. Even the smallest of air bubbles threaten accuracy, especially at altitude.
HYT H1, the brand’s debut timepiece revolutionised the horological market with the use of game changing fluid technology that unites mechanics. The use of hydromechanics was a first ever in the watch industry and HYT was the winner of the 2012 Geneva Watchmaking Grand Prize, Best innovative Watch Concept at the Grand Prix de l’Horlogerie de Genève. HYT launched the H2 in 2013, in collaboration with Audemars Piguet Renaud & Papi and in October 2014 it opened its first Asian subsidiary, in Singapore. In 2015 saw the H3, Skull and H4. These avant-garde watches can be seen for example in HYT's first own-name store, which opened in February 2016 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
There is nothing quite like that feeling owning an item that you simply won’t see on anyone else. In the knowledge that years have gone into production.