Among watch aficionados Hautlence has become well-known for the spectacular and impressive HL2, which was officially released at the beginning of 2011. In a more select company of connoisseurs of independent watchmaking, Hautlence is already known for their timepieces with an unusual way to display time. Like the HL Ti 2 we got to review.
All Hautlence timepieces feature a jumping hour and a retrograde minute display. They come in round cases, TV-screen shaped cases and the HL2 has a rectangular case. The first time I laid eyes on a HL Ti with its honeycomb dial, I knew this was my favorite Hautlence. But how does it wear on the wrist and how is it with reading time on a daily basis?
Hautlence is an anagram from Neuchatel, the home ‘canton’ (province) of this young and innovative brand and also the very heart of the Swiss watch industry. There are many manufactures and all kind of companies that supply all kind of different parts.
Hautlence was founded in 2004 and their first collection, the HL collection, was officially presented in the following year. In 2006 the HL collection was enriched with two new models and in 2007 the HLs collection was launched. In 2009 the first round models, the HLq collection, were launched and in 2010 the HLc collection was officially released. Although Hautlence is a rather young brand, they offer quite a varied spectrum of watches. Check the Hautlence website for all collections and watches.
Picured below is the reviewed HL Ti 2 (right) together with the HL05 from a friend. Both watches have much in common, yet they are also very different.
It feels different, it looks different and it’s different to read the time… at least compared to the usual round watch with an hour and minute hand. During the test period, many people noticed the Hautlence HL Ti 2, which does not happen with every timepiece. This one just stand out from the crowd.
Hautlence timepieces have an overwhelming amount of nifty little details, that make it so much fun to wear. When looking at it from different angles, every time different details are noticed. Whether it’s how the light plays with on the honeycomb dial, on the hands or the minute chapter or how the seconds hand slowly moves in the lower corner of the dial. There’s simply so much to see… it’s like a fairy tale on the wrist.
Whether you look at it as a fairy tale or maybe a piece of (mechanical) art, is personal of course. What is recognized by every one who has seen the HL Ti 2, is that Hautlence has paid a LOT of attention to detail! Every part, the design of components and the coherence of the parts, the finish, the material used. Details matter!
The main feature of course is the jumping hour and retrograde minute indicators, Hautlence’s different display of time. In previous articles I explained how the jumping hours and retrograde minutes function in detail and with drawings of the parts. Check the articles about the technical aspects of Hautlence and the HLq and HLq Classic explained.
The jumping hour on the left side of the dial, makes an instantaneous jump, when the retrograde minute hand jumps from 60 to 0. The seconds hand is positioned in the lower right corner. While initially it might take a little effort to read the time, after a few hours it becomes really easy. Besides that, it’s absolutely no punishment to look at your wrist when there’s a timepiece like the HL Ti 2 strapped on it.
Another main feature of the HL Ti is the honeycomb dial, something Hautlence was the first to use in a wrist watch!
The dial is quite something to look at. At first glance it might be kind of overwhelming, there is just so much to see. This watch is not going to be boring any time soon. Every time you look at it, another details catches your attention or you see it under another angle or in different light and a whole new horological world open up.
The honeycomb dial was first used in a wrist watch by Hautlence. Personally I find it very good looking on the HL Ti. The movement’s main plate with its perlage finish is visible through the white opaline honeycomb dial. The minute hand has applied Super Luminova to improve reading time when lights are dim. All sixty minutes are indicated on the 120 degrees minute chapter with a small engrave line and every ten minutes the line is slightly thicker. Laser cut numbers are placed at every 10 minutes, along side the minute chapter.
Hautlence’s jumping hour is characterized by the use of a partially transparent jumping disc with an aperture in which the hour is visible. The hour numerals are laser cut in a round hour chapter, which is fixed below the jumping disk. Below the round hour chapter is a disk that is treated with luminous material. When lights are dim, the green hue gives a mesmerizing view on time.
Due to the white background of the disk behind the hour numerals, it’s difficult to distinguish these numerals. The minute hand, which is made of polished steel, does not have much contrast compared to the white coated honeycomb dial. Both these aspects make it difficult to read time, at least in the beginning. Because the 12 numeral is at the same place where usually 12 o’clock is, the position of the aperture in the hour disk is how to easily read the time. During the quite extended test period this never bother me. It actually gave me a reason to look a bit longer at that beautifully designed watch
Because there are so many beautiful and interesting details, you will always see something new and the HL Ti 2 will be intriguing to look at for a looooong time.
The shape of the case is rather unusual and was for the first years more or less characteristics of Hautlence, together with the off-set jumping hour and off-set retrograde minutes. It’s called a TV-Screen case and it is actually amazing this shape of case isn’t being used more often. In fact, it is one of the most comfortable watches we’ve ever worn. While having a rather a large dial-space, it doesn’t wear like a large watch. It actually doesn’t matter whether it’s strapped on a small or large wrist, it will look great.
This TV-Screen case case makes it possible to see ‘strap’ around the case. Many big watches are so big that it’s impossible to see the strap that keeps it on the wrist, which is a shame because I think the strap is part of the entire design.
- 43,5 mm wide (left to right)
- 37,5 mm top to bottom
- 10,5 mm thick
The HL Ti 02 has a titanium case, which makes it a light watch to wear; again a plus for comfort. The 3 part titanium case has been polished, and is fitted with a raised sapphire crystal that has a beveled edge. The lugs are screwed to the case and the strap has ends with a metal part in it, so it fits perfectly flush to the case.
While Hautlence also offers a folding buckle, this one was equipped with a tang buckle. Look how all design elements come back in this clasp; the engraved logo and the Hautlence screws. Again, details matter.
The HL collection offers models in yellow gold, rose gold, grey gold, platinum and titanium.
The movement is an in-house designed and manufactured manually wound movement. It offers 40 hours of power reserve, beats with 21,600 vibrations per hour and has 24 jewels. Those are the bare facts.
What more interesting is that the main plate incorporates some of the parts of the jumping hour and retrograde minute. The guided linear bearings of the connecting rod assembly and the inertia block of the jumping hour are directly integrated into the bottom plate. The different time-display is not simply compatible with adding the complication board to a standard calibre!
As base, Hautlence used a Peseux 7001 movement and of that they mainly used the gears. The rest has been replaced by in-house developed parts. The finishing is also done in-house and by hand. The visible contours of the bridges, bottom plates, springs and rods, are angled by hand. This means the edges of those parts are much more shiny that other surfaces of those parts, which have been finished otherwise. All together more than 40 pieces are hand finished, including hand-applying Côte de Genève, perlage (snail spotting), brushing and polishing.
Aside from their decorative aspect, these traditional ways of finishing improve the mechanics, the quality of the assembly and the protection of the surface.
The verdict – pros/cons
When I first saw the wHL Ti, I was blown away and if love at first sight is an option when it comes to watches than this was the case. There is so much to see on the dial, which is interesting both from a design point of view as well as from a mechanical point of view.
It wears very comfortable and simply looks great on the wrist, whether you’re a man or a woman. Whether you have a big wrist or a tiny one. The strap the fits flush to the case, really hugs the wrist and this is probably enhanced by the titanium case that is light.
Many people who have seen the watch during the test period, asked about the readability. On watches with a different way to display time, like URWERK and MCT Watches, this is probably the same. You just eed to get used to something different than an hour and minute hand. Purely from aesthetic point of view, I prefer the black background of both the hour disk and seconds disk and the black coated honeycomb dial of the HL Ti 1. I also found that it was slightly easier to read the time, because of the higher contrast between the different parts (black disk behind hour numerals and polished steel hand above a black coated honeycomb dial). But still reading time on the HL Ti 2 is easy and after getting used to the regulator style it is something that just takes one glance.
The design, the shape of the case, the different way to display time… that is what Hautlence is all about. And classic watchmaking skills that can be admired in the finish of the many parts that are visible on both the front and back side of the HL Ti 2.
I consider this to be more than just a watch… it’s a piece of mechanical time-telling art.
By the way, Hautlence is also giving away a leather watch box as soon as they have 888 followers on Facebook! Check out this give-away, LIKE Hautlence on Facebook and have a chance on winning it.
Thanks to the Watch Photographer for letting me use two photos he made of the Hautlence HL Ti 2.