Hands-on Hautlence HL Sphere 01 with Spectacular Spherical Hours Display (Video & Live Pics)

Back to basics for Hautlence with an unprecedented spherical display of the hours.
calendar | ic_dehaze_black_24px By Xavier Markl | ic_query_builder_black_24px 4 minute read

Hautlence goes back to its roots. The brand was already famous for its unusual displays of the time – think about the jumping hours of the HL Ti 2 or the chain of the Vortex. At Baselworld 2019, the brand comes with a world first, a wristwatch displaying the time with a playful and spectacular spherical jumping hour/retrograde minute display. Meet the Hautlence HL Sphere 01.

The circular motion of hands has been widely adopted as the norm to display the time. No doubt the analogue watch display was first inspired by the movement of the shadows on a sundial. For our pleasure, there are however dozens of other ways to indicate the time in mechanical watches. Among the brands known for exploring bold and creative way of portraying the time is Hautlence. Founded in 2004, the brand burst on the watchmaking scene with original complications and novel time displays. At Baselworld 2019, the independent watchmaker, now part of MELB (Meylan family) alongside H. Moser & Cie., goes back to its roots with the spectacular HL Sphere 01.

With the HL Sphere 01, Hautlence displays hours on a spinning sphere rotating on three axes. Capped by a sapphire dome, the blue ball showing the hours seems to be floating in mid-air. At first, its circumvolutions appear to be random. It is, in fact, a jumping hour mechanism precisely orchestrated by four conical gears that move around two crossed spindles inclined at an angle of 21 degrees. The sophisticated differential mechanism allows 12 different positions to be displayed. It is framed by two ‘yin and yang’ half spheres, assembled together to create a ball displaying the time. These are made of blued titanium (for low inertia) with laser-engraved digits that are filled with white lacquer. Check the video on top of the article to see the motion.

This unique hour indication is combined with a retrograde minute display on 180 degrees. The minute track and the applied numerals are fixed to a smoked sapphire dial. Underneath, the movement is openworked, revealing its intricate inner workings.

The right-hand side of the movement is dedicated to the base calibre and the jumping hour/retrograde minute scenario. A snail cam rotates once in one hour. With the rotation, energy is stored during one hour to be released when the feeler spindle drops. A rack slowly raises over the hour to display the minutes. Interestingly, a gear train slows down the minute hand as it flips back to zero to reduce impact forces. Hence, the mechanism accumulates energy before releasing it all at once with one swift movement, but with no extra bounce.

All settings are performed via the crown. Another sophistication of this complex development is that it features a security device. Unlike many jumping hour/retrograde minute watches, there is no risk of damaging the movement when turning the crown anti-clockwise (it will simply rotate freely).

The HTL 501-1 movement is Hautlence’s eighth calibre. It is developed and manufactured in-house. The balance and hairspring are manufactured by Precision Engineering AG, a sister company of Hautlence. Operating at 21,600 vibrations per hour, the HTL 501-1 delivers 3 days of power reserve. Turning the watch over, a glimpse into the mainspring through the openwork ratchet lets you gauge how much power reserve is left. The movement is nicely decorated with a sandblasted finish, skeletonized balance bridge and barrel.

Interestingly, this movement shows two sides. One is dedicated to timekeeping and display of the minutes. The other houses the original display of the hours. These two being independent, it leaves the door open to further developments, as the hour module can easily be replaced by a new module with another surprising display of the hours.

This spectacular mechanism of the HL Sphere 01 is housed in the signature Hautlence TV-Screen case. Fashioned out of 18k white gold, it has been enlarged (39mm x 46mm) and slightly redesigned to stage this spectacular complication. The Hautlence logo is engraved on the thin bezel and on the notched crown. The case finishing combines brushed and polished surfaces. On the wrist, it wears quite comfortably despite the imposing dimensions. As you would imagine, this attention-grabbing watch has a strong presence and makes for a compelling conversation starter.

A limited edition of 28 pieces, the Hautlence HL Sphere 01 is worn on a navy-blue alligator leather strap matching the colour of the sphere. It is secured with a steel-titanium folding buckle. Price is set at CHF 99,000. For more information, please www.hautlence.com.

3 responses

  1. Very clever piece of engineering. Looks like an absolute dream to operate.

  2. A nice demonstration of horological art, with a lovely and innovative spin… (pun intended). Seems more of a concept piece at this size and shape.

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