Last year, Hautlence introduced what we can call their ‘value proposition’, the Destination (read our first hands-on article here). The main debate when the watch was presented during Baselworld 2013 was in regards to the outsourced movement. However, we think the Destination deserves some attention and can be fully integrated in the Hautlence collection, alongside the most technical pieces. After having enjoyed a few weeks of wrist-time, we’re now going to have a close look at the Hautlence Destination 01 – the red gold and black DLC version.
Hautlence is known for its very technical movements, architectural design and rebel spirit. The previous models are mostly recognizable from the jumping hour and retrograde minute hand complications, honeycomb structure of the dial and a unique rectangular design. This DNA is what makes Hautlence one of our favorites, especially the HL Ti 2 we fully reviewed. But in Baselworld 2013, the presentation of a value proposition with a classical movement, outsourced and without any of the previous complications, created some long discussions at the Monochrome headquarters. Is it still a Hautlence? Is the brand losing its soul? After wearing the watch for a quite long time, we now have our answer to that, but let’s first go back over the brand’s history and its latest developments.
Brief history of Hautlence and news
Founded in 2004 by Guillaume Tetu, Hautlence (anagram of Neuchatel, a city of Switzerland where the brand is based) has always claimed to be different, both for its design, its complications and its spirit. At that time, the first collection, the HL, was quite a move in the industry with its off centered indications, jumping hours, retrograde minutes, open-work dials and an in-house caliber. A risky bet that leads to very impressive watches, such as the HL-RQ or the highly complicated HL2. However, the world of independent watchmakers is tough, and the company faced some difficulties during the early 2010’s.
Thanks to Georges-Henri Meylan (via MELB Holding), who bought the manufacture, along with H. Moser & Cie., Hautlence has now been revived and is able to move forward into future developments. This takeover is also a way to find some synergies between these two brands, especially for the introduction of new – and always in-house – calibres.
When compared to other Hautlence watches, we can identify at first sight the link between the Hautlence Destination and, for example, the HL Ti 2 that we reviewed last year. The DNA of the brand is definitely present, though, even with a very different technical approach. That substantially changes the way we can look at this watch.
When first handling the Hautlence Destination, the watch looks different, wears different and feels different. The combination of an unusual case shape, a very deep and detailed dial, all brought together in a red gold and black DLC titanium case, creates a very singular object in the world of luxury watches. The Destination is clearly a concept watch with a more rational approach, which is a move that has been made by several brands in the last few months: two examples would be URWERK with the UR-105 and MB&F with the Legacy Machine 101. Same DNA, same taste, same feeling on the wrist, but lower prices and a stronger sense of the real life. That’s what this new Hautlence is, too.
Even if the Destination does not feature an in-house calibre, it has a movement complicated enough to keep an interesting layout and some useful indications. The Soprod 9351/A10-2, which equips the watch, offers 3 main complications:
- A big date at 12 o’clock. The big date has 2 discs, one per digit, that turns independently. On the Destination, it also features a ‘quick date’, meaning that the date will change instantaneously at midnight instead of slowly moving from 10pm to 1am. It also allows to change the date directly from the second position of the crown rather than by changing the hour.
- A second time zone at 6 o’clock, allowing you to keep an eye on your home time or any other time zone if you’re working internationally. It is indicated here on a transparent disc (with painted black circles and white numbers) that rotates. A triangular pointer down the dial indicates the time zone. However, the main downside of that indicator is clearly the way it is set: because you cannot move that dial forward or backward independently of the time, you have to change the main time – first backward to set the gap between main time and home time, and then set the main time again. Not the easiest system down there. However, once set, the legibility is great.
- A day and night indicator, linked to the second time-zone and placed on the left of it.
Dial and hands
Main attraction of the Hautlence Destination: its absolutely beautiful dial. It could, all on its own, justify buying that watch. Multiple finishes, several layers and a very pleasant balance are the characteristics of the Destination’s face. The design not only creates a very high-end atmosphere, but it also creates great legibility. First the centre part: a ‘clous de Paris’ guilloche area, surrounded by the minute chapter, applied on the dial and contrasting with its red gold tone. Around it, the rest of the dial presents a very fine straight graining. At 12 and at 6, the two main indications – second time zone and big date – are highlighted in a red gold triangular zone, responding one to each other, and with their own finish, a sunburst brush. Finally, the dial is surround by an inner bezel, finished with a frost graining.
Note: the Destination 02 (Titanium with silver dial) and the Destination 03 (full black DLC) have a sightly different design, as the center part of the dial is not made of a guilloche plate but of a skeletonized honeycomb structure that allows a view of the movement, and a more technical feeling.
What really pops out when looking at the dial are those ‘floating’ hour indexes. On the top of the dial and the hands, there is an intermediate crystal, attached with 4 screws (one in each corner), on which all the indexes and the logo are bonded. The ‘cool factor’ comes in when the minute hand is passing under one of the indexes. Those indexes present a mirror polish finish that contrast with the matte black dial. The hands share this same mirror finish for a better contrast too. The hour hand has an arrow design and the minute one has a classical baton shape. Both are filled with white Super-LumiNova (as are the moon and sun on the day/night indicator).
However, unlike the main sapphire crystal, the intermediate one is not antireflective. Depending on the light conditions, it creates some reflection on the entire dial and the legibility would be better if both crystals were treated with anti-reflective coating. On the other hand, it accentuates the floating effect of the indexes (see photo 15).
Case and strap
The case of the Hautlence Destination 01 is made up of 4 parts: a main case in black DLC titanium (that houses the movement), an external bezel in 18K 5N red gold, and 2 lug modules attached on the case, also in 18K 5N red gold. The case design is close to the previous models of Hautlence with a rectangular shape and cut angles. The case measures 37mm x 43.5mm, for 13mm of total height. It weights 121 grams, giving it a quite important presence on the wrist.
As for the dial, the case features several details and multiple finishes. The main case in black DLC is brushed, while the gold bezel is brushed on the sides and mirror polished on the top. The lugs are brushed on the top and sides, presenting a nice mirror-polish bevelled angle – a detail that was absent from the previous timepieces of the brand and that is really pleasant, both for the look and the comfort (the lugs of the HL Ti used to be too sharp and cutting).
The caseback is full except for a small aperture that shows the balance wheel and the rotor. It is engraved with the name ‘DESTINATION’, the serial number, the time zones of 12 main cities, along with the technical specifications and the inscriptions ‘HAUTLENCE’ and ‘Horlogerie Suisse’. Considering the non in-house movement, we can’t blame Hautlence for such a choice.
The sapphire crystal really adds to the look of the Destination. It is facetted on each side in order to be completely integrated into the case’s design. The crystal alone is certainly a significant contributor to the watch’s price. So, even if it’s supposed to be scratch-resistant, be careful with it.
The black alligator strap is made of large square scales, hand stitched with a rolled edge. It features inserts in the part between the lugs so it is fully integrated in the design of the Destination. It comes with a pin buckle made of black DLC titanium and red gold.
How does it wear?
On the wrist, it is not such a big watch. Let me explain. Of course at 43.5mm wide, it isn’t small, but the rectangular shape virtually accentuates the size. Because of its mere 37mm height and its curved lugs, it can fit even small wrists (and I can attest to this because my wrist is only 17cm / 6.7 inches). It’s actually a really wearable timepiece that can be used on a daily basis. Despite its quite considerable weight, the Destination is well balanced on the wrist and the shape of the strap keeps the watch from moving around.
The Destination is equipped with a self-winding Soprod 935I/A10-2. Despite the fact this movement is outsourced, it is finished with circular Geneva stripes and a proprietary skeletonized rotor in black DLC with a gold chip on which the brand’s name is engraved.
It’s a modern and reliable movement, based on an ETA design. It beats at 4Hz / 28.800vph and boasts 42 hours of power reserve. Clearly not the main point of interest here, this movement helps to reduce the price of the watch and offers enough complications to be interesting on the horological side. Another advantage: service will be quite easy and it will make the watch run for years without any issues.
Pros and cons
To be honest, before seeing the watch in the flesh, I wasn’t that attracted to the black DLC / red gold combination. I do have a personal preference for the titanium / silver dial version. However, after a long time on the wrist, I did come to truly enjoy wearing the Destination, for several reasons: it wears great, it is really impressive regarding the finish, and it looks like a concept watch without being too ostentatious, even in gold. It is not one of those concept watches that should be relegated to a showcase. The price is indeed quite high, as it goes from € 18.500-Eur in titanium to € 27.800-Eur in black DLC and gold, especially with an outsourced movement. But regarding the level of finish, the attention to every detail, and the exclusivity that such a timepiece offers, the Destination is really a desirable and attractive watch.
- A concept watch that is really wearable and comfortable
- Immediately recognizable as a Hautlence
- Amazing quality and lots of details
- The shape of the sapphire crystal alone deserves some attention
- Several useful complications
- The great design and balance of the dial
- The quite complicated process of setting the second time-zone
- The legibility in low light conditions and the reflections on the intermediate crystal
- The price of the gold versions is too close to that of an HL Ti 2 (which is far more complicated and has an in-house calibre)
The destination is available in 4 versions: Destination 01 (Black DLC titanium and 18K 5N red gold) for € 27.800 Euro, Destination 02 (full Titanium case) for € 18.500 Euro, Destination 03 (full black DLC stainless steel case) for € 20.400 Euro and Destination 04 (brown DLC titanium and 18K 5N red gold) for € 27.800 Euro.
- Soprod 9351/A10-2, hour, minute, large date, dual-time indication, day/night indicator, automatic winding system
- Power reserve: 42 hours
- Regulation organ: 28,800 vibrations/hour or 4Hz
- Number of jewels: 25
- Finishing: circular Côtes de Genève
- Dimensions: 37 x 43.5 x 13 mm
- Glass: sapphire crystal, multi-layer anti-reflective treatment
- Back: fine-brushed grade 5 titanium, 6 screws. Engraved with the inscriptions “HAUTLENCE”, “Horlogerie Suisse” and “Destination 01″, time-zone indications, technical information and numbering; visible regulating organ and oscillating weight;
- Sapphire intermediate dial with applied hours, indexes and logo, HAUTLENCE engraved on the large date bridge
- Minute and hour hands: white SuperLumiNova
- Dual-time indication: transferred sapphire disc
- Day/night indicator: white and black SuperLumiNova (green reflection for day zone and blue reflection for night zone)