Hautlence tones down the colour and price of the HL Vagabonde 01, a watch inspired by satellite systems housed in the brand’s signature TV-screen case. Three fixed hour discs orbit around a revolving sapphire central minutes disc thanks to an automatic movement – calibre HTL 205-1 – based on sister company H.Moser & Cie’s HMC200. Housed in a titanium case, the Vagabonde 01 obeys Hautlence’s mission to present time in a novel, less conventional manner.
Looking at the Hautlence Vagabonde provoked an unexpected flashback and I was transported to our living room in London in July 1969 watching a black and white TV set with fuzzy images of a man bouncing around on the Moon. I clamoured for Dougal and the Magic Roundabout but my parents insisted we watch the historic moment being transmitted live from the Moon. I know there are other watches out there with solid lunar credentials, and even watches containing debris and rocks from the Moon, but the unusual shape of the Vagabonde and its monochromatic face triggered a powerful pre-colour TV memory.
Founded in 2004, Hautlence is a micro-brand with a production of around 200 watches a year and seven in-house calibres under its belt. Hautlence has carved a niche in the market with its avant-garde aesthetics, novel depiction of time and, up until now, very expensive collectors’-only prices. Jumping hours and retrograde minutes have become a house speciality and the Vagabonde models, inspired by satellite systems, propose wandering hours. One of the distinctive traits of Hautlence is the retro TV-shaped case of some of its most popular models, less galactic in form than vessels from MB&F, De Bethune or Urwerk but nevertheless eye-catching. Since 2012, Hautlence forms part of the MELB holding group, which includes H. Moser & Cie. As different as these two brands are aesthetically, there is synergy on the movement front and the Vagabonde is equipped with an adaptation of a Moser calibre, in turn deployed on the 2018 Endeavour Flying Hours Planetary Display – to very different effect.
Tuning into a black and white TV
Compared to some of the louder and more colourful models of the recent past, including this Vortex Gamma model, the Vagabonde is a tamer watch and represents a back to basics for the brand. Housed in a hallmark TV-screen case, which has been enlarged for the occasion to offer a wider opening on the dial (46 x 38 x 12mm), the case of the HL Vagabonde 01 is crafted in grade 5 titanium with polished and satin finishes. With an elegant stepped bezel and fluted crown, there is no denying that this watch wears large, very large on the wrist. However, thanks to its relatively lean profile, it sits well and provides a generous view of the action on board.
Set against a grey honeycomb background, the dial houses four discs, three discs for the orbiting or vagabond hours and a central disc for the minutes made from sapphire with Hautlence’s signature honeycomb pattern – aerated to reveal some of the action below deck. The minutes are exposed in a 240º sector that revolves around the dial. When the minutes disc completes its 240º navigation, it aligns the 00 indicator with one of the three smaller skeletonised hour discs that take turns, via a carousel, to reveal the hour in question. In tune with its retro personality, the font used for the hours resembles digital numbers reminding me of the older split-flap display systems used in airports or railway stations.
Calibre HTL 205-1
Based on H.Moser & Cie.’s HMC 200 automatic movement, the Hautlence HTL 205-1 is equipped with a bi-directional winding system for a 3-day power reserve to keep the skeleton hours split over two levels and the minutes arranged on a 240º sector in perfect synch. Decorated and finished by hand, the movement reveals thick Côtes de Genève decoration on the bridges and a honeycomb pattern on the rotor.
Presented on a black Louisiana alligator strap with spring bars to let you change the strap in a jiffy, the folding clasp is made from grade 5 titanium. In addition to the Vagabonde 01 model we have been looking at in this article, there is a Vagabonde 02 model with a black DLC-coated case and orange highlights. Although I mentioned that this watch was more competitively priced than some of its siblings, it will still set you back CHF 26,900 (incl. tax). The official Hautlence webpage is not fully operational, but you can get basic info and download a catalogue.