Watchmaking can be a seriously tough business, and it is by no means guaranteed that offering something new and different results in immediate sales. New brands are launched every year, but just a handful really make it onto the main stage, especially when it comes to hyper-creative and complex watchmaking. One such brand was Hautlence. Launched in 2004 and quickly rising to fame through unconventional and captivating displays of time, the brand had gone quiet over the past couple of years. And while the brand was never really gone, there was no real news to report. But, as we’ve shown you with the Hautlence Linear Series 1, the brand is staging a comeback. And the news is two-fold since Hautlence also introduces the Vagabonde Series 4.
Hautlence has always revolved around creative and complex displays of time, breaking the conformity of a simple central set of hands revolving around a dial in a circular motion. Splitting time between a separate hour and minute display, Hautlence often relied on jumping or retrograde mechanisms. Watches like the HL Ti, HL2 and HLRQ series really captured the imagination of collectors and enthusiasts for their unusual designs and indications. This new Hautlence Vagabonde Series 4 rekindles the spirit of the wandering hours complication, introduced in 2018 with the HL Vagabondage 01.
The wandering hours concept was first developed by the Campani brothers for a silent clock commissioned by the pope in the 1600s. The brothers invented a silent pendulum escapement that could turn one way only and thus removing the traditional ticking sound. A single numeral indicated the hour and moved along an arched path to point at the minutes passing by. When a full hour was up, the next numeral would appear. This system relied on a satellite construction with three or four arms with discs at each end.
The Audemars Star Wheel, introduced in 1991, is one of the most iconic watches that use this captivating concept, but there are other brands that have used it as well. Others who made watch with a wandering hours display of some sort include Arnold & Son, Parmigiani Fleurier and Harry Winston. Most notably, of course, is Urwerk, which relies on satellite systems in almost all its watches. It can also be found in several watches by H. Moser & Cie, a sister company to Hautlence.
From the outside, the Hautlence Vagabonde Series 4 ties in with previous collections through its TV-screen-shaped case. Made from stainless steel, it measures a pretty sizeable 43mm by 50.8mm and 11.9mm in height, including the sapphire crystal. The watch is still very comfortable on the wrist despite these dimensions, thanks to basically having no lugs at all. The case is finished with a mix of polished and satin-brushed surfaces. On the left side of the case, there is a polished steel protrusion, mirroring the polished crown guards found on the opposite side. These protect the Hautlence-signed crown, which is finished with a blue rubber ring. The top sapphire crystal is bevelled to follow the exact shape of the case, with a second crystal covering the movement on the backside.
Being the Series 4 of the Vagabonde, the wandering hours display isn’t new to Hautlence. What started with the HL Vagabonde 01 in 2018 has been refined and toned down for this new chapter. The Vagabonde Series 4 features a brass main dial which has been rhodium plated and given a frosted texture. Both the hour and minute displays revolve around the central axis, visually at least. As time progresses, the elevated sapphire minute disc rotates in a clockwise direction. On the inside, the hour numeral is revealed through three cut-outs, which are (un)covered by a blacked-out section in the sapphire disc. The hour satellites themselves are hidden from view by three circular covers with decorative blue stripes. An arrow-shaped pointer with each hour numeral helps determine the exact minute.
Hautlence introduces the new calibre B30, which is basically the same as the HTL 205-1 found in the HL Vagabonde 01. This is developed with H. Moser & Cie and based on Moser’s HMC 200 automatic movement. It consists of 197 components and is finished with darkened plates and bridges. It uses 34 jewels and runs at a frequency of 21,600vph. Driven by a newly designed central rotor decorated with Hautlence’s infinity logo, the movement provides a power reserve of 72 hours. Compared to its HTL 205-1 origin, the B30 shows more details in its finishing (although the HTL 205-1 was nothing to complain about). The rectangular caseback is fitted to the central case with eight screws and curves downwards on the top and bottom edge to meet the strap.
Speaking of that, the new Hautlence Vagabonde Series 4 comes on a bright blue rubber strap that’s directly integrated into the case. This strap tapers from the wide TV screen-shaped case down to the stainless steel pin buckle. The Hautlence Vagabonde Series 4 will be limited to just 28 pieces, with a retail price of CHF 30,000 before taxes.
The Hautlence Vagabonde Series 4, and the Linear Series 1, obviously, are said to usher in a new chapter for the brand, and one that is much awaited, to be fair. We’re happy to see the brand return to its true form, with captivating and unconventional constructions that once made it stand out from the masses. At the same time, we’re very curious to see what Hautlence will evolve into and what new concepts are waiting on the horizon.
Despite all this, the Vagabonde Series 4 is a fitting spiritual successor to the previous models with this complication, and through the reworked case and dial, it looks fresher than ever. It’s a great move to clean up the dial a bit, a design direction introduced with the HL Sphere 01.
For more information, please visit Hautlence.com