Over the last five years the use of bronze as material for watches has become quite a popular thing, and although not necessarily a commonplace, we see more bronze watches today than ever before. Bronze has found its way into almost every price segment; however it’s mainly used for sports watches. Hautlence thinks otherwise, and actually, we wouldn’t expect anything else from them! The brand that makes a point of ‘crossing the line’ now comes with their most complex timepiece in a bronze case, and it looks just brilliant! Here’s the Hautlence Vortex Bronze.
The use of bronze…
Bronze has gained in popularity since the introduction of the Panerai Bronzo PAM382, back in 2011. This wasn’t the first watch in bronze; however it was the one that ignited the interest from collectors, and subsequently that from other brands. Before Panerai came with the much-famed Bronzo, there was the Gerald Genta Gefica (Gefica Chronographe in 1995) and later, in 2008, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Bartorelli Scuba that came with a bronze bezel.
Recently we’ve seen several divers watches in bronze, like the Tudor Black Bay Bronze, the Oris Carl Brashear and the Anonimo Nautilo Bronze, and these have become popular very rapidly. There were also several non-divers watches that came in bronze, like the Bell & Ross BR01 Skull Bronze, and the Zenith Pilot Type 20 Special Bronze. And as of this year, bronze also made it to the highest league of horology. Last week we showed you the highly skeletonized pièce unique from Kees Engelbarts, and in January we already showed you the URWERK UR-105 T-Rex with a bronze cover plate. Long story short, bronze is now a fully accepted, and much favored material for watches. Whether it be a diver’s watch, a pilot’s watch, a sporty chronograph, or Haute Horlogerie, bronze is accepted.
Hautlence Vortex Bronze
The new and extremely complex Hautlence Vortex Bronze comes on a brown calfskin strap that looks a bit aged and/or waxed, and that perfectly befits the bronze case material. Fashion statements aside, this is of course a magnificent piece of Haute Horlogerie! The Vortex is one of the most complex time indicating mechanisms, in a wrist watch, on the market, and it features superb hand-finishing. The case seems to be nothing more than a framework to hold the many sapphire crystals, which give a lot of exposure to the highly complex mechanism.
When looking at the Vortex it won’t need any explanation that it is very different from pretty much every other watch out there. Technically only the brand’s HL2 comes close, although the HL2’s case is elongated in portrait layout, while the Vortex could be described as ‘landscape’. The central indicator, which somehow took some design cues from a speedometer, indicates the minutes in retrograde style. Hours are indicated by a conveyor-belt-like chain that makes a jump once every hour, to indicate the next hour.
On the reverse side you can see the off centre rotor (yes, it’s an automatic) with the brand name on it. Below the rotor (when looking at the reserve side), and below the retrograde minute indication (when looking from the front), is the escapement. The entire escapement – balance, escapement wheel, pallet fork and fifth wheel – are enclosed in a sort of rotating cage that makes a 60° degree rotation on its own axis, and it does this every hour. You could call it a tourbillon, a one-hour tourbillon, although in most tourbillons the escapement makes one full rotation once every minute.
The rotating escapement is connected to the chain with hour numerals, and make the rotation together at the same moment. The Hautlence logo that is positioned dead centre is actually a cap atop a governor-like device that regulates the speed of the rotation of both the hour-chain and the escapement. Suffice to say, that this is a magnificent display for the owner/wearer and I can’t imagine that this will ever be boring. Nope, this is conversation material ‘pur sang’, and also when you want to enjoy it in silence, it’s one of those mechanical marvels that you can just stare at for hours while your mind gets to drift away.
On the wrist
On the wrist it wears remarkably pleasant, and due to its dimensions (52 x 50 x 17.8 mm) that came as a pleasant surprise. It might be the ‘landscape’ layout, like my own HL Ti, which makes it wear much smaller than you would expect. Although my HL Ti does not feature such a superlative mechanical display, I can attest that A) it wears extremely comfortable and B) always is a huge pleasure to look at. And when you know that this Vortex weighs only 75 grams, you know that it’s no millstone around your neck… err.. wrist.
The Hautlence Vortex Bronze is a limited edition of only eight (8) pieces and comes at a retail price of CHF 170,000 Swiss Francs.
Specifications Hautlence Vortex Bronze
- Case: bronze, 52 x 50 x 17.8 mm, 75 grams, titanium crown with Hautlence logo, 6 three-dimensional sapphire crystals, 3 ATM water resistant
- Movement: calibre HLR2, 552 components, 40 hours of power reserve, 92 jewels, 18,000 vph (2.5Hz), haute horlogerie finishing by hand: satin-brushed, hand-drawn, hand-bevelled, black rhodium-plated coating and mirror-polished steel elements
- Mainspring barrels (one for time-keeping, and one moving the hour-chain), speed regulator (governor) that ensures that the hour display changes in a controlled and jerk-free manner in 3-4 seconds instead of instantly
- Hour system is activated by a one-revolution mechanism mainly composed of a connecting rod and a rack,
- Mobile bridge-type calibre comprising the regulating organ and rotating through 60° at each change of hour,
- Automatic winding with oscillating weight in 18-carat white gold.
- Display: hours displayed by a 12-link chain hinged on a pallet system, minutes displayed by 180º degree
- Strap: several leather option – the one photographed is so-called Zora calfskin leather, titanium folding clasp
- Price: CHF 170,000 Swiss Francs
More info at the Hautlence website: www.hautlence.com