Generally, fluids and watches don’t mix that well. Most watch manufacturers go to great lengths to keep out stuff like water, resulting in some pretty impressive diver watches over the years.
The idea of using a liquid inside a watch isn’t new. Diver watches often use silicon oil to cope with the pressures under extreme conditions. Besides that, we’ve seen the Concord C1 Quantum Gravity which uses a fluid cell as a power reserve indicator. HYT however, took it to the next level, incorporating fluids into telling time!
The HYT brand is headed by Vincent Perriard, who in recent years was involved with aforementioned Concord, Hamilton, Technomarine and Audemars Piguet to name a few. Vincent and his crack team of “hydromechanical horologists” have come up with an extraordinary timepiece, dubbed the H1. The H1 was first shown to the public, back in February of 2012, just before Baselworld. Just like the Devon Tread 1, it caused quite a storm amongst critics and fans when first presented, because it was unlike anything the watch industry had seen before. The initial teaser video sparked a lot of interest and got the rumor mill going strong. The latest video shows the final production version of the über-awesome H1.
The style of the video is exactly like a movie-trailer, which I think fits the bill perfectly. The fact what makes the H1 so unique is the circular tube and the two visible pistons positioned between 5 and 7 o’ clock. There is a lot going on, on the dial-side of the watch but the tube, containing an eerie greenish glowing goo is definitely the biggest eye catcher. The tube circumferences the entire dial, and is filled with a substance called Fluorescein. This liquid is pushed back and forth, when adjusting the time through the rubber coated crown between 2 and 3 o’clock. When you set the time, the liquid reacts to every turn you make. Rather neat to watch and surely something owners will play with. This really is some groundbreaking stuff as far as the watch industry is concerned, and I can imagine the headaches it must have caused, dreaming this up.
The liquid in the tube pretty much acts like a retrograde hour marker, as it enters the dial at 6 o’clock, travels around the dial and indices when time passes, and ends at 6 o’clock again. When the time hits 06:00.01, or 18:00.01 for that matter, the liquid returns back to start, and begins its journey all over again. All of this action is powered by the movement, which in itself is pretty awesome. It is packed into the upper half of the case, and is manually wound. So far nothing spectacular you might say, even the Côtes de Genève decoration on the backside of the movement is rather traditional.
The fun starts when the power of the movement pushes alternately on two pistons, compressing one bellow and retracts the other, forcing the liquid through the tube. The pistons and bellows are visible through the front, and back of the case and add to the visual drama in this watch big time.
One of the results of separating the hour marker from the minutes and seconds indicator is that it becomes a regulator-watch. The bonus with the H1 however, is that this does not draw too much attention away from the visual extravaganza that is going on with the hours. Minutes are displayed on the smaller dial positioned in the upper part of the dial, above the two pistons. They used a funny little indicator for the second, serenely spinning away between 9 and 10 o’clock. It reminds me of a little paddle wheel found in circulation pumps for fish tanks.
The movement is exclusive to HYT, contains 35 jewels and operates at the familiar rate of 28,800 vibrations per hour. It packs 65 hours of power reserve, visible by the indicator between 2 and 3 o’clock and is housed in a just under 49mm wide, and 18mm thick case. On both the front and back side of the case is of course a sapphire crystal, with anti-reflecting coating. The watch comes on either a leather lined canvas strap, or a hand sewn alligator leather one.
The H1 will be available in as many as 4 variations; a titanium, a black DLC-coated titanium, DLC-coated and pink gold, and pink gold. HYT has made sure to pack as much shock-protection into the movement and case as possible, to ensure it is wearable under the most common circumstances. They wanted to make this watch wearable as an everyday timepiece, and I believe that every watch should be just that; wearable.
As we speak, the HYT H1 travels the world, and the first pieces are being delivered. HYT will undoubtedly bring out more and more complicated watches featuring the techniques first developed for the H1. Perhaps they will even be able to morph it into other complications. The H1 will likely be the base-model for the brand, although I am almost ashamed to call it that. There is nothing “base” about this if you ask me, certainly not the entry-level retail price of approximately $ 45,000 for the blank titanium version. The full pink gold version will be considerably higher than that. By any means cheap, as I expected it to end up costing much more than that, when I first saw it.
This article is written by Robin Nooij, contributing writer for Monochrome Watches.