Saturday, December 10, 2016

HYT: Back to the Future

H2 Tradition

By Scott Hickey

After challenging watchmaking’s traditions with its hydro-mechanical timepieces, HYT is back to embrace them.

“We have always said that we would never create a classic piece. Having said that, this is exactly what we’ve done!” says HYT co-founder Vincent Perriard.

An unconventional approach to horology has been the Swiss brand’s calling card since it launched in 2013. But this year, HYT does something truly radical — by its own standards — as it integrates classic watchmaking codes into its futuristic design to create the H2 Tradition.

A view of the H2 Tradition's movement through the clear caseback. 

The white-lacquer dial, blued hands and Roman numerals are pure haute horlogerie, but what really connects the design to centuries of watchmaking history is the diamond-shaped pattern of guillochĂ© visible on the exposed sections of the movement’s main plate — a first for the brand. The ornamental engraving also required the brand to modify its standard hand-wound movement, which needed to be slightly thicker to accommodate the decoration.

The most noticeable change, however, was made to the balance wheel, which was relocated from the top of the watch to the center to make room for the minute display. Unlike every other model in the H2 family, the Tradition doesn’t have a central minute hand, but instead uses a separate, off-center subdial. To house this beautiful mechanism, HYT crafted a 48.8mm case that features both white gold and titanium.

H2 Alinghi

The H2 Tradition may project Old World charm, but it never overshadows the brand’s cutting-edge identity, one rooted in both science and imagination. It’s that dynamic push and pull between antiquity and modernity that allows the look and feel of the H2 Tradition to resonate so deeply. To achieve that uncanny balance, HYT has taken the best from both worlds to make something entirely original.

Light and Bright
It’s only natural that HYT would have a strong connection to the world of yacht racing. Beyond the obvious liquid connection, both disciplines rely on precision and performance for success, a combination that comes to the fore in the H2 Alinghi, a limited edition (25 pieces) honoring the brand’s partnership with the Alinghi racing team.

H4 Metropolis

Much like the speedy craft that’s carried the Alinghi team to two America’s Cup wins, HYT has trimmed unnecessary weight from the H2, opting for an untreated titanium case — the brand’s first — along with a skeletonized design. The balance bridge and other key components are made in black to match the inky liquid that circles the dial to indicate the hours. The chapter ring that marks the hours has a nice two-tone look that alternates between matte and polish finishes to enhance legibility.

HYT’s quest for superior readability led to the creation of another intriguing model, the H4 Metropolis. In terms of design, the dial is similar to the original H1, but with a hand-wound movement that’s been partially skeletonized. It’s the second crown — positioned near five o’clock — that offers the first hint at the watch’s most distinctive feature: two LEDs that illuminate the movement. Their strong, blue light makes it possible to see the minute hand in the dark and seems to energize the liquid hour indicator, which radiates a bright yellow-green glow. 

H1 Iceberg2

The secret to the Metropolis’ power is a tiny mechanical generator integrated into the movement. When the secondary crown is wound, it primes a dynamo that powers the LEDs for up to five seconds when the crown is pushed, and about four times as long if you hold the button down. What other watch makes telling time in the dark so much fun?

When HYT introduced the first generation of its blue-liquid indicators in 2014, the H1 Iceberg was an instant favorite thanks to its bold mix of white rubber and azure fluid. The company revisited the design this year for the H1 Iceberg2, a sequel that further amplifies the watch’s crisp contrast.

In place of the original white dial, HYT has opted for a vibrant blue one. Its eye-catching shade is actually grand feu enamel topped with a layer of sapphire crystal, a combination that adds both richness and depth. Presented in a 48.8mm titanium case, the H1 Iceberg2 will be produced in a limited run of 50 pieces.

Skull Bad Boy

Monochrome Monsters
HYT dove head first into the memento mori artistic tradition last year with the debut of its first Skull watch. Beautifully macabre, the chilling design uses the brand’s liquid indicator to outline a large skull at the center. The eye sockets are filled with fluid and each accommodates a different indicator: small seconds on the left and power reserve on the right. At the bottom, the articulated bellows that control the liquid’s movement form the jaw to complete the look.

Just this year, HYT added an even more sinister incarnation called the Skull Bad Boy. The watch’s function remains unchanged, but the form has taken a dramatic turn. Darkness dominates the design throughout, from the DLC-coated titanium case and black-leather strap, to the Gothic-style numerals and black-liquid indicator. The skull itself projects a suitably seductive malevolence thanks to a coating that evokes the mottled look of Damascus steel. According to the brand, the process used to produce this composite material ensures that no two skulls will ever look the same.

H1 Ghost

A more figurative expression of the monster motif emerges in the H1 Ghost, a design that focuses on the interplay between light and shadow. Most of the watch — including the tinted resin that covers the dial’s upper half — provides a dark backdrop for white elements like the minute hand, small seconds and power reserve indicator.

In addition to its distinctive monochrome aesthetic, the Ghost also pioneers a technique destined to open up new design avenues for the brand. To make the black liquid display readable in the dark, HYT added a layer of Super-LumiNova beneath it. When the lights are off, the uncovered section glows, making it easy to see the hour.

As HYT approaches its three-year anniversary, one of its greatest achievements has been to use watchmaking as a means for its unfettered creative expression. Unconventional. Whimsical. Dramatic. And this year you can add traditional to that list. Whatever style it chooses, HYT always makes it its own.

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