Opening the Floodgates of Creativity

CEO Grégory Dourde discusses how HYT’s new sapphire crystal case design is making a big splash.


By Scott Hickey
May 1, 2019

HYT produces fewer than 500 watches a year, so it’s understandable that some people are unfamiliar with the company’s vision of “Fluid Time.” For them — and even for those who know the brand — our conversation with HYT CEO Grégory Dourde is the perfect primer.

HYT CEO Grégory Dourde

 

In 2012, the Neuchâtel-based company introduced something that no one had ever seen before: A mechanical watch that uses the movement of fluid to indicate the time. It was a modern interpretation of the ancient water clock in the form of a wristwatch.

“We want owners to experience the fluidity of time,” Dourde says. “The colored liquid illustrates your past, while the transparent liquid represents your future. Their meeting point — which indicates the hours — is the present. The essence of HYT is inventing new ways to tell time that are intuitive and modern.”

Over its first five years, the company found new ways to enhance its core concept both mechanically — with the introduction of the H2 collection — and aesthetically — with liquid indicators in new colors. The company also perfected the art of bending the fluid indicator into the shape of a skull to make one of its most striking collections. Last, but certainly not least, HYT surprised everyone by offering a watch equipped with a micro-generator that converts mechanical energy into electricity to power an LED light that illuminates the movement.

H4 models have an LED light inside the case that illuminates the movement.

 

EMBRACING TRANSPARENCY
Each of those eye-catching inventions helped HYT earn a reputation as a fearless horological revolutionary. It’s surprising, however, that one of its least-flashy innovations may prove to be one of the most-important for the young brand’s future.

In 2017, HYT introduced a new domed sapphire crystal case that did away with the metal caseband found on nearly every other watch made today. This fundamental structural change pulled back the metal curtain on the watch, resulting in a more revealing look at the fluid module at the heart of HYT’s watches. Already, the case is featured in three different collections, the H0, H1.0 and H20.

“The creative journey was almost like an archeological process: removing all consecutive layers to unveil the naked truth. The end result is both sleek and sculptural, modern yet timeless,” Dourde explains.

The H20’s hour numerals are visible through the side of its sapphire crystal case.

 

RIPPLE EFFECT
This new era got underway two years ago with the arrival of the H0The zero in the watch’s name hints at the design’s minimalist intent. This less-is-more aesthetic removes distractions from the dial, putting the focus squarely on the watch’s seamless integration of machine and muse.

“The H0 collection established a new aesthetic vocabulary for the brand and created a distinctive signature,” Dourde says.

For example, the micro-fluidic system is mostly hidden except for the two metallic bellows that control the liquid hour display, highlighting the most-recognizable part of HYT’s technology. The main dial and smaller subdials offer up another example. Each one is subtly curved like a ripple on water, an important reminder that HYT is breaking one of mechanical watchmaking’s cardinal rules by incorporating liquid into its designs.

The H0 was the first model to feature HYT’s domed sapphire crystal case.

 

CLEAR THE WAY
When the H20 debuted last year, it became clear just how important the domed crystal case would be going forward.

Pairing its transparency with the brand’s three-dimensional H2 movement — with its angled bellows and exposed balance wheel — proved to be a winning combination. It not only opened up dramatic lateral views of the caliber, but it also introduced opportunities for new decorative flourishes. Most noticeably, the H20’s hour numerals no longer lie flat next to the fluid indicator. Instead, each number is machined out of metal and positioned vertically underneath the fluid display to fully exploit the case’s clarity.

Dourde points to a few of his favorite design elements. “Offering a new perspective on time, transparency and three-dimensionality are key elements for me. As a sculpture, you can hardly grasp the H20 in only one glance. It requires you to look at it from all angles to comprehend and appreciate its sleek and elaborate design. It is a journey, a discovery forever. On a complementary note, we always put the owner’s experience first. Our three-dimensional, rounded shape and lug-less case all optimize the comfort on your wrist. Time is fluid, so is the design of the H20.”

 

BEST OF BOTH WORLDS
Just this year, HYT welcomed the H1.0, its third watch to feature the distinctive sapphire crystal case. In contrast to the clean design of its cousin the H0, the H1.0 opts for a look that’s more dynamic. The H0’s mostly flat surfaces have been replaced by an openworked arrangement in the H1.0. This allows you to see the gears working below the small seconds on the left side, the power reserve on the right and the minute counter in between. The bellows have a new look too, thanks to the sloping arches that outline them.

You can also detect some influence from the H20 on this new model; specifically, the positioning of the hour numerals. Instead of being machined into metal silhouettes, the H1.0’s numbers are engraved into the grooved surface that surrounds the hand-wound movement.

Dourde says the H1.0 is about juxtaposing perspectives. “As a young brand, we feel our responsibility is to simultaneously question and express our time. Just as the two liquids that progress inside the glass capillary are both immiscible and complementary, HYT sits at the crossroads between art and science; innovation and tradition; cutting-edge technology and craftsmanship. In that sense, H1.0 represents the best of both worlds.”

The H1.0’s openwork dial partially reveals the hand-wound movement below.

 

GLOWING REVIEW 
The latest incarnation of the H1.0 is perhaps the most striking. The movement is coated with anthracite-colored PVD to give it a neutral base. For contrast, HYT adds a pop of red for the power reserve, along with generous splashes of bright green. The color, which is reminiscent of the Munsell green found on vintage aircraft cockpit instruments, includes SuperLumi-Nova, a material that glows in the dark.

The addition of this luminous element into the mix allows HYT to make the liquid hour indicator legible in the dark. It does this by including Super-LumiNova under the capillary that holds the black and clear fluids. In the dark, the photoluminescent material glows bright green to illuminate exactly where the black fluid ends, thereby indicating the hour.

The red power reserve indicator adds a pop of color to the H1.0’s dial.

 

“The lume allows you to see and interact with your HYT watch differently. As time passes, the watch evolves. You don’t see it the same way at different times. Just like you! It is a central element of our design. Dynamic, fluidic, experiential.”

In seven years, HYT has evolved significantly and appears to be hitting its stride with the new case design. Dourde says he is excited to see where technology and imagination will take the company next.

“We are living in a period where new technologies are accelerating. It is key to understand this dynamic to guide our R&D. We must step outside our comfort zone to rethink the fundamentals of luxury and contemporary watches. Why integrate a 200-year-old tourbillon instead of inventing new functions or complications? It is time to create modern systems that do not exist!”

Click here to view the HYT collection online at Cellini Jewelers.

Photoluminescent material below the liquid-filled tube make it possible to read the hour in the dark.