Go With the Flow: The HYT H1

Sometimes you’re right and sometimes you’re wrong, and when you’re wrong, a public mea culpa is good for the soul. I admit it: when I first saw pictures of the “hydromechanical” watch from HYT, in which a luminous fluid forced under pressure through a capillary tube is used to indicate the hours, my first thoughts were not complimentary.

I knew who HYT’s CEO, Vincent Perriard, was–I’d met him when he was running Concord, and knew that he’d worked for brands ranging from Audemars Piguet to Technomarine; I knew he was a man of apparently limitless energy and someone with a huge love of inventive watchmaking to boot. But fluid in a watch? A big, hyper-modern, aggressively styled watch nearly 50mm in diameter? It seemed too big, too brash, too over-the-top…in short, too pre-2008 for today’s world of well-bred extra flat dress watches and discretely luxurious complications.

How wrong I was. Ironically enough my mind was changed in Las Vegas, Nevada–Sin City, where I was sitting in a bar at the Wynn, unwinding after a long day at a trade show, when Vincent Perriard himself breezed by, spotted me and stopped like with the instantaneousness of a Bugatti Veyron traveling at 200 mph when those big fat ceramic brakes grab hold. He had with him a prototype of the HYT H1, and showed it to me with unadulterated glee.

I was hooked. The truth is, you can’t love clever machines that tell time without getting hooked on H1. The most fascinating part of the watch, of course, is that fluid indication of time. Here’s how it works: the time is shown by the meniscus–a fancy word for the surface-tension shaped end–of a luminous green fluid flowing through a transparent tube set around the periphery of the dial. The trick is that there are actually two fluids: one is the visible green fluid that shows the hour, and the other is a transparent fluid that takes up the remaining space in the tube.

Two bellows connected to opposite ends of the tube act as reservoirs for the fluid; as the one containing the transparent fluid expands, the one containing the fluorescent fluid contracts, advancing the fluorescent fluid as time passes. The entire system is thus closed and hydro-dynamically stable. The two fluids contain molecules with opposite electrical charges to prevent them from mixing with each other.

There’s a conventional minute indicator on the dial, as well as a power reserve indicator and a turbine-like disk showing the running seconds. Turn the watch over, and the beautifully designed movement is revealed. It’s been given a surprisingly traditional finish, which combined with the bellows system and unusual movement architecture gives the watch a kind of steampunk appeal that I honestly found instantly irresistible.

Seeing is believing. Next year’s introduction from HYT should be just as mindblowing–Perriard says it’s a collaboration with renowned complications specialists Audemars Piguet Renaud & Papi, and with the synergy possible between Perriard’s partners and the famously creative minds at APRP, the sky’s the limit.  Vincent: mea culpa, you showed me the light.

The HYT H1 is shown in titanium; 48mm diameter case, water resistant to 100 meters with a 65-hour power reserve. As shown, $47,000.  Also available in: titanium and black DLC, $49,500; Titanium in black DLC with pink gold bezel, $59,000; and pink gold, $69,000.

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