The HYT story begins about three and a half millennia ago with the clepsydras or water clocks of ancient Egypt, which measured time’s passage by the flow of water. These were eventually superseded by mechanical devices synchronised to the stars and then, in 2012, Swiss visionary Mr Lucien Vouillamoz’s team of scientists, creatives and watchmakers broke new horological ground by successfully fusing the two. The timepieces are powered by ingeniously engineered micro-mechanics by one of Switzerland’s premier thinktanks, Chronode. Taking centre stage, dial-side? A radical new hours indication in the form of a circular microcapillary tube, through which two liquids flow, pumped by tiny bellows. The time is indicated by the meniscus, a curved point where the two immiscible liquids meet, which represents the constantly shifting boundary between the past and the future.
HYT’s liquid technology is the stuff of science fiction, inspiring a legion of otherworldly designs that fuse futurism and fantasy in sculptural form.
Purifying HYT’s fluidic system to its simplest form (if the word simple could ever apply to such cutting-edge technology), just a glimpse of H0’s two bellows is afforded through an otherwise crisply streamlined dial design, which appears to float inside a monumental dome of sapphire crystal. A flying saucer of watchmaking that’s light years ahead.
If Dame Zaha Hadid and a 1980s-era Lord Richard Rogers had collaborated on a watch, the result would be this extraordinary collision of architecture – the former’s swooping style framing the fluid-pumping bellows, the latter’s tech approach revealing innards and colour pops from all angles, like the Centre Pompidou in Paris.
Mr Lucien Vouillamoz’s vision of a fluidic time display was in the pipeline for a whole decade before his multi-disciplinary dream team’s tireless R&D bore fruit in 2012, and garnered a Grand Prix d’Horlogerie that same year.
Through A Glass Thinly
Arriving at HYT’s two immiscible liquids, whose molecules repel so definitively as to form a perfect interface, was easy enough. Its vessel, however – a curved 0.8mm-thin glass capillary – was the real challenge and was pioneered by sister company Preciflex in Swiss watchmaking’s capital city of Neuchâtel. Its inner coating alone, which virtually eliminates any friction, ranks as one of HYT’s most expensive components. Total transparency is another must, then there is the full year of training required of every technician to perfect the tube-filling technique. Even the smallest of air bubbles could threaten timekeeping precision, especially when atmospheric pressure changes at altitude.
The pumphouse to HYT’s liquid system is two concertinas in miniature, or bellows, made by Preciflex from flexible alloy four times as thin as a human hair. As the left-hand bellow pushes the two liquids clockwise, the other expands to receive it. Every 12 hours, the system rewinds in just 60 seconds.
Going The Distance
The underlying mechanics in HYT’s watches have been shown to stand the test of time, but how to guarantee the longevity of its cutting-edge liquid display? The brand developed its own test bed with a temperature-enabled ability to accelerate time (or at least its effects). As a result, 40 months of durability testing has proved HYT’s fluids will be accurate 40 years on.
Dyed In The Watch
HYT’s liquids come in a spectrum of colour options, which is doubly impressive when you consider how tricky it was to develop just one dye with the necessary cocktail of opacity, luminescence and stability. HYT’s Preciflex chemists keep their cards close to their lab-coated chests, so don’t even ask to see the secret recipe.