How did you first become involved in Lucien Vouillamoz’s vision for a fluid dynamic timepiece?
The HYT adventure started at Switzerland’s national exhibition, Expo ’02, in 2002 .The event was situated in three cities linked by three lakes—Lake Neuchâtel, Lake Morat and the Lake of Bienne right at the heart of the watch industry. It was the mix of water flowing between the three lakes and the strong haute horlogerie presence in the region that gave him the idea to combine water and watchmaking.
It is one thing to have a good idea and quite another to make it a reality, but Lucien (a nuclear engineer) knew he was onto something groundbreaking, even though the answers didn’t come easily.
After a number of years of reflection, Lucien found a solution that would employ two flexible reservoirs to pump colored water through a curved glass tube that could be used to indicate the time.
In the meantime, on my side, I had been thinking about liquids and mechanics for years. In 2008, working at Concord as brand CEO, we came with the first idea of mixing liquids and mechanics. This was in the C1 Quantum Gravity, where the power reserve indicator was filled with glowing liquid, moving up and down according to the level of power. Because of this early move into the liquid/mechanic world, Lucien contacted me.
What were the biggest HYT challenges at the start? Were they all technical?
We faced a few complications and difficulties when creating the first prototype. Indeed, the fluid module technology is completely new in the watchmaking industry, therefore we had to start from scratch.
We had to develop liquids that obey a set of watchmaking specifications including color, homogenous texture, resistance to vibrations, shocks and temperature changes, no alteration in the long term and foolproof water resistance. These needs require the development of a number of innovations. Seven patents have been registered for the technology and one for the design. This was a steep plunge into the unknown, which led to technical watchmaking feats bordering on nanotechnologies.
We developed revolutionary bellows made from an extremely fine alloy and which are highly supple and resistant. They are in fact inspired by the sensors used by NASA and their design had to be adapted to watchmaking requirements. Their specially researched shape allows for the reduction of energy required for their compression, absorbs shocks and ensures rock-solid waterproofing.
During the entire development process the amounts of liquid were the focus of great attention. Every microliter counts, and the total volume in the closed circuit is extremely precise, as the system has to have a nanotechnology worthy level of water resistance. Due to the unusual link between the crown and the liquid, a special timesetting system was designed in order to avoid the liquid moving around too fast and damaging the meniscus.
Can you recall a breakthrough moment, when the idea and the technology all worked for the first time?
It was at Baselworld 2012 when my partners and I realized the amazing interest about HYT at our booth. We had given more than 300 interviews during eight days and the crowd was at HYT from 9 a.m. sharp until the night. Incredible success. TV crews, newspapers, all the top guys were jostling to see this novelty.
What was the initial reaction to the H1 from collectors?
They were amazed and very intrigued by our world’s first fluid technology. We met many collectors during our first world tour to explain how it works
Who is the HYT wearer?
There is no single HYT wearer as they all have unique personalities and different nationalities.However, a few elements bring them closer: They travel a lot, they are high-technology user-friendly and very well connected.