In creating the HL 2.0, Hautlence set itself a huge technical challenge. To solve it the house challenged two designers working 3,000km apart to devise independent solutions. What they came up with was numbers rotating on a BMX-style chain.
While the Hautlence HL 2.0 might have debuted last year, this watch’s unusual mechanics make it worthy of delving into a little deeper, at least to admire its unique hours, which appear as part of a 12-link chain, not dissimilar to that on your old BMX.
One of Hautlence’s founders, Guillaume Tetu worked for four years on the HL 2.0, teaming with consultant engineer Philippe Ruedin, who had previously worked with the company on its other complications.
They chose the idea of developing a mechanism to rotate the chronometric regulator once per hour. But after original designs exhibited problems, it was decided that a chain would be needed to control the slow rotation of the hour indicator and the regulator.
After facing challenges from the outset, Hautlence developed an in-house calibre to cope with the amount of energy required to offer a complex but readable display as well as power the winding system, gears and time chain.
The next challenge for Hautlence was the display. The creative team was determined to produce a 3D time display that displays the movement of the regulator and some aspects of the gear train. The development of the watch’s 12-link chain came hereafter. It was created to allow for readability of the numbers without making the watch too thick, while the half-trailing hours were developed over the jumping hours to “distinguish the brand from projects already introduced”.
Tetu and his team worked simultaneously with Claudio D’Amore, a design and development partner of the brand, as well as Bibi Seck, who is a Renault concept car designer. The two designers, who were working in locations 3,000km apart, were given a brief containing just the sketches of the principle movement and the chain hour display. After weeks of research and the two designers liaising with Hautlence but not with one another, a steady consensus of the case design emerged.
The objectives of the HL 2.0 was to display the time with a chain that can be seen in motion advancing the hour while turning the baguette movement, but naturally this threw up some issues. For example the brand has had to place 522 components together in the calibre, while creating a case that is easy to wear but also handsome.
Precision was another hurdle, with Hautlence designing the watch with sufficient torque to avoid disrupting the rotating chain at the hour change, while enough energy has been created to drive all the operations without affecting timekeeping precision. A secind barrell was added, dedicated to driving the display while controlling its speed and number of revolutions. To achieve all this, Hautlence opted for a mechanism often used in minute repeaters, a friction speed limiter, which controls the rotation speed and the amount of energy released.
The result is a timepiece with three patents, applying to the half-trailing hours chain, the regulating organ integrated into the mobile bridge movement and finally the operation of the movement’s two barrels.
And to end, a bit of trivia: Hautlence is in fact an anagram of Neûchatel. Indeed, this is a company that likes to play, no matter the subject.
Display: Hours, retrograde minutes and power reserve.
Calibre: Two barrels for power reserve and the entire watch movement and a complication barrel.
Hours: Displayed by a 12-link chain hinged on a pallet system. The speed regulator ensures that the hours display changes in 3 to 4 seconds instead of instantly.
Power reserve: 45 hours
Case: 18ct white gold 50mm case, 3D sapphire crystal with sand-, satin- and hand-polished finishes .
Dimensions: 50 mm x 42 mm x 17.8 mm
Dial: Ruthenium dial, rhodium-plated, black numerals and luminescent dots for readability in the dark. Rhodium-plated hour markers with luminescent numbers.
Limited: 28 timepieces
Price: Approx. CHF 240,000 (£159,000)
This article was taken from the August 2012 issue of WatchPro magazine, out now. To view a digital version of the magazine click here.