The Past
The HYT story started in the early 2000s with nuclear physicist Lucien Vouillamoz, who had long dreamed of incorporating water into a timepiece. Vouillamoz was inspired by the flowing rivers and lakes of his Swiss homeland, but also by the ancient Egyptian water clocks from 1500 BC, which worked using the constant rate of dripping water to measure time. The idea of incorporating liquid into a wristwatch preoccupied Vouillamoz for a number of years before he decided to take the plunge to realize his dream.

Together with a team of experts in chemistry, physics, aerospace, glass technology, nanotechnology and watchmaking, he developed a glass capillary system filled with colored liquid that indicated the time against hour markers as it advanced, eliminating the need for hands. Although resolutely futuristic in its aesthetic, none of it would have been possible without the mechanical watchmaking savoir faire from the past that pushes the liquid through the glass tubes.

A first glance reveals a timepiece that looks like something from the future, but a closer inspection reveals elements and technology that have evolved over centuries of watchmaking history. It is this combination of past, present and future that captures the eye in HYT’s timepieces.

The Present
Today HYT has five collections—The Skull collection, The H1, H2, H3 and H4—with 44 different sub-collections that range in their use of materials and choice of colored liquids (green, blue, red and black). The latest in this extensive selection of timepieces is the Skull Pocket—a pocket watch that takes the notion of “past and future” even further forward.

“From the start we wanted to do something special for our collectors by offering them a very exclusive limited series,” shares HYT Co-Founder Vincent Perriard. “We asked ourselves, what haven’t we done already? And then the answer just came to us in the form of a pocket watch; it was so obvious and yet no one expected it.” The pocket watch is one of the most traditional and noble expressions of watchmaking past, and yet also the perfect playground for HYT to demonstrate its passion for designing the future of watchmaking.

Before looking at the aesthetic specifics of the Pocket Skull, let’s take a look at the HYT technology that comes into play in this exceptional limited series.

The first thing you notice in an HYT timepiece is the brightly colored fluid encapsulated inside a tiny glass tube that indicates the time as it advances around the dial. It looks like there is only a colored liquid in the capillary, but there is also an invisible transparent liquid. The colored liquid is aqueous, while the transparent fluid is viscous, so they repel each other, leaving a meniscus and a precise line by which the user can read the time.

Two bellows, powered by a sophisticated mechanical movement at the bottom of the dial, control the passage of the liquid, which returns inside the bellow in a retrograde fashion when the hour passes six o’clock, and the visual animation starts over again.

With a glass capillary that has been shaped into this extremely complex form, the Skull is one of HYT’s most iconic timepieces. Bending the capillary is a highly complicated affair. For the H1 and H2 models, the challenge was already huge as the tubes had to be shaped into a circle, with a 90-degree angle at each end to allow the tubes to enter the bellows. In order to create these bends, the glass is heated and turned at a precise speed using a machine HYT developed entirely in-house.

For the Skull collection, the complexity of manufacturing the capillaries skyrockets due to the eight individual bends that make up its shape. Normally, when a tube is bent, inside diameter is reduced, restricting the flow of the liquid (think of a kink in a garden hose). To avoid this occurring, HYT had to find a solution to counteract this reduction so as not to affect the precision of the watch. HYT’s engineers worked together with glassblowers to fully understand how glass works, how it responds to heat, speed, angles and gravity. Thanks to mastering these factors, the brand’s engineers were able to reduce this undesirable effect to a minimum.

But the challenges didn’t end there. With angles and corners inside the capillary, obstructing the liquid’s movement and causing turbulence, solutions had to be found to stop the fluids mixing and upsetting the meniscus. There was also the problem of friction on the inside of the tubes that also upset the meniscus. These challenges were overcome by adding a special coating on the inside of the tubes to stop the liquids’ molecules from getting stuck to the surface of the glass and being picked up by the opposing liquid.

Retrograde speed breaks were also added to stop the liquids from rushing back too quickly and creating turbulence inside the capillary when they reached the end of their journey and returned into the bellows to restart their course around the dial. These restrictors meant that the liquids flew back over 50 seconds, instead of making a one-second dash, which would again cause havoc with the meniscus.

All this technology is showcased like never before in the Skull Pocket with the additional feature of a beautiful “dynamo” light function that illuminates the dial mechanically. The LED light complication was first unveiled last year to much acclaim in the H4 Alinghi Special Edition and the H4 Metropolis. The system works thanks to a new crown on the case positioned between four and five o’clock, which, when wound, generates power for the backlight. The energy is stored in a spring barrel until the two LED lights, hidden in the case at six o’clock, are activated by pressing on the same pusher. One push results in five glorious seconds of soft blue light bathing the whole dial in light and enhancing the green colored liquid in the tube.

This is the first time the light function has been incorporated into the Skull collection, and the results are even more spectacular due to the eerie scene that is revealed. The system is made up of no less than 82 components and is particularly complex due to its miniaturization, curved form, and the fact that it had never been done in watchmaking before.

The limited series of eight Skull Pocket pieces comes in a unique 51-59mm pocket watch case crafted out of titanium or black DLC titanium. The new case is streamlined thanks to the absence of lugs, leaving space for a unique cover system that protects the dial, like in pocket watches of old. The cover opens by pressing gently down on the signature number six that is a common feature on the majority of HYT’s timepieces, as it covers the entry of the tubes into the bellows. The cover itself features can be completely personalized with a choice of leather inserts and/or a special engraving.

The Skull’s dial has also been revisited to include a facetted head surrounded by a Clou de Paris design and SuperLumiNova filled Arabic numerals that all come together to capture and reflect the light by day and night. Like with the other timepieces in the Skull collection, the Skull Pocket includes a seconds’ indicator in the left eye and a power reserve indicator in the right. The watch is worn with a titanium chain crafted with polished and satin-finished elements to match the reflections on the dial.

The Future
The unveiling of the new Skull Pocket is not the only news reinforcing the brand’s passion for the future. HYT is continuing its disruptive vision of horology not only with its timepieces, but also with its outstanding service to the customer, starting with a five-year guarantee. Grégory Dourde, HYT CEO explains: “Last year we raised our guarantees to five years. We felt this was normal, as we have to respect the clients who purchase our timepieces. HYT objects are far from being obsolete objects. This is an important move, and I hope other brands will follow suit.”

The brand has also put together a new division within its sales department dedicated to providing a complete client experience. “We want to create a relationship with the client before, during and after the purchase of a HYT timepiece,” shares Dourde. “We want to take each consumer on a voyage so every interaction a customer has with us is a pleasurable, positive experience. Just on example of how we are doing this is by putting together a team of globetrotting watchmakers who can travel to the client for repairs and services and serve them in the best possible way. We want our clients to be friends, not numbers.”

Last, but by no means least, the brand is putting together a bespoke department. “Bespoke is nothing new,” explains Perriard. “Remember the King of France was ordering special pieces from Breguet! The difference today is that more and more people now realize that they can personalize a watch, and we are providing a package that involves the client in the whole creative process. Now, they can enjoy the journey as much as the result.”

“This isn’t just a service for the final consumer either,” adds Dourde. “Distributors, partners and retailers can also request their own bespoke pieces so we have a full B2B and B2C possibilities.”

Products of the Future
In addition to the stunning Skull Pocket, HYT is planning some exciting products for the future. Code-named the X-Series (this is just an internal name for now), this new series has been in development for 18 months already and will continue for 18 more before we get a glimpse of anything. But why mention it? Well, it is going to involve the arrival of a new HYT in-house movement with 10 times more power than anything on the market today! This “super” movement will be able to power the liquid readings but also have enough energy to power liquid complications, opening up a whole new world of expression for the brand. The other good news is that it will be housed in a 43mm case (the smallest case to date is 48mm), so it will be more wearable and accessible to the Asian market, and also to women (yippee!). And if that isn’t exciting enough, it will be priced under 30,000 CHF, as the brand has found ways to simplify the production of certain elements, cutting time and costs.

In a short period of time, HYT has shaken up the watch industry with its contemporary vision of watchmaking, and by offering a different philosophy that encapsulates every element of what it is to be a watch brand, it shows no sign of slowing down.

Today HYT is reshaping the present in a way that makes perfect sense for the future…without ever forgetting the past. Now that’s the beauty of time!