Independent watchmaker Hautlence, now part of MELB (Meylan family) alongside H. Moser & Cie., has always been known for its unusual displays of the time. Think retrograde and jumping indications or a rotating chain to indicate the hours. After a few quiet years, the brand came back in 2019 with a new and impressive concept watch, the HL Sphere which once again featured an innovative way to display the time – and as such, going back to its original identity. Its display with a jumping hour that spins on a sphere is back this year in new attire, inside the new Hautlence HL Sphere 02.
While the circular motion of the hands has been widely accepted as the almost universal way to read the time – which was first inspired by the movement of the shadows on a sundial – some watchmakers have long challenged the norm with different displays. Jumping hours, retrograde hands, mechanically-powered digital displays, wandering satellites… The only limit to these original indications is creativity. And creativity has always been part of Hautlence’s DNA, with signature elements such as the TV-shaped case and this combination of jumping hours and retrograde minutes, which has made the success of the HL concept. In 2019, relying on the resources offered by MELB group and H. Moser & Cie., Hautlence came back with a new watch that not only felt like a back to basics concept but also pushed it a few steps further.
The HL Sphere is echoing the idea that was once used by the brand in the HL Ti watches – a favourite of our founder Frank Geelen. The idea was simple (on paper), with jumping hours on the left side and retrograde minutes on the right of the dial. The HL Sphere brings this back and pushes the idea of the jumping hours in a new dimension – in fact, in the third dimension, with hours displayed on a spinning sphere rotating on three axes. As explained by Xavier in our first encounter with this piece, “the blue ball showing the hours seems to be floating in mid-air. At first, its circumvolutions appear to be random. It is, in fact, a jumping hour mechanism precisely orchestrated by four conical gears that move around two crossed spindles inclined at an angle of 21 degrees. The sophisticated differential mechanism allows 12 different positions to be displayed. It is framed by two ‘yin and yang’ half-spheres, assembled together to create a ball displaying the time. These are made of blued titanium (for low inertia) with laser-engraved digits that are filled with white lacquer.”
In addition to this outer-space jumping hour display, the Hautlence HL Sphere 02 is also equipped with a signature retrograde minute hand, running on a 180-degree arch, travelling along a fine and elegant minute track that opens onto the movement and partly reveals the mechanism that slows down the course of the minute hand when it returns to zero, regulating its speed so as to reduce impact forces.
This complex and fascinating display is powered by a modular movement – the right side is dedicated to timekeeping while the left side with the ball is independent, and could later be replaced by yet another creative display. The calibre HTL 501-1 is developed and manufactured in-house. The balance and hairspring are manufactured by Precision Engineering AG, a sister company of Hautlence. Operating at 21,600 vibrations per hour, the HTL 501-1 delivers 3 days of power reserve. Turning the watch over, a glimpse into the mainspring through the openwork ratchet lets you gauge how much power reserve is left. The movement is nicely decorated with a sandblasted finish, skeletonized balance bridge and barrel.
The movement is housed in a typically Hautlence case, with a so-called TV shape. It measures 39mm in height and 46mm in width. For the occasion of this HL Sphere 02 edition, the case is still made of 18k white gold but the dial has been entirely redesigned. Previously made of tinted sapphire, it now shows a grained rose gold plate, on which blue PVD-coated numerals are applied – a colour that is also used on the sphere and the minutes hand. The strap is made of alligator leather also coloured in blue.
Availability & Price
The Hautlence HL Sphere 02 will be produced in 28 pieces only. It will retail for CHF 99,000 or EUR 97,800. More details about it at www.hautlence.com.
Technical specifications – Hautlence HL Sphere 02
39mm height x 46mm width x 12mm height – 3.75mm dome on top – 18k white gold case, horn and bezel, satin-finished and polished – sapphire crystal with anti-reflective treatment, bevelled – sapphire crystal caseback – 30m water-resistant
Spherical hour and retrograde minute on a 180° sector
Base dial: skeletonised and rhodium-plated with engraved minute track
Dial plate: grained rose gold with blue PVD numerals
Hour sphere: polished grade 5 titanium with blue PVD treatment, engraved numerals and white lacquer filling
Calibre HTL 501-1, in-house – hand-wound – 38 jewels – 3-day power reserve – 21,600 vibrations/hour – components decorated by hand
Blue Louisiana alligator, rubber-lined
Interchangeability spring bars
Folding clasp in grade 5 titanium with satin-finished steel plate
Limited to 28 pieces