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HYT - Living With The Enemy: HYT

HYT Living With The Enemy: HYT

Traditionally, liquids –mainly water– and watchmaking have not been the best allies, but a rabidly innovative brand has changed that reality: HYT.

The main threats to the well-being of a small micro mechanical device are, in order of importance, impacts, magnetism, dust, and water. Shock absorbing devices gained relevance as the personal watch that remained in the pockets moved to accompany us on the wrist, with a greatest range of movements and the possibility of being subjected to unknown shocks and vibrations, as opposed to the comfortable confines of the side pocket of a vest. Shock protection systems are already a normal thing in wristwatches, some with unimaginable resistance; so it is no longer a big problem. Magnetism is another of the great enemies of a small set of tiny metal pieces that try to keep working in harmony. The different metals that compose them have different vulnerabilities to magnetic fields; Fortunately, innovative metal alloys and even the use of non-ferrous materials such as silicium have allowed watches to be sufficiently resistant to magnetism; even in this day and age when we have magnets everywhere, especially on speakers, computers and cell phones.

Living With The Enemy: HYT

Flow © HYT

Dust is very harmful and was actually one of the first enemies to be eradicated from watchmaking, since a simple lint or a speck of dust is capable of locking a watch. In 1891, the Swiss watchmaker François Borgel patented a case with a screw closure that, while not airtight, left out a significant part of the harmful dust. Moisture and liquids presented a more difficult challenge to conquer, it was necessary –and still is– to have some type of access to the inside of the box, which represents an opening through which some liquid could infiltrate. The visionary Hans Wilsdorf took Borgel's idea and also acquired the patent for a screw-down crown to the case presented by two Swiss inventors named Georges Peret and Paul Perregaux. These two innovations were the basis for what became known as the Oyster system, the basis for waterproof –or water-resistant– watches.

The path that HYT followed is arguably a continuation of that effort; Although the basic mechanical components must still be protected against humidity, in this innovative firm they defeated the enemy by making it part of their horological concept. The essence of HYT watches consists of using two fluids that circulate inside a glass micro capillary tube; one transparent and the other colored, both of different densities, so that it is impossible for them to mix; and in turn, the meniscus that is formed where these liquids are joined acts as an indicator for the hours. Although the premise seems simple, it is far from it, since the technical complications that had to be solved for these watches to be a reality were almost unthinkable at the beginning of the project.

Living With The Enemy: HYT

H5 © HYT

More than most watch brands, HYT borrowed technology and knowledge from many other industries to solve its technical problems, mainly aerospace, medical and semiconductor; without leaving aside a philosophical approach related to the passage of time, which is the basis of the concept behind HYT. The essence of the fluid watchmaking of this firm comes from a pair of bellows made of an ultra-thin and extremely flexible material, whose thickness is four times thinner than a hair, which contain the liquids whose border will have the mission of showing the passage of time. Said bellows are pressed in one direction or another by a high-watchmaking mechanism.

Many challenges arose throughout the long development of more than 15 years, but they were solved one by one; Fluids expand or contract depending on the ambient temperature, which alters the time reading, so a thermal compensation system was integrated inside one of the bellows, in the form of a smaller bellows, to compensate for that expansion or contraction without affecting accuracy. The indication of the hours is continuous, but every 12 it is like turning back time, when the liquids go back from one bellows to another to restart the count starting again from 6 o'clock, either AM or PM; that retrograde movement inside the capillary tube is the one feature that makes us appreciate the passage of time in a different way, hence the concept that tomorrow will come soon (soon now) because we can see how it progresses every hour, and twice a day, how it restarts.

Living With The Enemy: HYT

Soonow Drop Three © HYT

The capillary tube itself was a major headache for developers, the worldwide search for a reliable technology to perform this vital component, and one of the most expensive to develop, did not bear fruit, so they had to create their own means for the production of this fine curved capillary tube of only 0.8 mm thickness, with which they have achieved even some capricious shapes, as in the Skull model. To achieve maximum clarity over the hours, it was necessary to develop a chemical treatment, a coating for the internal part of the capillary tube, through which the liquids responsible for telling us the time flow. The purpose of this coating is to prevent liquids from adhering to the surface of the glass, so that they do not leave any trace and that is why the movement of the meniscus that indicates the time is perfectly clean. 

The coloring of liquids is not a trivial issue either. Each new color takes a long and complex development, to ensure that the hue is maintained over the years as well as the chemical qualities of the liquid. A variety of equipment was developed to be able to make these watches, one of them allows a perfect filling of the capillary tube, since even the minimum bubble trapped in the liquid, would alter the reading. In addition, a device was developed to simulate the operation of the capillary system for a year in just one month, so that a 24-month test is equivalent to 24 years of use, it has been tested for up to 40 months continuously; permanence is one of the pillars of haute horlogerie and is definitively not absent from HYT watches.

Living With The Enemy: HYT

Skull © HYT

Despite all that innovation and a very different presence, the use and operation of the watch is surprisingly transparent, you might think that just setting it to the time is quite a matter and the reality is that it is possible to set the time practically like any other mechanical watch.

Philosophy, technology and a sense of permanence come together with technology and materials never seen before in watchmaking to create haute horlogerie pieces that do not resemble anything created before, authentic 21st century watchmaking.

 

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