HYT has established a reputation for its incredible work with liquids and timetelling. Has the focus shifted since then?
HYT’s focus has always been on telling the time with liquids. The focus has therefore not shifted as such, but rather dived into the origin of time measurement and its depiction. At the heart of this is the boundary between science and philosophy. We here at HYT are proud to be part of this history that is more than 4,000 years old, where time was originally measured with clepsydras and water clocks and which saw the emergence of science using these instruments. We are not trying to portray time in the same way as classical watchmakers, but want to go to the essence of the concept of time. Namely that time, like the liquid in a river, never stands still. It is intuitive, non-numeric. It is a flow.
Tells us about the philosophy behind the brand. Why was using fluid initially such an interesting concept for you?
Time cannot be simply measured by clever gears or by the abstract indication of two arrow-shaped hands. If we want to be relevant to our customers and a new generation of buyers, our goal has to be to then offer an alternative instrument that allows us to explore and regain possession of the very essence of time. Our fluidic displays intuitively underline a flow, the importance of a moment or of a passage of time and allows our customer to immerse themselves in the times they have lived, that are human and subjective, which are complementary to the time of physicists.
Your watches strike a successful balance between technicality and design. How do you manage to incorporate both?
On the one hand, we have developed timepieces that are packed full of cutting-edge technologies that have pushed our scientists to the limit of their understanding in fields such as material science, fluid dynamics, micromechanics and chemistry. On the other, we have a need to present all this technology in a philosophical and artistic way that communicates and reinforces our brand values. We united these two things by centering everything around the liquids. We put the liquid at the centre of all that we do, with the aim of highlighting an intuitive flow: after all space and time are fluid!
What are the key design cornerstones of a HYT watch?
A HYT watch is a timepiece that has overcome the force of gravity to indicate the passage of time using liquids. Thanks to these liquids, we have a three-dimensional representation of time, which is alive and organic. These are our design cornerstones. To give you a few examples, the dial of our H0 watches has been designed to gently and elegantly simulate the ripples created by a droplet falling onto the surface of a liquid; the cases of H0 and H20 have been shaped to resemble a pebble rounded by running water and thus provide unique ergonomics to our customers, and the passage of the crown stem through the case of the H20 has been designed to look like a wave. All of these elements contribute to the ‘fluidic design aesthetics’ we have created.
What limitations are there when it comes to working with fluid?
We don’t know yet! Fluids are beautiful and intriguing substances and our team of talented scientists are working tirelessly to understand just what is possible! For instance, to name a few of our projects, we are experimenting with using the force of the expansion and contraction of liquids to power our watches, of using optical illusions created by the different refractive indices of liquids to alter what you see, and mastering the way liquids move around to create new and wonderful shapes.
How big is the team working on the watches?
It is thanks to the work of the three people who started the HYT adventure that the brand received instant recognition. Like our fluid hour, our brand is in constant motion and this small team of three has now grown to 45. In our work, there is no providential man or woman. It is all a collective effort, as found in contemporary art or important multidisciplinary projects. As such, it was necessary for us to develop teams within HYT and its sister company, Preciflex, who are by far the most time-forward people out there. It’s a real concentration of intelligence and talent. Like our HYT brand, they are at the crossroads of arts and science.
Is there anything you can’t do when it comes to design?
Design is only limited by imagination and we certainly have plenty of that. We are always looking forwards for new ways to innovate and revolutionise the watches we produce. Our designs, however, cannot be separated from the technology, which means projects always have to be developed holistically. By innovating in microfluidic applications that we are applying to watches, jewellery and other kinds of wearables, we have opened a huge virgin territory which we are now exploring – and of course protecting with patents. So, in sum, the fluid world is our oyster and many great things will come. When it comes to design using our technologies, the only thing we won’t do is go backwards. We are all about the future.
What is your proudest technical achievement?
Getting the amazing HYT fluidic technology to work. I don’t think people generally grasp how incredibly hard it was. We have had to scour the earth and a variety of different industries to find the components we need. We have pieces from spaceships and medical devices in our watches, for instance. For some components that didn’t exist previously, we have even had to build our own machines to make them. In a nutshell, it has been almost 10 years of very hard work, over $45 million in investment, and the filing of over 35 patents to protect our intellectual property to get everything to work.
What challenges have you faced since you have begun?
Hundreds, if not thousands, which I suppose is to be expected from such an ambitious and avant-gardist project. For instance, we have had to design a capillary coating and liquids that do not freeze, that do not stick to glass, ceramic, multi-layered metallic parts and that will keep a striking colour for decades to come. But I think the biggest challenges were to find technical solutions to perfectly seal the fluid module as well as offsetting the effects of temperature on the expansion and contraction of the liquid. The latter, we overcame by using a tiny, ingenious and patented thermal compensator, which uses the expansion of another liquid inside it to counteract that of the liquid you see in the watch.
The collections, while different, are all recognisably your own. What constants are there between them?
The first and most obvious is that all our watches use liquids to indicate time. But there are also more subtle similarities. Our watches make a pretty bold statement, but by using a sophisticated and artistic design to allow the wearers to just watch time flow.
Who do you tend to see as your nearest competitors?
We really think that HYT is in a world of its own. We are doing something no one has ever done before – breaking many rules – and so consequently we don’t think that we have any direct competitors. Having said that we do feel at home with our peer group of independent watch brands that take part in Carré des Horlogers at the SIHH. They, just like us, have innovated and revolutionised a part of the watch industry.
Where do you get the ideas for your new watches?
Inspiration comes from all walks of life. The inspiration for our watches has come from the arts, philosophy, architecture, fashion, weird and wonderful objects and from the people around us, including some of our customers.
What are you planning for your next watch?
We have lots of exciting projects on the horizon. Given the amazing success of the H20 watches at the SIHH, we have several additions to this collection coming out between now and the end of the year… as well as a few other surprises. And, for next year, it is too early for me to give anything away. But rest assured, it will be something exciting and new!
More at: www.hytwatches.com