When HYT CEO Gregory Dourde joined Cartier 20 years ago, he was a rarity in the luxury industry. The engineering graduate from the Ecole National des Ponts & Chaussées (Paris) encountered then CEO of Cartier Dominique Perrard at a seminar and discovered a world of watchmaking. Passions ignited, he joined a mind for mechanical ingenuity with real world experience in retail and management, serving stints in Switzerland before transferring to Cartier Paris. Today, HYT CEO Gregory Dourde leads a team of international talents hellbent on exploring new frontiers of science and micro-engineering, revolutionising the watch industry with micro-fluidic mechanics in the process but also innovating the way through a myriad of industries.
HYT CEO Gregory Dourde on Renaud’s new Fluid Regulating Organ
Deployant: You spent the majority of your career in the watch and jewellery industry but when you founded your own consulting firm, it advised on medical and high-tech fields in addition to watchmaking, how does that happen?
Gregory Dourde: I’m not a specialist in chemistry or aeronautics but our company about attracting the best talents that we can find and develop in a specific field. The team we have hired at Preciflex and HYT is an international team. In the medical field, we have an important project working with micro-injectors for the human body and when we achieve a certain level of maturity for the project, we create a dedicated team. Right now, in the coming months, you will see a new entity which will be spun off from the intellectual properties of Preciflex and they will have a dedicated management team which hails from the medical device industry and be focused on that segment. These talents are required to invent things that have never been done before and the engineers work on a broad range of activity, not just HYT.
Does your partnership with Dominique Renaud extend beyond the watchmaking field for HYT and into Preciflex? Will his ideas crossover into the medical sciences?
No. He focuses purely on watchmaking complications where he’s currently focused on creating a new regulating organ. His fluid-based regulating organ is pure genius and while he can explain how it works as if he were the organ itself, most of us have difficulty understanding the complexities of the challenges he faces, that’s how groundbreaking it is.
Has Dominique Renaud’s fluid regulation system gone into prototyping and testing yet?
No. We are still about 7 years away from that stage. We have been working on the new movement to reduce the size of the watch while increasing power supply by a factor of 10. The movement itself holds 3 patents, 2 of them are the result of Dominique Renaud and we’re still in the development phase. The whole new 42mm line will have a specific identity which will not cannabalise the H series visually and mechanically. The X series will be more integrated and thinner plus give us the flexibility to launch a feminine line.
Gregory Dourde on HYT’s new frontier – Power Supply
That said, the fluid and the capillaries are still constrained to hours indications correct? Are there plans to go beyond that? Collectors crave new innovation.
As of today, the way the fluidic module is built could be used to indicate minutes and date with absolutely minimal changes. Today, the movement pushes the pistons two times a day and having two retrogrades per day, a movement which can push 24 times a day will give us the ability to indicate minutes with fluid. But pushing the piston 24 times a day is a huge drain on energy and power reserve. Thus the challenge we face is dependent on power supply of the calibre rather than the fluidic module. That’s why we decided to invest and develop this competency internally with the help of partners like Dominique Renaud. But this is only one axis of development we are also working on liquids beyond indication.
When studying the issue of thermal regulation in the H series, we created a thermal compensator which cancels the effects of rapid temperature changes. Since liquid is 1000x more sensitive to temperature changes than solids, the meniscus can shift by 3 minutes if the temperature changes by 1 degree. With this in mind, we can use the initial problem as an opportunity, we can transform the expansion of liquids into driving a movement or to create energy and this is a whole new way of research and development that we are embarking on – to use the physical and chemical properties of liquid.
Regarding the upcoming new movement, can you share whether the power supply is still a spring-based solution or will we see a “stop-gap” before the new fluid based supply?
It’s still spring-based.
The HYT “grail” – A Fully Fluidic Watch
Out of the 31 patents, HYT has only used 11 patents thus far. This implies that there are 20 patents or ideas still waiting implementation in either new HYT watches or Preciflex projects. According to Dourde, the grail for HYT is to have a fully fluidic watch.
“We are thinking of not just indication but also regulation and power – how can we replace the balance spring? But this is a long road. The level of complexity to master this is really steep.” – HYT CEO Gregory Dourde
In micro-fluidic complications, this difficulty level is multiplied by a factor of 100, take the example of “water resistance” – a basic watch is water-proofed to 100m and the technology is designed use at that depth rather than continuous submersion for a period of time; Gaskets get old and leak as it’s unlikely that someone chooses to leave a watch underwater for 10 years – thus there is no necessity to develop technology capable of that.
HYT’s fluidic module is designed to work for 20 years without having a leak at the molecular level, so the techniques developed and used are more commonly found in aerospace industries, relative to a basic diver’s watch, HYT modules are 10000x more water proof, measured by atoms of helium that can pass through and designed in accordance to spaceship norms.
Future Developments: planned HYT ‘X’ Series and The Squad
The planned X series is not its official name but rather a project name for a new collection of 42mm HYT watches. Thinner and likely to have greater power reserve, Dourde promises that it will not canabalise the H series in either aesthetics or technical innovativeness.
How are you doing in terms of after sales servicing? I believe you had an issue with the older fluidic modules where if you wound it too quickly, it becomes desynchronised?
The Squad performs a new free upgrade on the movement and we have been rolling out these improvements throughout the year.
How long does the upgrade take?
This is dependent on the availability of the Squad team and where they are in the world. We are creating an interval workshop at HYT where an internal team of 3+1 watchmakers can work and speed up the upgrading. Before we had to ship the watch back to our partners and having a dedicated team makes things quicker. The Squad pays you a visit and in most of the cases, the upgrade is done on the spot. We have special equipment to manage the cleanliness of the process. If the watch has scratches or we found that the watch suffered a big shock, we send these watches back to Switzerland but in 80% of the cases, we have the materials and components to fix it on the spot.
HYT Celebrates 3 Years with H1 Colorblock series
Celebrating 3 years, the new HYT H1 Colorblock follows in the footsteps of their predecessors (the first H1 was launched in 2012), a heartfelt tribute to a model which heralded a new era of modern watchmaking. Astute collectors will find details like the minute hand and other notable points borrowed from the modern-day versions of HYT, like the black liquid created for the H1 Full Gold.
The yellow version is the most distinctive, as this is HYT’s trademark signature. Flamboyant, dynamic and radiant, it offers an arresting contrast.
The blue variant is the most subtle, featuring a glacial aura of a depth that is astonishingly attractive.
The red interpretation is the most radical and dramatic. It’s the only version to feature simply three shades: red, black (liquid) and gray (movement), with each of the other versions bearing traces of red on the power reserve and the second wheel.
Each piece features a strap in a brand-new, ultra-resistant fabric designed for these models.
HYT H1 Colorblock will be available from early October 2016, in three limited editions of 10 pieces. Each H1 Colorblock is priced S$55,000.