A skull on the dial of the watch. Keep calm, it’s nothing new. Richard Mille has done it, Bell and Ross too, and I’m sure many others. So what do we like about this piece? And what do we dislike about it?
Firstly we have to understand that having a skull on a dial is not for everyone. It was designed to be contentious and vivacious. The size of the watch is pretty large too, at 51mm in diameter and 17.9mm in height. It is clearly made to be loud and probably even hipster. For those guys who only love slim watches and classic pieces, the Skull is definitely not for you. However, if you’re a trend setter with an appetite for human cartilage, then the HYT Skull is quite a feat.
Before we dive into the Skull, we have to understand HYT. The HYT watch manufacture sent shock waves through the watch industry when it was first introduced in Basel in 2012. They have done something unheard of in modern watchmaking. Hydro-mechanical power in timekeeping. This was strangely refreshing because the concept of showing time in a continuous fashion using liquid had existed since ancient civilization; both the Egyptians and Chinese. HYT has revived this mummified horology concept with a twist, creating suitable fluids with chemists and using mechanical power to pressure push this liquids through a tube.
HYT watches are provocative, unique and have bold designs supported by fluid mechanics that have become the brand’s signature style. The Skull speaks for itself. Its development, however, was anything but obvious. Although it screams loud and vivacious, the HYT Skull’s ingenuity is actually hidden behind a mask. Apart from the breakthrough in hydro mechanical mastery, the Skull bears a hidden message in its eyes.
The left eye hides a barely visible seconds dial which rotates continuously. You only have to look the Skull in the eyes to observe its spirit and the life, in the most literal sense, flowing at its heart. In both cases, a subtle honeycomb pattern provides the background and adds depth to the eyes. The skull itself is not inert – its movement operates constantly. It is alive, in the truest sense of the word: it has a soul. This is the first watch creation in which, instead of observing the time, time watches you.
The use of a capillary, which carries a fluid to act as the hour marker, is a concept that is already mastered by HYT and its partners. However, any significant changes in form require extensive background work. For the Skull, the skull shape of the tube, which measures less than one millimetre in diameter, was a significant challenge in itself.
“Their vertical structure, developed for the H1 watch, served as our starting point. However, we then had to re-examine how to generate enough power to move through these sharp angles, whilst ensuring that the fluid always indicates the correct time, moving at the right speed and with perfect regularity over twelve hours”. ~Vincent Perriard, CEO HYT.
In line with the raw, primitive imagery of the skull, HYT also decided to do away with the minutes. This bold choice has two consequences. Firstly, it shifts the main focus to the capillary, the only sensory indicator of time as it passes, and secondly it centres all the attention on the piece’s architectural design, with its assertive, confident skull, which occupies almost the entire surface of the dial. Similarly, in stark contrast to its other pieces, HYT chose to almost completely hide the movement on the dial side.
From a collector’s point of view, the technical mastery and finishing of the movement is adequate. It meets most if not all the standards of fine watch making, with this collaboration with APRP. The 35 jewels movement beats at 28,800 vib/h, 4 Hz and its bridges are hand-chamfered and adorned with Côtes de Genève. The bellows are rhodium plated and the movement runs with a 65-hour power reserve.
We find the concept of the watch pretty exciting, but its definitely not an all-weather piece. Grown men may find it too kiddy and kids would find it too expensive. Moreover, there is a considerable disadvantage in removing the minutes hand. It renders time reading legibility to inadequacy. This narrows the occasions to wearing this watch to a few. Occasions where time reading is inessential and when the wearer wants to be a rebel and quit horological etiquette.
But then again, don’t we all wish that we can be rebellious everyday and live life with ambivalence to time? Pardon my Freudian slip. I might have been staring into the abyss of the skull for a little too long…