The urbandictionary.com defines the “wristgame” as a “showing off your bracelets and expensive watches. Mostly a combination of both (which are of course worn on the wrist)”.
The game-themed watches are not new on the market. But, Hautlence released last year the Labyrinth model – a wrist toy that does not tell time. This year, they continued the boys’ game-dreams with a new non-horological machine. Hautlence Playground Pinball, even if it does not tell time, it is an example of watchmaking excellence. We reviewed the latest piece from Hautlence. This time, the “wrist game” has a literal sense.
From independent watchmaker to Independent.
Hautlence was created in 2004, after three years of gathering ideas and sketches. The founding fathers were Sandro Reginelli, Renaud de Retz and Guillaume Tetu. The name of the brand comes from anagramming “Neuchatel”, paying a tribute to the birthplace of horology.
The first to leave the company was Sandro Reginelli for a new position at Maurice Lacroix. Renaud de Retz left the company in 2009 and since 2012, the brand was acquired by MELB Holding SA led by the former chief of Audemars Piguet, Georges-Henri Meylan. In 2015, Guillaume Tetu has announced that he will be leaving the brand and on 1st of December 2015, and Sandro Reginelli returned as CEO.
The first collection and HL calibre were presented in 2005. The HLS collection, released in 2007 is a successor and derivation of the HL calibre. In 2009, Hautlence developed HLQ, a round calibre with date. The third calibre, the HLC was released a year later, in 2010.
2011 is marked by the first HAUTLENCE Concept d’exception, part of the actual collection. Four years of development were needed it to create the HL2.0 calibre with two variations. The brand’s first model with dual zone indication was available in 2013 in the Signature collection.
The Atelier collection had a special piece that has nothing to do with telling time – the Labyrinth. The wrist game in the form a miniature Labyrinth board game. The first Haute Horlogerie piece not to be a watch? Perhaps. And in this way, Hautlence broke the barrier of traditional watchmaking and it creates a new meaning for “independent”.
Review: Hautlence Playground Pinball
There is a new kind of wrist game in town. Literally, a game for the wrist. Hautlence Playground Pinball is more complicated than the Labyrinth. And it has a plus: if for the former you can learn quickly the best route, the latter is more complex. A game of hazard, a game of chance and luck.
The case and dial
Even if it doesn’t tell time, the Hautlence Playground Pinball is manufactured as all the other exquisite timepieces. The wrist toy is cased in a Hautlence specific rectangular shape. The grade 5 titanium case measures 37mm by 43.5mm with a thickness of 13mm. The brushed and polished finishes are fused in an elegant composition. The bezel is highly polished, while the body is satin brushed. The lugs have the same pleasant combination with polished and brushed surfaces with extra bevelling.
Extra attention was paid to the case back. The frost finish makes a warm contrast with the round see-through opening. The sapphire crystal offers a good view to the “minute repeater like” movement. The back case features a wide polished bevel to match the mirror surface of the back of the lugs. The edge is chamfered and is engraved with the brand’s name and the inner part of the bezel is frosted and wears the “Horlogerie Suisse” and “Pinball” proudly.
On the right side of the case is a lever which is used to activate the mechanism and to start the game. The front of the watch is covered with an form shaped, extra-hard sapphire crystal which features bevelled edges and treated with an anti-reflective coating. The case has a water resistance of 3atm.
The Pinball’s size makes it perfect and, it looks and feels stunning on the wrist.
The Pinball’s “dial” is complex and this is to be expected if we consider the complete functionality. We assume the reader has some familiarity with the Pinball arkade game, so will not explain how the game works. The Hautlence Pinball is a miniaturized version.
The dial is made of grade 5 titanium which is bead blasted to a satin finish. The bumpers have diamond shaped angles with a lovely polished contrast. The warm colour is achieved by varnishing.
To enhance the ball movement, a labyrinth of sorts is made using another sapphire glass between the crystal and the dial. This presents eleven slots used for scoring. A toothed wheel is placed centrally and this complicates the game by throwing the ball randomly. On top of the “randomizer” is placed a hypnotic spinner that also influences the ball’s trajectory.
By pulling the plunger, a ball is loaded into the board. Depending on the release force, the ball is thrown into the game and reaches one of the slots. After releasing all the three flame-blued steel balls you can watch them traverse the labyrinth and as the ball comes to a rest, calculate your points. Unlike the arcade game, which the player has more control via flippers to return the ball into play by strategically flipping the ball back into the labyrinth, in the Hautlence Pinball this added level of control is not offered. One merely watches, admittedly it is quite a mesmerising way to spend idle time, as it rushes through the dial and ends up in one of the slots. To start a new game, the personal dexterity is used to bring the balls in the correct position. This is a new game to play, which increases the charm of the wrist piece.
In fact, the spinners can move up to ten seconds and give a wow factor to the board. The dial in different levels give Pinball a three-dimensional effect.
The movement: Hautlence automaton
The relative simple calibre is designed from the beginning with no horological function. The construction is loosely reminiscent of a minute repeater. The Hautlence mechanical automaton is excellently executed in the true Haute Horlogerie spirit. The finishes are extraordinary: sand-blasting to a frost finish, diamond-lapped chamfering. The movement uses 9 jewels, of which three are mounted in gold chatons.
The game is powered by the left side lever. By pulling, a spring is loaded and, by release, the ball is hit and sets in motion the central star and the pinwheel. The wheels use a governor to control the speed.
A detail visible on the back is the small plate held by two screws visible through the case back. The engraving reads “UNIQUE PIECE”. Update: As good news, we were given to understand a further limited edition of 18 pieces will follow. *see footnote
The true nature of this non-horological piece might prevent us from doing a comparison. But given the similarities of the movement with a minute repeater complication and the existence of the game-related watches we decided to keep this heading. The Hautlence Playground Pinball is priced at CHF30,000 before taxes.
The only real “competitor” of today’s subject is the Hautlence Labyrinth, which we presented after Baselworld 2016. Inspired by a childhood board game, the Labyrinth is a cumulus of extraordinary finishes. The satin-finished grade 5 titanium keeps inside as a “dial”, a fabulous gold or white gold maze. The maze can be played with a ball made of platinum or 5N gold. A traditional placed crown is used for the mechanical lift. Using a camshaft system, the ball is fed back into the board for a new game. To make everything more interesting, the mechanical gimmick can be observed via the see-through case back. The Labyrinth is priced at CHF12,000 and comes in 36 pieces limited series (18 pieces each “dial” colour). We understand that the entire production, small as it is, is now sold out.
A magnificent Haute Horlogerie piece with the same tease factor is the Haldimann H9 Reduction. It is a watch but it does not tell the time. Considered by some a joke on the watch lovers, we consider this an exercise, an example of pure craftsmanship. The beautiful 39mm case comes in platinum and is covered by a completely opaque black sapphire crystal. This example of hidden beauty is meant to be enjoyed without the stressful display of the time passing by. The Reduction is a treasure kept safe. Only a true connoisseur will know the real value of this timepiece. The price tag of the H9 Reduction is CHF170,000, justified be a Beat Haldimann magnificent work and the value as an art piece. It remains Beat Haldimann’s provocative look at the concept of a luxury watch. Telling the time is not always essential as one almost always have a mobile device which can report the current time more accurately.
From the gambling watches, we would like to remind another independent sensation, the Christophe Claret Blackjack. This wrist watch has a miniature casino with Blackjack, Roulette and Dice. Packed in a 45mm diameter red gold and PVD-treated titanium, white gold and titanium, platinum and titanium, black titanium or grey titanium. The watch has an automatic winding mechanical movement with patented cathedral gong and 72 hours of power reserve (double barrels). This Blackjack is limited to 21 pieces each version and has a price between $178,000 and $210,000.
Another watch from Christophe Claret that we chose only because of its name is the X-Trem 1 Pinball. We reviewed a version of this watch was made especially for the 2013 “Only Watch” charity auction in the link, but the X-Trem is available in various incarnations from Claret. The X-TREM 1 Pinball comes in a 40.80 mm by 56.80 mm rectangular case with a curvex profile using white gold with palladium and Perunal-type aluminium. The watch uses a 30-degree angled flying tourbillon. The time is displayed in a magic way. Two metal balls are used to indicate the hours and, respectively, the minutes on the case sides. The “dial” displays three ratchet wheels and a bridge that resembles the layout of the classic pinball machines in a blue and orange colour theme. The Pinball watch is powered by the calibre FLY11. The 50 hours power reserve is achieved using a 21600 vph balance wheel. The watch was sold for only €100,000 at the Only Watch auction, a disappointing result, from an estimated price between €230,000 and 300,000.
We reminded at beginning of the Competitive Landscape about the resemblance of the Hautlence Pinball movement with a minute repeater complication. As an example, we would like to show you one of the most elegantly designed timepieces of SIHH 2017 – the Vacheron Constantin Traditionelle Minute Repeater Tourbillon. Cased in 44mm diameter of platinum or gold, the watch has a mesmerising engine turned guilloche pattern with baton hour indexes and dauphine hands. It is powered by the Calibre 2755 TMR, a 6.10mm thick hand wound movement. The tourbillon beats with 18,000 vph giving an autonomy of 58 hours. The Traditionelle Minute Repeater Tourbillon is priced at S$ 837,100 for the platinum and S$ 751,700 for the gold version.
Of course, the Vacheron is a true minute repeater, and is way more complicated than the Hautlence Pinball. It is not comparable in any way to the Pinball, but include this only as Hautlence themselves draw similarities in the construction of the Pinball.
The Hautlence Playground Pinball is an exercise of exceptional finishes, a wonderful idea and an object of lust for any collector with a child’s soul. But it remains a toy. And Hautlence acknowledges that. We see it as a tongue in cheek and rebellious way that Hautlence is provoking the industry, and find it charming. Priced at CHF30,000 before taxes, it remains a rich man’s toy, but a fine one.
In a modern world where time is measured to the second all around us, a wrist object that doesn’t tell time is not as wrong as some might consider. The utility of this piece resides in the happy moments it offers. In a fast world, having a handy method, correctly said – on your wrist to forget about everything and indulge yourself a moment of innocent pleasure is priceless.
*Update 1st of Jully: We learned from Hautlence CEO, Sandro Reginelli that this unique piece was created prior for a Hautlence collector and in the future a limited edition of 18 pieces of Pinball will follow, together with other surprises.
Hautlence Playground Pinball Specifications
Calibre: Hautlence automaton
Type: in-house mechanical automaton.
Jewels: 9; gold chatons: 3
Functions: Mechanical Pinball game
Material: Grade 5 titanium
Dimensions of the case: 37 x 43.5 mm
Height: 13 mm
Crystal: Extra-hard bevelled sapphire crystal with anti-reflective treatment
Caseback: satin-finished grade 5 titanium; 6 screws
Water Resistance: 3atm
Material: Glossy black Louisiana alligator leather, large square scales, hand-sewn, rolled-edge
Folding clasp: titanium with satin-finished steel plate.