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Review: Hautlence Vortex

by Peter Chong on August 22, 2015

Hautlence is one of the old boys as far as being around for the last 10 years is to be a measure, but yet, they are a very young, vibrant watchmaker. Though not totally independent now as they are part of the group headed by Georges-Henri Meylan who also own Moser & Cie, the watches have a characteristic signature. Unusual, distinct, and available in a range of pricing from haute horlogerie to the more affordable timepieces. The Hautlence Vortex is a piece, recently introduced, from the high end of their line, which they call Concepts d’Exception.

 

Hautlence Vortex: step beyond the future

The watch is not totally a new timepiece from Hautlence. The HL2 series has been in existence since 2010. The interesting feature on the HL 2 series is the unique way that the watch tells time. The hour is digitally displayed as a moving chain driven directly by part of the wheel train, which includes the escapement system. This bridge system smoothly turns in 3 to 4 seconds every 60 minutes and drives the chain to display the next hour. The Vortex is merely an exercise to rotate the movement 90º. The result is a rectangular watch in a newly designed case which makes it look totally new.

 

Hautlence Vortex. The new case design and a totally fresh looking watch.

Hautlence Vortex. The new case design and a totally fresh looking watch. Note this is the only Vortex currently in existence and this watch has gone its rounds through journalists and collector hands, and traveled half way across the world. Note also the strap: needed so as not to have CITES issues in crossing countries.

 

The case

The case design is rather interesting. It is angular, and Guillaume Tetu, CEO and Co-Founder of Hautlence tells us that it was inspired by post-modern architecture and the concept of deconstruction.

 

Hautlence Vortex case is angular, multi faceted surfaces with radical and disruptive shapes.

Hautlence Vortex case is angular, multi faceted surfaces with radical and disruptive shapes.

 

The case proper is made of titanium structural elements holding 6 three dimensional sapphire crystals that allow a view into the watch and the kinetic sculpture of the movement. The shape is largely rectangular, mildly reminiscent of an Art Deco style, though perhaps with a large dose of modernism injected. The sides are not flat, but angled to form what is perhaps best described as radical and disruptive shapes. The entire case looks like it does not have parallel sides. The sapphire crystals are on all sides and allows light into the movement as well as visibility of the entire movement.

The design is executed with design house BBDC’s Ludovic Blanquer and Guillaume Tetu. Here is a video made by Deployant friend Monochrome of Guillaume explaining the design concepts and the watch. Please also head over to Monochrome for their coverage introducing the Vortex.

 

 

 

The case is rather large at 52mm x 50mm x 17.8mm, but it remains quite light at only 120g, and it quite comfortable on a 7.5″ wrist as demonstrated below:

 

On the wrist the Vortex remains comfortable as it is light and the shape, though unusual does not place undue strains on the wrist.

On the wrist the Vortex remains comfortable as it is light and the shape, though unusual does not place undue strains on the wrist.

 

The movement: HLR2.0

 

The movement, as hinted earlier is a rotated movement of the HL2.0 which was the first watch in Hautlence’s Concept d’Exception series.

 

The Hautlence in-house designed and manufactured movement  HRL2.0 as seen from the caseback.

The Hautlence in-house designed and manufactured movement HRL2.0 as seen from the caseback.

 

The movement holds 3 patents: The first pertains tho the 12 link chain of half-trailing hours. This chain turns smoothly in 3-4 seconds every 60 minutes to display the hour in an aperture window.

This system is different from a jumping hour mechanism, where the action happens too fast for the owner to appreciate the event. An superlative example of this is found in the Lange Zeitwerk, whose jumping hours and minutes happen at a blink of an eye. It is also different from a dragging system where the belt/chain is in constant motion, where it can be a challenge to read the hours. This draging hours system is used in the original Cabestan Winch Tourbillon Verticale. However, in the latest caliber, the Cabestan Winch features a jumping hour system to avoid this confusion.

The half trailing hours makes the best of both worlds. The hour display remains stationary the entire hour so that the hour can be easily read without confusion. And for the 3-4 seconds during the switchover, when it smoothly and effortlessly rotates to the next. The effect is a truly mesmerising sight to behold, and one which is decidedly calming for this writer.

 

The balance wheel and the bridge assembly, This entire bridge assembly makes the turn each hour to advance the semi trailing hour display by one step.

The balance wheel and the bridge assembly, This entire bridge assembly makes the turn each hour to advance the semi trailing hour display by one step.

 

The second patent relates to the regulating organ, which is integrated into the rotating bridge. This constantly changes the position of the escapement system, and compensates statistically for the effects of gravity. Sounds like a tourbillon? No it is not. The bridge carries the escapement system and rotates on its own axis 60° each hour. As the power to rotate the bridge is not in the direct power flow of the escapement, it is technically incorrect to describe this mechanism as a tourbillon.

The third patent is the operation of the movement’s two barrels. The main barrel drives the escapement assembly and is responsible for timekeeping. It  also has a secondary function to transfer the power to wind a second barrel. This second barrel is dedicated to drive the complication. The main barrel continuously winds the second barrel to ensure there is sufficient energy to turn the bridge at the changeover each hour.

 

Finishing

The movement is made of brass and finished with ruthenium-anthracite coating giving it a beautiful dark appearance. Regular finissage details are observed, including fine hand anglage and mirror-polished steel elements.

 

The Hautlence HRL2.0 movement detail, showing th ehand anglaged rotor and bridge work.

The Hautlence HRL2.0 movement detail, showing th ehand anglaged rotor and bridge work.

 

Detail showing the silisium escape wheel.

Detail showing the silisium escape wheel.

 

Further thoughts

 

We found the Hautlence Vortex to be a very engaging watch. It looks like a slight oddity at first glance, but it does warm up quite quickly. After an hour or so on the wrist, it feels strangely familiar and quite comfortable. The display is easy to read, being superbly legible. And the rotating complication of the escapement bridge is simply a joy to observe at the passing of each hour.

We are mesmerised by the watch after spending a good part of 4 hours in its presence and on our wrists. A very beautiful piece. Well done Hautlence. Chapeau!

 

We know Hautlence CEO Guillaume Tetu prefers Islay Scotch for his drink, but we think the Vortex does go rather well with the disruptive effects the Japanese whisky industry have been creating with the likes of this Hakushu Single Malt.

We know Hautlence CEO Guillaume Tetu prefers Islay Scotch for his drink, but we think the Vortex does go rather well with the disruptive effects the Japanese whisky industry have been creating with the likes of this Hakushu Single Malt.

 

Hautlence Vortex Specifications and Price

Limited edition of 88 pieces. Price CHF 160,000 inclusive of Swiss Tax.

Case : grade 5 titanium
Horns : grade 5 titanium, screw-in
Crown : satin-brushed and polished grade 5 titanium with micro-machined HAUTLENCE logo
Glass : 6 three-dimensional sapphire crystals, scratch-resistant, produced by multi-axis grinding
Alternating finishes : sand-blasting, satin-brushing and polishing
Horn and case-back screws : grade 5 titanium
Dimensions : 52 x 50 x 17.8 mm
Weight of the timepiece: 120 gram

Calibre description :2 barrels : one going train barrel (power reserve for the entire watch calibre including power for the second complication barrel) and a complication barrel.

Hours displayed by a 12-link chain hinged on a pallet system. The speed regulator ensures that the hours display changes in a controlled and jerk-free manner in 3-4 seconds instead of instantly. It completes 48 revolutions at each hour change. Hours system activated by a one-revolution mechanism mainly composed of a connecting rod and a rack.

Mobile bridge-type calibre comprising the regulating organ and rotating through 60° at each change of hour.
Movement kinematics featuring 90° changes of direction by means of special bevelled gears.

Automatic calibre with oscillating weight in 18-carat white gold.

This innovative calibre is protected by 3 HAUTLENCE patents.

Dimensions : 37.8 x 33.2 x 12.35 mm
Manufacturing technology : multi-axis micro-machining, wire EDM, LIGA photolithography
Number of components : 552
Power reserve : 40 hours
Regulating organ : 21,600 vibrations/hour
Number of jewels : 92
Finishing : fine-watchmaking type (satin-brushed, hand-drawn, hand-bevelled, ruthenium-anthracite coating and mirror-polished steel elements)
Identification and numbering plate : HLR2.2 xx/88

Dial: Upper sapphire dial face: minutes in white Super-LumiNova®;
Applied plates for the hours and minutes zones; openings onto the hours and the power reserve;
Lower sapphire dial face: semi-opaque metallization;
Hour-markers: metal plate with black rhodium-plated galvanic coating and hour numerals in white Super-Lumi-Nova®
Minutes hand : rhodium-plated galvanic coating with white Super-LumiNova® tip;
Power-reserve hand: steel with red-varnished indicator

 

 

 

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