Introducing the Hautlence Vortex, including video, live photos, price and an exclusive interview with CEO Guillaume Tetu
Hautlence is back – and back with something that we love here at Monochrome-Watches: independent watchmaking at its best. Bold, unique, complicated, technical, unusual and sometimes not made for everyone’s taste; in a word, watchmaking without any compromises. After the first HL watches 10 years ago and the ultra-complicated HL2 that was introduced 5 years ago, Hautlence is back now with another very, very cool timepiece. Here is the Hautlence Vortex – and a video to show you even more.
If you look back in Hautlence’s (short but active) history, you’ll see that there are two main iconic features that created the aura of the brand. The first one comes of course from the very first collection of watches introduced in 2005, the HL Watches. Back then, those timepieces were bold and unique because of their rectangular and linear design and also (certainly mainly) because of their highly personal way to display the time by the mean of connecting rods, discs and levers. This collection (that is still in the catalog with a superb black ceramic edition) was the base of Hautlence’s success. Then, in 2010, the brand came with something highly complicated that they called the ‘Concept d’Exception’ or the HL2. This watch was the Haute Horlogerie development of the iconic display created by Hautlence, a watch that pushed 3 to 4 steps further the concept. This concept relies on a rotating chain with 12 links to display the hours, a retrograde hand for the minutes and a unique Tourbillon mechanism, in which the whole escapement rotates every hour (at the same time than the chain rotates). Today, Hautlence comes back with the missing link between the first HL and the highly complicated HL2, another ‘Concept d’Exception’ that shares the iconic linear design with the so-cool HL2 movement, the Hautlence Vortex.
The best before starting to read more about this Vortex is to let Guillaume Tetu, CEO of Hautlence, explain the Vortex and the idea of this new creation.
To be very basic, let’s say that the Hautlence Vortex is a HL2 movement turned at 90° and in a square / rectangular case (yes, that’s very basic). By doing that, Hautlence reintroduced the linear / rectangular design of their first creations and in the end, the result is a watch that feels Hautlence but, because of the work done on the case and the dial, it also feels like being an entirely new concept. Starting with the case, of course the whole shape is reminiscent of previous creations (at least for the shape) but the design is also stronger, more modern and deeply inspired by contemporary architecture. The case features many lines, facets and angles, all due to the use of several and complicated crystals. The entire case is surrounded by sapphire apertures (on the top, on each sides and on the case back). This allows first the watch to feel visually lighter and it also gives an interesting view on every mechanical aspects (and the Hautlence Vortex has a lot to show, believe us).
The case is made from grade 5 titanium alternating between polished and brushed surfaces. Though the dimensions are impressive – 52mm x 50mm x 17.8mm – the Vortex feels more comfortable and easier to wear than the HL2, that was, due to its vertical shape, quite complicated to use for people with a smaller wrist. Of course, the Hautlence Vortex is not made to be hidden and to be your classical daily beater or a tuxedo watch, but, as a pure horological concept, it remains a relatively usable one. The use of titanium also allows the watch to be quite light (120 grams) and resistant.
Because of the rotation of the movement, the display is also slightly different – and surprisingly easy to read. While the first ‘Concept d’Exception’ HL2 was impressive but not totally intuitive – the dial was busy and made of skeletonized parts and transparent sapphires – the Vortex is easy. It features partly grey tinted sapphire plates that suggest the movement without disturbing too much the main objective of the watch: telling time (in a different way). The dial is inspired by gauges and has a monochromatic look (the only colored part is the power reserve gauge on the right side). The minutes are displayed by a retrograde hand that runs from 0 to 60 on 180 degrees. The hours are visible through an aperture on the left side. Finally, the dial is opened on the bottom of the dial to reveal the unique one-hour tourbillon.
Technically speaking, the Hautlence Vortex uses the same base movement as the HL2, but with several improvements and visual updates. As said, this movement only displays half-trailing hours, retrograde minutes and a power reserve indicator. However, if you watched the video above, you have certainly understood that the situation is a bit more complicated than just these three functions. The first (and most impressive) features is the chain that is used to display the hours (that you can see on the left side of the movement on the photo below). Every hour, the chain partially rotates to indicate the hour in a smooth 3 to 4 second move. On the contrary of instant jumping discs, this move is slow enough to be observed and appreciated. All the gears that participate to this mechanism are visible from the side of the watch – making it a really interactive experience. This chain is powered by a separated barrel (the second one is in charge of the chronometry) and (something that you’ve probably seen in the video), the speed of the chain is regulated and controlled by a governor right in the middle of the watch that works like shock absorber to prevent any fast and dangerous jump (it works just like the governor of a minute repeater watch).
The second attraction comes from the regulating organ integrated in a rotating mobile bridge-type sub-movement. The balance wheel, the escapement wheel, the pallet fork and the fifth wheel are enclosed in a sort of rotating cage that turns on itself from 60° and that is linked with the move of the chain, thus creating a one-hour tourbillon. For the launch of the Vortex, this cage had been redesigned and the chronometric parts (balance wheel and escapement) improved, using nickel obtained by Liga technology (which explains the specific shape). The movement is powered by an off-centered white gold micro-rotor and it boasts 40 hours of power reserve. The whole calibre HLR2.0 comprises 552 parts, all developed for Hautlence and finished to haute horlogerie standards.
The Hautlence Vortex will be a limited to 88 pieces. It is delivered with 3 different straps: a black rubberised alligator leather strap, a black hornback alligator leather strap with red stitching and a black rubber strap. It will be priced at 160.000 Swiss Francs (inc. taxes). More to read on hautlence.com.