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December 18, 2012updated Feb 08, 2013

OPPOSITES ATTRACT

By Chris Boyle

H1 / HYT

Some of the most outrageous, out-of-thebox timepiece designs can be found among independent watch brands.

These are companies who use their more limited resources, unexpected partnerships and “mad scientist” ideas to create timepieces that challenge the status quo and keep the big boy watch brands on their toes.

This year a couple of these independent watch brands decided to try to transform two of a timepiece’s deadliest enemies into essential allies.

At the up-and-coming watch brand HYT, which stands for hydro-technology, the goal was to find a way to incorporate water into a functional automatic movement. The design team discovered a way to use a liquid filled circular tube fixed to the edge of the watch face to push and pull a clear or green liquid around the dial to indicate the hours of the day. Using a system of bellows attached to each end of the tube, the watchmakers were able to adjust the proportions of clear or colored fluid to correctly show the passage of time.

The watch is called the HYT H1, and it is the brainchild of a number of leading watchmakers, including Lucien Vouillamoz and Bruno Moutarlier. But it is the brand’s CEO, Vincent Perriar—he joined the company in 2010 from Concord where the avant garde C1 Quantum Gravity came to fruition—who seems to have really given the watch its high-tech look and feel.

The other independent watchmaker that created quite a buzz at Basel was the universally respected Christophe Claret. With his signature label he decided to take on the challenge of using magnets in his watch design. Magnets are another bane to watch mechanisms. As most watches are crafted from metal components, the proximity of a magnet will hinder the different metallic elements from functioning properly.

Mr. Claret took this problem and turned it into an asset. He used magnetic bumpers located along the outside of his X-TREM-1 watch case to give the illusion that the steel metal balls encased in crystal sapphire tubes could float in mid air, and silently move up and down the tubes to indicate both the hours and minutes.

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Both of these timepieces look like they have come from the not-too-distant future. But although they truly exist in the here and now, it is their technological advancements that could have an immense impact on the watch industry as a whole. Already prototype watches using water trapped inside the watch case are being field tested. For collectors who get in on the ground floor, these paradigm-shifting timepieces will be sure-bet investment pieces that will only increase in value over the coming years.

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