Cerrato resets quality checks to revive watch sales at HYT

Given that popular wisdom warns against introducing any liquid other than a drop of oil into a watch, news last year that HYT had filed for bankruptcy was not unexpected.

Founded in 2012, the quirky Swiss brand made watches that use a mechanical movement both to drive a minute hand in the conventional way and to mark the hours by pumping a fluorescent fluid through a system of capillary tubes.

But perhaps more surprising than this display is the fact that HYT has been resurrected less than a year after its demise – and the managing director is a man better known for creating retro-style watches than avant-garde watches. .

Davide Cerrato became one of the industry’s star designers, starting his millennium at Panerai before joining Tudor in 2005, where his successful Heritage Black Bay line led the brand’s revival in Europe and the United States.

A decade later, Cerrato became managing director of Montblanc’s watch division, revitalizing its lineup with new models that capitalized on the vintage aesthetic before leaving a year ago to “take on new professional challenges”.

The first fruit of those challenges appears this week in the form of HYT’s first next-generation watch, a titanium-cased model limited to 27 pieces priced at 70,000 Swiss francs ($76,500).

It’s the result of six months of intensive work to relaunch the company, which Cerrato says is new in everything but the name – and the fact that its watches still use liquid to tell the time.

“All activities of the previous business have ceased and a new company, Kairos Technology Switzerland, was established last June through a group of private investors who have set aside enough money to develop HYT over the next five years,” says Cerrato.

“Our first decision was to perform a full quality reset as this was an area where HYT had a number of issues in the past, particularly in terms of preventing the two fluids in the system from mix.

“We also want to improve the luxury and appeal of the brand – I think earlier models were more about the complexity of the technology than the enjoyment of wearing the watch, and later versions were priced too low to be serious collectors but where there were also too many competitors.

To this end, KTS is working with HYT’s former movement supplier, Purtec, where renowned master watchmakers Eric Coudray and Paul Clementi have developed a new hand-wound caliber to fit in a new case from specialist manufacturer Efteor.

“The case is of a three-layer modular design in DLC [diamond-like carbon] treated titanium, with a carbon fiber middle,” says Cerrato. “This means that it will be very easy to customize future models. This makes the watch much thinner than before and has reduced the overall weight making it more comfortable to wear.

“We also worked a lot on readability. Previous HYTs suffered from a lot of reflection from the large sapphire crystal, so we have . . . place indexes around the capillaries that make it easier to read the time.

The basic principle of the original HYT remains the same. It still works by holding a colored liquid in one tank and a transparent liquid in the other, with each liquid having different characteristics to prevent mixing. Both reservoirs incorporate bellows which, driven by mechanical motion, push fluids in opposite directions around specially coated capillaries, which have a bore of just 0.8mm. When the colored liquid has made a complete circuit, its pump compresses, while the other bellows lengthens and pushes the liquid back so that the whole process can begin again.

It took more than a decade of research to perfect the original HYT liquid display, which was invented in 2002 by Swiss entrepreneur Lucien Vouillamoz. A sister company, Preciflex, was created to patent the system, and it remains the exclusive supplier of modules for the new generation watches.

“For me, the concept of liquid watches has always had meaning and although I became known for pushing the heritage trend, I always admired that HYT was one of the few watch brands that only looked forward. future,” says Cerrato. “The brand has enormous potential. It’s such a great mix of horology and creativity – there’s nothing else like it on the market and it’s something designers can have a lot of fun with because we’re very, very far from normal watchmaking.

Rob Corder, editor of WatchPro magazine, believes HYT is relaunching at the right time and, if the product is up to snuff, it could attract collectors looking for the “next thing” in independent watchmaking. “The market is expanding and smaller independents are seeing increasing success,” he says.

“HYT might appeal to more adventurous buyers simply because it offers such a different proposition to a regular watch.”

But, as the demise of the original HYT showed, it’s extremely difficult to get it right, says Cerrato. “As well as being sure that the liquids won’t mix or stick to the capillary tubes, we need to install a thermal compensator in one of the tiny bellows to account for temperature changes, because a fluid expands 1,000 times more than a solid,” he said. Remarks. “The fluidic module must be 10,000 times more waterproof than a diver’s watch.”

The reborn HYT is expected to manufacture no more than 200 watches in its first year to ensure quality, although it will unveil two more models this year.

Cerrato says owners of first-generation HYT watches will still be able to return them to KTS for repair, but anything left unsold at retailers will be repurchased by HYT and “dried up” to stabilize the second-hand market and pave the way for the new range.

Floyd N. Morlan