WATCH REVIEW

Borrowed Time: HYT H0 Gold Blue Fluid


HYT has been a source of intrigue in the watch community ever since it debuted to immense buzz at Baselworld 2012. In the intervening years, the iconoclastic “hydro-mechanical horologists” at the Neuchâtel-based brand have introduced numerous variations on the original model, dubbed H1. I have long been curious about how one of these highly individualistic timepieces would look and feel on the wrist, not to mention about what it would be like to read the time on one for any lengthy period in various situations. I had the opportunity to find out recently, arranging a few weeks with one of HYT’s newest releases, the H0 Gold Blue Fluid.

HYT H0 Gold Blue Fluid - reclining
HYT H0 Gold Blue Fluid (Ref. 048-GD-94-BF-CR)

To start, as per usual, with the watch’s case, let’s get this out of the way right now: the H0 is a big hunk of gold on the wrist, and the weight is substantial. The round, 2N yellow gold case, measuring a titanic 48.8 mm in diameter, offers an array of sleek finishes, from micro-blasted to polished to satin-brushed. It is topped off by a box-type crystal with nonreflective coating that increases the already cuff-stretching thickness to 18.7 mm. The fluted crown is unconventionally placed at 2 o’clock. The crown is small but easy to grip when you need to wind the watch and set the time. The latter operation, since this is an HYT watch, involves simultaneously moving a hand for the minutes indication and advancing the blue liquid through the capillary tube on the outer rim of the dial for the hour setting.

HYT H0 Gold Blue Fluid - crystal
A 24-hour scale is engraved on the side of the case.
HYT H0 Gold Blue Fluid - crown
The HYT logo is engraved into the off-centered, fluted crown.

Next we move on to the dial, which as HYT watches go is almost traditional in its design compared to other models — like the aforementioned H1 and progeny like the H2 and H3, which open up the dial to reveal more of the movement’s industrial, almost sci-fi-looking elements, and the recently launched Skull references, in which the timekeeping takes a back seat to the bold aesthetics. The gold opaline surface is mostly solid, with engraved numerals and indices and brushed and microblasted finishing on the subdials. The largest subdial, which displays the minutes by means of a single trapezoidal hand, overlaps a smaller one on the left, with a running seconds display, and another circle with a kidney-shaped aperture for the cleverly executed power reserve display. An outer track with additional engraved markers serves as the hours track, with the blue liquid in a borosilicate glass capillary tube displaying the passing of time as it flows from hour to hour. The engraved markers are a bit light and subtle to be easily legible in low light, but the reading of the time does become somewhat intuitive once one gets used to this unconventional display, especially for those, like myself, who are fans of regulator dials, in which hours, minutes and seconds are all indicated on separate subdials.

HYT H0 Gold Blue Fluid - dial CU
The hour is displayed along an outer scale by blue liquid, while the minute is read on the subdial at 12 o’clock.
HYT H0 Gold Blue Fluid - dial - subdials
The analog small seconds subdial at 10 o’clock reveals at a glance that the watch is running.

The small subdial for the running seconds is probably the best way to discern at a glance whether the watch is running after it’s been idle for a while. However, the power-reserve indicator on the right is another useful element, and one designed in the spirit of the watch’s fluidic motif. When the movement has been fully wound, the semicicular window fills with a blue color that matches the bright hue of the liquid in the micro-tube; as this power reserve becomes depleted, the blue area  diminishes, breaking up into a droplet pattern that gradually gives way to a flat, dark gold surface indicating that the mainspring has nearly run down — which takes about 2 1/2 days, based on HYT’s stated power reserve for the movement of 65 hours. It is, as you might expect, fun to wind up the watch from “empty” and watch as the aperture fills up with blue.

HYT H0 Gold Blue Fluid - dial - power reserve
The 65-hour power reserve is colorfully displayed in a kidney-shaped aperture.

Below this triumvirate of overlapping subdials are two apertures for the small metal bellows that are instrumental in pushing the fluid (actually two fluids, one colored and one clear) through the capillary tube to indicate the advancing of the hours. Again, aside from the blue fluid-filled capillary itself, and the relatively small power-reserve indication, these devices are the only blatant visual elements that call out the watch from across the room as being from HYT; I almost wanted to see a more openworked dial, with a more substantive window into the micromechanical marvels that make this timepiece, and this brand, so special — but of course there are plenty of other HYT models that offer this look. A smattering of high-tech on a luxurious gold stage seems to be the mission statement here, and in this the H0 succeeds admirably.

HYT H0 Gold Blue Fluid - dial - bellows
Two tiny bellows, visible through the dial, pump the liquid through the glass tubes.

Of course, the high-tech elements dominate the rear side of this watch, whose mechanical movement is on full, glorious display behind a clear sapphire caseback. In the past, we at WatchTime have explored in detail the intriguing technology that makes HYT movements (literally) tick; I won’t go into the science lesson again here, but our 2012 feature on the original HYT H1, as well as Norma Buchanan’s 2016 in-depth profile of HYT and its evolution as a brand, are both recommended reading for any tech-heads interested in drilling down into the particulars of “hydromechanical horology.” In summary, traditional-watch purists can be assured that despite the decidedly non-analog elements, and the incongruous presence of liquid inside the movement, HYT’s caliber is all mechanical, with no batteries or electronic parts. It’s equipped with an oscillator that beats at 28,800 vph, includes 35 jewels, and features decoration and hand bevelling on its curved and sharply angled bridges. Inside one of the two larger bellows, which help to transmit energy from the mainspring to HYT’s patented micro-fluidic module, is a smaller one, called a “thermal compensator,” with its own special liquid that serves to regulate the effect of temperature changes on the liquids inside the tubes to maintain timekeeping accuracy. This tiny role-player, in my brief experience wearing the H0, performed its task admirably: once I got used to its unconventional time reading, I came to trust the watch to keep my traditionally hectic pre-holidays agenda on schedule.

HYT H0 Gold Fluid - back
The exclusive HYT movement is visible through the back.
HYT H0 Gold Fluid - movement - top
The angular bridges boast a high level of finishing.
HYT H0 Gold Fluid - movement - bottom
The bellows transmit power from the escapement to the fluidic module.

As for the wearing comfort, it needs to be stated up front that the strap on my test model — made of blue rubber with a perforated motif — is not the strap that is intended for the commercial models of the H0 Gold. It is without a doubt more sporty, and less luxurious, than the matte blue alligator leather strap that HYT includes with the watch normally. It is, however, quite comfortable, as most rubber straps tend to be, its coloring plays off the dial’s blue liquid highlights very well, and its relative lightness helped reduce the overall load of the thick, gold case to which it’s attached, fairly seamlessly, via four screws (there are no visible lugs). The folding buckle with engraved “HYT” logo, presumably the same one used with the leather strap, combines brushed 2n yellow gold and titanium (the latter offering another smidgen of weight reduction) and fastens the blue bracelet securely.

HYT H0 Blue Liquid - buckle
The strap fastens securely with a gold-and-titanium buckle.

HYT has priced the H0 Gold Blue Fluid at CHF 54,000, or about $54,550, at retail — a fair enough ask, in my opinion, for the abundance of gold as well as the proprietary timekeeping technology. Like all the models that have preceded it, this is not an understated timepiece, content to nestle under a cuff only to demurely emerge on occasion for a sober round of compliments. This is a watch that seeks, and inevitably draws, attention — and the more you learn about it, the more attention you realize it deserves.

HYT H0 Gold Blue Liquid - wrist
The HYT H0 Gold Blue Fluid is an attention-getter on the wrist.
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