One of the most talked-about timepieces of the 2012 Baselworld watch fair was the HYT H1, an unusual-looking watch that indicates the time by means of two liquids — one green, one clear — that flow through a tiny tube along a peripheral hours scale. WatchTime technical editor Mike Disher explores the technology behind the watch and its movement, and we provide wallpaper images, prices, and an informative video.
Water clocks were the first complicated systems for measuring time. A millennium after they were invented, Confucius said that time flows away like the water in a river. The metaphor comparing flowing water to passing time is deeply ingrained in us. Lucien Vouillamoz recognized this, and in 2002 he proposed bringing the water clock into the 21st century and putting it on your wrist. Many ideas are more easily said than done, and this proved to be one of them.
Over the next several years, the concept evolved into a system in which a small, flexible reservoir, or bellows, would be attached to each end of a thin, clear, circular tube that would fit inside a watch case. The bellows and tube would contain two different liquids — one colored, one clear. Where the liquids met, a line, or meniscus, would be visible. As one bellows compressed, the meniscus would move, like fluid being pushed through a needle by a syringe plunger. Put an hour or minutes scale next to the circular tube, and the moving meniscus could mark the passage of time. That is the basic concept behind the HYT H1.
The exhibition caseback reveals the movement’s bellows-and-pistons system.
To prevent leaks and evaporation, the system is manufactured to very close tolerances. The glass tube containing the liquid is blown by a machine to a tolerance of 1 micron. The material used to create the bellows was inspired by sensors used by NASA. The inner surface of the bellows is coated with gold to increase strength and flexibility. The liquid-handling system must be assembled in a clean room. Seven patents have been registered for the technology, and one for the design.