HYT H4 alinghi

HYT H4 aboard the Alinghi catamaran

Water and Challenge are the common engines of HYT and Alinghi. The first watch brand to have ever tamed water in its mechanical calibers signs a new contract with Alinghi and Ernesto Bertarelli’s catamaran.

By Joel Grandjean

The brand has dropped the bomb of the renewal of its collaboration with Alinghi in the shape of the H2 – a limited series of 25 pieces whose arrival is scheduled for June 2016 and which symbolizes the second part of this collaboration. A little trip down memory lane is in order to remind ourselves of how the first model, the H4, was at the inception of the brand’s connection with sailing.

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Hoisting the sails with skipper Bertarelli

Like Icarus, Ernesto Bertarelli dreamed of flying. Alas, as the sky was quite clouded over by many others with the same aim, he devoted himself to what  we now know to be his passion – sailing. A smart call as, with Alinghi, he has carried Switzerland’s colors together with it stylized swirl logo, to the confines of the oceans. In his track record feature two America Cups (the thirty-first and thirty-second) as well as many noticeable or victorious outings on lakes and seas, here and faraway.

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The list is long and much water has flowed under the bridge since 1991, when the first sail sporting the identitary codes of this brand – now synonymous of victory, careful preparation and passion – appeared on Lake Geneva.

HYT, water meets watchmaking

On HYT’s side, there is the fluidic vision of Lucien Vouillamoz. The dream of the somewhat crazy pathological inventor and engineer was rather geared towards water. Full of noble intentions, he wanted to recreate and adapt to modern times a kind of contemporary clepsydra. His first aim was to create a mechanical engine that could tell the time and do so with precision and poetry by playing with tiny pipes. Then, he wanted to use water as an indicator by trapping itin a mini tube with technical and scientific characteristics so extensive that it took a few good inventions, innovations and patents to get there.(Read: HYT Technologies Part 1: Creation and launch of the project and HYT Technologies Part 2: Functioning and constraints). Finally, HYT has gradually refined its technology thanks toits co-founder Vincent Perriard, who is at the head of the new watch brand.  He is a passionate manager whose favorite and almost dictionary-worthy expression is "disruptive attitude".

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I remember a pre-launch organized by Vincent Perriard in his private house in the heights of Neuchâtel (where the brand originated) before HYT was at Baselworld – with all pomp and circumstance for that – for the first time in 2012. The brand appealed first to a handful of professional distributors, which even contributed financially, then to enthusiasts, to lovers of storytelling and to all those who get fired up when something can potentially free them from their monotonous existence. Finally, HYT has also recently seduced – alongside its sister brand Preciflex SA– a series of investors who have contributed CHF23 million in fundraising, hence best owing the start-up a more powerful future.

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On the Wrist or at sea, the Alinghi red and white will come with you

It was only natural, then, that Alinghi and HYT reunited. Since 2015, HYT has featured next to Swiss – the national company whose logo heralds the confederal prestige – on the sails as well as one of the catamaran flanks of the Alinghi. The GC32 catamaran is a more affordable and popular version that offers technology that only participants in the legendary America Cup usually have access to. It gets the stern and rudder out of the water at high speeds that literally fly the craft above the waves.

It is a very impressive sight, indeed. Icarus’s dream has certainly never been so alive.

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H4 Alinghi, a UFO in the race

Finally, and in order to validate both parties’ intentions, the partnership had to culminate in the creation of a timepiece. Borrowed from the H4 family – the "skeleton models that can sculpt shadows and light"– the H4 Alinghi was born at the end of 2015. Obviously, it decided to make red and white its colors. Red was used in the hour liquid indicator, which was an evolution of previous fluidic technologies that allowed coloring, thus opening the door to all kinds of variations. Also red is used for the seams of the canvas strap and the rubber rimon the second push on the right edge of the bezel at 4:30.

And whilst  we are here, have you wondered why there is a second pusher for a piece that indicates hours, minutes and seconds? Nothing murky, rest assured! It is actually rather bright. Indeed, a switch was needed for the two LED HYT has concealed under the jumper at 6 o’clock. The switch also works the mini dynamo below the dial between 4 o’clock and 5 o’clock, which gets its energy from the strength of the mechanical caliber.

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And the secondary push fulfills its role perfectly, turning at will, and changing through a simple pushthe sculptural architecture of the Alinghi H4 into an illuminated construction. Further, it transforms the entire watch into a fascinating irradiation show throughthe hour indicator fluid.

Finally, red is also to be found on the relief number 6 whose prominence is the visual foundation for the liquid propellant pistons as well as for number 12. To the left of what is used as the dial – since it is a skeleton model and the openwork of the material dictates the aesthetics – one finds between 9 and 10, also in red, the famous Alinghi logo which displays the infinity of its circle while nibblinga little of the transparency of the seconds disc.

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The piece symbolizes how watchmaking has colluded with its worst enemy – water. To top it off the sealed box (water resistant to up to 50 meters) of this 51-mmmicro engineered piece is made of a material used in aeronautics and, of course, sailing. It is a fiendishly rigid carbon, a delightful expression of the inventive verve of a particularly fit  Vincent Perriard – the Carbon 3DTP ™.

The antireflective and convex sapphire glass ensures maximum visibility, optimized by a second sheet of glass on the back of the model. The watch is hand-wound and its winding distills its energy to a skeleton 35 jewels caliber, developed specifically by HYT, beating at 28,800 vibrations per hour (4 hertz). Finally, the piece offers to the wearer – whether skipper or not – a 65-hour power reserve. That is almost three days!

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