Hautlence HLRQ 01
Angus Davies recently visited Hautlence in La Chaux-de-Fonds and had the opportunity to gets “hands-on” with the brand’s latest model, the Hautlence HLRQ 01. The watch is referred to as “Avant-garde” by the Swiss horlogerie brand, and based on first impressions, there seems little reason to disagree.
This detailed review of the Hautlence HLRQ 01 includes live images and specification details.
Hautlence has modernity and cutting-edge design at the epicentre of its culture. When the company first revealed its HL model back in 2005, it resembled nothing-else on the market with its novel case shape perfectly suited to today’s so-called “television loving” generation. Innovation was not restricted merely to the shape of the case. The company ingeniously depicted time with a combination of jumping hours, retrograde minutes and subsidiary seconds. Moreover, a novel set of connecting rods, visible from the front of the watch, provided a mechanical spectacle which intrigued and delighted in equal measure.
Hautlence Origine HL Classic Bleu
Later, the brand eschewed a conventional dial, electing to favour a honeycomb material on the HL ti 01 model which, once again, showed inspired ingenuity.
Hautlence Origine HL ti 01
An inherent danger of being so highly innovative is the risk of embarking on a misguided ego-trip embracing change but with no clear perspective on commerciality or good taste. Thankfully, these criticisms could never be directed towards Hautlence who seem to have consistently hit the mark with the HL and subsequent model ranges.
Earlier this year, after viewing the watch at Baselworld 2013, I wrote about the gorgeous Avant-Garde HL RS 02. A tasteful use of a cyan, provided a novel appearance that lead to my swearing undying love.
Sadly, as any regular reader of ESCAPEMENT will be able to deduce, I frequently lose my heart to horological pin-ups. It should therefore come as no surprise that I became duly smitten with another Hautlence centre-fold whilst on a recent visit to the company’s production facilities in La Chaux-de-Fonds.
A remarkably conventional round case shape
The Hautlence HLRQ 01 is presented in a remarkably conventional round case shape. However, “convention” and “conservatism” are words that do not readily spring to mind when describing Hautlence. Despite a circular profile to the case, this model harnesses much of the blue-sky thinking synonymous with the brand whose name, incidentally, is an anagram of Neuchâtel.
Jumping hours are displayed on the left hand side of the dial. Retrograde minutes feature adjacent the crown. The location of the hours and minutes is in common with the HL RS 02. However, unlike this earlier model, a date aperture, located at 6 o’clock on the dial, has been chosen in preference to a subsidiary seconds display.
Those who adore the sight of the connecting rods system on previous Hautlence models, myself included, need not worry as this design feature has been retained for the Hautlence HLRQ 01.
The sapphire crystal, to the front of the watch, is large and virtually spans the full 44 mm diameter of the case, save for the discreet, angled bezel. It features areas of varying levels of opacity. Eyes are encouraged to explore the various depths located beneath the sapphire crystal. The date disc is partially visible through a smoked area of the glass, whereas an unimpeded view of components is provided near the hour and minute displays.
Appearances can be deceptive. Whilst a case diameter of 44 mm may sound large, the watch appears surprisingly smaller when placed upon the wrist. There appears to be several reasons for this.
The crown does not protrude very much from the caseband, making the watch seem narrower as a result.
The case is constructed of black DLC-coated fine brushed grade 2 titanium, while the crown, bezel and horns are made of 18-carat pink gold. The vertical flanks of the horns extend and nuzzle a significant proportion of the caseband. They are retained in position with DLC-coated bolts. Those areas of the caseband, absent of gold, reveal DLC-coated sections and, by default, provide recessed areas which once again seem to mitigate the size of the case.
Furthermore, the watch appears more diminutive than the specification sheet suggests owing to the short length of the horns and the close proximity of the strap to the caseband.
Placing the watch upon my arm, I found it exceedingly comfortable. The combination of pink gold and black DLC-coated metal coalesce admirably. This is a watch which successfully flirts with the wearer courtesy of its felicitous form and body language that seduces from every angle.
Beauty is more than skin deep
I am often impressed visiting watch brands with the expertise to create screws, pinions, gear wheels, bridges and the vast array of other components necessary to bring a watch to life. However, the companies that have sought vertical integration, have placed much resource into manufacturing components in-house.
Hautlence has selected an alternative approach to manufacturing its watches. Guillaume Tetu, Co-Founder and CEO of Hautlence, recently explained to me that the geographic location of the company in La Chaux-de-Fonds, allows the company to draw upon the manufacturing expertise of several suppliers within the region. The company concentrates its efforts on the design of watch components, quality control and final assembly.
Ultimately, the prudence of this decision rests with the finished watches that leave Hautlence’s atelier. Based on my observations, the quality of watches to bear the Hautlence nomen is exceptional and I see little reason to doubt the wisdom of the company’s strategy.
Inspecting the hand-wound movement of the HLRQ 01, via the exhibition caseback, I was profoundly impressed.
The bridges are adorned with Côtes de Genève motif, as is de rigueur on the majority of watches costing over £2000. However, it is the refined execution of these particular Geneva stripes which is impressive. They are beautiful and blemish free. I have seen other watches, from some long established haute horlogerie maisons, which fail to match this exalted standard.
Close examination of the anglage on the bridges also stands testament to the supplier base of the company and its ability to procure high quality components. The 45° chamfer, or bevel, has a brilliant, shiny appearance that reaffirms the sense of superiority.
A small detail on the movement, residing within the case of the HLRQ 01, is a tiny cartouche featuring on one of the bridges. It sits flush with the adjacent surfaces of the bridge and is adorned with the text, “Avant-garde”. It does not add to the functionality of the watch, but nevertheless I love it. Arguably some would say it is an unnecessary, time consuming, detail and, in some organisations, it would have been countermanded by the bean-counting cost-cutters. However, I feel that, whilst this is a small detail, it is one of many delightful flourishes of considered design that distinguishes Hautlence as special.
Quality and reassurance
As I sat at a watchmaker’s bench during my visit to the atelier, taking pictures of various products, I witnessed a remarkable spectacle. Guillaume Tetu entered the room to personally inspect a few completed watches prior to dispatch to their respective retailers. I cannot think of many companies where the CEO would be quite as “hands-on” with quality control. Once again, it joins a long list of reasons that attract me to Hautlence’s products.
We live in challenging economic times, with some companies struggling to survive within the harsh arena of modern commerce. However, with the resources of the MELB family holding group at its disposal, Hautlence has a bright future.
There may be a risk in selecting a modern design when compared with a trusted classic style from the past. However, sometimes life is a little more exciting when we push boundaries and seek alternative forms to express our inner-self.
The contemporary styling of the Hautlence HLRQ 01 may not be to everyone’s taste. But, I have fallen madly in love with its many charms. My fondness for its style, unusual depiction of time and inherent mechanical virtues cannot be expressed too strongly.
Whilst there are other variants within the HLRQ family, it is HLRQ 01 with its combination of 18-carat pink gold and black DLC-coated grade 2 titanium that, in my opinion, is the belle of the ball.
- Model: Hautlence HLRQ 01
- Case: Black DLC-coated circular fine-brushed grade 2 titanium and 18-carat 4N pink gold; diameter 44.00 mm; height 12.50 mm; water resistant to 3 bar (30 metres); sapphire crystal to front and caseback.
- Functions: Jumping hours; retrograde minutes; date.
- Movement: HL in-house Caliber, hand-wound movement; frequency 21,600 vph (3Hz); 32 jewels; power reserve 40 hours; 255 parts
- Strap: Black hand-sewn alligator leather strap fitted folding clasp made of grade 2 titanium and 18-carat 4N pink gold plate