Hautlence Playground Labyrinth

The Hautlence Playground Labyrinth provides a wonderful antidote to the frenzied pace of modern living. The watch company from La Chaux-de-Fonds has released a timepiece which instead of imparting the time, invites the wearer to momentarily set time aside, escaping to a playful world normally the preserve of children.

This detailed review of the Hautlence Playground Labyrinth includes live images, specification details and pricing.

Image of Hautlence for watch review

Over the years I have often been asked to define ‘luxury’. My answers may vary slightly but the essence is always the same. It is my belief that ‘real luxury’ is not a matter of branding but the creation of a product or service, delivered without any discernible compromise, where the costs incurred are purely incidental. Only perfection is of importance in the rarefied world of ‘real luxury’.

Sometimes, I am shown so-called ‘luxury’ products only to feel a sense of disappointment. On occasion, I have scratched away at the veneer of branding, with a discriminating finger nail, only to discover mediocre quality or lamentable design. There are many prosaic and lacklustre goods which dupe the foolish with misleadingly high prices but ‘real luxury’ is scarce by definition.

Hautlence understand the ideals of ‘luxury’

Hautlence, the high-end Swiss watch company based in La Chaux-de-Fonds, knows much about luxury. The company was founded in 2004 and over the last 12 years has gained a loyal fan base for its timepieces. Hautlence expertly mixes neoteric styling, elevated levels of movement finishing and, most notably, ingenious means of imparting time. Quite simply, this practitioner of contemporary haute horlogerie understands the ideals of ‘luxury’ and shares my understanding of what the term means.

Recently, the Swiss watch brand unveiled an unusual twist on the notion of a luxury watch, releasing the Hautlence Playground Labyrinth. This object, crafted in a fusion of grade 5 titanium and precious metal, is described as ‘a useless yet entirely essential object’.

Image of Hautlence for watch review

Hautlence Playground Labyrinth 01

The Hautlence Playground Labyrinth is a wristworn maze. The case resembles a wristwatch, but close examination reveals no time indications or oscillating balance wheel. Instead, the Labyrinth is a sea of tranquility, adorned with an intricate series of interwoven paths which play host to a polished platinum ball. The wearer is invited to navigate the ball, from its starting point, through a miniature streetscape, to its final destination, a hole in the epidermis of the dial.

Cash-rich, time-poor

While some may question the relevance of this seemingly useless object and query the Labyrinth’s relationship with fine watchmaking, in my opinion, its role is obvious.

Invariably, success in life is based on endeavour.

In youth, there is often a lack of pecuniary means. For example, many university students will taste the austere reality of a grant cheque existence. Later in life, professional success arrives along with increased prosperity. However, this apparent moment of utopia leads to another obstacle, marring the sweet taste of life. Now, financial wealth has robbed its beneficiary of available time. Indeed, the idiom ‘cash-rich, time-poor’ could easily describe a middle-age existence familiar to many.

Become lost in the moment

True luxury is being able to stop, take time out from the frenetic pace of life and become lost in the moment.

Image of Hautlence for watch review

Hautlence Playground Labyrinth 02

Placing the Hautlence Playground Labyrinth 02 upon my left wrist, I soon enjoyed steering the minuscule platinum ball around the various avenues populating its dial. Holding the Labyrinth with two hands makes the task of moving the ball to its ultimate destination comparatively simple. However, when worn on the wrist the trial is much greater. I struggled to master the challenge but soon realised that all my usual preoccupying thoughts had momentarily disappeared. This bout of concentration had led me to forget my woes and, despite lacking the necessary fine motor skills to achieve my playful goals, I soon realised I had, for a few brief moments, escaped the hubbub synonymous with modern-day life and enjoyed the luxury of taking a little ‘time out’.

A worthy member of the Hautlence family

To the uninitiated, the Hautlence Playground Labyrinth may seem a strange departure from making timepieces. However, the grade 5 titanium case shares the same peerless construction of the maison’s ‘regular’ fine watches. The Labyrinth is equipped with a quality sapphire crystal, typically found on a high-end watch and, to the rear of the Labyrinth, an exhibition caseback reveals some of the mechanical know-how within.

A mechanical lift, operated by turning the crown, transports the platinum ball from the underside of the dial upwards to the starting point of the maze. It also features ‘bevel gears’, sand-blasted and vertical satin finishing with ‘diamond-lapped angles’.

Would-be owners can specify their Labyrinth with either a solid 5N red gold or solid 18-carat white gold maze-like dial, exquisitely imbued with vertical satin surfaces, adorned with diamond-lapped angles.

I adore the Labyrinth and enjoyed wearing it upon my wrist. The Hautlence Playground Labyrinth 01, with its solid 5N red gold dial, exudes warmth, however, I preferred the comparatively neutral tones of the white gold variant, the Labyrinth 02.

More ‘useless objects’ are planned

The Hautlence Playground Labyrinth is the first model of the ‘Playful collection’ of mechanical games for individuals needing to escape the manic madness of everyday life. Once again, Hautlence has wowed onlookers with a breathtaking dose of creativity, but also demonstrated its profound understanding of the concept of ‘luxury’.


Technical specification

  • Model: Hautlence Playground Labyrinth 02
  • Case: Satin-finished grade 5 titatnium; dimensions 37 x 43.5mm; height 13mm; water resistant to 3 bar (30 metres); sapphire crystal to front and caseback.
  • Functions: Labyrinth
  • Movement: Mechanical lift including bevel gears; 9 jewels; sand-blasted, vertical satin finishing with diamond-lapped angles
  • Strap: Black satin-finished Louisiana alligator leather strap presented on a titanium folding clasp
  • Price: CHF 12,000 (RRP as at 13.8.2016)
  • Limited Edition: 12 pieces

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