HYT H4 Alinghi
Angus Davies gets ‘hands-on’ with the highly innovative HYT H4 Alinghi and ponders how the know-how at the heart of this watch may subsequently develop.
This detailed review of the HYT H4 Alinghi includes live images and specification details.
It is very easy to take for granted the ability to read the time in restricted light and the availability of artificial light. It was in the late nineteenth century that electric street lighting first appeared. It delivered huge benefits in terms of convenience, including the capacity to read the time at night.
Prior to the advent of electric street lighting, minute repeater pocket watches conveyed time aurally by chiming a sequence of hours, quarters and minutes. The wearer would merely need to manipulate a slide on the side of a pocket watch for the time to be imparted using hammers and gongs. However, the mechanical complexity of such timepieces made them incredibly expensive.
Luminescent paints and treatments did not arrive until the early part of the twentieth century. Some early examples were radioactive and had health implications for workers within the watch industry. Thankfully, the luminescent materials used today do not present the same health risks and they continue to be the most popular means of augmenting legibility in restricted light.
Now, HYT has written a new chapter in the annals of horology with the highly inventive H4 Alinghi timepiece. This watch features two LEDs, positioned behind the hour marker at 6 o’clock, bathing the dial display in white light. The LEDs are not powered by batteries, that would devalue the mechanical virtuosity of its hand-wound movement, but rather, employ a high quotient of ingenuity which I will return to later.
Innovation since 2012
Ever since HYT burst onto the watchmaking scene in 2012 it has been a byword for innovation. Its first watch, the H1Titanium, dazzled with its eye-catching appearance. A vividly-hued green liquid unusually traversed the dial and, in so doing, imparted the hours. A comparatively conservative dial displayed the minutes using a sole hand and indexes.
Thereafter, the company began exploring different colour liquids. In itself, this may not sound especially remarkable, however, the composition of each coloured liquid had to be carefully considered to ensure it did not degrade with time. Moreover, consideration had to be given to the stability of the liquid in relation to UV-light and temperature. And finally, the two liquids held within the capillary surrounding the dial had to remain discrete without any mixing taking place. Later, would-be wearers were able to also choose models featuring blue or red liquids.
The H2 incorporated pumps arranged in a V-shaped configuration, similar to a car engine, and in stark contrast to the vertically arranged, parallel pumps used within the H1.
In common with the H1 & H2 collection, the hours are indicated with two liquids moving within a special capillary, one liquid is coloured and one is colourless. It is this meniscus between the two liquids, moving against an adjacent scale, which indicates the hour.
In this instance, however, the liquid is red and the hour scale is not shown on the dial flange but on the bezel instead. The result proves far easier to read.
The minutes are shown on a sapphire circlet, marked with a combination of Arabic numerals and white indices. The upper dial area is open-worked, again further differentiating the H4 Alinghi from its siblings.
Located at 10:30, the Alinghi logo is combined with a small running seconds display. HYT is a ‘partner’ of Alinghi, the famous Swiss sailing syndicate. The avant-garde HYT H4 Alinghi is a timepiece which features the branding of the famous team and the contemporary colourway underscores the modernity of this watch.
Positioned adjacent 02:30 is a power-reserve indicator resides.
It is perhaps the open-worked aspect of the dial which makes the HYT H4 Alinghi appear much different from the H1. Personally, I prefer the cleaner lines of the H1 Iceberg, however, I am sure there will be many readers who do not share my viewpoint and prefer the disclosure of several parts previously hidden from view.
The case of the HYT H4 Alinghi is formed of a new material, ‘diabolically rigid 3DTP™ carbon’. The curiously sounding substance is incredibly rigid and strong. It is used for motor-racing suits and helmets. The material has a grey-black grainy surface which evinces a matte appearance. The material is comparatively light, a fortuitous characteristic considering the colossal case dimensions of 51mm diameter and 17.90mm height.
Positioned at 04:30 is an additional crown, featuring a depiction of a lightening bolt on its vertical flank. The process of turning the red grip encircling this crown generates energy, similar in principle to a dynamo. When the wearer presses this crown, a burst of white light illuminates the display.
The caseback of the watch is equipped with a smoked sapphire crystal.
The strap is presented in silver canvas, combined with a black rubber base and detailed with bright red stitching.
The H4 Alinghi includes a hand-wound mechanical movement and, in common with all other HYT timepieces, draws upon the watchmaking expertise of Audemars Piguet Renaud & Papi (APRP).
Congruent with other exemplars of haute horlogerie, the HYT H4 Alinghi movement features hand-bevelled bridges and is executed to a high standard.
The HYT H4 Alinghi includes the same vertically arranged bellows pumps, similar to the H1, which I particularly like as they deliver a neat appearance.
I cannot fail to compare the H4 Alinghi with my favourite HYT to date, the H1 Iceberg. This latter model continues to stand out for its crisp, clean and fresh appearance and would always be my preferred choice.
As I reflect on the concept of this watch, it seems to fly in the face of good sense. A mechanical watch movement, paired with liquids and now with the addition of electricity thrown into the mix, seems fraught with technical obstacles. Each of these elements are uneasy bedfellows.
However, by displaying courage, HYT has delivered a fascinating timepiece. It must have encountered many challenges throughout the development process of the HYT H4 Alinghi but thankfully, the company persevered. The H4 Alinghi is groundbreaking and it prompts me to ponder how this latest concept, with time, may develop further.
- Model: HYT H4 Alinghi
- Reference: 515-CB-03-RF-RV
- Case: 3DTPTM carbon; diameter 51mm; height 17.90mm; water resistant to 5 bar (50 metres); sapphire crystal to front and caseback.
- Functions: Retrograde fluidic hours; minutes; small seconds; power-reserve indicator.
- Movement: HYT exclusive calibre; hand-wound movement; frequency 28,800 vph (4Hz); 35 jewels; power reserve 65 hours
- Strap: Silver canvas, combined with a black rubber base and detailed with bright red stitching presented on a black DLC titanium folding buckle.
- Limited Edition: 25 pieces