When Opposites Collide: Microfluidics Of The HYT H1 And H2
Oil is to water
As love is to darkness.
It can try eternally
To be the other’s partner.
They do not mix
In jest or in folly,
For non-miscible fluids
Don’t combine lightly.
They like to stay
As separate beings,
Oil and water
Have their own feelings.
But together they can
Be a powerful team,
If their properties observed,
A barrier between.
This difference begins
A tantalizing dance
Of surface tension forces
Keeping both intact.
The luckiest of us
Have also enjoyed
The benefits of this,
If properly employed.
In a timepiece
Together can be found
One of the coolest
The HYT H1
And don’t forget the H2
Have changed the world
At least for a few.
Greatness can sometimes
Be the result of a feud
From two little liquids
Forced together for good.
So enjoy the creations
Of some serious mad men
Who refused to accept
An impossible plan!
I think this might be becoming a trend for me to get a little artsy in describing my fascination with some incredible horological pieces of equipment. Well, at least the HYT H1 and H2 deserve someone poetically waxing about their features and accomplishments.
But many have not really understood exactly why these things are more impressive than, say, the best minute repeater on the market. Oh, whoa, I can’t believe I just said that. How about that they are equally impressive with the best of the best on the market? I think most can agree with that.
Since debuting, the HYT H1 and H2 have changed the landscape of what many thought possible in mechanical watches, and they may have even inspired other talented watchmakers to think outside the box in mixing unusual things with the old-school mechanics inside their timepieces.
A lot of this is due to the incredible quality with which it was done, and the other is the sheer engineering that went into the concept.
Mixing oil and water
People have called the two kinds of fluids found within the HYT timepieces simply “oil and water” and although it has been said that combining them with mechanics is a great achievement, what hasn’t really been stated is that these two fluids (while resembling oil and water) are much more complicated than that and that they were specially formulated for optimal meniscus strength.
What the diddlybop is a meniscus, you ask? Well, it is the barrier between two non-miscible fluids, the result of the liquids meeting but not mixing, e.g. a layer of oil on water or the liquids found in the tiny glass tube inside of an HYT timepiece.
Let’s get into the science to better understand this part. Miscibility is the property of substances to mix in all proportions to create a homogeneous (uniform) solution. Although the term is usually applied to liquids, it can also refer to gases and solids, but not currently for plasma, the fourth state of matter.
Many things can mix to form a solution, but immiscible or non-miscible liquids cannot. They can form emulsions or a multiphasic liquid, but these are not truly homogeneous solutions.
Technically, oil and water can form a mixture in a variety of ways but are still considered immiscible. For that reason, the liquids in the HYT pieces are a little more complex than that.
So when two things like non-miscible liquids cannot mix, they form an external barrier to other things. On a larger scale it is known as surface tension, but in reality this is caused by positive or negative polarities of the molecules that make up the liquid, which repel other molecules of the opposite polarity.
The polarity of the different liquids causes them to repel each other and hold their own surface tension. This surface tension of both liquids creates a visible barrier where they meet but do not mix, and this barrier is called a meniscus.
You might recognize this effect from the bottle of vinaigrette in your fridge that has separated. The barrier between the different oils in the bottle is the meniscus.
The HYT H1 was built on this foundation.
A little capillary action
It is also possible (we need more data to confirm) that the liquid gets a little help from capillary action. Capillary action is the result of polarity-induced cohesion, or more simply, the “stickiness” of the liquid. Without good cohesion from an atomic-sized electrical charge, the liquid wouldn’t pull itself through the tube.
With a glass tube as small as the one in the H1 and H2 timepieces, the liquid would have a tough time moving through it simply due to inherent surface tension and the reluctance of liquids to “flow” when it is not available in large enough quantities. So capillary action has to take over, and it does an almost perfect job.
Combine all of these effects and you get a moving set of liquids that stay perfectly separate but move smoothly through a tiny glass capillary. This movement is controlled by one of my favorite little mechanisms, a snail cam and lever.
In H1 and H2, the green liquid is pushed into the glass tube by a plunger that compresses a sprung bellows holding reservoir. This lever is controlled by riding on a snail cam connected to the hour wheel. On the opposite end of the system, a reverse plunger aids in pulling the liquid through and filling the second sprung bellows holding reservoir with the transparent liquid.
A redesigned H2
With H2, the system of mechanics has been completely redesigned, but the bellows and capillary module are essentially the same, though with a slightly new layout. With the debut of the H2, the movement also got more than a little loving touch by the talented hands at APRP (Audemars Piguet Renaud & Papi).
As previously mentioned, H2 has a completely new movement that allows for some new features and a clever addition for the minute hand. It also makes the movement much more considered as the fluid module is better integrated into the design of the movement.
But the new addition for the minute hand is pretty darn nifty, as the 65-year-old man inside of me would say. The minute hand is an instantaneous jump hand that jumps about thirty degrees once it reaches the 30-minute marker, which coincidentally resides at around the twenty-five-minute position. It then jumps to what would be thirty-five minutes to continue its trek around the dial back to 12 o’clock.
The jump occurs as the hand reaches the cover for the fluid module tube connections, where the glass tube intersects with its mount and is hidden by a plate with the number six on it. It is a clever addition for sure as HYT’s engineers could have easily left the time slightly ambiguous for those ten minutes, but instead chose to add a complication to improve legibility.
This shows the quality with which the movement design was undertaken by the joint hands of HYT and APRP.
The mechanics of both pieces are incredible, and the fully exposed movement of the H2 definitely tickles my curiosity and inner child as I want to sit and stare at all the gears and levers simply to solidly understand the engineering of it as a whole.
Whenever I look at a new timepiece, heck, when I look at a new anything, I always try to figure out how it works if I can, so that I can fully appreciate the majesty of the concept. The HYT H1 and H2 are no different.
There are many people who do not get fascinated by how things work, or by the science and engineering behind pieces like this. Instead, they want something that simply shines of wealth or taste, or maybe even overindulgence. But I prefer something that confuses some, inspires others, and allows me to sit intrigued as I strive to understand its complexity and genius.
For that reason I lust after pieces like the C3H5N3O9 Experiment ZR012, or the Urwerk UR-210, and especially the Harry Winston Opus series. To me, the HYT H1 and H2 fit perfectly into this category along with a great many other pieces because they inspire engineering wonder.
I may never own an HYT timepiece, but I hold it in extremely high regard as a frontrunner for the next generation of horological machines, which may have been kicked off by the now-iconic Ulysse Nardin Freak back in 2001.
This century has seen the rise of “horology for inspiration” after “horology for purpose” gave way to quartz and atomic timekeeping. This may seem “troubling” for some vintage lovers or traditionalists, but, like with 3D printing and CNC machining, every new technology is but another tool in the toolbox. I hope I can use that toolbox to add to the wonder of this world, and my inspiration will come from the likes of HYT and its peers.
And with that, let’s break it down to Chinatown . . . I am in the mood for some Szechuan!
• Wowza Factor * 9.48 It’s filled with liquids that tell you the time. We haven’t seen anything like this since the ancient water clocks of Babylon!
• Late Night Lust Appeal * 88.00 » 862.985m/s2 This force might just jump you back in time if you were in a DeLorean, but nevertheless it will keep you lusting all night!
• M.G.R. * 71.2 Almost a top score for these movements, beaten only by few others so it should consider itself a top finisher.
• Added-Functionitis * Moderate Not mentioned, but these movements include power reserve, optimal temperature gauge, and setting indication. Definitely will need some prescription-strength the Gotta-HAVE-That cream for the more-than-minimal horological swelling.
• Ouch Outline * 12.1 – Kneeing The Edge Of Your Craftsman Style Bed While Rushing To Get The Phone In The Dark It is one of the more surprising pains in your life, simply because you are startled awake and half-unconscious when you are jabbed back to life by solid mahogany. I’ll take it, though, to get the H1 or H2 on my wrist. I’m not picky, I’ll take either really!
• Mermaid Moment * 54 Seconds Of Smooth Flowing Liquid! The slow retrograde flow of the liquid back to 6 for another twelve-hour climb of the magic meniscus makes a trip to the caterer in order.
• Awesome Total * 759 An arbitrary number of general awesomeness that I think properly displays my adoration for this piece. It suits it.
For more information, please visit Hytwatches.com.
Case: 48.8 x 17.9 mm titanium, DLC-coated titanium, red gold, bronze, ALUN 316B, polyepoxyde, white gold, platinum
Movement: manually wound H1 and H2 calibers
Functions: hours, minutes, power reserve, temperature gauge, setting gauge
Price: starting at $45,000