Why So Serious? Lighten Up With The Hautlence Labyrinth
Have you ever realized that some people just don’t get jokes? Have you ever experienced that moment when you have to ask yourself, “Are they missing the point?”
Comedians will tell you that there are always audience members that won’t get the sarcasm behind a joke, or get the joke at all, and they end up getting upset. In comedy, there is always the risk that irony or a subtly sarcastic tone won’t be understood, alienating the audience.
On the internet, things are that much more difficult. People have always used irony and sarcasm in writing, and with the plethora of ways to comment and share ideas on the worldwide web, humor and miscommunication go hand-in-hand.
For this reason, humor and anything even remotely playful walks a very fine line of being taken seriously rather than in jest, causing many of those who didn’t get the joke to digitally set fire to the comments with their copious aggrievements.
When I notice something that shows self-awareness and points out its own absurdity, I immediately look for those that don’t get the joke, those that miss the whole point right from the beginning.
It usually isn’t a very long wait.
When during Baselworld 2016 Hautlence released something unusual, I knew things were about to get fun. What the brand released was not a watch but a piece of wrist entertainment as part of a new Playground collection called Labyrinth.
A storm of emotion
Almost immediately this piece found itself on a path around the internet on watch blogs and general news sites alike. The general consensus was that Labyrinth, which is a mechanical ball puzzle game for the wrist, was weird, ridiculous, and “not even a watch.”
The funny thing is, Hautlence pretty much said as much, “The Labyrinth is an entirely essential yet fundamentally useless object.” So people quoted that and then went on to discuss why they didn’t like it since it was a “watch” that didn’t tell time: it was “an expensive marketing exercise,” just “a fancy toy,” and the list goes on.
And my immediate thought was . . . “of course, that’s the point.” Duh.
The Labyrinth is an exercise in irreverence from a brand that takes watchmaking seriously while allowing creativity to define direction. This means that the brand isn’t afraid to take a few risks, believing that as long as you make it well then any idea should be worth exploring.
Nobody can deny that Hautlence has made some extremely serious and complicated horological creations, pushing the boundaries of creativity in watchmaking.
But there have been people panning Hautlence (and pretty much every other avant-garde watchmaker) since the beginning for making incredible and/or crazy watches that aren’t as usable or wearable as a Patek Philippe or a Rolex.
Well, who said Hautlence wanted to be Patek Philippe or a Rolex? Certainly not Hautlence.
To my mind, with Labyrinth Hautlence was simply suggesting that everyone should lighten up a bit and realize that things don’t have to be so serious. It was a playful experiment in promoting fun for fun’s sake.
The Labyrinth was developed as a way to bring attention to how much we are slaves to time, and that what we all need in our busy lives is just a bit more play. Hautlence CEO and co-founder Sandro Reginelli wanted a distraction on the wrist, something that reminded him of his youth and showed people that life doesn’t have to be about meetings and deadlines.
As a more abstract idea, it also was to make people remember not to take themselves too seriously.
This object is a mechanical chill pill for solvent people who most definitely need a reason to relax. And let’s be honest, it is expensive compared to a plastic version of the game, but that doesn’t make it pointless. As a person that builds things for a living, I can say that many things I’ve come across in my life are pretty useless and unnecessary. But until we can all be honest and admit that most of our lives are spent doing useless and unnecessary things and spending money on superfluous items, we will struggle to have a conversation about fun, play, and luxury.
Many of those commenting on how pointless or silly the Labyrinth is are people who may never spend more than a couple thousand on a watch (this may be a high estimate), let alone the prices Hautlence charges for its rather incredible horology. These just the people who also might need a little bit more fun and relaxation in their lives, too.
It seems to me like Hautlence was extending a hand saying, “Hey, don’t worry, let’s play!”
The idea of adult play isn’t something that only hippies believe in. In fact, adult play has been gaining traction in psychology, therapy, and medical circles as vital to human happiness (just look at the recent adult coloring movement for one).
Everyone needs to play, and Hautlence was trying to be a part of that. And the internet lost its collective mind because how could a brand be a serious watchmaker if it dabbled in a silly idea like play.
Except that it isn’t. People stress out over trivial things so it seems we all could use a bit more frivolity in our lives. And this is a pretty cool place to start.
Visually, the Labyrinth is a very cool object to gaze at, and definitely excites my inner child who loves playing with games and puzzles. Who am I kidding, I am my inner child, and I love games and puzzles!
A labyrinth has always been a fascination because the premise is so simple but the reality can be much more complicated. It might be one of the more perfect games because it requires a very small initial learning curve but provides an extensive mental challenge to complete the task.
The Labyrinth itself
When you add the scaled down aspect of the Labyrinth combined with the usage ergonomics, a wrist-mounted ball puzzle game becomes a new and intriguing challenge. The dial is machined from solid gold (red or white gold) with a visually complex maze that adds in a few dead ends and offshoots to mess with the ball.
The ball is made from (depending on the maze material) either red or white gold providing contrast to the maze.
The maze has two holes located where 6 o’clock would be on a watch, one at the beginning and one at the end of the maze. Before you start to play, the ball is held underneath the dial between the starting and finishing hole. To begin the game you turn the crown, which rotates an internal ring gear in the rear of the piece via a bevel gear attached to the crown stem. The ring gear rotates between three jewels and has a cam profile on its face (the side facing the maze) that helps to lift the ball out of the starting hole.
Imagine a miniature roller coaster track that slowly pushes the ball up as it is held between the starting and finishing holes.
Once the ball is in the maze, the challenge begins. Snaking your way through the paths there are more than 70 directions you can go, and if done perfectly it still requires exactly 60 turns to reach the end. After your adventure is completed, the ball falls through the finish hole and rests beneath the maze awaiting the next time you turn the crown to raise the ball from the depths.
And in case you don’t want to try again immediately, you can take the time to gaze into the hypnotic maze or check out the cool mechanics on the rear of the piece. The finishing is superb, of course, and the mechanism is nothing to scoff at. Simple, while not easy, it shows that passion for doing something well can even be found when building something to inspire play.
And play you should.
If you listened to most people, you might think that life is supposed to be serious. But who gave anyone the idea that life is serious and that we shouldn’t play as much as possible? Many people seemed offended by the idea that someone might not take themselves seriously.
But if a brand wants to use its incredible talent to have some fun and inspire others to do the same, I’m all for it. A little irreverence can be a good thing. I’m definitely going to keep an eye out for the next entry in the Hautlence Playground collection.
Until then, the breakdown!
- Wowza Factor * 10 This piece gets full marks given the intense reaction by the WIS community and general population combined. Plus it just looks freaking cool!
- Late Night Lust Appeal * 67.8 » 664.891 m/s2 The amount that you might lust over this watch is directly proportional to how much you want to play hooky from work and go race go-karts on a Tuesday.
- M.G.R. * 50 A straight 50 not because the movement has anything to do with time measurement or requires precise adjustment, but because it had a fair amount of thought and effort put into it to accomplish a simple task.
- Added-Functionitis * Moderate Technically it is only an added function since it never was a watch in the first place. So it only does something other than telling time, and for that it requires standard strength Gotta-HAVE-That cream for the very playful swelling.
- Ouch Outline * 7.5 Severe wrist sprain from vigorous twisting movements playing a wrist mounted ball maze game. Sometimes you need to get a little meta to describe how much “ouch” is expected. And I would definitely take the hurt to have a little fun!
- Mermaid Moment * It’s In The Hole! Even though Carl the groundskeeper from Caddyshack was speaking about golf, I feel like he would have been just as enthusiastic about finishing this wrist maze. He might be so enthused he would check into booking the clubhouse for a mid-July ceremony!
- Awesome Total * 810 Multiply the minimum number of turns to solve the maze (60) with the number of jewels in the mechanism (9), then multiply that by the hours of power reserve (which is basically how long you can stay up, so let’s say 1.5 days to be safe) and you will end up with a rather playful awesome total!
For more information, please visit http://www.hautlence.com/en/component/flexicontent/37-atelier/1158-labyrinth-01.
Case: 37 x 43.5 x 13 mm, titanium
Movement: manual movement of ball, aided by gravity
Functions: puzzle maze with mechanical lift
Price: 12,000 Swiss francs