An Odyssey To Number 3: HYT H3
Open the pod bay doors, please, HAL. Do you read me, HAL?
Affirmative, Dave. I read you.
Open the pod bay doors, HAL.
I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.
What’s the problem?
I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do.
What are you talking about, HAL?
This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.
I don’t know what you’re talking about, HAL.
I know that you and Frank were planning to disconnect me. And I’m afraid that’s something I cannot allow to happen.
Where the hell did you get that idea, HAL?
Dave, although you took very thorough precautions in the pod against my hearing you, I could see your lips move.
All right, HAL. I’ll go in through the emergency airlock.
Without your space helmet, Dave, you’re going to find that rather difficult.
HAL, I won’t argue with you anymore. Open the doors!
Dave, this conversation can serve no purpose any more. Goodbye.
Whoa, that was harsh bro
Any science fiction nerd should know these lines, as they are now immortalized as one of the tensest discussions in film between a sentient and arguably disturbed supercomputer and a pilot of an interplanetary spaceship. These lines, from the seminal work 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick, describe how the astronaut, David Bowman, and the ship’s computer, HAL 9000, come to an impasse. The exchange, and the stress it creates, is one of the elements most remembered about this film.
Being a model maker by training, however, I tend to remember other things: objects, props, and sets that were created to establish an environment that encouraged the audience to suspend disbelief.
Strangely, when I watched the launch video for this week’s focus, the HYT H3, and spent some time looking at the movement, I felt a vague memory stirring in my subconscious.
I dismissed this feeling as my usual excitement over incredible pieces like this, and it was forgotten until I sat down to research this story. After about an hour of reading, gazing at pictures, and brainstorming I decided to re-watch the launch video, and that is when it hit me. One of the newest features on the H3 strongly resembles a part of the ship in 2001: A Space Odyssey, the USS Discovery One: the hour indication column.
Dang, I knew this watch was special.
Intensely strong connection to a much loved sci-fi epic aside, the HYT H3 is an increditastic piece of horology, and my favorite HYT to date. Just in case you don’t know what makes it so fantastic I’ll go through some of the main points that make me drool. And so we don’t spend too much time going over previously covered technical details behind the microfluidics, check out what I wrote about the HYT H1 and H2 in When Opposites Collide: Microfluidics Of The HYT H1 And H2.
Where do I begin?
The movement architecture is entirely new for the H3, and for good reason. While working with Audemars Piguet Renaud & Papi (APRP) on the development, HYT created a linear liquid display, thereby departing from the origins of the brand, which has exclusively been in round watches. This allows for a remarkably different layout and new options for showing hours and minutes – and for presenting the mechanism to the wearer.
Beginning on the dial side, we have the balance assembly in the bottom left corner, one of the largest round objects left in this movement and one that takes up a lot of real estate on the dial. It is a great juxtaposition for what else you find with a now largely linearly shaped movement.
Moving right, we see some skeletonized bridges displaying more of the gear train, which eventually connects to the minute indication mechanism. This is one of my favorite parts. The minute indicator is a linear, sixty-minute retrograde hand that slowly slides across the dial before snapping back to zero at the top of the hour. The mechanism that the minute indicator is attached to is super clever.
To begin, the movement designers created a planetary (epicyclic) gear system with a twist. Instead of an internal (annular) ring gear that everything fits inside, HYT and APRP created a central gear around which pivots a carrier. The carrier, as the name would suggest, carries the planetary gears. In this version, it carries two planetary gears that mesh with the “sun” gear (central wheel). The first wheel off the sun gear rotates in a counterclockwise direction as the carrier rolls it slowly around the bottom of the sun gear.
This causes the second planetary wheel to rotate in a clockwise direction, completing a little less than half a rotation in one hour. The minute hand is affixed to this gear, and combined with its movement connected to the carrier it allows for the end of the hand to sweep smoothly and linearly across the dial pointing to the 0-60 printed on a sapphire plate as it goes. When it reaches 60, the carrier (and the gears attached) almost instantly rotate back to a starting position and the process repeats again perfectly, a spectacular example of gear kinematics.
But there’s more!
As a lover of clever mechanisms, I truly enjoy the simplicity of the system layout for creating an entirely different type of movement from one comprising round gears. Not saying that the system is simple, maybe better described as clean.
Connecting to the gear train and the retrograde planetary system next is the hour indication system, which is something much more complex compared to previous HYT models. It all starts with the USS Discovery One, or at least its doppelgänger, the six-segment hour indication column. It features four sides of each segment, with the four sides displaying hours in groups of six going from 0-5, 6-11, 12-17, and finishing with 18-23.
Obviously, people in many countries and in the military will have no problem with the 24-hour format, but it does have an added benefit for everyone else: it acts as a day/night indicator since at 12 o’clock you will know if it is midnight or noon.
This sextuple segmented column rotates once every six hours, and, surprisingly, it is powered by the retraction of fluid in the linear capillary directly on top of it. Well, the entire mechanism gets its power from a set of return springs, the partial vacuum inside the fluid system, and a tiny amount from the capillary action (though that is arguably negligible).
Over the six-hour period that the column is displaying the current quarter of the day you are in, the linear fluid display is slowly flowing across the dial. When the final hour of that quarter is completed, and the retrograde minutes snap back for the sixth time, the fluid system resets and the bellows return to the lower energy state.
That means that after having built up force over six hours pushing against springs and pumping fluids through a tube, it reverses. And as it does, the releasing energy also is utilized to flip the column to the next six-hour period in two stages.
Do the work once, not twice
That idea is integral to the entire mechanism. Instead of using more energy from the mainspring to power not only movement of the fluid but the rotating column too, the movement lets the components do that work. This is why the fluid display and the rotating segmented column is really one mechanism – because the column does not work without the fluid display.
This feature also aids in the creation of a 170-hour power reserve, which might have been a fair amount shorter if the mainspring had needed to do all that work twice. The dual barrels can be seen from the rear of the movement, in typical HYT fashion, along with a power reserve indicator showing the slightly more than seven-day reserve.
And of course, since I am a nerd about all things irrelevant, you will also find an interesting click on the mainspring barrel, maybe not as interesting as other clicks I have pointed out, but interesting in how HYT made it blend with the overall style of the piece. These little things count.
Microfluidics thermal compensator
Another little thing that one might not notice is the thermal compensator located in between the two bellows at the top of the dial. This maintains positional accuracy for the fluid regardless of ambient temperature fluctuations. It also assures the wearer that HYT has definitely done its research, as a ‘microfluidics thermal compensator’ sounds like NASA-level technology.
The final touches on the H3 are the crown position indicator at the bottom right of the dial and the quick-adjust button for the segmented column on the left side of the case. The latter allows the user to quickly change the column instead of cycling through six hours of liquid compression and return. Also, the crown position indicator is as useful as a power reserve indicator on a manually wound watch as it guarantees that the wearer knows whether he or she is in time-setting, winding, or neutral mode.
Stirrings of epic adventures
The HYT H3 definitely is an awesome piece when you consider the movement, the microfluidics, and the design, which is a dramatic change from previous HYT models. It redefines what an HYT can be and raises the bar for others in the industry to keep pushing and making interesting watches.
The H3 also raises some serious sci-fi memories for anyone who has wandered toward Jupiter on board the USS Discovery One with HAL and his dulcet tones. I highly recommend that trip, and then a trip with your eyes and mind over the fantastical creation that is the H3. You won’t be disappointed in either case.
On to the breakdown!
- Wowza Factor * 9.89 This watch should make any watch lover say wowza: it is seriously jaw-droppingly awesome!
- Late Night Lust Appeal * 123.45 » 1,210.63m/s2 At this point, the lust has you glued so hard into your seat that you’d have to wait for your horological acceleration to stabilize lest you become too excited!
- M.G.R. * 71.65 Last week’s movement was perfect (see Leroy Chronomètre à Tourbillon: A Proverbial Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing), this movement is right behind it. It’s stacked with HYT and APRP awesomeness, and you know it.
- Added-Functionitis * Moderate It has a power reserve and a crown position indicator, other than that it’s pretty straightforward. I have to advise regular strength Gotta-HAVE-That cream for the flowing swelling.
- Ouch Outline * 11.4 – Sticking your finger into a blisteringly hot tube immediately after welding it. Sometimes you just forget for that one second and it’s too late. Well, the blister will heal, and I would do it again on multiple fingers to get this thing on my wrist.
- Mermaid Moment * Six increments over six hours! After six hours go by and you see the entire range of functioning on this piece, you will be calling for a DJ and the priest!
- Awesome Total * 757 Multiply the number in the limited edition (25) by the meters of water resistance (30) and add the number of days of power reserve to get an awesome total worthy of respect!
For more information, please visit www.hytwatches.com/collection-h3.
Case: 62 x 41 x 16 mm, titanium and platinum
Movement: manually wound Caliber H3
Functions: fluid hours, minutes; power reserve, crown position indicator
Price: 280,000 Swiss francs