The HYT H2 Tradition: Timeless In A Surprisingly Steampunk Way
In the “world of things” there is a lot of passion for what has come before and what has a sense of history attached to it. Patina, charm, character: all of these words are used to describe vintage objects that have a little something special to them, something that new things just don’t have.
Many people love the idea of vintage but struggle to get past the lack of modernity that comes with traditional objects. Take the automobile for example: many profess to love classic cars and wish for one in the garage, but when pressed about whether or not they would actually purchase one there is hesitation. They then claim the rudimentary systems and engineering would make for a less-than-stellar vehicle experience because they are accustomed to modern technology.
For people of that mind, car companies have built retro-looking vehicles on modern platforms such as the final generation of the Ford Thunderbird or the Nissan Figaro, both of which harken back to the 1950s with body styling and details reminiscent of their ancestors. But underneath the hood and inside the cockpit, these cars are clearly modern vehicles with all the contemporary benefits.
Regardless of the fact that those vehicles weren’t old at all and simply shared the styling of vintage machines, they truly did combine (for the most part) the incredibly cool charm of the historical inspiration with the convenience of everything modern. It was a compromise for passion.
The practice of making retro-styled modern examples is not a new idea in the watch industry. In fact, almost half of all watches that are released every year seem to have something to do with a historical model from the archives.
The arguments for and against this practice aside, many retro-styled watches are a good homage to the past. Some are so historically inspired you could take a trip on a time machine to the period that inspired it and nobody would look twice if you had the modern watch on.
The HYT H2 Tradition is not one of those watches. Not even close. And that fact is what makes it even more awesomazing. In reference to making the H2 Tradition, HYT CEO Vincent Perriard said, “We have always said that we would never create a classic piece. Having said that, this is exactly what we’ve done.”
A gentleman’s disagreement.
As much as I like what HYT has done, this is where I have to politely disagree with Mr. Perriard: HYT has not made a classic piece. The H2 Tradition would look as ahead of its time fifty or a hundred years ago as all of the HYT timepieces do today.
The HYT concept is so fantastically technically advanced, the glowing light of its awesomeness cannot be hidden by lacquered dials, Roman numerals, and a superbly guilloche main plate.
But what you can do by adding all of those features to an HYT timepiece is create an anachronism of horology that delights the senses with newness and calms the nerves with familiarity. The juxtaposition of classical elements directly next to the results of leading research into fluid mechanics is something I am surprised to see and so entirely happy to have witnessed.
At this point I feel like I have to say that I am a total nerd for HYT watches and the microfluidics that they contain. I lost sleep trying to figure out how the system works and have pined longingly for an H3 (seriously, I want one), so when I received word that the company was releasing a classically inspired H2, I was as giddy as a school boy. And a bit nervous.
But I had no reason to be worried as the H2 Tradition is not a blandized concession to selling more mainstream watches by abandoning what makes the brand’s products cool in the first place. No, the Tradition is cool technology mixed with beautiful style and a dash of surprise thrown in.
Taking a slightly different approach
With the H2 Tradition, HYT has attempted to make a classically inspired watch that fits within the HYT family. What it created was something that utilized some historically awesome elements while continuing to emphasize the radical mechanics. So let’s run through what exactly this new piece really has going for it.
First it employs Roman numerals instead of Arabic numerals for the hour markers around the flange, which is a big change for a watch of this type. Most will probably agree that choosing between Roman numerals and Arabic numerals on a majority of watches really comes down to preference.
But you never see certain types of watches with Roman numerals because they seem out of place. I mean, there is a reason you hadn’t seen Roman numerals on an MB&F watch until the release of the Legacy Machines.
Classic watches work with Roman numerals, avant-garde watches usually don’t.
So that is why it is interesting to see the interplay created with this piece thanks to the inclusion of Roman numerals on the hour ring and even a “tombstone” that HYT calls a “rider” at the 6 o’clock position that usually featured an engraved Arabic 6 on every preceding model. The discord that makes me feel was startling and exciting at the same time.
Changing the fluid to a blue color for this timepiece was an incredibly smart choice since it creates a sense of camaraderie with the blued steel of the minute and second hands, just like on historical pieces.
And while we are at it, the blued hands are a very smooth transition from edgy modernity to subdued history. Tying everything together is the blue infill of the rider at 6 o’clock, which also aids in taking the sharpness off the strong relief engraving that usually exists with a typical 6 numeral.
Elements are important
The dials and outer ring are white lacquer that call back to classical enamel dials, and they are all surrounded by a subtle ring of gold adding a little touch of class. The overlapping dials are mounted atop the movement and balance wheel, with the seconds subdial inset a bit with a sturdy barrel-shaped support underneath. The sharp change in level reveals that even when classically motivated, HYT can’t help but show off construction and mechanics above subdued, well, blandness.
Good job, HYT.
All of the bridges, levers, and wheels are decorated in traditional style – meaning beveled and polished edges, brushed or blasted surfaces, and, of course, the attention to the main plate cannot be overlooked.
Going in a direction very few watchmakers do (regardless of their style), HYT decided to completely guilloche the main plate with a radiating diamond pattern called clous de Paris. The rear of the main plate even received this treatment for a unifying style from front to back. The case back reveals a bit more of the avant-garde nature of HYT without any fancy dials or gold touches to disarm you.
The H2 Tradition’s crown has lost its rugged utilitarianism to become a finely fluted and polished spectacle; even though the crown, positioned between 2 and 3 o’clock, has lost its bulky, sporty crown guard, it still contrasts sharply with the angularly modern case.
Oh, we meant to do that
Probably the most surprising aspect of the H2 Tradition is the accidental steampunk masterpiece that it has become. A little background first. When you think of the steampunk genre, you often think of brass, knobs, and tons of rivets. This is how it has been depicted and seems to fit with the accepted outline of what it means to be steampunk.
The inspiration for the genre is the Victorian era of the industrial revolution and what people of that time would have made had they had “modern” technology and requirements yet still used steam power. Hence you get wood and brass computer mice with a bunch of useless gears attached and hoses instead of wires.
But the people behind “steampunk” may have missed the point (at least I think so) because the downfall of many steampunk creations is they serve no purpose and are overly complex in thoughtless ways. So imagine a piston-and-bellows-driven mechanical contraption with fluid clearly flowing through pipes and tubes indicating time and driving other systems.
Before seeing the H2 Tradition, my idea would have been something very different, but now I have found a real, true example of steampunk and what it would really, truly have been like.
The H2 Tradition is an accidental steampunk watch because it doesn’t try to be steampunk and follow generally accepted preconceived ideas about what that means. It is steampunk because it actually is advanced fluid technology mated with vintage mechanics and historical styling. It even features “indications” down where the fluid capillary begins and ends that denote the start and direction of return, a very Victorian steampunk thing to do.
This watch would ACTUALLY have made designers and engineers of the time sit up and take notice.
The real success
It may not have been the goal or even on the minds of anyone involved with the development and design of the H2 Tradition, but the happy accident is that this object truly is something that would have been ahead of its time 150 years ago, completely fitting the aesthetic of an inventor rooted in his or her time.
The H2 Tradition fits as a mechanical oddity the same way now as it would have then (and I mean that with the greatest reverence for being odd, as I am very odd myself). So in this way, HYT has created the perfect classical watch in the only way this niche brand could have. It won’t ever be mistaken for a period timepiece, but it would never have been had someone built it in 1875, either.
Avant-garde, a phrase that was coined in 1825, would have been used to describe this watch if it had made its debut at the 1851 Great Exhibition in London or at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. It will always (at least for a short always) be a creation of ingenuity and innovation, and the styling added to the H2 Tradition simply emphasizes that reality. And that is a great thing.
Time to break it down to Chinatown!
- Wowza Factor * 9.35 The juxtaposition of classical and modern always creates a wow, and this watch is all about that! And the super cool mechanics, of course
- Late Night Lust Appeal * 96.31 » 944.478 m/s2 It’s a late night spent pondering history that brought you to this moment, and it was sparked by a guilloche main plate and a really cool set of bellows.
- M.G.R. * 69.7 A redesigned and beautified edition of a HYT fluid time movement cannot be understated.
- Added-Functionitis * N/A Another amazing watch that is time-only and I’m not even mad! That’s because it’s still a mad awesome timepiece even without the Gotta-HAVE-That cream.
- Ouch Outline * 11.88 – Forgetting to wear steel-toed boots in the shop and paying the price! Sometimes you remember the reason you did something in the first place thanks to a very painful lesson. Toes heal, the lesson stays. I would learn that lesson all over again to get this watch on my wrist!
- Mermaid Moment 12 hours and change! Like every HYT, all it takes is the time for the fluid to reverse for the love affair to begin. The next logical step is to send out the invitations!
- Awesome Total * 960 Multiply the power reserve in hours (192 . . .yeah) by the water resistance in bars (5) and that simple equation brings you to a seriously awesome total!
For more information, please visit www.hytwatches.com/h2-tradition.
Case: 48.8 x 17.9 mm, white gold and titanium
Movement: manually winding HYT Caliber 210 with micro fluidics
Functions: fluid hours, conventional minutes and seconds
Also published on Medium.