You Are There: HYT, Alinghi, And The Extreme Sailing Series In Lisbon
Wind rushing through your hair. Sun kissing your face. Refreshing water beads cooling you off.
Sailing can be somewhat addictive, especially in gorgeous locations like Lisbon, Portugal. But perhaps not quite as addictive as the timepieces that HYT has created to honor its sailing partner Alinghi.
Alinghi and HYT
The name Alinghi might sound familiar, and so it should if you love watches: the Swiss Alinghi team has won the America’s Cup twice (see Understanding The America’s Cup’s Fascination With Time), once in 2003 and successfully defending in 2007 while partnered with Audemars Piguet as an official sponsor. This was the first time a Swiss (or any European) team had won the oldest sporting trophy in the world.
After switching to watch sponsor Hublot for its 2010 defense of the America’s Cup title, Alinghi lost to BMW Oracle Racing (now Team Oracle USA). Due to extreme technical changes in the boating equipment regulations, Alinghi decided to leave America’s Cup racing. It now focuses on the Extreme Sailing Series, a boating competition Alinghi won in 2008 and 2014.
In 2015, Alinghi announced a very fitting new watch partnership, this time with HYT, the “hydromechanical horologists.” There could hardly have been a better fit here: HYT’s unique timepieces tell the time using liquid displays, while Alinghi’s whole raison d’être is speed on bodies of water.
It’s relatively easy to “splash” on a scene and cause a sensation – and the vivacious Vincent Perriard, one of HYT’s founders, is very good at that. But in order to gain – and keep – a loyal clientele, the key is to make new technologies reliable and to ensure that they can be reliably manufactured.
HYT has very cleverly built the resources it needs both inside and outside its own factory premises to ensure the type of longevity it is aiming for, and the result is the stunning variety of HYT timepieces available with varying functionalities.
The partnerships HYT builds also result in attractive limited editions using its unique technology, and while attending an Extreme Sailing Series event in Lisbon in October 2016 I had the chance to handle two particularly enticing limited timepieces in honor of the HYT partnership with Alinghi.
The H4 Alinghi was the first timepiece emerging in honor of the partnership with HYT’s compatriot sailors, and I truthfully cannot say if I like this one better than the H2 Alinghi – they are both incredible in their own ways.
The H4 contains the same movement architecture as the brand’s H1, which was the boutique marque’s first timepiece to launch back in 2012. It displays the hours using the displacement of two liquids – one colored by a fluorescent and the other, which contains oil, transparent – within a micro tube measuring 1.6 mm in diameter on the outside and 0.7 mm on the inside. The contact zone between the two is called the meniscus.
The whole technology is founded in the physics principle of superficial tension.
The technology comprises two distinct parts: the above-mentioned fluidic system developed from scratch and the mechanical movement realized by Jean-François Mojon and his team at Chronode.
The caliber comprises a capillary (a specially developed glass micro tube) and two pistons resembling a blacksmith’s bellows; these allow two heterogenic liquids to circulate without mixing.
Connected mechanically to the movement, one piston injects its contents while the other extracts them from the micro tube and vice versa. This is made possible thanks to a telescopic piston placed within the interior of each bellow.
The manually wound caliber, whose design is dominated by right angles and a futuristic look, has 65 hours of power reserve. It retains all the characteristics of an haute de gamme mechanical movement in terms of decorated components and finishing.
For a more technical and descriptive rundown on how this works, please read When Opposites Collide: Microfluidics Of The HYT H1 And H2.
The big difference in the H4’s movement over that of the H1 is the addition of a crazy light source powered by two LEDs making it possible to tell the time in the dark. This is probably the first such thing in mechanical watchmaking: a generator powered by turning the dedicated crown provides the electricity for the light. Once the dynamo is wound, the LEDs flood the movement with white light for a maximum of five seconds – also illuminating the time display.
The characteristic of the H4 Alinghi that I absolutely adore is that light functionality backlighting the dial. It is easily switched on by winding the red-coated crown at 4:30 on the case.
The source of the electrical energy is mechanical and the dynamo’s generator is located just inside the case at the same location as the crown.
The second limited edition watch to emerge in honor of the partnership is the H2 Alinghi. Based on the brand’s H2 model, it displays the hours, minutes, and seconds in regulator style.
The H2 movement is a redesigned rendition of the H1 caliber that includes a sort of jumping minute hand that does not get in the way of appreciating the motion of the bellows. It also includes a crown position indicator, indication of the time-telling fluid’s temperature, and an amazing eight-day power reserve.
Housed in an untreated titanium case, this model is the first H2 variation to feature the new black liquid introduced in early 2016 with the Skull Bad Boy (see HYT’s Skull Bad Boy: Fluid Time-Telling Evolves Thanks To Swiss Engineering). This is not a simple color change: the ink-like hue is a completely new chemical composition of the capillary fluid requiring 12 months of research and development.
On the H2 Alinghi, the movement was also for first time crafted in a two-tone black and grey color scheme. Its new central minute hand draws inspiration from traditional marine-style hands.
This technical monochrome look is, of course, lightened up by the Alinghi logo in its swirl of red on the “bezel rider tab” (as HYT calls this element). The hour markers on the flange were also redesigned to allow them to stand out more clearly.
I can attest to the legibility of the markers as I wore the H2 Alinghi during my time in Portugal with HYT. Not only could I see the time infinitely clearer, but it made it much easier to explain how to tell the time to people unfamiliar with the watch or the brand.
Alinghi in Lisbon
The Extreme Racing Series, which was born in 2007, calls its various races “acts.” The year 2016 was comprised of eight acts taking place on three continents. The race in Lisbon represented the seventh act of the 2016 season.
The boats used by the teams are all from the GC32 class as of 2016, an ultra-light catamaran mostly comprising carbon fiber and J-foils, which look and act much like an airplane wing. Underwater foils lift the hulls out of the water and increase speeds. The GC32 can reach speeds of 39 knots (70+ kilometers per hour).
There are nine teams competing in the Extreme Racing Series, one of which – Thalassa Magenta Racing – is completely female, a historic event.
The Alinghi racing team, formed in 2000, is skippered by Swiss Arnaud Psarofaghis and Ernesto Bertarelli. Psarofaghis helmed the five-man crew in Lisbon. The winds were favorable, and the Swiss/French team was the winner of the Iberian weekend, putting them in second place overall as they head into the final race of 2016 in Sydney.
Quick Facts HYT H2 Alinghi
Case: 48.8 x 17.9 mm, titanium
Movement: manually wound HYT H2 caliber beating at 3 Hz with 8-day power reserve
Dial: black fluid for hours
Functions: fluid hours, jumping minutes; crown position indication (H-N-R), thermal indicator
Limitation: 25 pieces
Guarantee: 5 years
Quick Facts HYT H4 Alinghi
Case: 51 x 17.9 mm, 3DTP carbon
Movement: manually wound HYT caliber beating at 4 Hz with 65-hour power reserve
Functions: fluid hours, minutes, seconds; mechanical white background light loaded by dynamo (crown at 4:30)
Limitation: 25 pieces
Guarantee: 5 years