HYT H2O reviewed by Tim Mosso: It looks Huge, but it merely wears Big

by Tim Mosso

Nothing ever comes easy for HYT. From the painful decade-long gestation of its fluidic display concept to a checkered business history, the Neuchâtel-based purveyor of modern-day clepsydras seems perpetually star-crossed.

Even wearing the watches – massive and oddly shaped – proved to be an agonizing struggle in the brand’s first years.

At least, it did until the arrival of the H0 lugless case, and the HYT H20 is the ultimate expression of that ergonomic breakthrough.


With a movement by Audemars Piguet and a case like a hockey puck, the H20 was the ultimate pre-bankruptcy HYT timepiece; it remains an intriguing embodiment of blue-sky imagination for collectors who live comfortably on the borderline between the weird and the wonderful.

To its credit, HYT ranks among the few watchmakers with a genuinely new idea – not something derived from ancient innovations by Breguet, Jaquet-Droz, Harrison, Arnold, Mudge, Robin, or Janvier.


HYT’s system was unprecedented. While the fluid display idea itself – a meniscus marks the hour – was simple, its engineering and troubleshooting vaporized millions of francs, most of a decade, and at least one management team prior to the HYT H1 hitting the market in 2012.

More millions – including $23 million in 2016 from the chairman of Nestlé – vanished before HYT’s pandemic-assisted insolvency in 2021. Throughout the bankruptcy process, sister company Preciflex, makers of certain specialized fluidic components, continued to provide parts and service for the watches.



A bombastic brand re-launch in February 2022 with new CEO Davide Cerrato fizzled that November as the newly arrived chief clearly saw something that spooked him. Cerrato resurfaced as the CEO of Bremont in May of 2023.

Where does that leave HYT today? New models continue to arrive as of fall 2023, and the factory is servicing watches from both the current and prior regimes. I hope my sixth-grade English teacher will forgive me for using the first-person, because I love HYT, and I hope the company pulls through.

A quick survey of the H20 proves why HYT is worth saving.

Say “51mm case,” and most watch buyers not in the cast of an “Expendables” sequel will opt out. It doesn’t have to be that way. 51mm also happens to be the approximate end-to-end span of a Rolex Daytona on a solid end link bracelet, and you don’t need the wrist of Rambo to wear one of those. The lugless and round H20 wears a symmetrical 51mm in all directions.


It sits like an agreeably secure sapphire tuna tin, even on smaller wrists. A decent approximation would equate this watch to the fit of a burly 43mm round case like Rolex’s neo-red Sea-Dweller. The H20 looks huge, but it merely wears big.

back of the HYT H2O

Caliber 201 pulls double duty as both the dial and the motive power of the H20, and its pedigree is impressive. While early HYT watches and later entry-level models employed movements created by Chronode, the flagship H2, H3, and H20 used movements developed with Audemars Piguet Renaud et Papi.



A large free-sprung balance with an overcoil hairspring sits solidly anchored on a substantial balance bridge at 12 o’clock.

Large balance bridge over free-sprung balance spring of the HYT H2=

Traditional watchmaking also occupies the center dial in the form of a bridge for the motion works and jumper spring underpining the minute hand.

Function indicator of the HYT HTO

APRP’s signature multi-mode crown – you’ve seen it on Richard Mille models and AP Royal Oak Concepts – includes a function index at three o’clock to designate the current operating mode.

There’s a quirky temperature range indicator between nine and ten that theoretically alerts the user to dangerous extremes that could pose a hazard to the fluid-filled watch.

However,  the previous regime at HYT told me in 2018 that real-world testing indicated that reaching these extremes is almost impossible in practice. Evidently, the human wrist provides enough warmth in blistering cold and enough cooling in scalding heat to keep an HYT in its fluid-safe temperature range regardless of external conditions. It seems to be true.

While I’ve occasionally encountered problems with these watches, I’ve never seen a reservoir breach to indicate a cooked or frozen system. 



The most interesting parts of the movement are the twin bellows at six o’clock. HYT and APRP designed the system to resemble the splayed cylinder heads of a V-twin motorcycle, and the resemblance is uncanny. Each is a hermetically sealed fluid reservoir with flexibility for accordion-like linear travel.

The V-Twin indicator fluid reservoirs of the HYT H2O

Also fascinating is that these vessels are two among a surprising number of U.S.-made parts in HYT’s fluidic display system.

Despite its otherworldly appearance and reliance on fluid time scales, the H20 is a mechanical watch at heart. Twin mainspring barrels power a conventional Swiss lever escapement that runs at 3Hz and drives a cam system by intermediate wheels.

The cam applies pressure to the bellows at left, and this regulates the operation of the bellows at right indirectly through the capillary tube. While the borosilicate glass hour scale appears to contain a single fluid, two are present. One is blue, and one is clear. They move in push-pull fashion.

The fluids are immiscible, so the boundary line indicating the hour – should – never mix or blur.

Movement specifications are impressive. Aside from the headlining eight-day power reserve, the caliber includes a jumper for the minute hand so that it leaps past the lower dial’s gap between discontinuous ends of the minute scale.

The speed of the fluid hour’s movement is startling. While it advances slowly with clock time, any manual adjustment of the hour sends the meniscus line surging, and it retrogrades with surprising alacrity to the origin at left when it reaches the end of the tube scale at right.

HYT applies a shocking quantity of luminescent coatings to this dial. The hour tube is underpinned by enough Super-LumiNova to entirely backlight the two liquids and the indicator boundary between them.

Large hour numerals on the side of the HYT H20

Tilt the watch on its side, and giant Robert Venturi-style super graphic numerals mark the hours like the towering marquee of a Las Vegas strip hotel. Both the minute hand and crown-function indicator exhibit a healthy glow.



All of the horological theater of HYT caliber 201 is on the dial side. Examination of the caseback reveals the backsides of the bellows, a single winding wheel, and two open mainspring barrels with visible contents.

Back of the HYT H2O

With practice, it is possible to gain enough experience to read the coiling of the springs as a sort of informal power reserve, and this was HYT’s intention. A pivoted click and arching click spring keep the massive torque of the two barrels in check.

Blue PVD similar to that on the dial side adorns the bridges. As with most of the caliber 201, the caseback parts are finished cleanly but not in artisanal fashion.

Externally, the HYT includes manifold curiosities. First, the relative proportions of the sapphire crystal and steel case invert the ratio seen on almost all other timepieces. The size of the domed crystal relative to the slim steel case makes this more of a sapphire watch with a steel backing plate than a steel watch with a sapphire crystal.

And that carries real benefits, since sapphire is nearly indelible to daily knocks: it’s almost impossible to induce contact between the tiny steel caseback and marauding doorknobs, desk drawers, and car seatbelt buckles.

Caseback details declare limited water resistance – 30 meters – and a limited production run of 25 pieces in this case and color combination.



The H20 employs a proprietary rubber strap fixed by screws to the case. It’s a secure arrangement for a large, heavy, and expensive watch.


HYT’s specific design choices yield a quirky band that looks like it might be a 1990s Ikepod homage – albeit differentiated by golf ball dimples.

Folding buckle of the HYT H2O

This HYT titanium deployant clearly is a purchased component, but its push-button micro-adjustment feature is brilliant regardless of origin.

What’s it like to wear the H20? It’s great fun on its own terms. This isn’t something to be taken too seriously. The size, shape, and display system broadcast the H20’s novelty status, and I mean that not in the Baselworld sense of “novelty” but in the Texas State Fair sense. HYT’s watch is wonderful the same way fried ice cream, two-pound hotdogs, and lifted one-ton dually diesel pickups are wonderful.

Civilization likely would implode if we lived that way daily, but on the right occasion, it’s a blast.

The H20 is refreshingly devoid of pretense because it’s so ridiculous.


And unlike hundreds of haut-de-gamme watches I’ve worn, the H20 is a magnet for gen pop curiosity. Well-meaning people with no prior interest in watches approach the H20 with genuine awe and interest.

Most of these folks wouldn’t bat an eye at some elite independent product with an eight-year waiting list, but the HYT hits them like a magnet. There’s something wonderful about a watch that instantly and profoundly commands the attention of potential newcomers to the watch hobby.

Looking back on how many words I’ve wasted on wristwatch evangelism, it’s shocking to see the H20 achieve liftoff almost non-verbally. Granted, these same folks have a coronary when I tell them the price, but the seed was planted.

It can’t be a coincidence that many of the most original watch concepts issue from companies that seem to play chicken with fate. Upstart outfits like Devon, 4N, Cabestan, Hautlence, MCT, and HYT seem to fade into and out of production while fighting twilight battles against the centuries-old dominance of conventional hands and dials.

Whatever Urwerk figured out in 1997 remains a trade secret; nobody else in the indie space seems able to graft weird time displays to an ironclad business model. Hopefully, the recently reborn HYT company breaks the cycle. This world is more interesting with watches like the H20 in it.

For more information, please visit https://www.hytwatches.com/aboutus

Quick Facts: HYT H2O
Reference: 251-AC-46-BF-RU

Case: Stainless steel with 51mm diameter, 20.4mm thick
Dial: Luminescent with rhodium plated brass, PVD blue, regulator display of hours, minutes, seconds
Movement: Caliber 210 APRP-designed, manual wind, 192-hour power reserve, 28 jewels, 3Hz, free sprung, full balance bridge, overcoil hairspring
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds, power reserve indicator, temperature gauge, retrograde minutes
Production period: 2018-2020
Limitation: 25 pieces
Original Retail Price: $95,000
Market Value 2023: $35,000

* Tim Mosso is the media director and watch specialist at Watchbox. You can check out his very comprehensive YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/@WatchBoxStudios/videos.

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The HYT H2 Tradition: Timeless In A Surprisingly Steampunk Way

Days Of Futures Past: HYT H0

HYT Moon Runner: A Moon Phase Straight Outta Cyberpunk

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