Independent watchmaking brand Hautlence is one of the few in the industry that makes wristwatches with interesting and unusual time displays, the latest of which is the HL Sphere. The watch features a retrograde minutes display as well an hour globe that jumps and rotates rapidly at the top of every hour.
Such a novel time display has never been done before and its invention demonstrates Hautlence’s dedication to innovation. The HL Sphere runs on the HTL 501-1 movement, the brand’s eighth in-house calibre. (Eight in-house calibres seems like a large number for a niche watch brand like Hautlence, but if you keep creating watches with completely novel complications, then you have to continually develop said complications yourself.)
Here, we speak to CEO Bertrand Meylan about the HL Sphere, Hautlence’s innovative spirit, and the brand’s relationship with H. Moser & Cie, a fellow independent watch brand run by his brother Edouard Meylan. (Hautlence and H. Moser are under the umbrella of MELB Holding, founded and owned by the Meylan family.)
How did the brand conceptualise and create the new HL Sphere?
We wanted to create the first 3-dimensional hour complication. We also wanted to come back to the roots of the brand and create a product that had all the hallmarks of a Hautlence watch.
What were the technical challenges?
They were many challenges. First, we needed to create a completely new calibre with enough power to support the kinetic action of the sphere.
Secondly, we needed to build the complexity of the sphere. We wanted it to turn for more than a complete circle to make it look visually spectacular whenever the hour changes.
The third challenge is to fit it all in a compact size and make it wearable on the wrist.
How does Hautlence approach innovation in general? Especially when it involves complications that have not been done before like the HL Sphere.
We are lucky to have an amazing team of engineers and watchmakers that accept and understand our ideas. So we can come up with the craziest ideas and they will find solutions to create them.
What is the relationship like between Hautlence and sister brand H. Moser? Do the two share any technical manufacturing or design capabilities, for example?
Both brands work closely together. The teams help each other not only in creating products but also in logistics and finance. We also have made some products together like the Vagabonde (from Hautlence) and the Flying Hours (from H.Moser & Cie) using a base movement from H.Moser & Cie and a complication from Hautlence.
How has the market been for independent brands like Hautlence and H. Moser recently?
The last few years have been really good and we have tripled our share of the business in the last 5 years. We are very confident about the future and believe that there are many opportunities and markets for us to grow.
There have been some brands in the horology market that have moved towards being more sustainable and socially responsible. Has or will Hautlence and the rest of MELB Holdings done anything in that respect?
Yes, since January this year, we have completely put it at the centre of the group. All the decisions we make, we do so while keeping sustainability and social responsibility in mind.
We also created a special watch for H.Moser & Cie, named the Moser Nature Watch to explain what are the steps that we are taking. It is still a long road to go as it takes time to change many things but I believe it is going in the right direction.
What’s next for Hautlence?
We have many amazing complications that we are working on. The HL Sphere offers us an amazing base to build many other complications, so stay tuned!