While I still can’t quite afford them, I continue to find the “hydro-mechanical” watches from Swiss HYT very cool and desirable. The newest limited-edition “fashion” models are known as the HYT H1 Colorblock and come in very limited numbers in red, yellow, or blue. Intentionally bold, people who look closely will notice that the prices for these watches are actually a bit lower than the HYT H1 was originally when aBlogtoWatch debuted it back in 2012 (here). That is good news, as well as a sign of the times when luxury watches prices are, finally, dropping.
While retailers and brands that used to make windfall profits from sales at prices that some of us might consider “too high for the market to sustain,” those days are rapidly coming to an end. In fact, those days might be almost totally over already, but not everyone seems to have received the memo. The luxury watch industry continues to produce beautiful, cool stuff, but they are experiencing a deserved existential crisis when it comes to what they are making, who they are making it for, and how much they charge for it. As this trend continues, I anticipate a few things happening.
First will be a softening of pricing as traditional manufacturer-to-retailer margins relax. Next will be a total overhaul of prices as watch brands sell directly to consumers, investing in marketing both offline and online with watch magazines like aBlogtoWatch. The question is what the formula will be for consumers like you to read about a product you like here and then contact the brand in order to buy one. I think you’ll agree with me that a lot of it comes down to pricing.
Anyhow, this article was supposed to be about the HYT H1 Colorblock watch collection, so let’s get back to that. I think what works so well here is unabashed boldness. The H1 watch, and the HYT brand overall have always been about making a big statement. The core concept of the brand is to use liquid-based indicators to help express the time. In the H1 and most other HYT models, a thin sapphire crystal “capillary” is used in conjunction with a mechanical bellows system to move the liquid across a scale to indicate the hours. In these particular watches the liquid is black, but HYT also offers the liquid in colors such as green, red, blue, and perhaps a few others.
The last HYT H1 watch I wrote about was very different from these light-weight titanium primary color characters. It was the HYT H1 Full Gold in solid 18k rose gold, and it represents a very different type of watch, in my opinion – for a different type of customer. That model is almost exactly twice the price of the HYT H1 Colorblock – so I think you know which one I would recommend, assuming you are like most luxury watch consumers these days in being price and value conscious. In other words, as much as I love precious metal… it is a sad time now to be gold.
If you already own an HYT H1, I am not sure that this is a must-have addition to your collection, unless you particularly love these. I have to say that each time I get to put one on, I am happy. Not only is the large case deceptively comfortable, but it just looks so cool. This is what modern mechanical horology is all about. It values tradition, it encapsulates the spirit of traditional watchmaking technique, but it also injects a very healthy serving of all that is contemporary.
Speaking of contemporary, “color block” is a fashion term that relates to a particular look where outfits are assembled from blocks of solid, bright, and totally contrasting colors. It is actually a sort of misnomer here because the watches are really only a “color block” when seen as a set (as contrasting colors). Individually, the colors are quite harmonious as the strap and dial accents clearly match. These would more accurately be color block watches if each strap segment were a different color, as well as the dial. It might be ugly as hell, but it would technically be a more accurate application of the term.
The name aside, the red, yellow, and blue versions of the HYT H1 Colorblock limited-edition models are going to each have consumer appeal depending on your specific tastes. As I mentioned, I am partial to the yellow model. What I further appreciate is how HYT has continued to tweak and refine the H1 on a regular basis. Why not, right? It isn’t enough to just make new colors, but fundamentally playing with even little things like the scales for the time helps keep things fresh.
The cases are 48.8mm wide and 17.9mm thick – just the right size for something with this much visual depth and assertive appeal. The HYT H1 Colorblock models are in a “gunmetal-toned,” PVD-coated titanium with a new fabric strap that HYT says is both allergen- and water-resistant (matched to a titanium buckle). Inside the watch is the HYT caliber H1 manually wound movement which remains a joy to look at and play with. Operating at 4Hz (28,800bph), it has 65 hours of power reserve and displays the hours via liquid indicator around the periphery of the dial, a traditional minute hand, a turbine-style subsidiary seconds dial, as well as a handy power reserve indicator.
The design of the dial as well as the case itself reflect the space needs of the bellow system, but that is a good thing because there is a welcome level of view into the movement. There is also luminant on the dial, which is cool. Given that the liquid is black, there is a strip of Super-LumiNova behind it, as well as additional points of luminant on the dial. It’s a well-done design which feels both functional and highly artistic. It is of course in a different league and does not share the same level of durability, but I get a similar sort of joy wearing the HYT H1 Colorblock as I do from a boldly designed and colorful Casio G-Shock watch.
On the rear of the case over the sapphire crystal is a “Colorblock” logo graphic that I could, frankly, live without. It doesn’t really add anything artistically, but I understand that brands like HYT want to help make their limited edition models as distinctive as possible. The most subdued version is the HYT H1 Colorblock blue, which will find a lot of love from men not comfortable with bright red or yellow, and who wear a lot of blue jeans.
Fun and joyfully not for everyone, the HYT H1 Colorblock watches are each limited to just 10 pieces each. The collection is made up of the reference 148-TT-80-NF-FR in red, the reference 148-TT-80-NF-FY in yellow, and the reference 148-TT-80-NF-FB in blue. Price for each is $39,000. hytwatches.com