It can take a lot to stand out in the deluge of creative and beautifully designed (well, not all of them) watches that are released at shows like SIHH 2016. Every now and then, though, your eyes uncross themselves, the caffeine kicks in, and you see something like the Hautlence Vortex Primary watch. It’s a watch that is a whole different kind of, well, different. It’s fun, quirky, and whimsical in a way that I can’t help but appreciate. Reminiscent of several artists, the collaboration between Hautlence and French ex-footballer (that’s soccer for us Americans) Eric Cantona is a standout for me.
When I first looked at the watch, I could not help but to be reminded of those colorful geometric paintings by Mondrian, who was a champion of neoplasticism. The more I learned about it, the more I found an even more personal connection to the watch. There are 19 different glass panels (sapphire, ruby, and blue spinel glass) utilized that call to mind a stained glass window. As stained glass is something I have personally dabbled in in the past, there is another level of appreciation. Even for those without a personal history with the craft, it looks beautiful on the watch and provides a rich visual experience.
All of this is housed in the 48-gram (yeah, it’s that light!) body of the Hautlence Vortex Primary watch. Now, when you realize that the case is 50mm wide, 52mm long, and sits 18mm high on the wrist, you know that achieving that weight was no trifling feat. Here, the black PVD-coated grade 5 titanium used certainly helps keep the weight down. I have a feeling that the sheer amount of metal that is not there has the bigger impact, though.
Other than being a rather colorful diversion, the glass used on the Hautlence Vortex Primary does indeed serve a practical use. First off, it lets a ton of light into the case, allowing you some rather spectacular, if colorful, views into the inner works of the Hautlence HLR 2.0 calibre. As with their prior Vortex watch (hands-on here), the movement gives you the hours on a tank tread over at the 9 o’clock position that move in a trailing half-hour to keep things readable. The HLR 2.0 calibre has 522 components and operates at a frequency of 21,600bph with a 40-hour power reserve. Unlike other models in the lineup, the Hautlence Vortex Primary watch is notable for its lack of a dial. Instead, the minutes scale is printed directly on the sapphire crystal near the center of the case; the regulator should provide a kinetic show directly below that, rotating 60 degrees every hour.
The Hautlence Vortex Primary watch is being introduced as a limited edition of 18 pieces, but if you ask me, it should have been 19 to match the number of glass panels. While the Hautlence Vortex Primary watch is very much an “art watch,” reading through the tech specs reveals that there is no shortage of true watch-making effort going into the creation of the piece. The tank-tread hours certainly would call to mind (at least, for me) the very engineering-driven Devon watches. The similarity is there, but this seems to take things in much different direction. For me, personally, there is a lot to like with both.
Aside from the draw for those who enjoy or have done stained glass, the Hautlence Vortex Primary watch stands out as a rather colorful example of high-end horology. No, it will not be for everyone, and it probably is not a versatile “every-occasion” watch. For those times that it is broken out (a Mondrian or Chagall exhibit would seem fitting), I cannot picture this but putting a smile on the face of the wearer and, very likely, anyone who catches the light glinting off of the multi-colored panels. Price for the Hautlence Vortex Primary watch is $199,500. hautlence.com