I’ve been waiting for this. The HYT H4 Alinghi Special Edition has introduced a significant dimension to HYT watches that was not there before: a second crown. But wait, I hear you cry, what on Earth can it be for? The HYT H4 Alinghi Special Edition is basically a clone of its predecessor, is it not? The movement architecture is practically identical to the H1! The calibre is skeletonized, but that’s it: Where’s the complication that requires a second crown?
Well, in a funny kind of way, the crown is the complication. Hidden between 4 and 5 o’clock is a small generator, which is charged up by winding the crown. When depressed, the dial is bathed in a bright white light for a maximum of five seconds. The light source is two minuscule LEDs concealed by the 6 o’clock marker. This is an entirely mechanical process – no battery. Nothing but good old gears and finger-twiddling. Another first for HYT.
The effect of the LEDs is really quite something. Obviously, the red liquid which is used to indicate the hours lends itself to illumination more naturally than a traditional hour hand. The light refracts within the liquid and it appears to glow uniformly. The movement itself its also well-suited to illumination – the angle of the light source picks out the details in the movement, casting it in weirdly high definition. The watch looks like a press release on the wrist; we’re used to seeing this kind of sharpened image in a display case or straight out of Photoshop – seeing it in the metal is a little strange, but totally awesome.
My only reservation is probably not something that concerns HYT: this is not going to appeal to everyone. I imagine that watchmaking traditionalists will struggle to contain their disdain for a piece that brings electricity into a movement, no matter the mechanical purity of its origins. And I must admit to a bit of brand bias: I would not stand atop a mountain and proclaim to the world that every single watch brand should employ a micro-generator in their next watch just because I think it’s awesome in an HYT. That’s because HYT is unlike any other brand. Their watches perform an incredibly simple function in a completely unique way. If it weren’t for the fact this brand already operates on a different plane of judgement, I would recoil at this addition (imagine how grotesque it would be on a Breguet tourbillon or something like that). But normal rules do not apply to HYT. It just so happens their chosen USP marries well with light; it just so happens their brand aesthetic sits comfortably with the presence of electricity; and it just so happens that bonkers innovations feel natural for a company that can distill its beautiful insanity into two, simple words: watchmaking; fluids.
So aside from the sacrilegious presence of mechanically-generated light, what else does the HYT H4 Alinghi Special Edition offer an investor? Firstly, there are only 25 pieces available, and this is the first watch of its kind, so it’s probably not going to be sitting on a shelf gathering dust. Secondly, the HYT watch is traditional only in the sense that it tells the time. Typically, though, it does not do this in the normal way: The hours, as we know, are indicated by the creeping red fluid that encircles the watch face; the minutes are read by way of the Arabic sub-dial at 12 o’clock; the running seconds are displayed by a disc around 9:30 (which is not the “normal” position of 9:30 due to the bunching of the hours to accommodate for the bellows at 6 o’clock).
The seconds disc is decorated with the Alinghi racing team’s logo, which is red and black and the source of inspiration for this colorway. There are loads of cool flashes of color on this watch, my favorite being the rubber grip on the 4 o’clock crown, but there are other dashes of red at 12 and 6 o’clock themselves, on the stitching on the rubber-backed, silver sail cloth strap, as well as on the hand of the power reserve indicator at 2:30. Check out the design of the minute hand – I think the base of the hand, which is almost cog-like and certainly industrial, is really cool.
The 51mm-wide case is made of 3DTP™ Carbon. The height of the watch is 17.9mm, which sounds a lot, but I have worn one of the H1 watches (the same height) on my slender wrist, and they wear fine, mostly thanks to their lightness. The rubber-clad crown is DLC-coated titanium. The domed sapphire crystal is treated with an anti-reflective coating and the screw-down case back guarantees water resistance to 50 meters. The time is told by way of the retrograde fluidic hour indicator, powered by a 28,000vph HYT exclusive calibre with 35 jewels and a decent power reserve of 65 hours. The HYT H4 Alinghi Special Edition is available now with a price of $99,000. hytwatches.com