May 4, 2015
by Ariel Adams
This is modern horology, and here is a review of the new HYT H4 Gotham timepiece. HYT produces only a few hundred watches per year (according to them, 450 pieces total in 2014), but for 2015, the brand is releasing 13 new models. That doesn’t just include new colors and line extensions but totally new stuff like the recently announced HYT Skull, HYT H3, and this HYT H4. First for the new H4 model family is the black “3DTP” carbon cased HYT H4 Gotham.
What is the HYT H4? Well, essentially it is the HYT H1 with a skeletonized movement in the HYT Skull case. The Skull enlarged the already big 48.8mm wide H1 case to 51mm with additional case changes, such as removal of the crown guard. Nevertheless, here, in this very lightweight carbon material, it doesn’t feel heavy or too big on the wrist (even though it is 17.9mm thick). If you are going to wear a large watch, you might as well wear something like this that combines a radical design with a cool movement that you really want to see in action. If you are new around here and haven’t heard of HYT yet, the point of the brand is to use liquid to help indicate the time.
This HYT H4 Gotham uses red-colored liquid in the specially developed tube and bellows system to indicate the hours. A more traditional hand on the dial indicates the minutes, while it is flanked on either side with a subsidiary seconds dial to the left and a power reserve indicator to the right. Not that the H1 watch’s movement wasn’t at all skeletonized, but the HYT H4’s movement steps it up a notch with a sapphire crystal plate serving as much of the dial over some movement bridges.
Inside the HYT H4 is the manually-wound HYT caliber 401 mechanical movement that is exclusive to the brand and operates at 28,800 bph (4Hz) with a power reserve of 65 hours. The rear of the HYT H4 Gotham watch has a tinted sapphire crystal which goes with what HYT calls their “Gothic theme” for the timepiece. Future limited edition HYT H4 models will of course be more summery in their theme with brighter colors. The black colors with a hint of red in the HYT H4 made for a handsome, yet dark personality for the watch – that is undeniably cool.
And yes, you don’t have to love HYT watches, but it is hard to deny that these are some cool products. Using liquid in a tube to tell the time? Having a cool carbon case and slick design? Again, if you are going to opt for something ultra-bold on your wrist you’d want it to be something like this.
In addition to the 3DTP carbon case there are other materials such as sapphire crystal and DLC-coated black titanium elements (like the crown). The case is water resistant to 50 meters and the crown does screw-down, of course. A lot of the new skeletonization in the HYT H4 watch’s movement (versus the H1) is on the rear of the movement seen through the back of the case. The skeletonization is very nice, but unfortunately, it is a bit hard to see given the dark tinting of the HYT H4 Gotham watch. I have a feeling that in future models, HYT will tease the visual appeal of the movement a little bit less.
Reading the time is pretty easy, actually, but given that it is a regulator style display, you’ll need to look at one area for the minutes and another for the hour. Yes, this is a necessary trade-off for having this unique way of displaying the time. The subsidiary seconds indicator disc isn’t super easy to see either, but at the end of the day, its primary use is to create some visual movement on the dial – this is not a tool-style watch worn when someone wants to measure the time with extreme precision.
On the wrist, the HYT H4, at least the HYT H4 Gotham in 3DTP carbon, is very comfortable, given the lightweight and the short lugs. Yes, it is a large timepiece, but without the mass of most other 51mm wide watches, it is very wearable. The visual experience is fantastic, and everyone seems to love the liquid time-telling indication system. Of course, it is also a traditional timepiece, despite the ultra-modern “fluid mechanics” design, with its hand-beveled and decorated movement.
While the movement is cool, it needs to be babied a bit. For example, you can’t quickly set the time – but rather, you do it a bit more slowly in a watch like this. The reason is because of how the liquid hour indicator system works. Turning the crown slowly moves one of the bellows and the liquid responds in kind due to the change in pressure. So you need to be a bit gentle when changing the time – but I think that is something most people would do naturally given the avant-garde nature of this mechanical concept.
Attached to the HYT H4 case is a black rubber strap that has a Nomex fabric center. The folding buckle is also DLC-coated black titanium. Speaking of the buckle, at least in my review watch, it needed to be closed with a lot of force to securely snap shut. However, this is likely a prototype unit, and the buckles on those are usually pre-production with a few kinks in them.
While the strap looks and feels very nice, it has an alligator-pattern to it (even though it is rubber). I actually like the look of the strap a lot, but I nevertheless feel that when you are talking about prices like this, you should never have anything that looks like crocodile/alligator that isn’t. Either use a real alligator strap or use something else with its own special texture of pattern. Otherwise, I really like the strap as far as synthetic strap materials go. Oh, and I wish there was a second loop for excess strap, because when people with a small wrist like mine wear the HYT H4, the strap sticks out a bit. UPDATE: According to HYT the strap seen on the watch here is not the final strap and will be updated to something different when the H4 watch ships to customers.
HYT probably didn’t need to call this watch the H4, but rather could have called it the H1 Skeleton or H1.5, or something like that. I feel that with a brand like HYT, when they create a new product line it needs to be very distinct. I mean look at the HYT H3 for example and its rectangular case. While I like the HYT H4 a great deal, it is a combination of two existing products with a new design for the movement. That feels like a line extension versus something that merits a totally new model family (which I hope tends to imply new case, dial, and movement). This is important because I want HYT to preserve its great persona and ability to generate hype thanks to talented CEO Vincent Perriard. Again, while this is a super cool timepiece, I think that each new HYT “H” watch line should be totally unique. A minor issue, though, and related more to brand marketing decisions versus the product itself.
I’ve been a big fan of HYT since they debuted a few years ago and continue to be really bullish about the brand. If you are into modern mechanical watches with bold, futuristic designs, HYT should be one of the brands on your list to look at. Seasoned collectors should have at least one thing by HYT in their collection – if anything, for how unique the movements are and the liquid indication of the time. HYT is producing the HYT H4 Gotham ref. 151-CB-03-RF-RN as a limited edition of 50 pieces. Price is $79,000. hytwatches.com
>Model: H4 (H4 Gotham as tested)
>Price: $79,000 USD
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Yes
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Courageous types who like their watches bold, futuristic, and mechanically fascinating. It might not be an ideal daily wear, but wearing it can be ideal.
>Best characteristic of watch: Incredibly cool fusion of light carbon case material and amazing movement with the liquid hour indicator system. A winning watch for those who appreciate the genre.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Decision to create new “H4” collection for this product might confuse collectors. Case might be too large for some. Decision to use faux-alligator pattern on otherwise excellent strap is odd.