Hands-on review Hautlence HL Sphere

Time telling with a visual bang, or how to revolutionise the time display

Reading Time: 7 minutes

One of the “Woah…!” (to read jaw-dropping) pieces of the Baselworld 2019 was the Hautlence HL Sphere. The brand not only released an exceptional watch but also its eighth manufacture calibre. The HL Sphere presents the brand’s signature style and originality and a new innovative time display. 

Hautlence HL Sphere

Review Hautlence HL Sphere

Let’s be honest,  in the horology world and not only, Hautlence is pure originality. Having a secure sit between H. Moser & Cie, MB&F, Urwerk, Van Cleef & Arpels, Harry Winston and other horological deities, the brand ignores the traditional time display. With the Playground and the Labyrinth, the independent Hautlence ignored completely the idea of telling the time – where, just like Haldimann H9 – Reduction, the wrist companion is just for the sole purpose of enjoying the time, respectively the piece itself, without taking into account the actual passage of it (the time).

Signature television screen shape

HL Sphere comes in the Hautlence’s specific rectangular shape. The white gold case measures 39mm by 46mm with a thickness of 12mm. The crystal dome ads an extra 3.75 mm in height.

HL Sphere case side

The case has a complex construct with special care for details. The brushed and polished finishes are fused in an elegant composition. The case body presents an overall satin brush. The edges are bevelled and polished to a mirror finish. The short lugs have the same pleasant combination of polished and brushed surfaces with the extra bevelling for the edges.

HL Sphere case side with crown

The crown is decorated with engraved Hautlence logo on a domed polished background. The lower position, closer to wrist does not intervene in the wear comfort. Due to its position, the crown offers a good grip for set and wind. The time setting process can be easily observed in the above video.

HL Sphere crown side view to the dome

The HL Sphere is covered with a sapphire crystal with anti-reflective treatment. The sapphire piece presents the bevelling noticed on previous pieces (like the HL Vagabonde Tourbillon) and a dome to accommodate the spherical hour display. This complex shape is not only hard to produce but implies also a significant increase in the cost.

HL Sphere caseback

On the back, the Hautlence HL Sphere is covered with a bevelled exhibition case back. The engraved case back bears several inscriptions and stamps. It is fixed with four, corner placed screws.

The blue Louisiana alligator strap ends with a folding clasp manufactured in grade 5 titanium. The clasp is decorated with a satin-finished steel plate bearing the Hautlence logo.

HL Sphere dial display

Hours in a spherical motion and retrograde minutes

The time display is unusual, at least. The hours are displayed with the help of a weird sphere. Manufactured in polished grade 5 titanium, the sphere received a blue PVD treatment. The hours are indicated with Arabic numerals that are laser engraved and filled white lacquer.

HL Sphere hour display indication

The blue sphere presents a cutout that shows the running trail of the hours. The construction actually uses two semi spherical parts. A slow motion of the hour change can be seen in the video at the beginning of the article. The mesmerising movement is the key attraction fo the Hautlence HL Sphere.

HL Sphere retrograde minute

The minutes’ display uses a half-circle retrograde display. The function is accomplished by a satin-finished grade 5 titanium hand with blue PVD treatment and white lacquer filling. The minutes are indicated on an engraved register. For an ease in legibility, the HL Sphere was adorned with applied Arabic numeral indexes.

HL Sphere time reading detail

These volumetric elements present an extra curvature. The entire minutes’ indication is logical and beautiful implemented. Reading the exact minute needs an accommodation period. A mark for every 5 minutes will bring ease in time read (maybe an engraving of the 5th’s minutes with the same size lenght with the tenth’s).

HL Sphere dial detail

The dial already reveals a considerable amount of elements reserved usually for the back. But the calibre HTL 501-1 is far from being the classical type. The Hautlence HL Sphere is an open vision that reveals every of its intimate details.

HL Sphere Calibre HTL 501-1

You spin me right round, baby

Hautlence HL Sphere is powered by the fantastic HTL 501-1 calibre. The movement is entirely design and produced by the brand. The basis for this concept was presented earlier as a desk clock. I was familiar with the design from the SIHH 2019.

HL Sphere HTL 501-1 calibre

The HTL 501-1 hand-wound calibre has an interesting construction. The aired design revels almost all internal details. The bridges were open-worked, adding new surfaces to the list of decorated elements.

HL Sphere HTL 501-1 hand-wound calibre balance wheel

The balance bridge was also skeletonised and it allows the owner to better admire the oscillations. The proprietary balance spring is produced by Precision Engineering AG, one of the Hautlence’s sister companies.

HL Sphere back view

The HTL 501-1 calibre is nicely decorated. A lovely combination of brushed and satin matt finishes is in contrast with the bevelled and polished edges. The skeletonised drum and ratchet reveal the barrel spring. The gimmick provides a simple yet ingenious visual indication of the power reserve.

HL Sphere hour's sphere seen from the back

The HTL 501-1 calibre is a relatively slow beater, for modern time. But the 3 Hz balance wheel depletes the barrel in a minimum of 3 days. Considering the power-hungry complications, it is an incredible achievement. For those fearing damaging the movement due to misuse, the calibre is fitted with a safety mechanism. This one prevents incorrect manipulation during reverse time setting.

HL Sphere on the wrist

A “revolution”

Hautlence HL Sphere is a “revolution”, regardless of which sense we take for the work. The watch’s original time display is not an attempt but a success in making each new hour important. As mentioned in the beginning, the brand stands between the deities that dare to approach the time telling differently.

In our daily lives, we tend to forget the importance of time passing. We tend to look at the watch, see the time but not to realise that yet another hour is gone. The HL Sphere makes this edge of time to jump (pun intended) and to draw our attention. Each change of the hour is done with a “bang”. With a complex yet mesmerising movement, the watch brings the importance of each hour passed back into focus.

Besides the technical innovation and importance, the Hautlence HL Sphere is a beautiful watch. It has a bold wrist presence and a dial that withdraws attention. The HL Sphere is exceptional executed. From the technical implementation to the finishes of each surface, the HL Sphere is a watch that can arrest your attention easily. And it deserves all the attention.

HL Sphere

Hautlence HL Sphere Technical Specifications

Model details

  • Spherical hour and retrograde minute on a 180° sector HTL 501-1 hand-wound mechanical movement.

Display

  • Spherical hour
  • Retrograde minute on a 180° sector

Calibre

  • HTL 501-1
  • Power reserve: minimum of 3 days
  • Regulating organ: 21,600 vibrations/hour
  • Number of jewels: 38
  • Front face finish: sand-blasted, components decorated and finished by hand
  • Back face finish: sand-blasted, components decorated and finished by hand

Case

  • Case middle and horns: satin-finished and polished white gold;
  • Bezel: satin-finished and polished white gold
  • Screws: steel, with polished heads
  • Crown: polished white gold with engraved HAUTLENCE logo
  • Crystal (TOP): extra-hard sapphire crystal with anti-reflective treatment, bevelling and dome;
  • Caseback: satin-finished and polished white gold, 4 screws, engraved “HAUTLENCE”, “3 ATM WATER RESISTANT”, “Horlogerie Suisse”;
  • Crystal (BOTTOM): extra-hard sapphire crystal with anti-reflective treatment;
  • Dimensions (excluding dome): 39 x 46 x 12 mm / 3.75 mm dome

Dial

  • Base dial: skeletonised and rhodium-plated with engraved minute track.
  • Intermediate dial: Smoked metallic sapphire crystal and curved, diamond-polished rhodium-plated appliques.
  • Hour sphere: Polished grade 5 titanium with blue PVD treatment, laser engraved numerals and white lacquer filling.
  • Minute hands: Satin-finished grade 5 titanium with blue PVD treatment and white lacquer filling.

Strap & Buckle

  • Blue Louisiana alligator; domed, rubber-lined, full square scales, rolled-edge; Interchangeability spring bars;
  • Folding clasp: grade 5 titanium with satin-finished steel plate.

Water resistance

  • 3 ATM

Price

  • CHF 99,000, Limited edition of 28 pieces

Hautlence HL Sphere Gallery

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