Hautlence Debuts the Spherical, 3D Jump Hour Once Again

The second instalment of the HL Sphere.

Founded almost two decades ago, making one of the pioneers in contemporary watchmaking, Hautlence has long specialised in unusual, or even avant-garde, time display, like the chain-link hours in the Vortex.

Boasting a three-dimensional spherical indicator, the new HL Sphere 02 is even more impressive, reimagining the familiar jumping hours complication as few have managed to do. A follow up to the original HL Sphere introduced last year, the HL Sphere 02 is essentially the same watch dressed more formally, replacing the muted blue-and-grey palette of the original version with a solid pink-gold dial.

An animation of the transition from 10 to 11 o’clock

Initial thoughts

Though the HL Sphere 02 isn’t new, its spherical jumping hours remains novel and interesting. While conventional jumping hours operate on a single plane, relying on a flat disc that moves once an hour, the watch interprets the complication in a throughly different manner that is unique in watchmaking.

In fact, the spherical jump hour is more impressive than Hautlence gets credit for. It is arguably on par with inventions like Urwerk’s satellite-cube time display, but because Hautlence isn’t as prominent as its peers – perhaps a consequence of changing management over the years – the brand’s complications don’t get as much recognition as they otherwise should.

The HL Sphere 02 is almost identical to the original – the white gold, TV-shaped case and movement are the same – with the only change being the new dial that does away with the clear sapphire disc dial of the original model. This gives the HL Sphere 02 a more classical appearance, bringing to mind salmon dials that are now fashionable. Although the update is purely aesthetic, it is effective in differentiating the HL Sphere 02 from other Hautlence models that have a strong sci-fi style.

Appealing and original, the HL Sphere 02 is a truly cool watch – both conceptually and technically – but pricey at US$110,000.

Complex gearing

The HL Sphere 02 is actually evolved from the HL04, the brand’s very first watch. Introduced in 2004, the HL04 put Hautlence on the map as an contemporary independent watchmaker. It had a TV-shaped case and retrograde minutes, along with a jumping hours indicated in a conventional disc-based manner.

The HL Sphere 02 retains the same shape, as well as the retrograde minutes, but transforms the hours discs into a large sphere that spins rapidly at the top of the hour, moving seemingly in a random fashion before settling to show the current hour. The three-dimensional display naturally becomes the distinguishing feature of the watch, both when stationary and in motion.

Visible through the case back, the HLT 501-1 is a hand-wind movement developed in house. However, the balance assembly – with its curved hairspring stud originally designed by independent watchmaker Andreas Strehler – gives away the shared parentage of Hautlence and H. Moser & Cie., which also uses the same distinctive hairspring stud in its movements.

Most of the movement occupies just half the case, with the other half devoted to the spherical display

The construction of the jumping hours is key to the illusion of a floating ball spinning at random. Made up of two blued titanium halves, the sphere is mounted on a single axis located close to the case back, creating the impression it is floating.

Although it is fixed on a single axis, the sphere rotates on three different axes, a feat achieved with several conical gears arranged at various angles, allowing the conversion of motion into different planes.

Although complex and three-dimensional, the spherical display is compact enough that the watch is fairly compact. The case measures 46 mm wide and 39 mm long, while standing only 12 mm high. Its short lugs give it a fairly small footprint, while the sapphire bubble on the front means the height of the watch is kept to the minimum.

Key Facts and Price

Hautlence HL Sphere 02
Ref. H1501-0203

Diameter: 39 mm by 46 mm
Height: 12 mm
Material: 18k white gold
Water resistance: 30 m
Dial: Solid pink gold

Movement: HLT 501-1
Functions: Spherical jumping hours and retrograde minutes
Frequency: 21,600 beats per hour (3 Hz)
Winding: Hand wind
Power reserve: 72 hours

Strap: Alligator with titanium and steel folding clasp

Limited edition: 28 pieces
Availability: At Hautlence retailers
Price: US$110,000

For more, visit hautlence.com.

Update January 15, 2021: Animation of the jumping hours added.

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