By Jonathan Kopp
Jonathan Kopp: Dear Vincent, thank you for taking the time to speak with me today. Would you please tell us a little about yourself and your background in the industry?
Vincent Perriard: I started my career in the watch industry more than 15 years ago as Worldwide Marketing & Communication Manager at Audemars Piguet. Then under the leadership of Nicolas Hayek Senior, I joined the Swatch Group as International Marketing Vice President at Hamilton before founding my own Brand DNA agency in Paris, New York and Geneva, specializing in branding and brand strategy. I returned to the watchmaking as President of Concord (Movado Group), where I took the brand to the coveted watch design prize at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève in 2008 with the C1 Tourbillon before joining Technomarine as CEO in 2009.
Jonathan Kopp: Regarding the company itself, can you tell us a little about the size of HYT Watches, the number of watches you produce, etc.? Even if we know that you are starting…
Vincent Perriard: Three years ago we counted the team on the fingers of one hand working in our Bienne offices. The expansion of HYT is growing fast. We did not have the choice to move to a bigger place – now located in Neuchâtel – with our 35 collaborators. The objective is to produce and sell 550 timepieces for 2014 within more than 50 worldwide points of sale.
Jonathan Kopp: You were the originator of the HYT design. Where did you get the idea to create this timepiece? And, what were your sources of inspiration?
Vincent Perriard: The man behind the idea of having a liquid time display is Lucien Vouillamoz, a nuclear engineer. The scenery that caught his imagination was the Swiss lakes. It all started at Switzerland’s national exhibition, Expo ’02. The event was situated in three cities linked by three lakes—Lake Neuchâtel, Lake Morat and the Lake of Bienne right at the heart of the watch industry. It was the mix of water flowing between the three lakes and the strong haute horlogerie presence in the region that gave me the idea to combine water and watchmaking. It is one thing to have a good idea and quite another to make it a reality, but Vouillamoz knew he was onto something groundbreaking, even though the answers didn’t come easily. After a number of years of reflection, he found a solution that would employ two flexible reservoirs to pump colored water through a curved glass tube that could be used to indicate the time.
Jonathan Kopp: After the design phase, you took the collection to new heights in technical performance. Explain us what was the most complicated things during this phase of creation and technical studies?
Vincent Perriard: We faced a few complicated difficulties by creating the first prototype. Indeed, the fluid module technology is completely new in the watchmaking industry therefore we had to start from scratches.
Watchmaking exploration bordering on nanotechnology
Step 1: develop liquids that obey a set of watchmaking specifications. Colour, homogenous texture, resistant to vibrations, shocks and temperature changes, no alteration in the long term, foolproof water resistance. Needs that require the development of a number of innovations. Up till now, seven patents have been registered for the technology and one for the design. This was a steep plunge into the unknown, which led to technical watchmaking feats bordering on nanotechnologies.
Mastering the energy requirements
Hydraulic force means pressure. When the fluorescein-loaded liquid has done a complete round and gets to 06:00 – 18:00, the issuing pump compresses, while the bellows receiver expands, generating resistance and consequently an increased energy requirement. To fix this, Preciflex developed revolutionary bellows made from an extremely fine alloy and which are highly supple and resistant. They are in fact inspired by the sensors used by NASA and their design had to be adapted to watchmaking requirements. Their specially researched shape allows for the reduction of energy required for their compression, absorbs shocks and ensures rock solid waterproofing.
Metaphysics of fluids
During the entire development process, alongside the engineering, the amounts of liquid were the focus of great attention. Every microliter counts, and the total volume in the closed circuit is extremely precise, as the system has to have a nanotechnology-worthy level of water resistance. Due to the unusual link between the crown and the liquid, a special time-setting system was designed in order to avoid the liquid moving around too fast and damaging the meniscus.