While every sale may well be “a hard-fought victory,” as Guillaume Têtu willingly admits, the founder and CEO of Hautlence remains quietly confident, despite the difficulties besetting the Swiss watch sector. “Russia, which is a major market for Hautlence, has fallen off the radar these past months, but the brand is big in south-east Asia, in no small part thanks to the partnership we signed a year ago with Singapore distributor Certina,” he explains. With outlets in Hong Kong and Singapore, soon to be followed this autumn by Malaysia and Thailand, in addition to the first Hautlence store in Jakarta, in the Indonesian capital’s “most prestigious shopping centre”, the brand is seducing an Asian clientele won over to its concept of time measurement. Sales for 2015 are expected to reach around 400 units, making this an excellent year for the watchmaker which employs eleven of its own staff and works with some fifty local firms, all based in the Jura mountains.
Vortex, which Hautlence is unveiling this summer, and which will compete at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, is a perfect example of the concept watches that have forged the brand’s renown. “This type of watch, along with our HL2, is the epitome of who and what we are,” says Guillaume Têtu. “Each HL2 collection is produced as a limited series of 28, and almost every one is personalised to the customer’s wishes. We could easily do this and nothing else.” Of course, a brand must be more than its limited editions, hence Hautlence has divided its offering into three segments: Concept d’Exception, Atelier and Signature. The latter category puts Hautlence within more people’s reach, with timepieces that are driven by Soprod movements, with or without Dubois Dépraz chronograph modules, and with prices set to fall as low as CHF 15,000 for the start of the range.
"This is not a watch"
The brand’s latest creation, needless to say, sits at the very top of the Hautlence pyramid and is the result of advanced research into shape dynamics. First the mechanics: Hautlence has borrowed the movement of its HL2, distinguished by its retrograde minutes and half-trailing hours on a 12-link chain with speed regulation. At each hour change, which takes three to four seconds, the motion of the chain causes the baguette movement, including the regulating organ, to rotate through 60°. A power-reserve indicator counts the 40 hours of autonomy for this automatic movement, which is protected by three patents. Naturally, Hautlence has done more than simply imagine new “packaging” for an existing calibre. This baguette movement, comprising 552 components and 92 jewels, has swivelled 90° to accommodate slimmer Asian wrists, and is positioned under the display in a 50×52 mm case that measures 20 mm high.
Hautlence worked with Paris-based agency Berra Blanquer Design Consultants – BBDC on Vortex’s stunning exterior. “The interesting thing about this project is that Hautlence set no limits, whether intellectual or aesthetic,” comments Ludovic Blanquer. “This meant we could take everything apart and start again from scratch, which is a great way to bring out new ideas and new opportunities.” This “deconstruction”, or to borrow Guillaume Têtu’s description, “disorganisation management”, produced the radical forms and facetted structures of Vortex’s case, which is entirely in sapphire crystal. They are informed by contemporary architecture and immediately strike the observer with their raw technicity. A translucent metallized sapphire dial further accentuates the “out-of-the-box” thinking behind the display. As Magritte might have said, “this is not a watch.” And yet, what a watch this is!