If there’s one thing I can’t get enough of it’s “alternative horology”; watches that provide the same function as any watch but in an entirely new and inventive form. During watch fairs, there’s nothing I look forward to more than discovering all the new watch concepts coming from independent brands. But I’ll admit this: as much as I might admire such mechanical wonders for their technical feat and visual appeal (added with the fact that I only get to handle such pieces once in a blue moon) I often wonder whether these watches can perform as go-to pieces in a smaller watch collection, or if they’re simply intended as trinkets for the collector who has it all.


Luckily for me HYT sort of made my dream come true. After visiting their hydro-mechanical laboratory in Bienne, I decided to put their micro-fluid technology to the test. HYT were kind enough to lend me a functioning H1 for a week.

The award-winning H1 has been the subject of much discussion in the online watch community, but with such limited production volumes, I haven’t come across many owner reviews or hands-on experiences of the watch in action. So this post will mainly be about how the H1 performs as a daily wearer.

What’s fascinating about a HYT watch is the coupling of age-old watchmaking principles with the brand’s patented hydro-mechanical unit. The micro-fluid aspect is so fascinating that it would have been easy to overlook the design of the actual watch. But to my tastes at least HYT were successful in fitting such technology into a very aesthetically pleasing package. While the focus is and should be on the micro-fluid system, there’s a lot more to admire in the H1. The off-centered minutes dial, the watermill-inspired seconds wheel, the power reserve indicator on the opposite side; it’s all very balanced.


The watch I was loaned was the DLC-treated Titanium version of the H1, which is probably my personal favorite of the H1 line. It’s not just because it’s a blacked-out case, but because black tends to make a case appear smaller than it is. And when it comes to the 48.8mm wide case of the H1, that’s not such a bad thing.

Don’t get me wrong; the H1 is not an overbearing watch at all. In fact, thanks to its lightweight Titanium case with its short lugs and an integrated rubber strap, the H1 wore more comfortably than some of other similarly sized watches. And remember, it’s not like HYT opted for these dimensions for the sake of making big watches. There’s a lot of technology to fit in there and HYT have done a great job at utilizing all the available space without rendering the watch ridiculously big.



On the wrist I found the HYT H1 quite easy to pull off. While it’s definitely not made to be tucked under a French cuff, I found it surprisingly comfortable and I would even say more inconspicuous than I would have imagined. What I didn’t notice until trying it on was just how thick the raised sapphire crystal was, which adds to the watch’s height on paper but makes it appear slimmer on the wrist – a pleasant surprise.



So, how easy is it to read the time? I like to think of it as a jumping hour or even a “regulator” layout. It’s intuitive. The off-centered minutes dial is easy enough to read and with a bit of practice, you’ll start reading the peripheral fluid hour display without much effort. The meniscus is quite pronounced, and once you get used to the positions of the hours you won’t even need to read the numbers.


One of my main concerns before receiving the H1 was the liquid’s legibility under different lightings. To my surprise, the H1 was easier to read than I had anticipated. Under direct sunlight or fluorescent lighting, the green fluid has a remarkable neon quality about it that makes it stand out from the rest of the dial. Under incandescent lighting and in darker situations, the green liquid appears more transparent but it still quite distinguishable. The only situation where you won’t be able to read the H1 is in pitch-black darkness, as the fluorescent liquid isn’t luminous. But hey, that’s what smartphones are for!



I was also interested in finding out how the H1 would perform under different climatic situations. The H1 loaner was from a more recent production batch, which features an upgraded reservoir and bellow system fitted with a thermo-regulator to compensate for temperature fluctuations and their effect on the fluid’s density.

It just so happens that the week I wore the watch was one of the coldest autumn weeks I’ve experienced in my 14 years in Switzerland. Up at La Chaux de Fonds, we were experiencing subzero temperatures during the day that week and the H1, which sits outside a shirt and jacket cuff, was hardly affected. While waiting for my train out in the blistering cold, I did notice a very slight deviation of the green fluid that you could equate to about 5 minutes, but after a few minutes indoors the liquid was back in its precise location.


Finally, an important aspect to consider with such as a watch is the “wow factor”. Does it wear off after a while? Maybe it’s because I don’t own a “concept” watch, or maybe it’s because a week isn’t long enough to judge, but I honestly found the HYT H1 just as intriguing to observe after a week as I did when I first strapped it on. The fact there’s a moving, functional fluid in a mechanical watch just doesn’t get old for me. And besides, who could ever get tired of seeing the fluids in retrograde action?

I can tell you that at the end of the week it was a very heartbreaking experience returning the watch to HYT. Not only was it a mechanical marvel to behold, but the fact that it performed above my expectations without any  hiccups only increased my confidence in the brand. I have no doubt that someday, a HYT watch will join my humble watch case…

More information on www.hytwatches.com