Watches: Hautlence Destination Collection (+live pics)

By Thierry Ané on May 23, 2014

Since its creation in 2004, Hautlence has been known among watch enthusiasts as a high-end independent brand specialised in original time displays, often using jumping hours and retrograde minutes. A few years ago though, the brand was integrated to Georges-Henri Meylan’s family MELB Holding, just like H. Moser & Cie, and it was decided that it should not only focus on exclusive and complex timepieces as it has always done but also direct some of its attention to more affordable watches based upon outsourced calibres that would be entirely reworked in pure Hautlence’s style.

The Destination collection first announced at Baselworld 2013 represents the first step in this direction. It took a while, though, before the finished product became available and it was only during this year’s Basel fair that we were able to finally see the result of the intensive revamping that followed the unveiling of last year’s prototypes.

Four interpretation of this Destination model are available, all using a rectangular 43.50 x 37.00 mm case reminiscent of the TV-shaped frame that ensured the success of the HL series released in 2005. Instead of housing a complex in-house calibre like previous models tough, these Destination pieces are fitted with a robust albeit simpler self-winding Soprod 9351/A10-2 calibre that offers a rather conventional display of the time of the day by two central hands. With a large date indicated by 2 windows at 12 o’clock and the presence of a second time zone on a disc at 6 o’clock, it remains perfectly adapted for frequent travellers. All the more so that it also features a day-night indicator located at 8 o’clock to let you know instantly if it is day or night “back home”.

To reach the targeted price bracket, some compromises had to be made and I assume that the movement finish is one of them. To avoid any disappointment, the back of the watch is closed and engraved with the series number and a time zone display chart. Although many watch lovers may regret the absence of a complete see-through sapphire offering an unobstructed view of the movement, the brand still placed a porthole to get a glance at the oscillating weight and balance wheel.

One part of the watch where no shortcuts have been made is definitely the dial. Its design alone is supposed to evoke the brand’s DNA and every detail has been carefully thought of to create a high-end 3-dimensional look in line with more expensive offers from the brand. Its main part is opaline with a honeycomb grid centre that lets you see the mainplate on some models and a nice “Clou de Paris” decoration on others. Above, the brand put a sapphire crystal held by four screws on which Arabic numerals and other hour markers are placed. The hours and minutes hands thus sweep behind the markers. This multi-layer construction crates a unique sense of depth and brings an extremely sophisticated feel to these timepieces.

Four versions are available: the Destination 01 features black DLC titanium and red gold case paired with a black dial with “Clou de Paris” centre and red gold accents and numerals. It is mounted on a black alligator strap. The Destination 04 is rather similar but uses a brown colour palette for the dial and the alligator strap. The black DLC coating also leaves place to a brown PVD treatment. Both models are secured by a titanium pin buckle with red gold plate.

The Destination 02 rendition is in titanium and features a beautiful silver opaline dial with honeycomb grid centre enhanced by blue numerals and hands. To fully appreciate the evolution of the dial’s design since the 2013 unveiling, I encourage you to compare the final version with the original prototype.

Lastly, Hautlence issued the sacrosanct “black” version, the Destination 03, without which a collection would not be considered complete nowadays. Crafted in black DLC titanium with a black dial with honeycomb centre and black numerals, it relies on subtle orange touches to assert its personality.

With price tags that put them within reach for many watch aficionados who would normally not consider buying products from independent watchmakers and a look characteristic enough to evoke their “Hautlence” origin, these Destination models should become very successful and mark the beginning of important developments for this brand.