Against the tide
One often wonders whether humans have invented everything there is to invent. When you consider all the investment that has gone into making such things as the solar-powered torch and baconnaise (bacon-flavoured mayonnaise), well, you have to wonder, right?
In watchmaking, the retrograde function can be construed as either pointless or an innovative leap in technical expertise, but in reality it all depends on the watch. The retrograde function involves an indicator, for example the seconds indicator, not completing a full 360-degree revolution, but instead completing, say, half that and then flying back to the start. Retrograde watches range from the overly complex to the deceptively simple. On the latter end of the scale is the Blancpain Villeret Ultra-Slim Retrograde (above right). Priced at HK$179,000, the timepiece has a relatively unobtrusive retrograde small seconds indicator at the six o'clock position, which hits 30 seconds before jumping back to zero. The lack of show for this retrograde feature is a welcome change - too many other watchmakers are guilty of overegging the function. The 18-carat, rose-gold case is sized at a classic 40mm and houses a white dial, which features a date indicator with a blue serpentine pointer. Other design features include the use of Roman numerals to indi-cate hours while the rest of the indicators use standard numerals. The strap is brown alligator leather and a bonus feature of this watch is the three-day power reserve.
HYT is a newcomer to watchmaking and the company has already attracted attention with its high-concept innovation and daring. The HYT H1 Titanium (right) is the brand's debut watch and its retrograde fluid hours make a striking first impression. That's right, this watch uses fluid pumped around an outer tube to indicate hours in a retrograde fashion. The pumping is done by two pistons that are visible at the bottom half of the dial. This innovation could be passed off as gimmicky but the rest of the watch is so well put together and designed, with an edgy, industrial aesthetic, that it all just works. Priced at HK$370,000, the watch comes with a large 49mm case made of brushed titanium. The 18mm thickness of the dial as well as the width of the stitched canvas strap add to the overall meaty feel and look of the timepiece. Other features include a power-reserve indicator at the two o'clock position and a small seconds counter at the 10 o'clock position, alongside a minute indicator at the 12 o'clock position. The HYT H1 Titanium has a 65-hour power reserve and is water resistant to 100 metres.
A retrograde watch that is decidedly less conceptual but no less good looking and fabulously built is the Maurice Lacroix Masterpiece Lune Retrograde (above left), which has been tweaked for 2012 with a new automatic movement. The first thing to note about this timepiece is the wonderful layout of the dial, with its three indicators all competing for attention but not impeding each other. The 43mm dial is made of stainless steel, which is a pleasing contrast to the navy blue of the face and the alligator-leather strap. The styling is classic and simple but the watch is nevertheless feature-rich, with a retrograde date indicator in the top left-hand corner, a power reserve indicator on the opposite side and, at the six o'clock position, a day/night indicator. The Maurice Lacroix Masterpiece Lune Retrograde is priced at HK$62,500.