WORLD PREMIERE: HYT Skull Vida — Awakened From the Ice Age
The launch of the HYT Skull was for me, the first instance of the very technical brand moving into a more philosophical as opposed to rational consideration of time. This was most obviously evident in its utilization of the Skull motif on the dial, which has over history come to represent the notion of memento mori; Latin for: “remember you will die”.
Placed on objects that were used in daily life, the Skull motif became the jumping point of reflection on one’s mortality and was used to prompt people to remember the truth of vanity in earthly life and the transient nature of earthly pursuits.
In the context of the HYT Skull, however, such remembrance did not come in the form of merely having a Skull motif as the dial’s main focus. Indeed, what we find with this watch is a brilliant utilization of the brand’s unique fluid technology, coming to add a further layer of meaning through the deliberate obfuscation of precision.
The capillary tube that we find in all HYT watches draws the form of the Skull through its journey over 12 hours, and with this we perceive the time where the fluid lands. We might know the hour, but we do not know the exact minute, let alone the exact second. Why this is important is because it makes a statement that transcends the notion of the HYT Skull as a watch. Yes, it might carry the parts that make up a watch, but as an object, it resists the temptation to embody this identity fully. Instead, it tells us with its design that knowing the time might be important, but be too precise with it, and the meaning of the whole is lost.
What are we to make of the new Skull Vida then, a watch with a dial material that embodies an even deeper extension of the idea behind the HYT Skull? After all, what could come to symbolize time and death as succinctly and as beautifully as the ivory from the long extinct Woolly Mammoth?
One of the last in a line of mammoth species that died out around 4,000 years ago, the woolly mammoth’s closest living relative is the Asian Elephant, though, it was bigger and similar in size to the modern African one. Adapted to the extreme cold with its long and thick fur coat, it grew long and curved tusks that were replaced 6 times throughout an indiviual’s lifetime, and were used not only carry and manipulate objects, but for fighting and foraging as well.
As a prehistoric animal, it is one of the few that lives powerfully in our imagination today, partly due to its similarity with its modern relatives, and partly due to the fact that we have been able to study it very deeply, due to the discovery of frozen carcasses in Alaska and Siberia. Such a wealth of material has come forth from this research into the past to illuminate our modern understanding and, of course, within the permefrost of the latter, the ivory that now comes to complete the dial of the HYT Skull Vida we have today.
We get more insights on the romantic piece from Gregory Dourde, CEO of HYT.
Tell me about the process of coming up with the Skull Vida in the context of the other Skull watches that have come before it.
The HYT Skull model is a combination of unique elements that is iconic for HYT. The process of making the base model of the Skull is an artistic and tedious one. The bending of the capillary to give the skull its shape is not only for aesthetic reasons. With liquids flowing inside the glass tube, the Skull itself becomes the medium of time — of the time passed, and the time that has yet to come to pass. When the liquids return every 12 hours in the bellows, it is a brand new and unique molecular configuration that is never twice the same.
With the Skull Vida, we aim to play with the tension between life (vida) and death as represented by the Skull. It embodies the notion of carpe diem, to remind us always to seize the day and dance to the tune of life as if today were our last.
The most interesting aspect of the Skull Vida is the material from which the Skull on the dial is made. Tell me why HYT decided to use this material.
We used Mammoth ivory because we wanted to create a link with the history of humanity and of our lives on a personal level. Asleep under the permafrost in Siberia for close to 30,000 years, we wanted to give new life to this treasure that was hidden. The beauty of this material is that it is alive and constantly evolving as it is sensitive to the surrounding changes in temperature and humidity.
One of the key characteristics of mammoth ivory is the sharp Schreger lines (natural grain lines or cross hatchings on the tusks) that are less than 90 degrees. The material also displays fluorescent qualities due to the existence of an iron phosphate and vivianite. When an ultraviolet light source is shone on the ivory, there may be patches of purple, a nice touch to a living material that is unlike what we can make in our modern world, slightly imperfect.
The Skull Vida comes across as a combination of technical achievement and métier d’arts. Now, métier d’arts is not something we would normally associate with a brand like HYT, with the use of interesting materials with rare provenance, and also engraved. What does the Skull Vida signal in the creative interpretations of the Skull series for the future?
Many people see métiers d’art as an art form from the past, much like the fixed mindset that complications in watchmaking need to be mechanical. But look at what we’ve done at HYT! We’ve created a complication that is not only mechanical but combined with a fluid technology, which has no precedent in watchmaking. This has no reference to the past with what we do (except to our original inspiration, the Clepsydra water clock).
In the same vein, this is what we are doing with the engraving for Skull Vida. We are taking an art that has been around for a long time, and making it inherently HYT.
Does HYT have the in-house capability to achieve the engraving or was it done via external specialists?
We work with specialists and different independent artists who are extremely talented in their fields.
Tell me about the design of the engraving. Is there a symbolic meaning in the context of the material that the dial is made from?
The design inspiration came from the patterns in the face painting of the participants in the Mexican festival, the “Dia de Los Muertos” or “Day of the Dead”. We chose this design as it adds a further layer of meaning to the intrinsic elements already in the Skull collection and for this particular watch, the Skull Vida, with its mammoth ivory. As a whole, the watch is dense with so much meaning that it cannot help but be a constant reminder of how we should look at life.
The strap is also part of the cohesiveness of the design. What material is this made of and what is the pattern that it contains?
The strap is not an added component as it was been designed at the same time with the same spirit, as with all the elements of the watch! The floral patterns are symbolic of the luxuriant nature of a joyful life. It is a very holistic approach, where the whole is much greater than the sum of the parts!