For digital timepieces, doing many things is as simple as writing a few lines of code, but reproducing those functions mechanically in the world of haute chronologie is something else entirely. The aptly names Hysek Colossal, which made its debut at this year's Baselworld, is a giant of a wristwatch that uses an innovative movement to create a 24-hour time readout that's both numeric and displays midnight correctly.
To look at, one can understand why it's called the Colossal. A brute of a watch, it's a massive rectangle of sapphire and 18K gold containing 1,080 components that measures 57 x 18 x 44 mm and looks like the sort of thing that would give your arm a minor workout every time you checked the time.
Part of the reason for its bulk is the extremely complex complications needed to carry out its functions. Instead of a circular display using flat gears, the Colossal features roller-based numeric linear displays that use vertical gears. Substituting a flat display for a roller-based system has always been a challenge for mechanical movements, but the Colossal takes this a step further by using a 24-hour time display.
In an ordinary 12-hour display, using numbers isn't that much of a problem. When the time goes from 11:59 to 12:00, the numbers all click one step forward and everything is fine. With a 24-hour display, doing this makes the watch read 24:00, which doesn't make any sense because there's no such time.
To make the watch give the true time of 00:00 for midnight, Hysek incorporated a jumping mechanism into the roller-based movement. A few minutes before midnight, the 3 in 23:59 discretely rolls back to a 9. Then, at midnight, the display is able to jump from 29:59 straight to 00:00 in what the company calls "a veritable mechanical ballet." Meanwhile, inside the movement, the gears, bars, and levers line up long before midnight to make the transition as fast and as smooth as possible and a similar mechanism keeps the jumping perpetual calendar properly synched with the day and date.
Another complication is the Moon Phase, which dominates the center of the movement. Instead of being a simple dial with a half-obscured moon face, the hand-painted moon is fixed inside of a star-studded cupola that revolves about it, making a complete circuit every 29.5 days in synch with the lunar cycle. As it does so, the hole in the cupola shows the phase of the Moon for that particular time. Hysel says that this is the first time such a complication has been built and that it requires a special ceramic ball bearing system to make it work properly.
Along with the major complications, the Colossal also boasts a GMT/dual-time zone display powered by the time-display roller to save space, and a leap year indicator. Turning the watch sideways, two windows show the power reserve and a seasonal day-night indicator. All of these are rhodium plated.
The Hysek Colossal uses the patented 186-jewel Hysek HW80 caliber powered by a 42-hour, automatic, twin-barrelled, winding mechanism with a platinum micro-rotor for a greater moment of inertia for its size, and a rear-mounted flying tourbillon set in a cage with ceramic ball bearings and a titanium balance wheel and an alloy spring. This allows for a frequency of 28,800 vibrations per hour.
All this is set in the 18K rose gold case with rotating lugs, a single-pusher crown, and a water resistance of 30 m (100 ft). This is offset by the large, arch-shaped sapphire crystal with anti-reflection treatment. Three more sapphire crystals on the sides and back provide additional views of the movement and readout.
Hysek says that the Colossal will be available in a limited run of eight pieces. The final price has not been set, but it's said to be under US$700,000.
"Colossal is a major Grande Complication piece boasting unprecedented technology – the most ambitious undertaken by the manufacture in over 10 years. Colossal is a watchmaking Everest, celebrating our maison's twentieth anniversary in style – as well as commemorating the 10th anniversary of one of our original creations, the Colosso," says Hysek CEO Akram Aljord.
The video below introduces the Hysek Colossal.