In 2013 Hautlence took what was arguably one of the boldest steps in its relatively short history. It unveiled a new, entry-level collection called Destination, which in many ways was a significant departure from everything the brand had been doing since its very inception. You see up until that point Hautlence had been known almost exclusively as a high-end watch manufacturer that only used its own in-house movements and always incorporated jumping hour and retrograde minute complications into its designs.
The problem was that approach was no longer really working for them. Despite the unique designs and the high quality in-house movements, critics of the brand claimed that it lacked a clear identity. The various collections had become too disparate and convoluted and perhaps worst of all, the brand did not have a reasonably priced entry-level piece that would entice in buyers who were new to the Hautlence universe.
As bad as all that sounds though, it’s really not that uncommon in the luxury watch industry, especially amongst smaller brands that have grown organically over time without any clearly laid plans. Consequently, the idea of turning things around, whilst definitely challenging, was certainly not outside the realms of possibility.
The first thing that needed to happen though was the injection of fresh ideas and just as importantly, fresh capital. Both came in the form of MELB Holdings, the family-owned company helmed by former Audemars Piguet CEO Georges-Henri Meylan that acquired both Hautlence and H. Moser & Cie in 2012.
The next step was to take the feedback they had received from retailers and customers alike and turn it into a viable collection that would maintain Hautlence’s high standards, whilst at the same time providing a substantially lower priced alternative for those who liked the brand but could not afford its more expensive pieces.
And thus the Hautlence Destination collection was born.
When Hautlence first unveiled the new Destination collection fans hailed the return of the familiar TV-shaped case, an early hallmark of the brand that had since fallen to the wayside. The rectangular case with its smoothly angled edges is instantly recognizable on the wrist and wears surprisingly comfortably thanks to the inclusion of curved lugs.
There are four different versions of the Destination timepiece – designated 01 – 04 respectively – and this year at Baselworld Hautlence officially introduced the final model, Hautlence Destination 02. I’m not quite sure why they weren’t introduced in chronological order but the important thing is the collection is now officially complete.
Unexpectedly – well, for me at least – Hautlence Destination 02 has quickly become my favorite model in the series, and really cemented the idea of the watch for me. When the initial Destination models were unveiled last year I thought they looked nice but I wasn’t really sold. Over the past 12 months however Hautlence has been carefully refining its original idea, making subtle improvements here and there to finally come up with a finished product they are justifiably proud of.
As you can see in the photos the Hautlence Destination 02 features somewhat of a classic color scheme – namely blue and silver – but it really pops on the wrist. Surprisingly though the Destination collection marks the first time Hautlence has ever displayed the hours and minutes in a conventional two-handed format.
Many of the brand’s hallmarks can still be found however if you look a little more closely, such as the second-time zone indicator at six o’clock shown on a transferred sapphire disc much like the jumping hours on the Origine collection. Likewise a sense of depth has been achieved by creating a multi-faceted dial complete with large date bridge and ‘floating’ Arabic numerals.
There is also a sense of practical functionality to the Destination collection that you wouldn’t necessarily always associate with Hautlence. For example the date is shown in a clear and easy to read format via an aperture just below 12 o’clock, and an ingenious day/night indicator has been incorporated into the second time-zone display so you can quickly and intuitively determine whether it’s day or night in the second location you are tracking. Quite useful when planning business calls and the like.
Given that this new model was to be pitched as an entry-level piece however some compromises had to be made. The most notable one is the fact the Destination collection is powered by a modified automatic Soprod 9351/A10-2 movement. This is the first time ever that a Hautlence timepiece hasn’t been powered by an in-house movement and I’ve been told it was a difficult decision for the brand to make but ultimately a necessary one given the significant cost saving.
For some though the lack of an in-house movement has made the Destination’s US$18,000 – US$22,000 price range difficult to accept, which to a degree is understandable. By the same token though you are still getting high quality, beautifully finished timepiece that bears the name of a very reputable independent brand plus you’re not likely to see it on the wrist of all your golf buddies at the club.
Having had the opportunity to wear several pieces from the Destination collection, including most recently the Hautlence Destination 02, I have to say this is one of those watches that you just need to see in person to really get. It’s not complicated or particularly fancy but it just looks cool on the wrist, especially when paired with a funky blue leather strap. It won’t suit all tastes but I definitely think it’s worth a closer look.