Friends! Not everyone will like Vianne Halter’s work. This Swiss with French roots draws his watch ideas from his many interests, which cover the most varied spheres. From astronomy and science fiction to comics and complex scientific research by Abraham-Louis Breguet. But independent watchmaking is independent in order to represent an unconventional view of the art of watchmaking.
Vianne Jean Joseph Halter (Vianney Halter) was born in 1963 in the suburbs of Paris. The boy’s father worked as a train driver on the San Lazare railway and, according to Halter, he could fix absolutely everything. From him the passion for mechanics was passed on to the future watchmaker. True, he had to work not with large, but with very small “pieces of iron”.
The guy did not like studying in a regular school from the word at all. But studying the world through the prism of watchmaking went with a bang. That is why, in 1978, Halter entered the Parisian watchmaking school. To get there, the teenager had to spend 4 hours a day on the road, but this did not bother him at all. At this time, he could read his favorite science fiction or just dream. The ideas that were born to the sound of the wheels later came in handy in his work.
While still a student, Vianne Halter moved to Paris and took up a part-time job, typical for young watchmakers – restoration of antique watches. At first, he worked under the supervision of experienced craftsmen, but after 3 years he opened his own workshop in the 3rd arrondissement, at the same time collaborating with auction houses. However, Paris turned out to be too expensive a city, and the watchmaker began to think about moving to Bangkok. In the 1980s, business was developing dynamically in the capital of Thailand, and Halter, with his talents, could make good money.
All changed the acquaintance with François-Paul Journe. In 1989, Halter’s now famous colleague invited Halter to move to Switzerland and join his THA (Techniques horlogères appliquées) project. So he ended up in Saint-Croix, where for 4 years he created watches for such companies as Breguet, Audemars Piguet, Mauboussin, Jaquet Droz and Franck Muller.
In 1994, the paths of Halter and Journal diverge – they say that the difficult nature of both is to blame. The master opens his own manufactory Janvier SA, which initially continues to be subcontracted. In 1996, due to the Asian crisis, his company was virtually left without orders and Halter took a forced break in his career. At this time, he mastered playing the piano and for the first time thought about bringing his own watch to the market.
In 1998, with the support of Philippe Dufour at the Basel exhibition, Vianne Halter will present the Antiqua Perpetual Calendar. The press will immediately christen them Captain Nemo’s watch. Halter will not argue – he got an accessory, as if descended from the pages of the novel by Jules Verne. The massive asymmetrical body more than had enough room for 4 windows of different sizes, which displayed the time, date, day of the week, month and leap year cycle. At the time, it was an extremely rare type of perpetual calendar that instantly switched the date and day of the week every midnight. Halter took the ultra-thin automatic movement from the Nouvelle Lémania factory as a basis. The first reaction to the novelty was bewilderment, but by the end of the exhibition, orders began to arrive one after another.
In 2000, on the recommendation of Philippe Dufour, Alter will be admitted to the Academy of Independent Watchmakers. With the beginning of the 3rd millennium, the master’s track record will be replenished with participation in two large-scale projects. The first one was called “Faces of Times” and united 7 watchmakers who had to create 7 models of watches for subsequent sale at auctions. The project was overseen by the well-known German company Goldpfeil, for which Halter, in collaboration with designer Pascal Paget, created two models. One of them is the Goldpfeil Vianney Halter Seven Masters Jump Hour watch. It was a model with a jumping hour function and a moon phase indicator. The style of the watch was reminiscent of a 1950s camera.
The second project is better known to the general public. This is the famous watch from the Harry Winston Opus series. Vianne Halter was involved in the development of the Opus 3. After receiving carte blanche from the then project manager Max Büsser, Halter again recruited Pascal Paget. This creative duo has developed the idea of the Antiqua model by placing the watch in a rectangular case. Instead of arrows on the conventional dial, there are 3 pairs of windows, which displayed hours, minutes and date.
After the 3rd Opus was presented at Baselworld 2003, all watches of the series were immediately ordered. In the fall, Halter’s brainchild was honored at the Geneva Grand Prix of Watchmaking (GPHG), where the Opus 3 won an award in the Innovation category. However, later it turned out that the novelty that caused the noise needs serious revision. As it turned out, the watch did not have enough energy to constantly switch indicators.
No one could have imagined that the revision process would drag on for as much as 7 years. During this time, Halter will leave the project. Frederic Garino, the then director of development at the design bureau, will bring his idea to mind. Renaud et Papi . Fortunately, all customers will wait for the successful completion of the project in 2010.
During this time, Vianne Halter will have time to introduce a couple more watch “monsters”. So, in 2007, the Cabestan model, created in tandem with Jean-François Ruchonnet, will be released. If anything, Ruchonnet is the same crazy creative person who designed the belt-driven TAG Heuer Monaco V4 Concept Watch and the Double Tourbillon for Breguet.
Movement prototype created by Vianne Halter for the Cabestan
In this watch, old friends were also pretty creative, starting from the nautical theme. The model got its name for the visual similarity of the open caliber with the capstan – a mechanism that is used in shipping for the movement of goods. The three-dimensional design of the watch capstan includes four aluminum cylinders. The upper cylinder on the left shows the power reserve, the cylinder on the right displays the hours and minutes. The bottom cylinder on the right is nothing more than a seconds indicator. A vertical tourbillon is squeezed between them. All this madness is equipped with a fuse-chain transmission and is housed in a titanium case (46 x 36 x 15 mm) weighing 230 grams.
With the participation of Halter, the second version of the model, the Cabestan Nostromo, was also created. This time Ruchonnet was inspired by the spaceship from the movie “Alien”. To heighten the effect, it was decided to add illumination to the watch, not only on the numbers and details of the mechanism, but also on an unusual rubber strap.
Following the Cabestan model, the Trio Grande Date watch will be presented in a massive rectangular case that resembles a gold bar. Stylistically, the model continues the Antiqua design tradition. Unless the calendar displays are represented here only by the date. The date indicator is located on two indicators in the lower right corner of the case. Next to it is the seconds counter. Halter has developed the VH 205 movement with independent date setting especially for this model.
In 2008, Vianne Halter made an unexpected move by presenting a clone of a unique watch designed for Goldpfeil. For all its similarity to Antiqua (I mean, in terms of design), the Stellarium model looks completely different. Halter again implemented the idea of separate indicators in the watch, but this time they are not located on the case, but as if they form it. The model has a platinum case. The indication of hours and minutes here is complemented by a lunar phase indicator and a thermometer completely unexpected for a mechanical watch.
The 2008 financial crisis hit Janvier hard. To improve matters and be able to create further, Halter urgently needed to come up with something new. The fascination with science fiction helped. After watching the series “Star Trek”, the watchmaker wondered what a watch could be that a person would want to take with him into space. He presented the answer to this question in 2013. The model, called the Deep Space Tourbillon, eclipsed even its legendary Antiqua in popularity.
As conceived by Halter and Swiss designer Jeremy Senggen, the Deep Space 9 space station, where the events of the series take place, has been transformed into a three-axis tourbillon. The tourbillon design, which Halter called the cradle (remember Tsiolkovsky’s statement about the “cradle of humanity”?), Was placed in a 46 mm titanium case. The inner carriage in the watch makes a full revolution around its axis in 40 seconds. The middle carriage perpendicular to it rotates horizontally at a speed of one revolution every 6 minutes. And finally, the whole structure is completely rotated in the plane of the mechanism in 30 minutes. Colleagues in the watchmaker’s workshop praised Halter’s creative courage: in the fall of 2013, the Deep Space Tourbillon won the Geneva Watchmaking Grand Prix in the Innovation category.
The Deep Space Resonance model is even more complex. It is based on the same three-axis tourbillon, but the design has not one, but two balance-spiral assemblies, which work in acoustic resonance with each other. Halter’s watch was inspired by the construction of a piano with resonating strings he mastered and the gravitational waves predicted by Einstein.
The tourbillon block in this watch includes 371 parts. As in the Deep Space Tourbillon, the rotation speed of the middle cage and the entire structure is 6 and 30 minutes, but the inner tourbillon cage makes a full revolution not in 40, but in 60 seconds.
Reading the time on the clock is a real puzzle. At the top of the dial is the hour indicator at 15-minute intervals. For a more accurate time determination, you will need a scale at the bottom of the dial. This is the so-called Vernier scale – the exact value of the time in minutes here should be looked at by the risks that line up in one line. Realizing that it was too complicated, Mr. Halter promised on oath that on production copies everything would be clearer. Well, wait and see.
Vianne Halter’s company produces no more than 20-30 watches annually. Their retro-futuristic aesthetic is usually to the liking of steampunk accessories lovers. By the way, most of these amateurs are in Japan, the USA and Singapore, although the 3rd Opus and Deep Space Tourbillon made Halter’s name known throughout the watchmaking world.
The master has long deduced for himself the formula for an ideal watch, in which 3 components should converge. The first is a strong conceptual idea, which should ideally be summed up in one sentence. The second is an interesting design, in which every detail is in its place and has the only solution that is correct from the point of view of aesthetics. The third is perfect execution. Without any of these 3 components in his watch, I think he would probably have decided that his entire career of 40 years simply does not make sense.