For the first time in his celebrated career, master watchmaker Vianney Halter designs a watch for the general public; Louis Erard’s successful Régulateur watch is the conduit. The result is a fascinating creation blending Vianney Halter’s unique style in a round, 42mm steel case with an outsourced movement that will retail for CHF 3,500. Let’s take a closer look.
Collaborations between watchmakers and designers can lead to surprising results. When Louis Erard gave carte blanche to artist and watch designer Alain Silberstein to create a design for its Régulateur watch, the outcome was an unmistakably Silbersteinian dial animated with the playful geometry and primary colours associated with the designer. At the other end of the spectrum, Louis Erard’s collaborative effort with designer Eric Giroud resulted in the decidedly minimalist and modern Excellence Regulator.
But there is more to these collaborations than meets the eye. Beyond breathing new life into a classic dial layout based on the regulator clocks of the 19th century, these collaborations reflect the founding philosophy of Louis Erard to produce refined watches with affordable prices. For many fans of Alain Silberstein (his own watch brand ceased operations in 2012), his collaboration with Louis Erard meant that his followers could afford to tap into his unique universe.
This idea of marrying affordable quality with big names in watch design prevails in the latest piece. Followers of Vianney Halter know that every creation of this maestro is a unique work of the highest watchmaking art, highly limited in production, and for most mortals, unobtainable. In short, watches for collectors only. As Vianney Halter said: “I wanted to see if I was capable of reaching all those who love my watches but are not able to buy them. Louis Erard has allowed me to that while staying true to myself.”
A return to basics
Vianney Halter is a rock star in the world of watchmaking, an independent-minded spirit who has been crafting watches since 1984. Those of you familiar with Vianney Halter’s masterpieces might remember the Antiqua perpetual calendar watch. Presented in 1998, it was Vianney Halter’s first watch and embraced a futuristic vision inspired by Jules Verne and H.G. Wells; a wild steampunk interpretation of the marine chronometer complete with four riveted portholes. His style can best be described as iconoclastic; his methods those of a traditional master watchmaker of the past. Recipient of countless awards, Vianney Halter has produced around ten models of wristwatches under his eponymous brand, but the high level of workmanship they demand means that production is necessarily limited. Estimates suggest that only 500 pieces by Vianney Halter have been produced to date.
For Vianney Halter, the project with Louis Erard represented a return to basics. The starting point was the regulator complication, a fundamental pillar of Louis Erard’s Excellence watch collection inspired by historical 18th-century master clocks. These highly precise master clocks, capable of achieving precision to within a few seconds per week, were used in observatories as standards of accuracy. The distinctive feature of regulators was the separation of minutes, hours and seconds. The minutes became the true protagonists of the dial and were read with a large sweep hand, while the hours and seconds were usually relegated to smaller sub-dials.
Taking the classic layout of the regulator as his departure point, with the minutes on the outermost track and the hours and seconds relayed on two intersecting circles in the centre, Vianney Halter accentuates the central figure-eight composition on the dial by sculpting different planes. The peripheral silver minutes track and the frame of the figure-eight are elevated, the highest point of the dial barring the two applied plaques bearing the names of Vianney Halter and Louis Erard. The two overlapping sub-dials are slightly recessed and their centres, along with two areas on either side of the dial flanking the plaques, form the lowest level of the dial picked out in a matte grey colour with an interesting granulated texture. The composition is dynamic, tightly packed with information and volume, and endowed with a nice quicky touch as the figure-eight dips into the railway minutes track causing an indentation.
Giving the watch its technical, instrument quality is the presence of precision railway tracks throughout, from the peripheral seconds to the hours and small seconds. Refined finishes, like the circular satin-brushed silver upper plate, the microbead-blasted silver hour and seconds counters, and the granular grey areas subtly signal the different functions. Combined with the different planes, the watch exudes a great level of volume and depth.
If you look at the hour and minute hands on this Regulateur, you’ll see a direct reference to the signature blued steel hands, which first appeared on Vianney Halter’s Antiqua watch. The essential function of the minutes is indicated by a long fountain pen-shaped hand that rests squarely on the track. It is thicker than the other hands to stand out. Other details that were borrowed from the Antiqua is the font used for the numerals and the crenellated crown.
Case and movement
Having seen Vianney Halter’s high-end watchmaking flourishes on the dial, it’s time now to look at the ‘accessible’ component of the equation. Like other models in the Régulateur series, the case is made from stainless steel and polished throughout with a 42mm diameter and a thickness of 12.25mm. And like other straightforward 3-hand Régulateur watches, the movement is an automatic Sellita SW266-1 beating at 28,800vph with a 38-hour power reserve. Naturally, the movement has been personalised with Louis Erard touches like the brushed finishings on the openworked LE oscillator.
First impressions might lead you to believe that this is a very classic interpretation of a regulator dial. However, the highly graphic nature and proximity of the elements on the dial, as well as the different levels sculpted into the dial and highlighted with different finishings do not seem to belong to the past. Dynamic volume is a hallmark Vianney Halter trait. Other signature Halter touches are the blued steel hands, the precision railway tracks and the crenellated crown. What you are getting is the look and feel of some key Vianney Halter features in a regulator layout combined with the practicality and accessibility of a round stainless steel case and an outsourced automatic movement. However, given the mighty horological credentials of the collaborator, would a more elaborate movement have made this watch more appealing, or just more expensive? Your thoughts are most welcome.
Availability & price
The Le Régulateur Louis Erard x Vianney Halter comes with an attractive blue Nubuck calf leather strap with tone-on-tone stitching and a polished steel buckle. The catch spring-bars on the lugs mean that the strap can be exchanged easily. The watch is limited to 178 pieces and will retail for CHF 3,500.
More information at Louis Erard.