Vianney Halter is, without a doubt, one of the most prolific and talented watchmakers on the indie scene. Whether we talk about his highly personal sense of design, materialised in the Antiqua or Classic series, or his skills when it comes to complex displays and fascinating complications, the man knows a thing or two about watches. About a year ago, Vianney Helter presented the uber-complex Deep Space Resonance, with a triple-axis tourbillon and two balances working according to the phenomenon of resonance. Today, he’s back with another watch, slightly more classic but highlighting the resonance concept as the star of the show, plus a few tricks to make it more relevant. Meet the Vianney Halter La Resonance.
The concept of resonance is that two oscillating bodies in close proximity influence each other and eventually synchronise. In short, a vibration in one object can cause an equal vibration in another, nearby object. For instance, strike a tuning fork, bring a second tuning fork next to it, and it will begin to vibrate in sympathy. The concept was first applied to watchmaking by Dutch scientist and mathematician Christiaan Huygens. A century later, Antide Janvier and Abraham-Louis Breguet were the first to apply it respectively to clocks and watches. F.P. Journe would become the first to bring it back to modern watchmaking and to a wristwatch, with his Chronomètre à Résonance.
In a watch, the goal is to synchronise the motion of two regulating organs. For instance, Journe designed a movement with two sets of independent barrels, gear trains and regulators, without a single mechanical connection. Encapsulated in a single calibre, the two movements are laid out independently and symmetrically. One of the two balance cocks swivels in order to finely adjust the distance between the two oscillators so that they will function “sympathetically” to achieve greater chronometric precision. Some watchmakers have worked on a mechanical connection to improve the effect of resonance, such as Armin Strom and its Mirrored Force Resonance concept, consisting of connecting twin oscillators by a steel coupling spring attached to their stud.
With the Deep Space Resonance, Vianney Halter introduced a new concept where he refers specifically to acoustic resonance (see above the movement prototype created by Halter to test the effect of resonance). Subsequently, his idea was to have both spirals attached to a common bridge. With it, the two oscillators could influence each other and attain resonance. Following his work on the Deep Space Resonance, Vianney Halter now brings back this construction in a simplified watch where the resonance phenomenon is the star of the show.
The Vianney Halter La Resonance
With this new La Resonance, Vianney Halter focuses exclusively on the concept of resonance, without any other complication on display – unlike the Deep Space Resonance that added a triple-axis tourbillon to the equation. Here, the balances are traditional and the regulating organs are fixed and not housed in a rotating cage. Nevertheless, the whole idea remains fascinating and the watch has been designed to display the concept of resonance.
The Vianney Halter La Resonance is a typical overly engineered time-only watch, something that resonates (watchmaking joke alert) more and more in the mind of many collectors. As such, it comes with a case that has been shaped to be a display window for the movement. The 39mm titanium case is here to showcase the technology, without interfering with the delicate nature of the movement. The unibody titanium ring is round, slim, simple and has three sapphire windows – including one on the side to show the regulators – and has been made from a single, sculpted block of metal. In the same vein, there’s no actual dial on the Vianney Halter La Resonance, but only a hollowed and engraved ring on the periphery to indicate the time. And so, wherever you look, the movement will be on full display.
In order to leave the view entirely open on the regulators, the case has a sapphire window at 3 o’clock and the knurled crown has been moved to the left of the case, allowing a view of the heart of the acoustic resonance. The case is classically finished with brushed and polished surfaces, relatively discreetly designed with a sleek presence. It is, without a doubt, a watchmaker’s watch. In the same vein, the watch is worn on a classic strap, again to bring emphasis on the all-important movement.
Let’s now move to the calibre… And it has more to reveal than just the resonance concept. First of all, it is rather unique in its construction; it has no mainplate and is built solely around bridges and pillars. According to Halter: “No mainplate means no reference direction. Axles and wheels levitate in the dragonfly-wing like structure, as one would float in space. The movement can be assembled or disassembled by blocks, in no particular order, as if it was (and could be) built in space.” To emphasise the principles of the phenomenon of physical resonance, all superfluous material has been trimmed down. As a result, each component is as thin as possible, yet rigidity has been evaluated so the structure remains rigid and sturdy, even without a supporting plate.
Power is delivered by two barrels, which feed energy into a differential in the centre of the watch. This allows the power to be split accordingly, so that the two balances receive the correct amount of energy for synchronisation. Another specific element of this new hand-wound, ultra-open, and lightweight calibre (the whole watch, without a strap, is only 35 grams) is the design, number and size of the wheels… Halter has a fascination for wheels and gears, and in the Vianney Halter La Resonance, these are incredibly large, for aesthetical and mechanical reasons – the bigger the wheels, the bigger the teeth counts are and the smoother the power transmission. The architecture of the movement is pretty straightforward, with the two barrels at 9 o’clock, concentrating the energy in the central differential, itself splitting torque into the seconds wheels at 1 and 5 o’clock, then refocusing in the resonating stack at 3 o’clock.
Let’s now talk resonance. Just like the Deep Space Resonance, but in a simpler construction, the Vianney Halter La Resonance relies on two oscillating organs stacked one on top of the other. And just like the Deep Space, these are coupled to emphasise the phenomenon, similar to a tuning fork. Coupling is obtained via acoustic wave transmission through a solid unit. The balances have to be as close as possible to each other, linked via the smallest possible bridge. This allows the energy to equalize and flow between the two oscillators. In this case, these are pinned to the same stud holder (or rather to a two-stud holder in one piece) attached to the wheel to transmit vibrations optimally. The stacked coupled balances are mounted in a porte-escapement unit, allowing for a thorough regulation and easier maintenance.
In the Vianney Halter La Resonance, the movement can work in two resonance modes: either in phase (the two springs are expanded together) or in phase opposition (one spiral is fully expanded while the other is fully contracted). Which modes the watch locks in depends on the position of the escapements when the power crosses the resonance threshold and is reset when the watch stops. “This way, the balances behaviour can change and allow for another appreciation of the resonance phenomenon through the 3h window,” explains Halter.
The back of the Vianney Halter La Resonance reveals the complexity of the movement as well as the attention to detail. Not only is the design mechanically coherent, but it is also a feast for the eye. The decoration of all parts has been done entirely by hand, on all sides, with traditional techniques. Halter explains that the accumulated length of hand bevelling is 3.7 metres, split onto 11 wheels and 13 titanium bridges. Also, the 30 concave pillars are mirror polished.
Availability & Price
The Vianney Halter La Resonance is not a prototype but is a reality that will be produced in about seven pieces a year. The price will be CHF 235,000. For more details, please visit www.vianney-halter.com.