Even among the often astonishing conceptual horology to be discovered in the world of independent watchmaking, Vianney Halter stands out on his own. Unconventional, uncompromising and unconcerned with the accepted codes of watch design, this eccentric master of his art creates pieces which intrigue, fascinate and stir the emotions with their inimitable aesthetics and irresistible charisma.
Inspired by the fictional creations of literary visionaries Jules Verne and HG Wells, and crafted by hand, using traditional watchmaking tools and machining, the Vianney Halter Antiqua is a passionate mechanical love letter to steampunk era science fiction, and a work of profound complexity. An extraordinary piece when it debuted in 1998, announcing the arrival of this young French genius, it remains every bit as much so today, with its zany, offbeat shape and bold porthole windows displaying one of the greatest horologic complications in an utterly spellbinding masterpiece.
Faithfully capturing the spirit of these inspirations, and fusing that with his own watchmaking agility Antiqua is a wonderful and expressive tribute to a time of hot riveted steel hulls and pressure gauges, and with four prominent portholes of different sizes riveted onto a shapeless brushed metal plate, it is a watch like no other.
Despite its exaggerated features, bulges and overhanging rims, Antiqua at 40mm x 40mm is relatively modest in size, and with only a single lobe for the strap on each end instead of lugs, while it has a mesmerising presence, it is easy and comfortable on the wrist. It is encased in 950/1000 platinum, with polished case band and dial detail, and the surface plate being finely brushed in a circular stroke.
Through the largest of the four portholes on the upper right of the face, small, beautifully formed blued steel hands indicate the hours and minutes on a dial with hand engraved and painted markings. Moving the eye anti-clockwise, next shows the week day, then the month and leap year, and lastly in the smallest window the date.
Beneath that impressionable frontage, the case body is round, and inside the Calibre VH198 self winding movement is developed in house, and through the sapphire caseback a signature Vianney Halter twist deceives the eye, as with no obvious winding rotor, the mechanism’s components are exposed without obstruction, thanks to the simple but delightful solution of a totally transparent sapphire oscillating disc, with a weight hidden from sight under the bezel, and creating the horologic illusion of “mystery winding”.
A modern day icon of independent watchmaking Vianney Halter’s Antiqua is a veritable masterpiece in every sense of the word. A watch of significant historic importance, it is an absolute grail for the most discerning connoisseur and collector of contemporary independent Haute Horlogerie.