Behind The Lens: Vianney Halter Anniversary
If there’s one thing that beats building up your own collection over a number of years, it’s having a group of good friends with extensive collections of their own who generously share pieces with the other group members. The variety is great, and it’s intriguing to handle (and, for me, to photograph) watches that you might not have considered for yourself or might otherwise never have the chance to see. And the best part is that they are already paid for!
One of the inconveniences associated with the current restrictions on gatherings is that our local watch gang hasn’t met in person for months now; as a result, the opportunity to grab others’ pieces and take them home for some shooting hasn’t been readily available. However, just prior to the lockdown here in California, I did pick up an intriguing piece from a pal: the Anniversary by Vianney Halter.
The Vianney Halter Anniversary
I’m not quite sure whether it seems like Vianney Halter has been around forever or has just recently burst on the scene. Like the steampunk-inspired designs of his watches, there’s a certain timelessness to him as a person, embodied by a youthful twinkle in his eye juxtaposed with the emerging wrinkles of maturity and a ready laugh alternating with a manner of deep seriousness.
To be precise, though, it was in 1998 that Halter first introduced watches under his own name, making Baselworld 2018 the ideal time to introduce some sort of “anniversary” offering. The result was a watch based on one of the earliest Halter references but with some intriguing updates to bring it forward to the current day.
For those who know Halter’s work the original Classic is a familiar item, remaining unchanged over the years with the exception of the recent unique piece with date, made for a friend and recently featured in Behind The Lens: Unique Piece Classic Date By Vianney Halter.
The first-generation Classic is perhaps not to everyone’s taste, but there’s no denying its inventiveness and quality. From the rivet-festooned case and crown, to the multi-level dial with filled, engraved markings, and the sapphire crystal-plate “mystery rotor” providing a full view of Caliber VH100, there’s no other three-hand watch quite like it.
The Anniversary is in many ways the same, but different. The case diameter is a more contemporary 38 mm compared with the 36 mm of the original, and to keep the overall width of the watch similar (and, I suspect, to make the crown less prominent) the crown is lower in profile and boasts only one row of rivets as compared to two rows in the first Classic.
The silver dial is also different: while it retains the basic two-level construction of its predecessor, it dispenses with the raised logo and name plaques in favor of a printed signature and “running man” Halter logo.
With the exception of an attractive and light-catching brightly polished ring around the central portion of the dial, the dial side is uniformly finished with subtle frosting rather than in the combination of brushed and more aggressively frosted surfaces of its forebear.
Checking things out in back
On the movement side, we’re immediately informed of one big change in the Anniversary series: the case is made in what Halter’s website refers to as “surgical implant” stainless steel rather than the precious metals of the original set of Classics.
This is a first for Halter (with the exception of the Deep Space Tourbillon, which was launched with a titanium case), and he notes that the use of steel will continue to be “exceptional” – meaning either that we won’t see it again or that at best that we may expect it to be a rarity.
As you check out the photos of the rear of the watch, other modifications become evident. The case back is now a screwed-down, rather than screw-on, construction and is beveled rather than flat. While the use of a mystery rotor is retained, the movement revealed underneath is a new one – Caliber U30A with a slower beat rate and upgraded 56-hour power reserve when compared to the Lémania-based Caliber VH100 in the original Classic.
One of my quibbles about past Halter watches has been that while the mystery rotor is a great idea, in practice it doesn’t reveal many of the interesting moving parts of the underlying calibers.
In this new design, the cutaway bridges give us an eye-watering view of the mechanisms below, and the annular striping seems to me just right for decorating the narrow bridge surfaces around the movement’s periphery.
On his website, Halter notes that in a spirit of collaboration he “chose to source the movement from a friend and fellow AHCI member” whom I believe to be Andreas Strehler; Halter goes on to say that this represents a “symbolic transition and . . . evolution in his horological approach.” It will be very interesting to see whether further collaborations are forthcoming.
The two final features revealed by a look at the back of the watch are linked: this is a limited edition of 20 pieces, which relates directly to the rather curious-looking inscription printed around the periphery of the rotor. It is one-twentieth of an encrypted message that must be combined with the similar messages on the other 19 watches in order to be decoded.
Only Vianney! I do have another good friend (and Anniversary owner) who is working to piece together the inscriptions, and at last report had about a dozen in hand. If you are an owner who is keen to contribute to the project (and share in the result) let’s correspond privately and I can connect you.
Shooting the Vianney Halter Anniversary
Overall, this is a very enjoyable piece to shoot! The shapes are great, and there’s enough visual interest with elements such as the textured dial to catch the eye.
Some of the visual subtleties are both a bit difficult to catch and perhaps take a bit of viewing to appreciate; for instance, the tonal variation between the cold white color of the steel case and the yellowish-to-just-barely-pink look of the rivets and central crown.
That said, I think I might prefer one of the other Anniversary variants with blue markings and/or blued hands to my friend’s strictly monochromatic version.
The look of this watch is extremely clean, but perhaps I’ve gotten so used to Halter’s watches having a pop of color that this one is a bit visually cool for my tastes.
As part of my recent stint learning how to shoot in the light tent with flash heads, I did have some good fun photographing this watch against white and reflective backgrounds and using backlighting among other techniques.
And just for fun, I checked out some noir-ish views with the same glossy floor in the tent and some experiments with flash position.
One cool thing about shooting silhouettes is that it does reveal when a watch has unique shapes; Halter’s creations definitely fall into this category.
As I mentioned at the start, checking out your pals’ watches is a great way to hone your own tastes and opinions and to question what you like and don’t like about certain watches – and why.
For me, the Anniversary is an attractive piece, and for my taste would be even more appealing in one of the variations that includes blue tones. Overall, though, I think I’d still be more prone to opening up my wallet when the time came for an OG Classic, most likely in pink gold.
There’s something about the warmth of that watch, the craftsmanship and contrasts of the dial, and the more prominent double-studded crown that just speaks to me more. And while overall I prefer the movement-side view of the Anniversary, the encoded message on the rotor isn’t really for me.
But differing tastes of buyers, and evolving views of watch creators, are why they make more than one kind of watch – and why Halter has made this new version of the Classic.
I’m keen to hear which of the two versions appeals to you more and why. In the meantime, happy collecting and best wishes for continued good health to one and all.
For more information, please visit www.vianney-halter.com/watches/anniversary.
Quick Facts Vianney Halter Anniversary
Case: 38 x 9.5 mm, stainless steel with 18-karat gold rivets
Dial and hands: two-level silver dial with frosted and polished finishing and blue or black engraved and filled numerals, logo, signature, and indices; polished or blued steel hands
Movement: automatic Caliber U30A; 56-hour power reserve; 21,600 vph/3 Hz frequency; sapphire crystal disk mystery rotor with encrypted code on outer periphery
Functions: hours, minutes, central seconds
Limitation: 20 pieces
Production year: 2018
Price: original retail price €54,000 including VAT; recent auction price (Phillips, June 2020) CHF 47,500
* A prior version of this article stated that the dial indices are printed; they are in fact engraved and filled. The author regrets the error.