In the small village of Sainte-Croix, nestled in the heart of the Swiss Jura, you will find an unpretentious building housing La Manufacture Janvier. There, master watchmaker Vianney Halter devotes himself to his passion. He inspires rather than leads his young, dynamic and enthusiastic team. Although an independent creator, Vianney Halter is not an isolated man. He perpetuates a tradition of excellence alongside his watchmakers, precision-machinists and designers. This happy marriage of exceptional watchmaking and technical innovation has been celebrated in Vianney Halter’s “Futur Anterieur” and “Halter Tempus” collections since 1998. Vianney Halter is a man who has chosen the most demanding branch of haute-horology in which to express his creativity.
Watchmaker: Vianney Halter
Vianney Halter was born in Suresnes in Paris (France) outskirts in 1963. His father was a train driver for the Saint Lazare Railway. In his oldest memories, he remembers his father bringing back at home old machines and mechanisms that fascinated him.
Perhaps it was this early exposure to powerful locomotives, steam engines and control instruments, which was the origin of Halter’s attraction to mechanics and engineering. The fact is that Halter was only fourteen years of age when he took the train to the capital so as to enroll himself at the Ecole Horlogère de Paris (Paris Watchmaking School).The lectures given at the Ecole Horlogere de Paris were renowned for their excellence. The professors and teachers had many years experience and they transmitted their precious knowledge – knowledge accumulated since the origins of horology – to their students.Sadly, this famous institution no longer exists: a victim of the quartz revolution, the resulting watch making economic crisis of the 1970-80’s, and a disinterest in a career in watchmaking by the youth of that generation. Halter majored in mechanical horology and in his last year he supplemented this with studies in electronic horology. Ironically, at that time it was the latter which was turning the whole watch industry upside down. After graduating in 1980, Halter spent the next few years working with several Parisian craftsmen restoring clocks and watches.
In 1983, showing his innate independent nature, Halter opened his own workshop specializing in antique clock and watch restoration. For the next six years Halter restored antique clocks and watches for the benefit of passionate collectors at his modest atelier in the 3rd district of Paris. This work brought him in contact with high quality timepieces of great technical and historical interest. These clocks and watches covered a period from 1550 up to the 1980s and they greatly broadened Halter’s knowledge of horology. In 1990 François-Paul Journe, another French watchmaker of the same generation, invited Halter to join him in his company THA (Techniques Horlogeres Appliquees) in Sainte-Croix, a small village in the Swiss Jura Mountains.
There, Halter conceptualized and created timepieces for many famous brands including: Breguet, Audemars Piguet, Mauboussin, Jacquet Droz and Frank Muller. But, the fever of independence stroke him again and, enriched by his experience with THA, Vianney Halter founded in 1994 La Manufacture Janvier SA in Sainte- Croix. The name was chosen as homage to one of the most talented watchmakers in history: Antide Janvier (1751-1835).
For a couple of years he carried on working as a sub-contractor for various brands. This brought him the knowledge and the experience of industrial production techniques. In the meantime, his desire to creating his own line of exceptional watches grew more and more as he wanted to exploit his knowledge to the full.At the end of the 90s, the economical crisis in Asia and the slowing down of the orders from his customers gave him the time necessary for the development and the manufacturing of his first timekeeper. In 1998, Halter presented at the Basel International Watch and Jewelry Show a strange watch baptized “Antiqua”. This was immediately regarded as a « relic of the future » by the media astonished by this new style. Les Montres Vianney Halter were born.
Vianney Halter unveiled this watch in the context of his candidature to the AHCI (Academie Horlogere des Createurs Independants) in which he was sponsored by Philippe Dufour. The Antiqua was an original point of view about horology in the form of a watch gathering a very classical complication, a top class fabrication, an innovative featuring of the time and a completely new style. This piece derived circles and curves and was characterized by a display of the various functions through riveted portholes. This was a watch that one can imagine on Captain Nemo’s wrist or perhaps worn by H.G. Well’s when returning from time-travel.
The success was immediate and up to the surprise provoked within the public by this strange object. The reception was so enthusiastic that Vianney Halter was almost drowned by the flow of orders and the Manufacture Janvier was led to impose to its customer delivery times of several months or more.Despite increasing the staff, this uncomfortable situation still goes on because the demand for the Vianney Halter watches remains higher than the modest production capacity of La Manufacture Janvier. In the stride of this success, Halter soon presented the Contemporaine repeating the perpetual calendar and the multiple dial-display of its elder sister but adopting a more modern looking inside a smaller case.
As the means of La Manufacture were focused on the Antiqua production, this model was actually never launched in production and only a few pieces were manufactured. In 2000, Halter unveiled the Classic, a wristwatch deriving the style of the Antiqua around an automatic movement deprived of any complication and displaying only Hour, Minute and Second. The purpose was to sublimate the “Futur Antérieur” style by contrasting it with the intentional purity of the mechanism, the whole being served by a fabrication of the utmost quality. Once again, the success was confirmed and it is just for devoting himself to the development of other products that Halter made the decision in 2006 to stop the production of the Classic after 250 pieces were produced.
2001 was the year of the shape for Vianney Halter : he presented a rectangular watch on which three riveted dials displayed respectively Hour and Minute, Date and a Petite Seconde. This trio of portholes gave its name to this piece and it has kept it despite the later evolutions. Also this year appeared a Contemporaine Moonphase featuring the cycle of the Earth natural satellite. Also during this period was step by step implemented the means for a regular production of Antiqua and Classic meanwhile the staff of La Manufacture Janvier slowly increased. But Halter was anyway short in time to complete the development of his last models. Those latter therefore remained for several years in the stage of prototypes, as Halter’s growing fame was to drive him to work once again for other brands.
But this time his name was to be engraved side by side with the ones of his partners. In the context of its project « Faces of Times », the watch branch of the German leather manufacturer Goldpfeil asked Vianney Halter to develop and produce two exclusive models that were unveiled during the Basel Fair 2001. The first was a rectangular shape watch with Jumping Hour and Moonphase, intended for serial production. Realized with the contribution of the French designer Pascal Pages, this white gold watch evoked a camera of the 50s, thanks to the dial design and the subtle use of various finishes for its case (mirror polished, sandblasted and hand-hammered).
At the same time Halter realized for Goldpfeil a unique piece in platinum, as an ultimate evolution of the Antiqua concept. This featured 3 separate dials that have almost become 3 independent cases discreetly linked one to each other. On these one can find the following functions: Hour and Minute, Moonphase and … a Thermometer.
The development and the production of these pieces filled the major part of year 2001 and following. Then collaboration was to mark up in a resounding manner the short story of the Vianney Halter brand: during Baselworld 2003, the North American jeweler Harry Winston presented in front of amazed journalists his Opus 3 for which he had given Halter “carte blanche”. The concept, once again developed by Halter with Pages as designer, consisted in re-inventing the missing link between the mechanic analogical watch and the numerical display watch, thus reconciling two antagonist periods of the history of horology. As well as the Antiqua in 1998, Opus 3 left a deep mark in minds when unveiled and, as well as his elder sister, his development before launch in production was prolonged long after the presentation of its concept.
After those two experiences, Halter went back to his brand and decided to devote himself to improving the production, still far behind the increasing demand, and to achieving his watches in project. Thus, 5 years after the presentation of the first prototype of the Trio, the latter came back to the public in 2006, in a form that was this time completely achieved.
Vianney Halter appeared to be completely satisfied of his creation, each detail of which having been refined : the proportions have changed, a fourth dial now allowed the display of a Grande Date and, most important, a mouvement de forme (shaped caliber) has been developed from scratch so as to be entirely crafted in La Manufacture Janvier. Inside a gold case of nearly 100 gr. more than 230 pieces compose this in-house movement and contribute to the precision and the reliability of the Grande Date mechanism. The latter, as a world première, is characterized by his date setting and time setting functions that are mechanically independent. The Trio announced itself as the third element of a collection also gathering the Antiqua and the Classic: the « Futur Anterieur » (past future) collection.
In 2007, as the Classic production was to be stopped after 250 pieces, Halter wanted to mark up the event in the form of a special serial. To pay tribute to his brilliant forerunner Antide Janvier, nicknamed « the celestial watchmaker », Halter developed two astronomical complications that he integrated inside the round shape case of the Classic. In Baselworld appeared the Classic Janvier Lune et Soleil (Moon & Sun), a serial of 12 watches in platinum, displaying in addition to the time, an original featuring of the Equation of Time and the Lunar Cycle.
From 1998 to 2010, less than 500 watches bearing Vianney Halter’s signature were produced. Each of them bears a part of the creativity and passion that liven up the VH team. Each of them is an illustration of the strong demand for excellence that is the hallmark of La Manufacture Janvier.
1978: Enrolled at the Paris Watchmaking School.
1980: Graduated from the Paris Watchmaking School
1983: Worked in Paris as an independent craftsman restoring antique watches and clocks.
1990: Relocated to Switzerland to join a company set up to create unique timepieces for various clock and watch brands.
1994: Founded his own company – Janvier SA – in Sainte-Croix, in the Swiss Jura.
1998: Presented the Antiqua, the first watch of his collection, at the Basel Watch and Jewelry fair.
2000: Presented the Classic.
2001: Presented at the Basel Fair the Jumping Hour and Moonphase watch for Goldpfeil Genève.
2003: Won first prize at “Grand Prix de Genève “in the Technical Innovation category for the Opus 3 project. This project was for Harry Winston Rare Timepieces.
2006: Launched the Trio Grande Date: the third model in the “Futur Anterieur” collection.
2007: Presented the Classic JANVIER Sun & Moon: a special serial to mark up the end of production of the Classic model after 250 pieces are produced.
2009: 15th Anniversary of La Manufacture Janvier.
2010: Production and outcome of the Caliber VH 205 (Trio model), and delivery of the Classic JANVIER.
2011 : Awarded “2011 Best Watchmaker-Designer Prize” at ” Grand Prix de Genève “.
2013 : Unveiled the Deep Space Tourbillon, a futuristic style triple axis tourbillon watch.
La Manufacture Janvier
According to the immutable laws of horology, a watchmaking firm is considered a “manufacture” if it is able to make the “mouvement en blanc” or “blank caliber”. “Mouvement en blanc” is a ancient term which refers to the preliminary, roughly finished stage of a caliber. This stage is composed of the baseplate, bridges, and spring barrel. With the ability to produce “mouvements en blanc”, the company founded by Vianney Halter under the name of Janvier SA is fully entitled to the term “Manufacture”.
For example, the caliber VH205 fitted to the Trio is a movement designed, manufactured and assembled in Sainte-Croix. Although inspired by the Peseux 7001 caliber, the architecture of the VH205 is specific, as are the baseplate and the bridges. All those elements are designed, machined, finished, seted and even rhodium plated at La Manufacture Janvier. Only the anchor, balance and escape wheels are shared with the Peseux 7001. In the same way, the Antiqua’s caliber VH198, the Classic’s VH100 and the Contemporaine’s VH300 are developed around a few mechanical elements shared with the Lemania caliber 8810. The majority of parts are fabricated at La Manufacture Janvier; however, a few components – such as screws or springs – are produced to Vianney Halter’s technical specifications by the finest Swiss suppliers. La Manufacture Janvier has the knowledge, tools and machinery necessary for producing all these parts; however, some sub-contracting takes place for cost and manufacturing efficiency.
Nevertheless, subcontracted components are not used as received: all parts constituting the VH movements are systematically modified, finished and quality controlled at La Manufacture Janvier, no matter their origins, before being assembled and cased by a skilled watchmaker.
Furthermore, the scope of work of La Manufacture Janvier is not limited to the design and the making of movements but also includes the machining of the cases from precious metal solid blocks, as well as crafting of hands, dials, buckles and all the related accessories. All under the friendly but close supervision of Vianney Halter. Working in the atelier represents the majority of Halter’s daily schedule and no watch leaves the factory without passing through his hands. This requirement is a freely accepted constraint and one which places severe limits on production capacity and future development opportunities. However, this is the price to pay for the excellence that Vianney Halter demands from each and every timepiece bearing his name.
Design & Horology
Vianney Halter loves designers… and the feeling is mutual. Designers were involved in each watch that Halter has presented to date – under his own brand name as well as for others – as he wants to take full advantage of the creative contribution these professionals can offer.
The designer’s contribution consists of extracting, cultivating, expressing, distilling and formalizing concepts and ideas originating in Halter’s imaginative brain. Starting from of an universe of inspiration, a word, a desire, or a point of view, the process of creation is a true collaboration between the watchmaker and the designer. The latter brings an expertise in innovation and formalization of ideas. Therefore, his added value is much more than a simple talent for drawing. Designers help Vianney Halter to express his creative intentions about a project, then, step by step, to make it tangible under the form of sketches and drafts and, finally to finalize each details. Thank to this creation process, Halter’s timepieces are neither watches realized from nice and finalized drawings submitted to him nor mechanics created by him prior to being “dressed“ or “embodied“ by others. They are designed as a whole by Halter helped by designers. The results are timepieces whose originality and harmony originate from a creative exchange based around a strong concept.
Vianney Halter Watches
In the years since 1998, other timepieces have been developed alongside the “Futur Anterieur” collection. While these do not share the same design characteristics of the Antiqua, Classic and Trio, they undoubtedly bear the unmistakable seal of Vianney Halter’s creativity. This second collection of Les Montres Vianney Halter is known as “Halter Tempus”. The collection is a merger of the innovative ideas of a master watchmaker with the expressive genius of a designer. This collection challenges time in its own fashion. The first model in the “Halter Tempus” collection is the Contemporaine. This watch is a more modern looking derivation of the Antiqua and is a concept «out of time “. Watches created by Vianney Halter for other brands also belong to the collection “Halter Tempus”. Their contribution to the creative heritage of Vianney Halter may return in future in the form of new models.
Inspiration:Antide Janvier (1751-1835)
Antide Janvier was born on the 1st of July, 1751 in Brive, a small village in the commune of Lavans-les-Saint-Claude in the French Jura. Antide’s father, Claude Etienne Janvier, was both a farm worker and a master watchmaker. It was he who taught young Antide basic horology. Remarkably precocious, Antide Janvier was an eager student and relentless worker. His education was taken in charge by a clergyman, the abbot Tournier, who Janvier aptly addressed as “Le Maître” (the Master). Tournier was a man of many talents and had written a book on the motion of planets for the Saint-Sulpice Father’s Office of Physics.
Tournier taught the young Antide Latin, Greek, Astronomy, Mathematics, and Mechanical Science. At only fifteen years of age and after eighteen months of work, Janvier constructed his first masterpiece. This was a rotating planetary sphere which, when presented at the Academie des Sciences, Belles Lettres et Arts de Besançon, was awarded a prize. Janvier completed his education after serving as an apprentice to a Mr. Devanne. He then went on to construct several planetary complications.
In 1773 Janvier was presented to King Louis XV. However, the King however did not grant him the same warm welcome as had been bestowed on other clockmakers before him such as: C.S. Passemant, J. Le Roy, F. Berthoud and J.A. Lépine. In 1783, after a short stay in Verdun where he married, Janvier obtained the title of “Horloger– Mécanicien de Monsieur, Frère du Roi” (Clockmaker -Mechanic of Monsieur, Brother of the King).In 1784 the new King, Louis XVI, bought two planetary complications from Janvier. He was then invited to settle in Paris as “Horloger du Roi” (Clockmaker of the King). Over the next few years Janvier constructed many remarkable timepieces for the King as well as for other privileged customers.
He created clocks indicating the times of the tides, planetary clocks and astronomical clocks. The construction of these masterpieces is superb and their complications are at times difficult to understand. Despite remaining in contact with the King, Janvier was open-minded to the ideas of the Revolution. During this troubled period in 1792 his wife passed away and his work decreased.
Janvier spent a short spell in Morez in the French Jura where he managed an arms factory on behalf of the newly born French Republic and he also supervised the implementation of the wireless telegraph. Returning to Paris, Janvier was allocated a house at the Louvre Palace which allowed him to carry on working. Among other things, his work included assisting the committee implementing the decimal time system with their preliminary research. Under the Consulate and then the Empire, and despite his business struggling, Janvier managed to continue producing important timepieces: including a “departmental clock”, which was eventually acquired by Napoleon 1st in 1806. He also constructed an astronomical clock which was completed in 1801. This clock housed eight dials and featured moving spheres. Another clock, which was constructed for the Ambassador of Turkey, indicated the time in 52 places around the world.
However, in 1810 the economic crisis which was striking France pushed Janvier to go bankrupt. He carried on his clock-making activity nevertheless; however, on a much smaller scale. In 1814, during the Restoration, King Louis XVIII titled him “Mechanic-Astronomer Clockmaker of the King” and allocated him a modest pension. Continuing to be highly productive, Janvier produced standard clocks as well as masterpieces. The latter were often awarded prizes including Gold medals at the “Exposition des Produits de l’Industrie” (Industrial Product Exhibition).
Janvier also authored many books during this time as well as participating in the writing of treaties on clock-making. Unfortunately the majority have since been lost. The last years of Janvier’s long life were spent in Paris at 26 rue Saint André des Arts. His financial situation deteriorated with each year; however he remained mentally bright and sharp to the end.
On the 23rd of September 1835 Janvier passed away. He was 84 years old. All that remains of Janvier’s life’s work are the few incredible clocks which are housed in museums and private collections. Janvier was much more than the great clockmaker recognized by his peers. He had a talent for scientific investigation and mathematics as well as for art. Janvier was a man very much ahead of his time and is today greatly honored by watchmakers. Janvier merits pride of place among the greatest of horologers.