While Vianney Halter is often lauded for the design of his watches, he is first and foremost a gifted watchmaker. He, along with Denis Flageollet (co-founder of De Bethune), were the first watchmakers François-Paul Journe contacted when Journe formed THA, an atelier that manufactured high-end movements for top brands. The Time Aeon foundation was formed in 2008 to address what the founders saw as a significant loss of expertise and knowledge of the traditional art of watchmaking. The founding members are a veritable catalog of gifted independent watchmakers: Philippe Dufour, Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey (of Greubel Forsey), Kari Voutilainen, and Vianney Halter. These two facts should give you a sense of Halter’s esteem within the world of independent watchmakers.
Vianney Halter was born and raised in the suburbs of Paris, the youngest of four kids. He struggled in school and his parents worried about him.1 Seeing his affinity for watches, his parents tried and succeeded to get him enrolled in the renowned Ecole Horlogère de Paris despite the fact he was just 14 years old.1, 2 Now that he was doing something he enjoyed, Halter thrived. At age 17, he began an apprenticeship repairing antique clocks and watches. But, being an independent to the core, he disliked working with a boss telling him what to do or not do: “My way and the way of the boss were not the same. I wanted my freedom.”1
Halter started his own watch-repair workshop in Paris at age 21, but had to close it after seven years.1 He worked for a few years at THA, the haute horology movement workshop founded by Francois-Paul Journe, but again his independent streak showed itself. Finally, in 1994, he started Manufacture Janvier, named after one of his idols, the great 18th-century horologist Antide Janvier (the same watchmaker whose resonance clocks inspired F.P. Journe’s Chronometre Resonance). At the start, Halter mostly did work behind the scenes for brands such as Audemars Piguet, Jaquet Droz, and Breguet.1 He also did restorations and unique commission pieces for private collectors.
In 1997, the Asian economic crisis slowed down Halter’s commissions enough to give him the time to complete a personal project he had been working on in his spare time. The result was the Antiqua, which Halter presented at the AHCI booth at the 1998 Basel Fair.2 The watch stunned the crowd with its audacious design. From that point on, his watch brand was solidified.
Vianney Halter’s watches, such as the Antiqua and the Classic, have been called steampunk-styled watches. He calls this Jules Verne-inspired collection by the name Futur Antérieur (“future past”). As Halter says: “I do not make watches to please the majority; they are too unusual to be mainstream. My clients appreciate something different in terms of inspiration and design, and demand the very highest levels of quality.”2
1 – http://www.barrons.com/articles/SB5000142405311190457170
2 -The Hands of Time by Ian Skellern.