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Vianney Halter Antiqua "Halter-Barnes" Earliest Edition Luxury Watch Review

http://www.thewatchbox.com/all-brands The 40mm Vianney Halter Antiqua, born “Halter-Barnes” Antiqua, is the most significant pure design effort of the modern luxury watch era. While others explored new frontiers in complications, the Antiqua perpetual calendar decimated established conventions for the physical form and time displays of an haut-de-gamme watch. When hardcore watch connoisseurs speak of high horology design norms, the 1998 debut of the Halter-Barnes Antiqua is the schism point between “before” and “after.” Without this 18-karat rose gold Halter-Barnes Antiqua, the present golden era of MB&F, Richard Mille, De Bethune, Cabestan, and Harry Winston Opus likely never develops. Jeff Barnes was the designer, and Vianney Halter was the watchmaker. Together, they pioneered the concept of retrofuturism in the watch sector. Rather than strive to design an unabashedly futuristic watch or a nostalgic historic tribute, the team in St.-Croix, Switzerland chose to imagine the future through the critical perspective – the lens – of past futurists. The result looks like something a hypothetical Victorian submariner, airship pilot, or time machine operator might have worn in an alternate universe; “Steampunk” is the word. If Ada Lovelace wore a wristwatch, it would have been the Halter-Barnes Antiqua. Each Antiqua is a tongue-in-cheek love letter to the legacy of H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, and Hugo Gernsback. The imagery of 19th century steam locomotive gauges, ironclad-era battleship fixtures, and Victorian riveted structure co-exist alongside 18-karat rose gold that emulates the warmth and luster of brass-era “horseless carriage” automobiles. Barnes drew this “time machine” for the wrist with almost innumerable references to dated technologies. All elements of the perpetual calendar display are broken into discrete displays in order to create the effect of a pre-Dreadnought nautical instrument panel. The Antiqua’s case, bezels, winding rotor, buckle, and crown are graced with over 100 functional white gold rivets fitted and finished by hand. And Vianney Halter’s Janvier SA studio spared no hand-finishing measures to complete this modern masterpiece. All dials, for instance, are 18-karat white gold, hand-engraved, and hand-filled with black lacquer. The actual hands of the sub-dials are hand-cut and detailed. All elements of the caliber 198 automatic perpetual calendar movement are built on a near-prototype production scale. On that final count, production volume, Vianney Halter makes F.P. Journe look like Rolex. While Journe’s Geneva factory produces fewer than 1,000 watches per year, Vianney Halter’s St.-Croix workshop likely has produced only that many timepieces – all Halter models included – since the 1998 debut of the Antiqua. While only a few dozen Antiqua models emerge from Janvier’s studios each year, perhaps only a single-digit count of original Halter-Barnes first run Antiquas exist. Some examples of this pioneering series are rumored to have been reverted to “Vianney Halter” signage upon their submission for routine servicing. The example offered by thewatchbox.com is so original that it retains both its Halter-Barnes pin buckle and embossed “Halter-Barnes” factory strap. Within the standout rose gold case, the caliber 198 automatic proves to be as beguiling as the Antiqua’s “riveting” exterior. In another lifetime, this caliber began life as a Lemania 8815, but Vianney Halter has performed enough Dr. Moreau-style gene splicing to warrant an in-house label. Almost every element from the invisible “mystery rotor” (Barnes’ creation) to the seamless “monobridge” (Vianney’s baby) to the integrated five-register perpetual calendar has been designed, fabricated, finished, and tuned at Janvier SA. And yes, the finish lives up to Vianney’s AHCI-endorsed legend. While the Halter-Barnes band broke up before the debut went (rose) gold, Vianney Halter persisted with development and commercialization of the Antiqua. This fissure between the creative talents explains the ultimate reversion to Vianney Halter’s sole signage on all but the very first Antiquas. More than a grail watch, the Halter-Barnes Antiqua is the rarest version of the most important avant-garde watch design of the last 30 years. See it in high-resolution images on www.thewatchbox.com. Video and content by Tim Mosso.