The village of St. Croix sits at an elevation of about 1,000 meters in the Jura region of Switzerland, and it is here that in an unprepossessing building, Manufacture Janvier produces about ten Vianney Halter watches a year.
Known as the man who introduced steampunk to high end watches, his watches not only have a very distinctive aesthetic, but also a very strong ability to evoke a sense of that genre, bring whimsy to "haute hologerie". The style may not be to everyone's tastes, but they are to mine, as I grew up with Jules Verne influenced daydreams, and have a desire to one day own a steampunk watch by cult Japanese steampunk watchmaker Haruo Suekichi, whose watches are somewhat more elaborate than Vianney Halter's.
The opportunity to see some Vianney Halter watches in the flesh was not one that I had really envisaged happening, much less in Sydney, but so it was that after a few days of uncertainty due to a Chilean volcanic ash cloud's disruption of Australian airspace, fifteen of us found ourselves at Fix St James with Mr. Bertrand Bourgeois, Export Manager at Manufacture Janvier, and his travelling trio of watches.
The photos, alas, are not as good as they could have been due to the dim lighting, but I hope that they give some sense of the evening, which was filled with good food, good wine and some amazing watches.
The food for the evening we left in the hands of Stuart Knox, owner of Fix. Although I did not take photos of all the (shared) dishes, they were as follows :
1. Fennel, Strzelecki & Grape Salad
2. Scallop w/ Cauliflower Sformato
3. Southern Fried Chicken Livers w/ ‘slaw
4. House Terrine w/ Pickles (on the night, it was chicken, hare and pork)
5. Fritto Misto (school prawns on the night)
6. Kingfish Carpaccio
7. Blue Eye
8. Pork Belly with pumpkin, Puy lentils
9. Choc "Yogo" with Raspberry and Honeycomb
Southern Fried Chicken Livers
Some randon photos from the evening.
Bertrand on the right
A Gerald Genta Gefica.
The Panerai PAM 341. A 60mm monster of a watch and not for most people's wrists, but it sits well on its owner's.
Two MIHs in the house. The one on the right is sporting an ABP strap.
This is the DeBethune DB15. Just a stunning elegant watch, and very popular on this evening.
As you can see, we had to use some supplementary lighting for better photos.
A very special Janvier that is spoken for. It was a privilege to be able to see this watch.
One thing which surprised not just me was that all of these watches are quite different in the flesh. For example, I thought that the Antiqua would be quite a hefty clunky watch, but it is far more delicate than photos would lead you to believe, and far more light and thin. Very comfortable to wear as well, I might add. I had expected to like the Trio more than the Antiqua, but as soon as I saw this, my loyalties immediately switched.
An indication of the size of the Antiqua, next to this beast of a watch.
The Trio was thicker than I expected, but its clean sharp lines quite beautiful and minimalist. Less steampunk, perhaps.
A final shot of all three. I think I'd like the Antiqua in WG.
After Fix St James, it was one more for the road at Bambini Wine Room.
I'd like to thank the very engaging Bernard for coming all the way to Australia and to Sydney, and for giving us an opportunity to see Manufacture Janvier's stunning creations. Hopefully we will meet again, either here or in Switzerland.
Apart from the sheer pleasure of being able to handle these timepieces and to see the finishing and detailing close up, the evening confirmed two things for me.
Firstly, that when it comes to the "Independents," one really has to see the watches in the flesh. You simply don't get an accurate enough representation of their watches in photos. Secondly, it made me realise that yes, there is something really quite special about watches from the Indies...