New release: Le Régulateur Louis Erard x Vianney Halter with Editorial Commentary (critical)

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Louis Erard continues to partner with watchmaking creators, and builds another bridge with high-end watchmaking by working alongside Vianney Halter, an artist whose every creation is a collector’s dream item. Here, the latest novelty is the Louis Erard x Vianney Halter – a 178 piece limited edition, automatic regulator, priced at CHF 3,500.

Press release information with commentary in italics.

Commentary – critical soapbox

The news of the collaboration was very exciting when we first heard it. Imagine what can be done with the super talent and wild imagination of Vianney Halter, and the ability of Louis Erard to bring the pricing to a modest price point where it becomes accessible to all. We were hoping the likes of the Kurono series by Hajime Asaoka which has, not only the signature appeal of Master Asaoka, but also endowed with aesthetics worthy of him. The new chronograph series by Kurono is similarly impressive.

Instead, the new Regulator by Louis Erard and Vianney Halter seems to be simple exercise. We are being unkind, of course, but it seems like this is a case of a uninspired design aesthetic made by just slapping Vianney Halter’s logo on the dial. We found little evidence of the Vianney Halter involvement, safe for the use of blued steel Halter hands similar to the ones used in his Classic. Perhaps the crown might hint of the complexity of typical Halter creations. But the design details are so watered down, that it merely suggests, unable to offer any positive linkage. We see no signature other than the logo. It could have been a collaboration with anyone.

Perhaps our expectation was too high, and we apologize for being unreasonable. We had imagined the collaboration to take the form of a Antiqua-esque like look. Simplified, of course by the removal of the perpetual calendar elements to show only the hour, minutes and seconds in a regulator style. Perhaps, something alike what Vianney did for the Goldpfiel project, again with the qualification that simplification would be an exercise to reduce to the essentials. Granted the Antiqua and Goldpfiel were launched at a much higher price points. And to attempt something similar for the rather target low price point of the Erard x Halter project might well be over-ambitious and suicide. But that was our vision. Imagine our disappointment when we saw the press release of this new piece.

Don’t get us wrong, the watch is rather beautiful. And at the CHF 3,500 price point, hardly anything to complain about. We will even hail it as a good buy at that budget.

To support this case, our examination of the high resolution images, reveals a nice level of attention to detail. The dial elements display some hint of greatness. For example, the lowest parts of the dial is a textured plate finished in matte grey. This plate sits 4 levels lower than the highest point on the dial, and its dark hue and texture provides a nice contrast with the 3 levels of raised parts in silver.  The sub-dials for the minute and hours are on a pierced figure of 8 plate, are one level up. The next level up is the main dial is shaped like a filligree, with pierced openings shaped to flank the two logos. The openings reveal the grey lower plate. And at a level above the main dial, is set the two cartouches on which the Louis Erard logo and the Vianney Halter logo are positioned at 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock. The literature seem to indicate that the layers are separate pieces, but do not state how they are put together.

To say we were mildly disappointed with this release is perhaps quite an accurate description. A case of unmanaged expectations letting us down. However, we are still excited to see what other collaborations Louis Erard will come up with other createurs of the haute horlogerie world. 

Le Régulateur Louis Erard x Vianney Halter

Louis Erard once again releases a collector’s automatic regulator in a limited edition of 178 watches, priced at CHF 3,500. This new creation is part of a series of collaborations with watchmaking creators which began with Alain Silberstein; this time, the result bears the dual signature Louis Erard by Vianney Halter.

This exceptional watch is a quintessence born of the meeting of two worlds. The first is that of Vianney Halter, who has rediscovered the roots of his own style, both classic and ultra-contemporary, and retained the essential. The second is that of Louis Erard, who offered his services to the watchmaker and challenged him to design a model for the general public, for the first time in his career. The piece should be a genuine reinterpretation of Vianney Halter’s philosophy of watchmaking, and not merely a reduction or simplification of his very sophisticated style. For Vianney Halter, moving out of his usual creative zone was a major challenge: “I wanted to see if I was capable of reaching all those who love my watches but are not able to buy them. Louis Erard has allowed me to do that while staying true to myself.”

He envisaged this creation as a return to basics – both in relation to his own style and the history of watchmaking. His starting point was in the mechanics and the regulator, the complication which is central to the history of Louis Erard and invariably leads back to the precision clocks of the 19th century, the master clocks of observatories, and to a time when watches had to not only be beautiful, but fulfil their fundamental function: to tell the time.

In his own unique style, which Vianney Halter calls “future past” (in other words: how would 19th century watches have been if they had been created in the future?), he began by sculpting the dial in order to give depth to each of the three counters. He then cut the hands from blued steel, a first for Louis Erard. The minutes are indicated by a long fountain-pen-shaped hand, giving subtlety to the final indication, but with a good presence in the centre. The hours are also indicated by a fountain-pen-shaped hand, but this one is thickset so as to catch the eye before the others. The second hand is simply balanced, with a counterweight to avoid disrupting its operation.

If the final result appears very classic, this is not the case: it is very much a contemporary watch which could never have existed in the past. And it possesses the inimitable hallmark of the unrivalled designer Vianney Halter, who added a crenellated crown like that from his “Antiqua” model as a final nod to his designs.

Louis Erard demonstrates once again that it is possible to translate the rules and craftsmanship of high-end watchmaking into an accessible watch. Further creations will follow with other guest creators, each produced in a limited series of 178 pieces, a symbolic number which signifies that we are stronger together.

Le Régulateur Louis Erard x Vianney Halter, ref. 85237AA51

Recommended retail price: CHF 3,500.00

Movement Automatic regulator, Sellita SW266-1 calibre, 11½ ”’, Ø25.60 mm, height: 5.60 mm, 31 jewels, 28,800 VpH (4 Hz), élaboré grade movement, meticulously decorated, special openwork oscillating weight with Louis Erard symbol), approx. 38 hours of power reserve

Functions HMS
Hour hand on counter at 12 o’clock, central minute hand, second hand on counter at 6 o’clock

Case Polished stainless steel, Ø42 mm, thickness: 12.25 mm, 3 pieces, domed sapphire crystal with anti-reflective treatment on both sides, movement visible through the transparent back, water-resistant up to a pressure of 5 bars (50 m/165 ft), Vianney Halter signature crenellated crown, case back engraved “Limited Edition 1 of 178”

Dial Upper plate in circular satin-finished silver, matt grey lower plate with microbead-blasted silver counters, black transfers, horizontal satin-finished appliques featuring Louis Erard logo at 3 o’clock and Vianney Halter logo at 9 o’clock

Hands Vianney Halter signature blued steel hands

Strap “Oceania” blue calf nubuck leather with tone-on-tone stitching, polished stainless steel pin buckle, functional catch spring bars enabling strap to be changed quickly

Collaboration Watch developed in association with Vianney Halter in a limited edition of 178 pieces

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7 Comments

  1. I’ve been waiting years for a proper critical review like this, and although it makes me wince on behalf of poor Louis Erard to see it in reality, I’m glad you did it.
    On a slightly related note, I’d be interested to know your opinion of the Schwarz Etienne collaboration with Voutilainen on their Roma Synergy – obviously a much more convincing involvement than Halter with Erard, it has a beautiful dial and obvious effort on the movement decoration, but I reckon they should have used one of their higher-end calibres, especially for the price.

    • Thanks Gav. I am not sure if I would call the Roma a collaboration. I think of it as a Schwarz Etienne with a Comblémine dial. Voutilainen offers his dials on many watches, ranging from Grönefeld to Armin Strom, and many others.

      To me, a truer collaboration is the Tulloch project, where Shane Tulloch worked with Kari and the Comblémine factory to design and produce the watch. Also, quite attractively priced.

    • “..a Schwarz Etienne with a Comblémine dial..” That is a good way of putting it, yes! I didn’t know that about Tulloch, thanks for the info.

  2. I’m trying to understand your point of view Peter; however I find it hard to agree with your critical comments. One must understand that Vianney wasn’t given a blank canvas, rather he was to work on a regulator’ dial, with costs constraints. Personally, I think he did a great job. I see traces of his DNA in his trademark hands, fonts, dials. Would anyone wish more DNA, he/she needs to be prepared to unload north of 100k ( at minimum). Let’s not forget that Vianney has only produced 500 pieces approximately in his career.

    Asking for more is like paying the price of an Audi, but criticizing the model because it lacks the features/performance/quality of its sister brand Bugatti…

    • Thanks for your comments Andres.

      I am certainly not a watch designer, and know little about how to do it. So I am not able to suggest what might have been a better design which incorporates more Halter DNA. By way of an example, I think Silberstein has done a better job making the collaboration in his signature.

      And I do know that Vianney is capable of more than this somewhat lack luster attempt. As I said in the commentary, the Louis Erard x Vianney Halter Regulator is certainly very good. But I am also keenly aware that “Good is the enemy of Great”. And if, as collectors and enthusiasts, we let the this slip by without raising our collective eyebrows, then I think we are doing a disservice to the industry. We need to continue to push the envelope. Even more so, for a genius like Vianney to show us the way, rather than be complacent and settle at just being good.

      But no matter, the watch is already a commercial success, as I understand all 178 pieces are spoken for. Congratulations to Louis Erard and Vianney Halter.

  3. Thank you for the review, Peter, particularly the analysis of the dial, which makes the watch a bit more interesting ?(and which I did not notice when I first looked at the photos). I do also like that the hands are in Vianney’s style.

    It’s attractive, but I’m not sure it expresses Vianney’s DNA as well as the Alain Silbertstein collaboration with Erard.

    I went onto the site and there were a few available to order…but now it’s all sold out!

    Looks like these sort of lower priced collaborations are quite popular these days.

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