Hands-on with the Vianney Halter Deep Space Tourbillon

A central, triple axis tourbillon.

Vianney’s seminal watch was the Antiqua perpetual calendar of 1998, the first watch of a series that in his signature steampunk style, heavily reminiscent of Jules Verne. But now Vianney has turned the page and stepped into the future with the Deep Space Tourbillon.

Resembling a space station – notably Deep Space Nine of Star Trek – the Deep Space Tourbillon has three carriages. The innermost cage makes one revolution in 40 seconds, the second in six minutes, and the largest and outermost takes 30 minutes to complete one revolution.

Here’s a video clip of it in action.

Under an enormous domed sapphire crystal is the equally large tourbillon, in an opening right in the centre of the watch, with the barrels partially visible below. Surrounding the tourbillon is the chapter ring for the minute track, and on the periphery are a pair of curved, blued steel hands, with the larger one indicating the hours.

The minute hand at top right
The twin barrels below the tourbillon

Being so large, the tourbillon cage is impressive. Other triple axis tourbillons, like the JLC Gyrotourbillon or Greubel Forsey Double Tourbillon, are not nearly as engaging because they are smaller.

The watch pictured is a prototype so the finishing is not complete, but even on the final production piece the movement finishing for the Deep Space Tourbillon is unlikely to be as elaborate as that of the competition since that is not traditionally Vianney’s forte.

Vianney’s earlier creations had incredibly detailed cases and dials that are arguably unparalleled in independent watchmaking. As it is the Deep Space Tourbillon does not equal the Antiqua and its brethren in terms of case and dial work, though the final product might be different. There are almost zero visual reminders of the steampunk style of the Antiqua, save for the crown, which is reminiscent of the rivets used for the Antiqua and family.

Though the watch is large at 46 mm in diameter, it feels and looks smaller, making it easily wearable. And because the case is titanium, it weighs only 90 g.

The VH 113 movement is manually wound, with a 55 hour power reserve. Delivery will start in the second quarter of 2014, with a retail price of CHF190,000 without tax in Switzerland, and S$291,000 including 7% tax in Singapore. Enjoy the rest of the photos below. – SJX

The case back of the prototype is unadorned, but the final product will have text which will be customised for each watch
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News: Introducing Antti Rönkkö and the Steel Labyrinth – the first calibre from a new Finnish independent

Finnish watchmaker Antti Rönkkö presents the Steel Labyrinth. This is first wristwatch utilising his own calibre, the AR1, which draws heavily on vintage pocket watch movements for inspiration.

Antti Rönkkö recently announced the Steel Labyrinth, which uses the AR1 movement. Based in Espoo, a city west of Helsinki, Antti Rönkkö joins fellow Finns Kari Voutilainen and Stepan Sarpaneva as an independent watchmaker. Rönkkö began his career as a teenage apprentice to the watchmaker in his hometown, repairing clocks and watches. At the same time he took part in the Finnish national judo championships, but chose watchmaking as a career due to an injury. After completing his stint at the Tapiola watchmaking school – which counts Voutilainen and Sarpaneva amongst it alumni – Rönkkö worked for the Nokia Research Centre for 14 years. At Nokia he worked on the mechanical components of phones like slides and hinges; several of his patents in this field are available online. The Steel Labyrinth wristwatch is the first wristwatch of Rönkkö’s own design and making, and the buyer of the first piece produced was none other than Nokia CEO Stephen Elop.

The AR1 calibre takes inspiration from pocket watch calibres from the 1940s, as is obvious from the bridge architecture. The vintage inspiration extends to the movement specifications as well. It runs at 18,000 bph and has a short power reserve of 36 hours.  Rönkkö makes the bridges and base plate of the movement himself, all of which are of untreated German silver, except for the escape wheel cock and pallet fork bridge which are steel. Components are hand-finished, naturally. Appropriately the hairspring has a Breguet overcoil.

The movement design and finish look excellent, though I do wish the winding click was more elegantly shaped, as it is the click looks out of place. In contrast the case and dial are thoroughly modern in style – these are also made by Rönkkö  in his workshop. Made of Stavax ESR steel, a hardened, nickel-free alloy, the 41 mm steel case has prominent, aggressively shaped lugs.

A relief labyrinth motif decorates the dial, with an open-worked hour track secured by four screws. Interestingly the labyrinth on the dial is an actual maze – a route can be traced from the Rönkkö logo at six to the 12 o’clock marker. The Steel Labyrinth retails for €21,000 without tax, which is equivalent to about US$27,300. Antti Rönkkö can be contacted via his website. Needless to say, Antti Rönkkö does not have this segment all to himself. Several other niche independents have emerged in recent years offering largely hand-made, or even home-made, timepieces like the Steel Labyrinth: Keaton Myrick in the USA, and Jean-Baptiste Viot in France. Each makes a watch in his own unique style, but all the timepieces are distinctive with a charm that can only be found on creations that are so personal.  – SJX

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