by Ron DeCorte
The village of St. Croix Switzerland
sits atop a mountain at about 1,000 meters (3,000+ feet) in the Jura range
just inside the Swiss border and a stone throw from France. Arriving in
March is always uncertain, it can change between spring and winter, and
back, from minute to minute. In the case of my recent visit it did a lot
Halter left Paris about 15 years ago to work as a restoration expert in
St. Croix and later started his own company. I remember visiting him early
on at his new factory, it was a very small operation of two or three
people in those days compared to the 12+ he employs today. But some things
never change. Vianney is a warm, passionate, and gracious person with an
expansive amount of enthusiasm for the creation of his watches. Nobody is
allowed to pass the front door at the Vianney Halter ateliers unless they
have a smile on their face, good intentions in their heart, a joke or two
on their tongue, and a passion for watches doesnâ€™t hurt either (but not
The Vianney Halter
ateliers are located on three floors of this building that is entirely
devoted to watchmaking, from A to Z.
A finished â€śClassicâ€ť main-plate,
decorated, jewels set, and ready for assembly.
Some of the wheels used in the â€śClassicâ€ť.
Note: Two main-spring barrels are used, lower right, one large and one
small. This system affords a greater operational time, â€śreserve de marcheâ€ť,
than a single barrel and more consistent time keeping.
The barrel and center wheel bridge prior
to application of â€śCote-de-Geneveâ€ť (Geneva waves).
The same bridge after Cote-de-Geneve
decoration and rodium plating.
A machine for Cote-de-Geneve decoration.
Application of the Cote-de-Geneve is
accomplished using a machine fitted with a wooden (or in some cases
plastic) lap. The lap â€śAâ€ť is a cup shaped disk charged with a mild
abrasive mixed with light oil rotating at a medium speed of several
hundred revolutions per minute. The bridges â€śCâ€ť are mounted on a
fixture-plate â€śBâ€ť. The lap is lowered to gently touch the bridge surface
and slowly moved in a straight line allowing the lap to create each stripe
of arcs. The lap is lifted, the bridge is indexed according to the width
of stripe desired, and another stripe is applied until the surface of the
bridge is complete.
The fixture-plate is keyed to hold each
individual bridge in the same orientation as when they are attached to the
main plate. This manner of grouping assures that the stripes on each
bridge will align perfectly with the stripes on the other bridges since
each is bridge is decorated individually due to minor differences in
height that could result in imperfections.
Click here for a
short video showing Cote-de-Geneve being applied - 17.2 mb
A finished â€śClassicâ€ť movement ready to be
fitted with its case. Note: The Cote-de-Geneve is perfectly aligned from
bridge to bridge and the main-plate spotting adds a nice contrast to the
stripes. The sapphire winding rotor is not assembled with the movement
until after the movement has been cased due to the possibility of breakage
during the casing operation.
The Vianney Halter â€śClassicâ€ť with
patented sapphire winding rotor.
Lets have an informal look around the Vianney
Stewart Lesemann making screws on the
Leinen micro-lathe using a stereo microscope.
Mark Schmidt at the bench (is it lunch
An S.I.P. jig bore machine for making very
precise holes. Big is better, even in watchmaking!
A Deckel milling machine with rotary
Some instruments and tools in Vianneyâ€™s
office. He has an addiction to old and interesting vacuum tubes (center).
And, what was that word in English?
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DeCorte 2004, All rights reserved