Louis Erard: Régulateur Alain Silberstein & Vianney Halter4 January 2021
In the world of watchmaking, as well as in the world of fashion, there are special features that you love or you hate. Difficult to find a balance. They are the so-called “collaboration models” – which in fashion are a joint work between a brand and a famous designer; in watchmaking they often bring together small, independent and creative manufactures. Such as Louis Erard.
THE RÉGULATEUR, LOUIS ERARD’S SIGNATURE
The Le Noirmont manufacture can be described with many adjectives, except one: ordinary. Starting from the fact that Louis Erard has long been synonymous with “régulateur”, since his most famous watches are those that keep time using two distinct dials for hours and minutes.
A fascinating and not ordinary technical and aesthetic solution, because its history is very interesting and dates back to the times when a regulator stood in the watch repair workshops, as well as in those where the movements were built; it was a timepiece used as a reference to set the time and to check the functioning of the movement that had been just repaired or built.
The regulators were wall clocks, often pendulum clocks, with a dial for each hand, in order to facilitate the reading and the adjustment of the movement in the laboratory; the separate dials avoided the overlapping of the hands, which could cause uncertainty in defining the correct time and measuring the accuracy of the movement.
So, what do the “collaboration models” have to do with all this? Very much, because Louis Erard has developed two of them, both inspired by the uniqueness of the masters they came to life with: Vianney Halter and Alain Silberstein. To those who are not watch specialists, the names of Halter and Silberstein may be unknown, but each of the two Frenchmen, for different reasons, has earned a great reputation in this field.
WHO ARE THE TWO MASTERS?
Alain Silberstein is Parisian, born in 1950, and trained as an interior architect, working first in the French capital and then, from the late 1970s, in Besançon, the center of the French watch industry. There, Silberstein fell in love with watchmaking and in 1990 founded his own brand, Alain Silberstein Créations, which closed in 2012.
His watches are famous for using the three primary colors – red, blue and yellow – of three basic geometric shapes – triangle, square/rectangle and circle or, in 3D, pyramid, cube and sphere – and for the juxtaposition of materials and finishings.
“Color is important, but you must always keep in mind that you cannot dissociate the color from the material,” says Silberstein, who now works as an independent watch designer. In addition to the creation for Louis Erard, he collaborated with MB&F in the HM2.2 Black Box Performance Art of 2009 and especially in the LM1 Silberstein.
Vianney Halter, born in 1963, enrolled at the Ecole Horlogère de Paris at the age of fourteen and after graduating in 1980, he spent the first ten years of his professional life restoring antique watches, thus developing a broad knowledge of watchmaking.
He founded his independent company in 1994, producing watches for famous brands such as Harry Winston, Breguet and Audemars Piguet, among others. Since 1998 he has developed his own collections of wristwatches; they are avant-garde and atypical timepieces made in a traditional way, using his style.
LE RÉGULATEUR LOUIS ERARD X ALAIN SILBERSTEIN
The watch made with Alain Silberstein and presented in 2019 is doubly important for Louis Erard; in its 90 years of existence, Louis Erard has never given carte blanche to a designer, while Alain Silberstein had never before designed a regulator watch. The result is unsettling.
While at first sight it may appear fun and light, this limited-edition watch has hidden depth. It reflects the strategy of the Louis Erard brand, more focused than ever on its vocation as an independent watchmaker dedicated to excellence in the making of accessible watches. It also represents a new stage in the company’s growth, focusing on the centrality of technical and creative collaborations.
His design starts with the central minute hand, reduced to the most basic form of an indicator: an arrow, large and yellow on the black version, and deep blue on the white version. This minute hand points to simple lines like those on the train station clocks that served as inspiration for it.
The rest is designed in the same style of geometric simplicity: rectangle, triangle, circle. Reflecting Alain Silberstein’s signature style, the hour hand is a large red triangle, while the seconds are indicated by a serpentine hand. The colours follow a similar logic, reduced to the basic spectrum of blue, red and yellow.
“All my work is guided by reading the time, and my inspiration always come from the movement,” Silberstein says. Before this project, he had never worked on a regulator movement. This one is an ETA 7001 manual movement with the RE9 complication signed by Louis Erard, with approximately 42 hours of power reserve. It’s visible through the sapphire crystal caseback with a decoration celebrating the partnership.
The 40 mm case is in steel with PVD treatment in the black version. Of course, the watch is a limited edition: 178 pieces, already sold out for some time. RÉGULATEUR LOUIS ERARD X VIANNEY HALTER.
LE RÉGULATEUR LOUIS ERARD X VIANNEY HALTER
“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,” says Vianney Halter talking about the watch he created for the Le Noirmont brand. Another limited edition of 178 pieces already sold out less than a month after the watch was presented.
As in Silberstein’s watch, also in this limited edition Halter’s aesthetic footprints are at the core of the project. The watch is a genuine reinterpretation of Vianney Halter’s watchmaking philosophy, and not a mere reduction or simplification of his very sophisticated style.
If in the regulator signed by Silberstein the dial’s most evident feature is given by the color and geometric shapes, in Halter’s watch what catches the eye is its depth. They began by sculpting the dial in order to give depth to each of the three counters, with those of the hours and seconds being coplanar. Also noteworthy is the contrast of the finishings, between the upper plate in circular satin-finished silver and the matt grey lower plate with microbead-blasted silver counters.
The two plates with the names of the brands, at 3 and 9 o’clock, are embossed, also helping to increase the sense of depth characterising the whole dial. Halter, 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 central presence.
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 motion.
Since Vianney Halter envisaged this creation as a return to the basics – both in relation to his own style and the history of watchmaking – as the mechanics of the regulator best fit this creative philosophy. Louis Erard encased in the 42 mm polished steel case a Sellita SW266-1 automatic movement with 38 hours of power reserve. The see-through caseback highlights the open-worked oscillating weight decorated with the logo of the Maison.
Finally, a mention for the crenellated crown – a “signature” of Vianney Halter – and for the strap. It is in nubuck calfskin, in a beautiful “Oceania” blue color, with a soft touch processing that enhances the pleasure to the touch.
COLLABORATE TO GROW
Alain Silberstein and Vianney Halter are the forerunners of “collaboration models” that Louis Erard would like to develop with the master watchmakers. As we wrote at the beginning of this article: you usually love or hate these kinds of watches. The brand is well aware of this, but also knows that this is the right way to grow the brand identity, ensuring its success.
By Davide Passoni