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Halting state

Vianney Halter at SalonQP 2014
Vianney Halter at SalonQP 2014

You may have noticed that there are some themes that run through these posts: British watchmaking; dive watches; smartwatches; cephalopod molluscs. I don’t tend to write about new products or press releases, and I can’t compete with the top watch ‘blogs in terms of coverage, contacts or access. If I write about something, it’s because I *want* to – or rather, it’s because it interests me. It’s a very selfish way to write, I suppose, but then, vanity ‘blogging almost always is.

What that means, however, is that I *don’t* write about a large number of the watches across which I stumble. Sometimes, this is due to time constraints, or it may just be that I’m really not very good at finishing things (I still have a post about the Jaeger LeCoultre Geophysic in my Draft folder, for example, as well as a long-overdue ramble on the subject of what, exactly, defines watchmaking in Britain). There are many watches about which I will probably never write, and perhaps, in the spirit of full disclosure, I should list these. Oh, and, of course, I rarely get anything right.

This latter trait was highlighted last week at SalonQP. SalonQP has grown from a slightly underground affair (I recall 2010 being particularly subterranean) to the glittering jewel of the UK watch scene. Admittedly, there aren’t many watch-related events taking place in the UK at present, but I do believe that it’s a unique proposition, being aimed firmly towards the customer / consumer and not at Authorised Dealers or Distributors. Of course, I should declare an interest – I have written for QP Magazine in the past, and enjoyed the benefits of a Press Pass at the 2014 show.

In a recent piece, I looked at designs that I felt were atemporal, or not from any particular time. This covered such pieces as the MB&F LM1 and Vianney Halter’s Deep Space. I saw both of these watches at SalonQP: the LM1 on the wrist of MB&F’s Head of Communications, Charris Yadigaroglou, and the Deep Space on Vianney’s stall. Vianney was exhibiting alongside other members of the AHCI, and it was the first time that I had spent any significant time with him or the watch. There is another close link between these two brands: they have both taken Deep Space Nine as a significant influence.

Vianney Halter's Deep Space at SalonQP 2014
Vianney Halter’s Deep Space at SalonQP 2014

Deep Space Nine is, of course, the name of the Cardassian-built space station in high orbit over Bajor, and probably the most significant space station in the Alpha Quadrant (given its close proximity to the Bajoran Wormhole). If all this brings back memories of Sisko, Dax and Odo, then please do keep reading. If not, well, this post may not be for you.

The thing about linking a product to such iconic influences is that they may for ever be associated with those influences, rather than as products in their own right; Omega are particularly good at this, producing tie-ins with the Summer and Winter Olympics, as well as individual Bond Films. Hublot also produce incredibly specific variations of their core range which pay tribute to, or in some way remember, an event, person or place. With DS9, MB&F and Vianney have chosen to honour a fictional space station from the most culturally influential science fiction canon the world is likely to see and create a table clock or watch that reflects it, not only in shape, but also in key design areas. It is slightly odd that DS9 should have had such a profound impact upon the world of haute horologie, but it is (perhaps) not so extraordinary given the remarkable shape of the space station itself (it has been described as a “hybrid planar-columnar triradial structure”.)

DS9 is built around a central core, a small sphere from where the core operations of the space station are monitored; this core is surrounded by the promenade and a habitat ring. The latter is attached to the core via six spokes – three of which extend further to support the outermost docking ring. Seen in two dimensions, the resemblance to a balance wheel is uncanny. One wonders whether it is this that sparked the initial ideas in the minds of Max Busser and Vianney. The simplest homage to DS9 would have been a three-spoked wheel, not unsimilar to a classic Glycudur balance, with an additional inner wheel – or perhaps the balance spring itself. Given the remarkable innovations in silicon / silicium technology (see LIGA, syloxi and anchor escapements), it is possible that the entire assembly could have been made to almost entirely replicate the DS9 schematic. However, I digress.
Deep Space Nine – Top View (C) Ex Astris Scientia

Given the rather horological nature of DS9, as well as its somewhat fluid place in time and space (it’s somewhere in the 24th century, approximately 70,000 light years away from Earth) it’s also interesting to note the differences between the two pieces. Where the Star Fleet Machine (engineered and produced for MB&F by L’Epée 1839) takes the form of a table clock, Vianney’s Deep Space is a wristwatch. The Star Fleet machine is, therefore, anchored, solid. It’s a remarkable thing – forty days power reserve, retrograde complications, even a low power indicator – and it certainly looks like a space station. The docking arms – those tall over-arching sickles of metal that extend top and bottom from the outermost ring – are integral to the design, providing support for the clock, as well as framing the display. As a piece of “performance art”, it certainly hits the mark. Brutal, in many ways, it’s Deep Space Nine as Terek Nor: menacing and brooding, especially in the ‘Dark’ edition. That’s not to say it’s not fun. Twin turrets act as constant seconds, while a “radar dish” contains the power reserve indicator. However, and this is where I must apologise to Vianney for a comment I have previously made, it’s possibly not as romantic, whimsical or deeply engrossing as the Deep Space.

The Deep Space, on the face of it, is a very similar design. It too has docking pylons, although the lower three have been removed, and only two upper pylons remain, proudly displaying the hours and minutes. The architecture remains familiar, with its large, domed crystal sparking memories of deflector arrays, while the movement is almost entirely replaced by a simply staggering tri-axis tourbillon [interestingly, an early design for DS9 had two, joined, complete rings that encircled the space station; it was these “hoops” that were later added to, and broken, in order to create the design as we know it].

Among a number of surprising elements, the depth of the dial looms large in the memory; there’s a real sense of space (the hint was probably in the name). The tourbillon hangs over the dial, as if in high orbit. The cage turns every 40 seconds, rotating every six, and circling the dial every 30 minutes. These numbers are largely irrelevant, it’s the effect that’s important: a device to explain length, width, depth and time to a stranger from another planet. Probably.

In previous interviews, Vianney has said that the idea for the Deep Space came to him in a series of dreams; there was a period of time during which he binge-watched all 176 episodes of DS9. I asked Vianney which character he’d be. I’m not entirely sure he gave me an answer – it might have been Odo, although he seems to have strong feelings towards Sisko. What he did tell me was that his favourite episode is Far Beyond the Stars, an example of Star Trek metafiction and one which contains the slightly Shakespeare-esque line “You are the dreamer… and the dream.”

Somehow, that seems entirely appropriate.

the #watchnerd

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