I love the Spring Swiss fairs; it’s like leaving a kid run wild in Disneyland! And this year Disneyland was the Vacheron Constantin booth where the most exiting watches presented at the Swiss fairs (Basel and SIHH) were released. The star of the 2007 edition of the SIHH was undoubtedly Vacheron Constantin with the launch of the awe inspiring Metiers d’Art Les Masques collection.
But that’s not it… along with the launch of 2 new in-house calibres, Vacheron Constantin also launched a new model range called the Patrimony Traditionnelle featuring distinctive cases with large bezels, stylish lugs, knurled edges on the case back and beautiful two tone dials reminiscent of some of the fantastic dials found in the brand’s vintage pieces.
My goal with this article, with lots of “in the flesh” photos (click on photos for a larger view), is to share my impressions on Vacheron Constantin’s new releases. I just got back from Geneva so these are my very first impressions and my mind may change during the year so please don’t quote me :-)
I have to admit that there was not one single new watch from VC that I didn’t like. The 2007 vintage is harmonious and consistent. It seemed that during the fairs every brand wanted to prove that it had 21st century cool by applying ad nauseum new materials, new forms and new ways of telling time to a point where the fine line between gimmick and innovation had long been crossed. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a great fan of MB&F, Vianney Halter, Urwerk and Richard Mille but the “originals” not the followers and that’s why Vacheron Constantin’s new models were such a breath of fresh air: you don’t have to put carbon fiber and black PVD on everything to be bold and creative!
While speaking to an executive from a very high end brand, competitors of Vacheron Constantin, his words were: “It’s impressive what they have done this year and obviously they had a blast at doing it” (for French speakers the exact words were “ils se sont eclatés”)!
Let’s start with the fairer sex and the new Egerie with a pave case and mother of pearl dial.
The Patrimony Contemporaine in rose gold
This model housing Vacheron Constantin’s in-house automatic calibre 2450 (with Geneva Seal) was first launched in 2006 in yellow and white gold. The reference 85180 is now also available in rose gold. Vacheron Constantin has also gotten rid of one of my pet peeves: unnecessary writing on dials explaining to the owner what the watch is actually doing! In the new interpretation of the Patrimony Contemporaine, the word “automatic” is no longer on the dial which may be a small step for Vacheron Constantin but a giant step for my mental health. Bravo!
The Patrimony Traditionnelle self winding
I love this watch! The two tone dial is absolutely stunning, and I like the fact that the seconds hand is placed at 9; it gives a rather original look to a classical watch. Most of all its size is a perfect 38mm.
Not only is the ref 87172 an off beat alternative to more “classical” dress watches but it also houses the new Vacheron Constantin 2455 automatic calibre. Needless to say that this movement also features the Geneva Seal and is impeccably finished. Recently independent watchmaker Kari Voutilainen (the cognoscenti often compare his finish to the great Dufour’s) recently commented on the amazing finish of Vacheron Constantin’s calibres which he considers to be among the best in the industry!
My only small criticism would be the date window at 3. The dial would have been cleaner in my opinion without an aperture for date but I’m sure that had Vacheron Constantin left out the date many would have criticised the brand for not having put in a date function, so…
In rose gold:
The Patrimony Traditionnelle Perpetual Calendar Skeleton
Now this is a watch which is definitely all the way on top of my wish list! Watch aficionados and professionals basically agree that the artisans of Vacheron Constantin have the most amazing skeletonising and engraving skills on the market and this new perpetual calendar models is the perfect example.
In the mid 1990s VC had introduced a skeletonised perpetual calendar in a 36mm case. This new model is a reinterpretation of that model in a larger 39mm case. What I particularly like about this model is that in fact it is more an openwork model with engraved movement than a skeletonised watch per se enabling you to see directly through the movement.
Often the major problem with engraved/skeletonised timepieces is the sacrifice of legibility. Here, Vacheron Constantin has opted for a transparent sapphire dial enhanced by a silvered ring integrating the hour markers and minute-track. The perpetual calendar indications, transferred on the dial, consequently gain in legibility. Transparency was also used with the moon phase indicator, whose two discs can be made out through the frosted glass for a brilliant effect.
I also like the contrast of the masculine case with large bezel and tense lugs and the poetry and finesse of the impeccable engraving and calendar functions. A true winner!
If you want to be knocked off your feet all you have to do is turn the watch over, the engraving is nothing short of sublime and almost pushes you to wear the watch movement side up!
The Patrimony Traditionnelle « Caliber 2755 »
The only thing I don’t like about this watch is its name! Christening such an amazing timepiece after its calibre number is rather dry! It would have definitely deserved a more romantic name.
The calibre 2755 is based on – yes you have guessed correctly – the new manufacture calibre 2755 which is Vacheron Constantin’s most complicated calibre in production (I’m not counting the Tour de l’Ile which was limited to only 7 pieces) and which took 3 years to develop.
This complicated timepiece features a tourbillon, a perpetual calendar, a minute repeater and a power reserve indicator discretely placed on a bridge on the back of the watch.
When I first heard that it had a 44mm diameter I was afraid that it would be way too big but believe me it looks perfect on the wrist (this is coming from someone who rarely wears anything over 38mm). The Caliber 2755 has the typical Patrimony Traditionnelle case and two tone dial, I love the ex-centred indications and the big tourbillon cage with its fantastic finish (to obtain the tapering of the tourbillon bridge over 12 hours of manual labor is required)!
The most amazing aspect of this watch nevertheless is the quality of the chimes. Vacheron Constantin has always been lauded for the quality of its repeating watches but its watchmakers have gone a step further. A centripetal speed-regulator in the striking-mechanism has been developed. This original device eliminates the noise interference normally experienced with pallet systems. This results in a crystalline seraphic chime. To give you an example I heard the watch before seeing it while in a room with people talking and music on!!
A gorgeous piece of mechanical artistry which would be on my wish list if I didn’t have to sell an arm to pay for it!
Métiers d’Art “Les Masques”
THE conversation piece of the whole Genevan fair. Rarely have the words art and masterpiece been used so correctly. My first reaction to this collection was the same as being thunderstruck: breathless, speechless, heart beating fast and wobbly knees! It’s hard to define the divine but you can recognize it when you see it and for me the hands of the gods guided the designers at Vacheron Constantin to create such original, bold and daring pieces.
At an epoch where originality resides in the use of carbon fibber and black PVD or the most improbable partnership with cars, motor cycles and boats Vacheron Constantin opens a whole new un treaded path where art and horology meet.
China Death Mask
(Yellow gold case)
Alaska Frontal mask
(White gold case)
Indonesia - Facial mask, Wayang Topeng theatre
(Rose gold case)
Etoumbi-Mahongwe mask from the Congo - Facial mask
The idea of a watch where the art form on the dial should have centre stage with the time reading functions pushed to the periphery was first developed at Vacheron Constantin with The Four Seasons launched for the brand’s 250th anniversary in 2005. For certain collectors these watches were too baroque, nevertheless Vacheron has taken the same principle and taken it one step further with the Masques collections.
The concept was to use an art form still little known to the general public: the so called primitive arts. Geneva has the chance of housing one of the most prestigious collections of primitive arts: the Barbie-Muller Museum and collaboration between the museum and Vacheron seemed therefore unavoidable. The museum lent a certain number of pieces to Vacheron for replication but the great difficulty resided maintaining the proportions in a miniature version. Different techniques were tried but the final results were unsatisfactory. Vacheron Constantin finally turned to the Geneva Engineering School for help in making a three-dimensional image of each mask. By putting the plans together on a computer, they were able to modify the volumes point by point and find the best angle for fitting the whole mask into the case while safeguarding the harmony of its forms. It was thanks to the magic of laser technology that the miniaturisation of the masks became possible.
The time is read by means of four discs indicating the hours, minutes, days and date in windows. A clever technique using transparency and specially-treated glass creates the impression that the masks are floating. Each sapphire crystal has a different tint, obtained by a unique metallisation process, so that it sets off the colour of the mask.
Michel Butor’s (a contemporary French poet) short poems dedicated to each mask circle the sapphire dial in letters of gold and can only be read when the light strikes it from a certain angle. This effect is achieved by vacuum metallisation, a sophisticated technological process in which the gold letters are sprayed onto a sapphire crystal.
The effect is amazing and depending on the inclination of the wrist the sapphire crystals hues vary as well as the coloring of the letters. There is such subtility and depth in the dial that you can almost drown in it and spend hours just staring at it mesmerised by its sheer beauty.
I was certain that the Masques would be one of those love/hate watches with no place for lukewarm reactions but until now, to my great surprise, there have only been positive feedback on them.
The Masques will be offered as a set of 4 and only 25 will be available. Now that really REALLY bothers me. These awe inspiring masterpieces, in my opinion, should have been available individually as to make them more “affordable” to those love struck like myself whereas a set puts the Masques on a whole different stratosphere attainable by a happy few. Needless to say that I have spent a fortune on lottery tickets since I have been back :-)
In my opinion 2007 is the year where Vacheron Constantin actually has reached horological excellence and demonstrates its supremacy in the watch world with technically and aesthetically amazing works of art which set the manufacture on a whole different level with a promise for enchanted tomorrows. Vacheron Constantin will also be releasing a few other watches during the year all very exciting pieces so stay tuned... :-)
...and very nice pictures! Thanks Alex!
Love reading stuff like this: “It’s impressive what they have done this year and obviously they had a blast at doing it” from that high roller in the business. And I agree with him...
Thank you Alex,
for really bringing us to the Vacheron Constantin exhibition !
It's almost as I have been there in person.
Fantastic photos of watches that all are unique,
masterpieces, yes, I would use the word art,
except the one I like most of them all !
When sportsmen are asked if it was the best match,
downhill, racelap, etc.,
they always answers:
"No, it was little wrong there,
a tiny mistake, but not perfect."
If you would ask me which is the perfect Vacheron Constantin,
I would answer:
The Patrimony Contemporaine in RG :-)
Once thanks Alex !
a dial and you get a whole different watch!
It was good seeing you again and I really enjoyed the stuff from Vacheron this year. The masks and the skeleton perpetual in platinum were my favourite watches of the SIHH.
Independents its a great compliment to VC :-)
Thanks Alex !
I was somehow expecting something like this from you, with your personalized style, as always!
Thank you very much!
find fault with these pieces as not to appear biased but it was really difficult.
Good to see you here
Your photographic skills are improving....
VC was the highlight of the SIHH for me.
I hear 2008 will be in the same vein.
What I truly appreciate is that VC thought out of the box to create such bold and creative pieces... I hope they continue
Thank you so much, Alex for the personal tour...the next best thing to being there!
The photos and the write-up were great. Its nice to read your personal reactions to the designs.
I can't wait to see them in person this June. Your introduction to them only whetted my appetite.
actually see the Masques or 2755...
telling watch it is always stunning!
happy with your compliment.
It was great seeing you in Geneva.
Thanks for sharing Alex. Great report.
I don't know. I appreciate novelties of Vacheron Constantin, I could find many of words to define new amazing and beautiful watches VC, but I dream about Malte ref. 47120.
the nicest chronographs currently on the market!!
Congratulations for this great report and Vacheron for their new collections !
I am a great fan of VC and I am so happy about their new "The Patrimony Traditionnelle self winding" in at last a normal size: i.e. 38 mm !
I must also admit their "Masques" series are very interesting even though I rather enjoy viewing the original masks !
products all "made sens" together.
It was good bumping into you there :-)
don't go on a buying spree and leave some pieces for others:-) The China Funeral mask is also my favorite
and the photos are so good I cannot believe they are yours. ;-) Great work.
Les Masques were one of my highlights of the SIHH and the collection shows that Vacheron are still the masters at blending tradition and innovation.
The skeleton perpetuals are stunning and represent everything I like about VC.
my photos get better. Thanks for all your help :-)
I've always enjoyed your write-ups from the watch shows and this year is no exception. It must feel like a vacation in only having to write about one brand this year!
VC has done a fantastic job.
they did such a great job!
this is the best year for VC in the 4-5 years i have eagerly awaited their novelties announced in SIHH. i love all the new patrimony models especially the traditionelle and the skeleton. simply love it. period.
VC best ever since my first SIHH in 2001.
during the year :-)
split up a Masques set and I'm not difficult any of the 4 would make my day :-)
I'm sure you will too ;-)
the Patrimony Skeleton Perpetual is perhaps my favorite watch introduced in 2007 by any brand. And that Caliber 2755 - what an amazing sound it produced!
Great to see you in Geneva, and thanks again for arranging last Sunday's superb dinner.
great seeing you in Geneva. Hopefully again next year :-)
Thank you very, very much for your highly interesting and well spoken words about the new Vacheron launch
I fully agree with you that Vacheron entered a new period with only more good things to come
ps. I like the new power reserve the best
way things are going they may as well be star of 2008!!
An excellent review, Alex-san. It’s good to know that the firm is keeping its tradition in style and introducing more and more in-house movements.
I can only see things going up hill!
My favorites were the Patrimony Traditionnelle and the Traditionnelle Skeleton Perpetual Calendar. I really like the two tone dial treatment of the Patrimony Traditionnelle. I'm not sure I like the date window on this really lovely dial, but other than that this is a fantastic looking watch.
I also think they did a nice job updating the Patrimony Power Reserve and turning it into the Malte PR. The Patimony versions, esepcially the original always seemed a bit too serious and plain in styling.
I know everyone loves the Masks...but I still do not know if I really like them beyond appreciating all of the hard work that went into designing and making the masks.
VC did a great job this year, although I wish they had created an interesting case shape, like something based on a vintage piece. But maybe thats a good excuse for me to step up to the plate and buy a round VC.
Best regards, and thanks for all of your hard work in bringing SIHH to those of us that could not go.
word on the street has it that maybe in 2008 there will be more form watches :-)
they keep offering very enticing pieces in round cases. But I'll be keeping my fingers crossed that there will be more form watches in 2008.
I'm throroughly impressed with what VC has lined up for us!
Thank you for the invitation to the presentation at SIHH. I agree with you on the repeater, it is magnificent - one of the best sounding contemporary repeaters today. If VC manages to achieve that quality of sound consistently with all pieces, then it can easily rival Patek Philippe in chiming watches.
finally meeting you.
Thanks for the report on VC's new watches. The Patrimony Traditional is beautiful :)