For a spin-off from the Patrimony, the Traditionnelle has established its self as one of Vacheron Constantin’s most important collections as it is the canvas on which Vacheron Canvas has drawn its most complicated and iconic timepieces of the past years.
Let’s rewind to 2004 and the launch of the Patrimony ref 81180 who with its large curved case, short lugs and clean dial became an instant success, even taking Vacheron Constantin by surprise. During the years 2005/2006 the venerable Geneva based brand rethought its offer and from a one off model the Patrimony became a brand new collection.
However, the Patrimony was designed from the beginning to be a slim Bauhaus inspired model which could not include complications that would require a thicker case or an array of multiple indications on the dial and therefore the creative team started working on a new round collection. The brief was both simple: create a new line of round watches - and complex as the design needed to be- recognizable and suitable not only for men’s watches but also for ladies.
The creative juices began churning and one of the great assets in working for the world’s oldest watch brand is having a huge archive of past designs to get inspiration from and this is what happened. The team got inspiration from the dials of watches made by Vacheron Constantin in the period going from the 1930s to 1950s. Many sketches were drawn and brainstorming done, the final result was a superb dial with different tones and surface finishes that was a work of art unto itself.
Says Vincent Kauffman Head of Design, “we wanted to create a very classical model with horological codes dedicated to the indications. We wanted different surface finishes without them being pure decoration. It needed to be a technical no frills dial ».
The case also went through a lot of trial and error. It needed to be “strict” and somewhat austere, with stepped flanks as to maintain its proportions no matter the thickness of the case. The steps and shape of the lugs also enable the visual reduction of the timepieces with larger cases.
2007 was the founding year and the creation the Traditionnelle. At the time, it was integrated into the Patrimony collection, the original slim round becoming the Patrimony Contemporaine and the new models setting the foundations for the Patrimony Traditionnelle. In 2015 Vacheron Constantin decided to split this collection, the Patrimony Contemporaine becoming just Patrimony and the Patrimony Traditionnelle dropping the first part of its name.
SIHH, January 2007...the Traditionnelle is born with a bang…and what a bang! From a classical time only with date to Vacheron Constantin’s most complicated timepiece in “regular production” (if making a handful a year can be referred to as regular production) with a revisited classic- a skeletonized perpetual calendar – the Traditionnelle did not disappoint.
In habitual Vacheron Constantin style even though the Traditionnelle was to represent classical horology there was a twist to the first model launched. An automatic with a rather conservative 38mm case size (it’s easy to forget that in 2007 men’s watches that were North of 45mm didn’t raise eye brows) housing the inhouse caliber 2455 featuring a date at 3 o’clock and an original subseconds dial placed at 9 o’clock.
Says Dan Shao about this piece: “What attracted me in the Traditionnelle Self-Winding was that it features a "Lepine" style caliber with the seconds hand in line with the winding stem but utilized in a modern wristwatch and turned 90 degrees, with an additional date complication (making it modern and a great daily watch). Add that it has an inhouse VC designed movement is icing on top of the cake for this vintage lover. Simple, but elegant and just a tad different!”
Watch aficionados and professionals agree that the artisans of Vacheron Constantin have the most amazing skeletonising and engraving skills on the market and this perpetual calendar model is the perfect example.
In the mid 1990s Vacheron Constantin introduced a skeletonized perpetual calendar in a 36mm case. The present model is a reinterpretation of that model in a larger 39mm case. What I particularly like about this piece is that in fact it is more an openwork creation with engraved movement than a skeletonized watch per se enabling you to see directly through the movement.
Often the major problem with engraved/skeletonized 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!
Horological fireworks is what come to mind when looking at the Caliber 2755 (unlike the name which is in my opinion way too dry for such an amazing timepiece).
Traditionnelle « Caliber 2755 » finds its name in its movement 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.
Housed in a 44mm case (but wears smaller thanks to the case/lug design) the dial has an ex-centered hours/minutes hand due to the large opening for the tourbillon cage at 6 o’clock. It is interesting to note that to obtain the tapering of the tourbillon bridge, over 12 hours of manual labor is required!
Says Vincent Kauffmann "The greatest challenges are without doubt the grand complications. Beyond the thickness and diameter that need to be worked and reworked during the creative phase the first prototypes can reserve bad surprises and send us back to the drawing board. Ergonomics, comfort and even the weight of the watch can only be assessed with the first prototypes."
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.
Says Benjamin T about this watch “I loved the pure heft of the watch, it looks substantial without being ostentatious, everything is delightful with this watch, inside and out. I have had the luck to own many minute repeaters but my Traditionnelle is the one that chimes the best”.
Two very popular complications find their way into the Traditionnelle collection. The two tone dial, the Traditionnelle case (42mm for the chronograph and 43mm for the version with additional perpetual calendar) and the rectangular pushers give the watch a somewhat vintage look with a dynamic aura.
The icing on the cake is the achingly gorgeous hand engraved moonphase indication (first seen in the Tour de l’Ile) in the perpetual calendar model, each half featuring a different expression for the moon: gloomy or happy.
Both these watches were launched housing the Lemania based cal 1141. In 2016, Vacheron Constantin presented a new version of the Perpetual Calendar Chronograph with slight design modifications and the new Cal 1142 which Vacheron Constantin has taken inhouse and modified by constructing it under Geneva seal requirements, free sprung and higher beat.
Says Rolando about his Traditionnelle Chronograph: “I chose the VC Traditionnelle Chronograph because I was looking for a chronograph as a dress watch, it needed to be hand winding with sapphire caseback. This model had it all: beautiful dial, especially changing colors and tones depending the angle on which the light shone on it, the soft chronograph pushers and compared to its direct competition it was more elegant and discreet”
Most probably the most iconic of the Traditionnelle models and the one the collection identifies to. Launched in a 38mm case, it features all the Traditionnelle aesthetics: a fine bezel knurling around the caseback which features a screw-down sapphire crystal, facetted trapezoid hour-markers, dauphine hands and dials in several silvered tones and lugs with clean straight lines. The pièce de resistance is that it features the inhouse calibre 4400 which nicely fills the case and can be admired via a sapphire crystal case back.
Says Mike H « What attracted me to the Traditionnelle Manual Wind is the case design which is both classical and modern and the superb finish of all the elements, case of course but also dial and the superb Cal 4400.” To which Walid adds “It is a veritable 'under the radar' daily wearer that works with suits but also has some old world charm (also worked well with jeans and a colorful strap). I also find that it perfectly represents what I think of when the word VC comes to mind: reserved, sensual, durable, and low-key. In a nutshell, its perfect in my eyes: modern yet reserved, fantastic proportions, great wearability, stunning case design.
Another technical feat with a dry name, the Caliber 2253 was originally launched in a limited edition Collection Excellence Platine and subsequently launched in gold. Yet another complicated inhouse movement featuring a perpetual calendar, equation of time (difference between civil and solar time) located between 11 and 12 as well as the time of sunrise (located between 7 and 9) and sunset (located between 3 and 5), the latter can be adapted to the specific location of the client. At 6 is the superbly finished tourbillon cage. Flip the watch over to admire the cal 2253 (475 components), finely finished with perfectly aligned Geneva waves and superb bevelled bridges.
The experience gained during the development of the Saint Gervais in 2005 (perpetual calendar, tourbillon with 10 day power reserve) was used in the Cal 2253 but pushed further to obtain a 336 hour or 14 day power reserve by using two pairs of coupled barrels. The power reserve indicator is discreetly placed on a slightly elevated arc on the back plate. 44mm in diameter and a bit on the thick side with its 15.7mm, I find that VC managed to create a very appealing and “poetic” watch with harmonious and consistent complications and the first VC wristwatch since the Tour de l’Ile to feature an equation of time and sunrise / sunset indicators. The Calibre 2253 combines highly contemporary elegance with a fiercely masculine look.
Says Vincent Kauffmann « the complication will dictate the design of the dial, and with small but important details we will need to find the equilibrium between all indications. The information displayed should be clear”
This watch was a game changer for Vacheron Constantin as the brand finally focused on a medium complication that could actually be of use. The Traditionnelle World Time has many novel features never seen in other similar models, 2 of which have been patented.
The first world premiere is that the watch indicates the world’s 37 time zones, including those offset by a half or quarter-hour. For example, it provides the correct time indication for Caracas, Venezuela, a country that decided in 2007 to switch from a full time zone to a half time zone (GMT – 4:30).
To be able to count for the timezones with 15 or 30 minute increments the minute hand is also linked to the time zone disc! In regular time zone watches only the hour hand is geared to the time zone disc thus only countries within the 24 full hour time zones can be included (ie; each time a timezone is chosen the disc and hour hand jump by one hour), whereas in the Vacheron Constantin World Time the minute hand also gears with the time zone disc thus enabling the inclusion of countries in 15, 30 and 45 minute time zones and therefore offering 37 time zones instead of 24 as seen in other worldtime watches.
The dial is also a feat in its self, it consists in fact of 3 levels: a sapphire dial with unique day/night shading, a metal dial with a “Lambert projector” type map and a metal chapter ring. The shaded sapphire dial rotates with the hands as to indicate which part of the world is ready to go to bed and which part is having its morning coffee.
The rose gold 42.5mm case sits well on a wrist (even smaller ones) due to the short downturned lugs. A lot of attention to detail has gone into this watch and if you take a closer look at the hour hand you will see that it is shaped like an airplane, another interesting feature is that all functions are set via the crown.
In the works for almost 3 years the world time module is a fully inhouse development and uses the cal 2460 as base movement, now called 2460WT.
Richard G says : “I have different Traditionnelle models and to me this collection is somewhat like a pretty woman without any makeup, dressed in simple elegant attire (case), with flirtatious thought being put out there. The World Time being a bit more flirting & high maintenance, like some beautiful women; who know it”
This model was Vacheron Constantin’s first «simple » round tourbillon in over a decade. Inspired by Cal 2253, but not a stripped down version, the bridges have been reworked and redesigned to underline the finish. The power reserve has also been moved to the 12 o’clock position via a pawl and a cam. One of my favorite aspects of this watch is the stealthy elegance it resonates, and the amazing finish of the underdial is something which makes my heart go wild!
This watch was the first of the VC collection to comply with the new Geneva seal criteria (which no longer applied only to the movement but to the whole watch).
Says Jon about his tourbillon from the stunning Collection Excellence Platine: “What I like the most about my new Traditionnelle 14-Day Tourbillon is the understated elegance that it exemplifies. Compared to the many other modern tourbillons out there right now, especially those made by the upstart and the smaller independent brands, this one is the most wearable one. With the other ones, the dials look so crowded sometimes I don’t even know what I am looking at. Some of them look downright toyish. I am not a showy person by nature, so I would never wear something like that. With this one, I can wear it every day knowing that this look will never grow outdated. The colors are simple and the style is timeless. And of course I appreciate that this is a Vacheron and there are only 50 of these babies around.”
The Traditionnelle Day/Date and power reserve houses the Cal 2475 which was first launched in 2005 and found originally in the limited edition Jubilee 1755 - and subsequently used in the Qui de l’Ile. This movement found its way into another (useful) medium complication housed in a 39.5mm case.
2017 will be the 10th anniversary of the Traditionnelle and to celebrate this milestone Vacheron Constantin will be launching different models throughout the year, the first being the Minute Repeater Tourbillon based on Cal 2755 but doing without the perpetual calendar mechanism.
Housed in a 44mm case in either pink gold and silver dial or platinum with silver dial or slate grey dial. Vacheron Constantin has added a dash of chutzpah to an already superb watch with a gorgeous had guilloche dial.
Movement wise it is all we can expect from VC with a tourbillon cage painstakingly hand finished (almost 1 month work just for the interior angles and finish of the case and bridge) and the repeater featuring the now signature centripetal speed-regulator that eliminates the noise interference normally experienced with pallet systems and as such the chimes are not only loud but clear and pleasant.
Christian Selmoni Artistic Director says “Tradionnelle is a very important collection for Vacheron Constantin, one of the brand’s forces resides in its capacity to create classical, elegant and timeless watches. Even if the Patrimony model has become an icon with its clean and harmonious design its in the Traditionnelle collection that we find the majority of our complicated watches and this is the path we shall continue treading, by creating small, medium and grand complications in the Traditionnelle line”.
It is interesting to see how discreetly, without bells and whistles the Traditionnelle line has completely rooted itself within the Vacheron Constantin genetic code. The original brief has been respected: to make a timepiece which is immediately identifiable, yet where “a tasteful restraint” may have been part of the original design cue I find this collection to be vibrant, playful and seductive. Let’s give Jamie Todd the last words “ The Traditionnelle design is a perfect example of restraint. It reminds me of Antoine de Saint-Exupery's famous quote: "Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
to have a look behind the scenes
I've never been a big fan of tourbillons, but I've gotta say that the Traditionnelle Minute Repeater Tourbillon is out of this world! The off-center dial is the best creative design on an uncluttered tourbillon that I've seen, ever. Great article, Alex.
I love the comments and insights about how these watches were created from Vincent and Christian.
The comments from other owners are especially interesting to see and understand. Glad you added this!
" Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away'
- Jamie Todd.
Alex, thank you for such an enjoyable article.
eye candy! Greatly appreciated Sir.
Best to all,
is my favorite of the "moderns" ;-) Thanks for this review Alex.
Great article, Alex!
You really brought the model to life.
And thanks for all those wonderful photos. Some beautiful timepieces, indeed!
Traditionelle. And now I am loving the Minute Repeater Tourbilon. While the latter is beyond reach, it would be nice to see that guilloche pattern on a simpler Traditionelle model.
The Traditionelle line is super handsome, not only within VC, but across other brands as a whole, and I hope VC keeps adding to it.
I will never forget the time I ran into this one one wrist of a collector at a VC event:
When I saw it on that occasion for the first time "in the wild" I understood how special this tourbillon is.
The simple manual wind, however, with the gray dial is perfection:
And, again, I ask myself, why is this Traditionelle not on my wrist yet?????
Thank you for composing this wonderful article, Alex. It made my day!
But, in the following order and money no object, i would choose:
1. Tourbillion Minute repeater in whichever metal sounds the best
2. 14-Day Tourbillion CEP
3. World Time, Pink Gold (old dial, even though I really like the engraved maps of the new dials, the colors of the old dial appeal to me) -- but maybe I would opt for one of the Overseas models?
4. Manual Wind Traditionelle, Pt. with gray dial
It is a dreamy day.