Vacheron Constantin closed the first chapter of it’s amazing chronograph wrist watch story with a bang and the gorgeous ref 6087 launched in 1956 and phased out in the mid 60s. Chapter two took a long time coming and the chronograph aficionado was put on a hard diet ‘til 1989 but by 1990-1991 Vacheron had released no less than 4 different chronograph models models!
The quartz crisis had hit the industry hard and the 70s-80s were not an easy decade, however Vacheron Constantin was one of the first high end brands (along with Blancpain) to reintroduce a modern chronograph in their collection: enter ref 47001
To read Part 1 : http://www.thehourlounge.com/thread/view/the-history-of-vacheron-constantin-wrist-chronographs-part1-1917-1970_36502_36502.html ;
Launched in 1989 this model has a very 90s look to it, the movement is a cal 1126 with a chronograph module developed with Dubois Depraz. The reason why a modular system and not an integrated one was used results from the fact that at the time the only readily available automatic chronograph movement was made by Piguet and they were only supplying Blancpain. However this didn’t stop the reference 47001 being a total hit, “it was selling like hot cakes” recalls Christian Selmoni Head of Product development, to a point where the Italian agent had at one point wanted to order 100% of the production for his market! It remained in the catalogue until 1980-1981 and about 1150 pieces were made.
Ref 49003 Les Complications Collection
Launched in 1990 it replaced ref 47001, same case and dial but with a different layout and most importantly it used the integrated cal 1136 chronograph movement based on Piguet 1185. It remained on catalogue until 2002 with a total production of about 750 pieces.
Ref 47101 / 47111 Les Historiques Collection
Most certainly THE chronograph which symbolises best the modern Vacheron Constantin chronograph in the eyes of aficionados and collectors. An instant classic and a modern reinterpretation of the ref 4178. In the collection “Les Historiques” until 2004 it evolved into ref 47111 in 1999 when a screwd back was added and certain modifications made to the movement. The calibre housed in this reference is nothing other than the Lemania based cal 1140/1141 lauded as being one of the best manual wind chronograph movements of its epoch. The ref 47101 / 47111 was made in yellow gold, platinum (with an extra rare version with guilloche salmon dial) as well as a 25 piece limited edition in platinum with black dial made for the Taiwanese market.
I do not have total production numbers but the 47101 was made in about 1250 pieces in yellow gold and 300 in platinum.
Ref 49001 Phidias Collection
Also launched in 1991 this is the chronograph version of the infamous Phidias model, it houses the Piguet based automatic calibre 1136 and was made in about 400 pieces in gold with gold bracelet and 630 in steel/gold with bracelet. It remained on catalogue until 1995.
Ref 49002 Historique Collection
Purists may want to shoot me but my favourite Vacheron Constantin chronograph from this era is not the Chrobnographe Historique but this model directly inspired by the vintage ref 6026. The simple yet bold case houses the automatic cal 1136. This reference was on catalogue until 1997 and made in about 700 pieces in gold and only 130 in platinum.
Ref 47100 Les Complications Collection
Launched in 1991 and on the VC catalogue until 1992, this beautiful skeleton chronograph was made in 2 metals (yellow gold and platinum) and 2 versions (strap or bracelet) Housing the manual wind calibre 1140 SQ it was made in less than 100 pieces in all versions.
Ref 47102 Les Complications Collection
Also launched in 1991 this model is similar to the reference 47100 other than for the rectangular chronograph pushers (as opposed to round for ref 47100). It remained in the VC catalogue until 1993 and made in extremely low numbers: 25 in yellow gold and 25 in platinum making it one of Vacheron Constantin’s rarest modern chronographs!
Ref 49005 Les Complications Collection
Vacheron Constantin’s first perpetual calendar chronograph, it was launched in 1992 and remained on catalogue for ten years until 1992. It was part of the “7 marvels” concept of 1992 where Vacheron Constantin launched 7 watches each representing a technical or artistic prowess: extra flat, minute repeater, tourbillon, skeleton, gem set Kalla, pocket watch with enamel painting and this ref 49005 which represented “astronomical” time. Housing calibre 1136 QP the perpetual calendar module was made inhouse by Vacheron Constantin. Made in 500 rose gold pieces and less than 300 platinum pieces.
Ref 49501 Phidias Collection
A blinged out version of the Phidias launched in 1993 and made until 1995. Using the tried and tested automatic calibre 1136 it was made in white and yellow gold (10 pieces each) with gem set bracelet and bezel. Only one platinum piece was produced.
Ref 49502 Les Historiques Collection
Made in 4 pieces in 1994, it is a platinum ref 49002 with sapphire set bezel and diamond markers, the back has an engraved and enamelled drawing representing the emblem of Brunei.
Ref 49505 Les Complications Collection
Ahhhh my eyes I’m blind!!! This “special” piece was made in 3 pieces in 1994 it is a rose gold ref 49005 with diamond and ruby set bezel, the back has an engraved and enamelled drawing representing the emblem of Brunei.
Ref 49140 Overseas Chronograph
Launched in 1999 and in production until 2004, this Overseas is Vacheron Constantin’s first sports chronograph and an immense success. It houses an automatic calibre 1137, was made in about 500 pieces in yellow gold and a bit over 2000 in steel.
Ref 49503 Les Complications Collection
Launched in 1999 it was made for one year in 10 yellow gold pieces and 25 white gold pieces. Housed calibre 1136.
Ref 49504 Les Complications Collection
Also launched in 1999 this yet another blinged out version of the ref. 49002, still housing calibre 1136 and made for one year in 32 pieces in white gold.
Ref 47112 Malte Perpetual Calendar Chronograph
Vacheron Constantin’s first manual wind perpetual calendar chronograph, launched in 2000 as one of the new Malte collection centrepieces. One of the major and most beautiful features of this watch is its engraved moonphase disc which Vacheron Constantin continued using in the Tour de l’Ile mega complication and in the most recent Patrimony Treditionnelle perpetual calendar chronograph and has become in some ways a Vacheron Constantin signature. Housing calibre 1141QP this model was made in yellow gold and platinum an in production until 2006-2007.
Ref 47150 – 47151 – 47152 Medicus
Launched in 2000, the famous Medicus was inspired by the gorgeous cushion shaped watches from the 30s. Called the Medicus due to its pulsation dial enabling doctors to calculate the heartbeat of their patients. I won’t comment the “edition limitée” (limited edition) on the dial but the case and dial definitely have the WOW factor but turn the case over and screech (looking horrified and hair standing on your head) a cam controlled 1145 (Lemania based) chronograph calibre. It is probably the best finished version of the Lemania 1872 but a non column wheel chronograph calibre in a Vacheron Constantin is in my opinion inadmissible!
Ref 47150 is a full dial rose gold model, ref 47151 and 47152 are skeleton models the 47151 was made in platinum with a rose gold plated movement and in rose gold with a rhodium plated movement. Made in 10 pieces each. Ref 47152 was made in rose gold and platinum but with the movements in the same color as the case, made in 30 pieces each.
Ref 49145 Royal Eagle Chronograph
Launched in 2001 in the Royal Eagle model range (same design codes as the Malte but in a tonneau case) using the Piguet based calibre 1137, the Royal Eagle chronograph was Vacheron Costantin’s second steel chronograph (after the Overseas) and an attempt at producing a piece oriented towards a younger clientele, in 2004 a rose gold version was launched. Was replaced in 2008 by a redesigned version.
Ref 47120 Malte Chronograph
The Malte Chronograph launched in 2004 is certainly one of Vacheron Constantin’s watches which created the most vivid reactions amongst collectors and the on line community. It replaced the Chronograph Historique and many were crying sacrilege whilst others were applauding a more modern design and a larger more to standard size of 41.5mm. It remained in the Malte collection until 2009. Produced in rose and white gold and a limited platinum edition. An extra rare 20 piece Malte Chronograph in white gold with a black guilloche dial was made in 2009 for Parisian retailer Dubail.
Ref 49150 Overseas Chronograph
A beefed up version of the Overseas chronograph launched in 2004 with a larger 42m case and especially a beautiful new bracelet with half Maltese cross links. The automatic calibre 1137 (Piguet based) is protected against magnetism in a soft iron inner case. In 2006 a yellow gold version was added to the collection, followed in 208 by a rose gold and finally in 2009 a steel/titanium version on strap.
Ref 47120 Malte Chronograph Collection Excellence Platine
A beautiful version of the Malte Chronograph made in the Excellence Platine collection, featuring a platinum case and a superb sand blasted platinum dial. Made in 75 pieces in 2006.
Ref 47621 Malte Chronograph
A blinged up version of the Malte Chronograph in white gold from 2006.
Ref 47212 Malte Perpetual Calendar Chronograph Collection Excellence Platine
Normally the Excellence Platine collection consists of platinum case and dial versions of existing models however this version launched in 2007 is a one shot as it did not exist as a regular production model making it even more rare and desirable! Made in only 50 pieces it houses the manual wind cal 1141QP
Ref 49180 Malte Chronograph
Launched in 2008 it is a reinterpretation of the Royal Eagle chronograph (now part of the Malte collection) with shorter lugs and a more pronounced tonneau shape. Vacheron Constantin no longer offers a steel version but only rose and white gold. The original younger clientele target has also been abandoned and the brand is more in a classical mood here with the delicately guillochage of the dial. Houses calibre 1137.
|the new and previous version (right)|
Ref 47192 Patrimony Traditionnelle Chronograph
Launched in 2009, it is one of my all time favourite Vacheron Constantin chronographs with its 3 tone dial and beautiful case. Vacheron Constantin have truly managed the mix of traditional and modern and the Patrimony Traditionnelle Chronograph has all the elements of becoming a classic. Houses the manual wind cal 1141. Currently exists only in rose gold but I'm sure we shall soon see a white gold version.
Ref 47292 Patrimony Traditionnelle Perpetual Calendar Chronograph
Just as stunning as the Patrimony Traditionnelle chronograph the perpetual calendar version has all the same elements with a plus. The stunning engraved moonphase which almost single handedly justifies the purchase of the watch. Only negative comment I may have is that due to the size of the manual wind cal 1141 QP the indications are a bit too centred.
So here it is, with the Patrimony Traditionnelle Chronograph Vacheron has in a way gone back to its roots and today the brand offers 3 different types of chronographs: Sporty (Overseas) a contemporary design look (Malte) and very traditional ( Patrimony Traditionnelle). Nevertheless, two questions immediately spring to mind: when will we see an inhouse chronograph calibre and when will one of these fantastic vintage chronographs be recreated in the Historiques collection?
To the first question Christian Selmoni head of Product Development answers by a mysterious and nerve breaking “we will have both an automatic and a manual wind but the focus currently is on the manual wind caliber. Creating a chronograph movement from scratch is an extremely time consuming and expensive process and we want our movement to stand out and be special so you need to be a bit more patient.” The response to the second question depends unfortunately on the coming to fruition of the manual chronograph calibre “we probably won’t be launching a chronograph in the Historiques model range based on one of our vintage designs until our inhouse movement is ready” Selmoni finishes with these heart stabbing words.
Even though absolutely all the vintage chronographs would be fantastic candidates to enter the Historiques line and the idea of creating a sub model range composed only of chronographs would be a dream I beg Mr. Selmoni and his kind and generous heart to start with a re edition of a ref 6087, preferably in steel with rose gold lugs and crown and in his infinite kindness push to make it monopusher.
Thank you very much for part 2, Alex. As usual it is a very informative and entertaining read (especially your commentaries!). I really like the historiques chrono, the old malte chrono (especially the RG and EP versions), and the traditionelle chrono. I also like the Medicus for its case design (except for the pushers), but it is unfortunate that a sub-par movement (by VC standards) was selected for it. It would be interesting to see a new Medicus in the historiques line again (with the cal. 1141 or a new in-house manual wind movement). It is also nice to see the evolution of the sporty chronos, from the Phidias to the OS, to the new OS and its variants. I must admit though that I am not a fan of some of the 80's and early 90's designs which IMHO lack character (lacking the oomph! that VC is known for). I think the Traditionelle chrono would be too big for my wrist (and definitely too much for my pockets) but the malte chrono in RG or EP would look great (if I could steal one). Like you, I would also like to see a new "traditional-style," two-counter, manual wind mono-pusher soon (of course, I would be happier if I could see one that I could actually own). Thanks again, Jefe! Looking forward to more interesting pasta-timers from VC! Cheers! Kazumi
chronograph with the Lemania movement is that there are not enough movements to answer the demand (I think VC makes something less than 400 chronos -including chrono QP - per year using the Lemania but don't quote me on this)
but you are right it looks sublime. - SJX