Heart beating fast, tingly feeling, going on horological web sites every other minute to see if novelties have been posted…yes its that time of year again, the SIHH (haute horlogerie watch fair) held in Geneva is about to open. For the 2010 edition (Jan 18-22) Vacheron Constantin exhibited its vast and diverse expertise in the different fields of haute horology introducing the most simple extra flat to great complications and a new metiers d’arts collection with one common denominator: Grey is the new black!
I tried to be as exhaustive as possible but - my dictator tendencies taking the better of me – pushed me in talking only of a) only watches which were physically available during the fair and thus many jewellery pieces of which only 3D images are available are not here b) watches which are within my vision of VC so the blinged out watches or the Patrimony models on gold bracelet were ignored by yours truly. Nevertheless these pieces can be seen on the VC web site.
If you find me biased or in bad faith…it’s on purpose
Click on the scans for a larger view
The Vacheron Constantin booth (like each year!) always seemed very busy! It was seperated in different areas where the different groups of experise of the brand were demonstrated.
We were first welcomed by the charming Adrienne Doriel of the Marketing department
The entrance was dedicated to a view of Vacheron Constantin's expertise in the moste simple to the most complicated watches
A watchmaker was also present explaining the painstaking manual labor that goes in making a movement
Mr. Yamamoto was also demonstrating the maki-e techniques
Patrimony Traditionnelle Calibre 2253 Collection Excellence Platine
Let’s start with the biggest (and I’m not only talking about the 44mm case) bang and certainly the model with the longest name!
A brand new inhouse calibre from Vacheron Constantin and what a beast: it features 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), all three complications 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.
The case is typical of the Patrimony Traditionnelle model range: with its thin bezel, the knurled surround of the caseback and the welded lugs with stepped profile.
Being part of the Excellence Platine collection means that not only is the case in platinum but also the hands and dial which has a fantastic post industrial look due to its sand blasted surface. The watch will be made in a limited edition of only 10 but will certainly be offered in other metals in the near future.
A bit on the thick side with its 15.7mm thickness 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, especially in this sleek Excellence Platine combination.
My only question here is why does Vacheron Constantin give such dry names to its more exceptional watches?
Patrimony Traditionnelle Calibre 2755
Speaking of unsavory names here’s another one!
This minute repeater, perpetual calendar, tourbillon was originally launched in 2007 in a rose gold case. This year the amateurs of white metals will have a double treat. Not only is the Cal 2755 introduced in platinum but the client will have the choice between a brutally beautiful slate grey dial and a more conservative silver opaline one.
Now you may ask if the platinum case does not muffle the chimes and my answer is not at all, the chimes are loud and crisp! A true angel’s voice and to obtain this seraphic sound each case is specifically made for the specific repeater movement it is to house as to get the best possible chime!
Furthermore the cal 2755 features a patented original device to regulate the repeater’s chiming rate: a centripetal governor. The role of this device is not only to steady the rate at which the hammers strike the gongs but replaces the traditional strike regulator – a noisy recoil escapement (which produces a twirling sound when the repeater is activated) with a totally silent system that reduces wear.
This device has two weights shaped so as to act as a brake on the governor’s rotating shaft, thus evening-out the energy released by the repeater’s spring. To achieve this, it uses the opposite centrifugal and centripetal forces. When the governor spins, the centrifugal force pivots one end of the weights outwards so that the other end acts as a brake on the central shaft to bring the rotation and the strike to a steady rate!
|centripete regulating device|
If ever I was on the market for a multi complication (in my dreams) Cal 2755 would be it.
Patrimony Traditionnelle Perpetual Calendar Chronograph
The Patrimony Traditionnelle bonanza continues with a Perpetual Calendar Chronograph in platinum (following last year’s launch of a rose gold model). It is also available with in two dial configurations: slate grey and opaline silver.
The opaline dial has an aura of sophistication whereas the slate grey dial is severely cool.
One of the features I like the most on the Patrimony Traditionnelle line is the dial with its two tone grey hue and different types of finish which look as good here in slate grey as it does on the silver dial.
Even though I find the day/month apertures a bit small the watch remains perfectly legible and equilibrated.
Oh and did I tell you how much I LOOOOOOOOVE that hand engraved moonphase (one with a happy and the other with a melancholic face) , I just wish VC would make all their moonphase watches like this.
This watch houses the iconic Lemania based calibre 1141QP.
Patrimony Traditionnelle Chronograph
Also launched last year in rose gold, I immediately found it to be one of the most beautiful chronos on the market and ordered one! The Patrimony Traditionnelle Chronograph this year is presented in white gold resulting in a more minimalistic allure as well as in a glamorous two tone case.
This watch is a classical chronograph having successfully fused the elegance of vintage with the oomph of modern design.
The vintage look is even more present in the very original two tone (white/rose gold) model reminiscent of the pieces made in the 40s. Don’t know about the rest of the world but I bet an arm that this will be a killer in Europe, especially the Mediterranean countries like France, Italy, Greece…
The watch is also fitted with the Lemania based calibre 1141.
Patrimony Traditionnelle Date Self Winding
Vacheron Constantin made a great automatic watch here as it has a very 40s-50s look with its two tone dial, facetted markers and dauphine hands but with a twist due to its seconds subdial placed at 9. The only criticism I have is the date aperture which kind of unbalances what is otherwise quite a lovely dial.
The 38mm case is perfect for those looking for something more understated and houses the inhouse automatic cal 2455.
Launched in 2007 this model exists in rose and white gold, this year it is being offered in yellow gold.
Patrimony Traditionnelle Manual Wind
Launched last year in rose gold with the brand new inhouse calibre 4400 (38mm case) which independent mastermind watchmaker Kari Voutilainen lauded, the Patrimony Traditionnelle Manual Wind became an instant success and this year for the more cool monochrome inclined aficionado a white gold model is being offered.
Patrimony Traditionnelle Small Model
A small portion of the Lounge is composed of the fairer sex and to avoid being considered a sexist I felt the obligation to post at least one ladies timepiece. Well sorry, I wish I could post something more attractive than a small diamond lad version of a man’s watch….
Patrimony Contemporaine Retrograde Day / Date
I have to admit I hated this watch when I first saw it in 2006, I found its 42.5mm case too big and the overall look unattractive, but it seems that most often the designs that attract me the least grow on me big time (but this doesn’t mean I’m planning on buying a rusty tourbillon which indicates night and day but not the hours!!!) and this model is definitely one of them.
Originally launched in rose gold (housing the inhouse automatic cal 2460 R31 R7) white metal enthusiasts were left hungry but for an ultra limited Excellence Platine version launched soon after. A more “affordable” version in white gold will be launched this year; however, I find this case/dial combination to lack the panache of the other versions. The dial lacks depth and excitement probably due to the black numerals on an opaline background as well as the silver and grey hands.
Patrimony Contemporaine Manual Wind
Gasp!! WOW! How can a simple dial turn an already beautiful watch into an object of lustful desire? My palms are sweating as I type and I keep whipping my keyboard as I can’t stop drooling. Vacheron Constantin’s new policy is to offer two choices of dials for its platinum models and 2010 is the arrival of a slate grey opaline dial for the platinum Patrimony Contemporaine Manual Wind (cal 1400) and it reeks of sleek cool and elegance. “Shwang” as Garth and Wayne would say.
Historiques Ultra-Fine 1955
Ultra Fine as in ultra slim in French. This is a watch made for the nutty WIS hidden in each of us. A 36mm 4N (somewhere between yellow and rose gold) gold case housing a reborn myth: cal 1003. Only 1.64 mm thick this manual wind calibre was in 1955 the thinnest of its kind and remains so today!
Not only is calibre 1003 now made 100% in house by Vacheron Constantin but it is also made in 18k yellow gold.
An icon in sleek elegant silhouette will definitely strike a chord with VC aficionados.
Historiques Ultra-Fine 1968
The automatic pendant of the cal 1003 the iconic calibre 1120 was and still is one of the thinnest automatic calibres with its 2.45mm thickness thanks to the ingenious way the rotor is integrated into the movement and the only calibre to have ever been used by the Big Three (Vacheron Constantin, Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe). Watches housing calibre 1120 have always been part of the VC catalogue but this is the first time the redesigned version is being used, not only does it now have a skeletonised rotor but here’s the good news…you holding to your seats…it has a Gyromax balance!! Yup 1120 is back in its original form and looking as sexy as its first day.
Even though cal 1120 was first launched in 1967, it is being used here in a tribute to a square model dating from 1968. From the first photos I really didn’t like the watch, I found that it looked old without having the patina of a vintage piece and was too small (never thought I would write something like this) but the final result is short of shagadelic: elegant, refined and classy. Shame that the caseback is solid so the new 1120 can’t be admired.
Its looking at the case side that you can really appreciate the thinness if the calibre.
I know that many Loungers are fans of the Historiques model range launched in the 90s but for me they were more or less replicas of vintage VCs with an outdated look and without the charm of their vintage counterparts, but since the rebirth of the Historiques models in 2006 and especially the launch of the American 1921 and these 2 new pieces the design team have really hit the nail on the head: these watches are no longer simple an unimaginative replicas but tributes to their vintage cousins.
Quai de l’Ile
No new complications for the Quai de l’Ile…yet , but at SIHH were introduced certain modifications/combinations which will certainly please the QDI enthusiast.
For those who found the QDI not legible the good news is that the silver hands will be replaced on all models with black ones making the reading of the functions much easier.
A 100 piece limited edition in tantalum and palladium is also being launched. Only 100 because of the difficulty of milling tantalum and the case maker called it quits after 100! Vacheron Constantin will give1000 francs for each QDI in tantalum sold to the Monaco Association Against Muscular Dystrophy.
The tantalum case parts give the watch a superb bluish hue.
Finally the personalisation service which was only available for the day/date model is now available in the time only / date model and boy am I longing for this version in rose gold with titanium flanks!
Here’s an example of a rose gold/titanium model with ruthenium plated movement
Metiers d’Art “ La Symbolique des Laques” Maki-e
When in 2007 Vacheron Constantin presented the first set of The Masks series, the watch world’s (collectors, aficionados, the industry) first reaction was a huge and collective gasp. 3 years later and the presentation of the last set in 2009 it was time for a new addition to the Metiers d’Art collection and the design team at Vacheron Constantin was faced with a new challenge: try to obtain a greater reaction risking ending up on the verge of the gimmick or taking a different route.
This route took them to Japan and an encounter with the venerable and ancient (1661) house of Zohiko, known by the cognoscenti for its refined maki-e production and it was decided that the craftsmen at Zohiko would create maki-e dials for Vacheron Constantin’s new collection.
|Bamboo||Plum Tree||Pine Tree|
Maki-e literally means “sprinkled picture” – is the most sophisticated of all lacquer techniques, designating a decorative operation in which the design is created by delicately sprinkling gold or silver dust over lacquer – usually black – while it is still wet. To create different colors and textures, maki-e artists use a variety of metal powders including gold, silver, copper, brass etc… Bamboo tubes and soft brushes of various sizes are used for laying powders and drawing fine lines.
I will be writing a feature article on these pieces so I won’t be going into too much detail here, needless to underline the painstaking and precision work that goes into creating these fascinating dials (each dial takes 2 months to create!).
The Metiers d’Art Maki-e will be available in 20 sets of 3 (one piece in white gold and 2 in rose gold) with different themes over a three year period.
The first set will explore the theme of long life with “The Three Friends of Winter”: the pine tree, bamboo, and the plum tree. Pushing the artistic approach even further each tree is paired with a bird on the back of the case.
Pine trees are admired for their age and strength. They are also held in high esteem because they remain green in the winter. Bamboo is seen as a perfect gentleman, flexible in the face of change but without ever giving up its ideal: once the storm has passed, it returns to its original position. The plum tree is respected because it is the first tree to flower, while winter still holds sway, and it is the longest-lived fruit tree.
Where the art works of the dial use ancient and traditional techniques the calibre housed in these pieces is vividly modern in its presentation. A skeletonized version of the cal 1003 crafted in 14-carat white gold is used. Nonetheless, so as to magnify the overall harmony and to ensure that the maki-e craftsmanship is highlighted, Vacheron Constantin even went so far as to opt for a ruthenium plating of the movement creating a superb sombre effect surrounded by shiny bevels which creates a particularly elegant effect on this model.
Look closely at the dials and you will see that there is no brand name on the dial…now that’s classy!
The Pine Tree and Crane Watch: representing longetivity
The Bamboo and Sparrow Watch: The pairing of bamboo and the sparrow also frequently appears in the paintings of Zen Buddhism, in which bamboo signifies the ideal of awakening and freedom from worldly attachments, and the sparrow represents spontaneity and joie de vivre.
The Plum Tree and Nightingale Watch: announcing the arrival of spring
This new set may be less awe inspiring than the Masks set but it exudes a feeling cool elegance and calm luxury. My only criticism would be that once again these watches are only available as a set rendering their purchase economically arduous for the non Goldman Sachs trader, whereas individual watches would have been more accessible to those dreaming of one day owning a piece from Vacheron Constantin’s Metiers d’Art collection.
Vacheron Constantin’s SIHH 2010 was probably the most “complete” I have attended (my first SIHH was in 2002) in the way that it was a demonstration of what the brand does best: from the simple time only Patrimony to the most complicated of minute repeaters, equation of time and tourbillons. From tributes to its past and the rebirth of iconic calibres to the modern QDI and of course the merge of arts with crafts. The designers, engineers and watchmakers at Vacheron Constantin worked hand in hand to offer something for everyone... at least those who appreciate fine craftsmanship and horological excellence.
Another job well done, Jefe. As usual, your report is both informative and entertaining. I always enjoy viewing your photos and reading your comments. For me, it is one of the highlights of every year's SIHH...along with the watches of course. The white metal versions of last year's offerings is a welcome (although expected) addition but the slate gray dial is a great move on VC's part. The complications are astounding as usual but out of reach. The new Historiques models look interesting although the 1968 does not really push any of my buttons (reminds me of a Piaget, and I would prefer a Cartier Santos-Dumont over both square watches). The 1955 looks very interesting especially with the exhibition case back (something I miss with my Contemporaine manual). Would love to see more photos and get more feedback soon. Hopefully the novelties will trickle in to Japan by Summer. Cheers! Kazumi PS. It is good to see that VC has included the novelties in its website already. It shows much dedication to its fans and clientelle.
high-end brands 2253 EP and 2755 in Platinum make my heart skip a beat. One day will come and they will be mine... eeeeuw! Love the Patrimony Contemporaine PT with a slate grey dial as well. It emanates stealth and masculinity at the same time. QdI in tantalum/palladium here I come
What a feast to the eyes of a beholoder. Way to go VC!!! And congrats on a complete and well thought-out SIHH presentation of novelties. Thanks, Alex, for the write-up!
The Hour Lounge members are grateful for the expressive content of SIHH 2010 - A Personal Journey. Two extreme masterpieces in terms of complications, the Patrimony Traditionnelle Perpetual Calendar (the rose gold version is more elegant, in my opinion) and the Ultra-Fine 1955 capture the very essence of VC tradition.
.. a very heart-felt and sincere thanks to all at VC for the opportunity to attend the SIHH last week (and the Manufacture; and the Maison of course!). It was my first visit to SIHH, as you know, and far exceeded my expectations. Just a pity that I could not stay for longer (my only regret). The collection from VC was superb, and I have to say I am so impressed at the 'completeness' of the offerings. They truly spanned all models and tastes from the amazing complications, the beautiful Metiers d'Art maki-e (I appreciate them even if I wouldn't have one for myself - they are stunning) and the updates to the pre-existing pieces are both contemporary and elegant extensions of what were already beautiful watches. (I am not convinced by the les Historiques, but hey...) It stuns me that VC have all these new watches - for a Manufacture that produces relatively very few watches it seems remarkable. VC is very definitely 'punching above its weight'. It was brilliant to meet up with like-minded people and share our passions - just as important for me is to know that I am not the only 'nut'! The one I would go for? Well, I already spoke with the AD here to put me down for the two-tone Chrono.... OMG! This for me, was the best combination of affordable, exciting and cool watch there - and there were plenty to choose between of course. In my dreams, I could see myself wearing a good many of the watches. In my dreams! The hospitality, access and time devoted to the Hour Lounge invitees was a credit to the Company and the individual people involved - and my visit to VC and SIHH is a story I have retold to anyone who will listen to me. Alex, "Thankyou Sir"!
Dear Alex Thanks for the extensive report. Since I am sucker for clean simple watches the Ultra-Fine 55 & 68 makes me drool big time. However I think it’s a shame bordering to be almost unforgivable that they did not give the 68 a sapphire backside so you can see the marvelous movement as well. I understand it would build upon the height and mess up the whole idea of ultra fine…but it would have been worth it. Any ideas when these babies are going to hit the market? MSRP’s?
Thanks again for a great report as always…
I've read your article a few times, and each time I read it, I appreciate VC's 2010 vintage even more... To be honest, I was a bit disapointed by VC's output when at SIHH. Nothing wrong in terms of quality, but I was hoping for a more novelties... The release of all the Patrimony models in WG made a lot of sense, but this was such a logical move that I think everybody expected it. The nice surprise for me was the decision to make available the grey dial for the platinum models, but still giving the customers the choice between the traditional white or the new grey - very consistent with the QdI personalisation approach... And the more I look at the 2253, the more I like it. I just find it took thick, which makes it a slightly less elegant piece. But the face, especially in the Excellence Platine collection, looks stunning. And one point to make to the other Loungers is that however great Alex's pictures are, they do justice to how the subdials on this baby catch the light - it really makes the watch come alive! The centripetal governor on the 2755 (which I discovered only during my trip around the Manufacture) made me appreicate this watch even more.... The maki-e are the only one I would rate as a miss - as always, I can appreicate how hard it is to get such results, and they are true work of art, but the whole concept/hole in the middle is just not my cup of tea. Last thing: the QdI in tantalum looks AMAZING with the brown strap... uber cool, and ssuper relax at the same time... Cheers, Francois