I love this time of year. Not just because of the winter festivities, not because of snow and skiing and not even because I can eat all I want without caring about my belly getting bigger but because of the SIHH (Salon Internationale de Haute Horlogerie) opening from January 17-21.
This year’s SIHH also had a special taste for me as it was the 10th I was attending…and each year it gets better!
Following last year’s novelty bonanza Vacheron Constantin has taken a step back and introduced very few novelties, of which 4 out of 6 are pure new launches and not just case or dial variations.
2011 also sees the strengthening of Vacheron Constantin offerings in the mid complications range with the arrival of two new inhouse calibres: 2460QRA (annual calendar with retrograde date) and 2460WT (world time).
The Vacheron Constantin booth was this year dedicated to a golden age where travelling was made in style. The booth is what I imagine Pan Am’s first class lounge in the 50s would have looked like: old world charm, luscious luxury and the sweet smell of exotic adventures.
We were greeted by the ever glamorous and charming Adrienne and Isabelle
click on scans for larger view
Views from the booth
Patrimony Contemporaine Perpetual Calendar:
A watch that will please those who love Vacheron Constantin’s classical designs and one that fills a gap in the VC collection as it has been close to 10 years that the brand had not offered a simple perpetual calendar with a full dial.
Reviving one of Vacheron Constantin’s iconic complications from the early 90s, this perpetual calendar shows both month and leap years on a 48-month cycle. This watch, while classic in style, boasts a 41mm rose gold Patrimony Contemporaine case adding modern flair with its sleek profile and taught lines. The designers have found a great way to not make the functions seem too close to the center by keeping the long indexes of the Patrimony Contemporaine models so that the periphery does not look overly empty. Another nod to the origins of this watch is the use of the superb Calibre 1120 (as was used in the 90s) with a newly redesigned rotor complete with a gyromax balance and the Geneva seal.
I like the thickness of the 8.9mm case and I love the moon phase which looks like a drop of golden mercury on a blue lapis lazuli background. The moon phase gives a 3D effect that I personally find really appealing. I like the elongated hands, the minute hand is right above the gold cabochons indicating the minutes and the hour hands right on the hour indexes.
It will surely be a killer.
One drawback might be the month display which may be a bit difficult to read as one out of three months are indicated, for ex: Oct followed by 2 dots for Nov and Dec then Jan.
Quai de I’Ile Annual Calendar:
This new Quai de l’Ile houses the automatic in-house Calibre 2460 QAR, for which the watchmakers and engineers at VC have developed a brand new Annual Calendar complication featuring a moonphase, months and date which is via a retrograde hand which takes up a large part of the right hand side of the dial thus explaining the ex-centered moonphase and month indications.
The case of the annual calendar has been beefed up 2 mm compared to the other QDI models (going from 41mm to 43mm) due to the fact that more space was needed for the date indication.
The dials have a multi-layered construction consisting of a raised outer ring and satin-brushed inner circle with satin (but non-brushed) raised subdials and date arch, giving the impression of an industrial post-modern look. The dial also features 12 applied Arabic numerals and 6 baton markers with beautifully brushed surfaces and polished sides which provide a fascinating contrast.
Currently two dial variations are offered opaline and slate grey, the latter being my favourite as I find it more daring
The Quai de l’Ile retrograde annual calendar is a great watch with a cool complication (especially the retrograde date), I do find the seconds hand and the month hand too short but overall it has a somewhat post modern look which has appeal even though I find it a shame that the signature transparent dial has been replaced by a full one which somehow “tames” the watch and takes away the edge the original models have.
Quai de I’Ile Day/Date:
This is a great year for the QDI with new dials and an annual calendar.
The 2011 novelty for the Day/Date and automatic models is the full dials with a subtle blend of satin finishing and silver toned opaline. Unfortunately this version doesn’t do it for me, maybe if I hadn’t seen the open dial I would think differently, but this full dial looks too industrial and overly engineered. I loved being able to see the superb finish of the top plate mechanism of Calibre 2475. These new dials were shown to certain retailers who loved them so I guess I simply don’t see the commercial side.
The dials come in two variations: opaline silver and slate grey. The case is available in palladium, rose gold, titanium or any mix thereof as the owner can personalise the watch to his/her desires.
Quai de I’Ile Automatic:
My thoughts here are similar to those regarding the QDI Day/Date but the fact that the transparent date ring between the inner dial and outer dial has kept the twist of the open dial versions I like it better. It’s surprising how a dial can change everything, and with this new dial, especially with the opaline version, the QDI actually looks like a dress watch!
Les Historiques 1954 Aronde:
One thing you have to credit VC for is the fact that it keeps coming up with names few can understand let alone pronounce, so after the Quai de l’Ile and the Métiers d’Art Maki-e La Symbolique des Laques, let me present the Aronde, a name which even a French speaker like me does not understand (more on this later).
But let’s not bad mouth what is a fantastic design. VC continues digging into its (extremely rich) history with this new Historiques 1954 (as its name implies it is inspired by a watch from 1954). The pink gold rectangular case (a form which has not been used by Vacheron Constantin for a long time) is superbly crafted with an extremely original double rounded curve along the case flanks with a series of brushed and polished surfaces accentuated by a strongly cambered sapphire crystal.
The 1950s automobile/industrial designs of the 50s is obvious in this piece and the designers at VC have one again managed to create a very modern timepiece whilst being faithful to the original design.
The dial is gracefully divided into four sections with a vertical guillochage between 9-12, a horizontal guillochage between 12-3, a vertical guillochage between 3-6 and again a horizontal guillochage between 6-9.
The rose gold case measures 44.5 in length and 31.2 in width and is the perfect size, not too large nor too small, the light reflects beautifully on the case highlighting the extreme and painstaking work which has been undertaken in crating the different curves and finishes. My only complaint would be that I would have liked a bombé dial instead of a flat one.
The Aronde houses the sublime calibre 1400 which is hidden under a solid case back
The name Aronde is an old French word for a swallow whose wings resemble the case flanks, thus the Historiques 1954 Aronde.
Patrimony Traditionnelle World Time:
THE watch of the show! A world time has been awaited impatiently by the Vacheronistas for decades! And the wait was worth every single moment as this watch is nothing short of astounding and achingly beautiful.
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.
The Patromony Traditionnele Worldtime 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 aeroplane, another interesting feature is that all functions are set via the crown.
In my ten years of SIHH attending all I can say that each year Vacheron Constantin outdoes itself. 10 years ago amongst 10 new watches there was maybe one or two that I liked but today it really is difficult for me not to like these pieces, you really feel when looking at them and holding them that a lot of though, effort but most of all passion has gone in their creation. Each year Vacheron Constantin goes up a new step in both horological excellence with designs that hit the right cordes.