Vacheron Constantin’s SIHH 2012 is both one of sotto voce understatement on one hand and brutally powerful technical marvels with the launch of nothing less than two new manufacture tourbillon movements on the other.
2012 also sees the launch of the new visually arresting Metiers d’Art – Les Univers Infini collection and the stylish redesign of one of the brand’s iconic collections: The Malte.
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Patrimony Traditionnelle Calibre 2253 in Rose Gold
Originally launched in a 10 piece limited edition of 10 pieces in the Excellence Platine collection the Calibre 2253 now exists in a non-limited rose gold case. This piece, which is currently Vacheron Constantin’s second most complicated watch in production features, a tourbillon, a perpetual calendar, equation of time (difference between solar and mean time), time of sun set and sun rise which will be personalized to the location designated by the owner as well as a stunning 14 day power reserve (indicator on the back) obtained via 4 barrels couples 2+2.
I personally like this version alot, the rose gold case gives it a certain warmth and underlines the amazing dial which like all Patrimony Traditionnelle models has 5 different finishing techniques.
Patrimony Traditionnelle 14 Day Tourbillon
Directly inspired by Calibre 2253 this model is Vacheron Constantin’s first « simple » round tourbillon in over a decade. Inspired by but not a stripped down version, as 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 is the first of the VC collection to comply with the new Geneva seal criteria (which no longer applies only to the movement but to the whole watch).
Overseas Chronograph with Blue Dial
In a recent SIHH article I had written “grey is the new black” due to the fact that many of VC’s new releases had grey dials, today I can say that “blue is the new grey”!
This year Vacheron Constantin offers the Overseas Chronograph with this new chromatic scheme, in steel for a more sporty look and those with more confidence or a more exuberant sense of sartorial style can opt for the rose gold model.
Overseas Perpetual Calendar Chronograph in Rose Gold
Last year Vacheron Constantin launched the very first Overseas with a high complication: a perpetual calendar chronograph. Unfortunately these models were only available in a limited edition (80 in steel/titanium with grey dial and 20 in steel with blue dial for the New York Boutique). The Overseas perpetual calendar chronograph is released this year in a dressier rose gold case with a silver dial with a lovely beige hue.
Metiers d’Art – Les Univers Infinis
Ahhh each year I am happy to underline a new Vacheron Cosntantin model with a lousy name and The Metiers D’art – Les Univers Infinis – Fish-Dove or Shell win hands down. I’m a bit harsh here because in French it sounds great but I can imagine a non French speaker trying to pronounce – let alone remember- the whole name.
The latest addition to the Métiers d’Art collection: a subtle blend of graphic art and decorative techniques in Fine Watchmaking and an exceptional alliance between the artistic crafts cultivated by the Manufacture Vacheron Constantin: engraving, enamelling, gemsetting and guilloché work
– the “Métiers d’Art – Les Univers Infinis” collection embodies several artistic arts exercised within the Manufacture: enamelling, gemsetting, engraving and guilloché work.
Les Univers Infinis represents an alliance between artistic crafts such as engraving, enamelling, gemsetting and guilloché work, the dials areinspired by the periodic paving technique known as “tessellation” – and in particular by the work of Dutch artist Maurits Cornelis Escher.
These models are made in a limited series of 20 pieces each in a 40mm white gold case housing automatic cal 2460.
Fish watch: guilloché and cloisonné enamelling
Probably my favourite of the 3 because of the color ,the sense of movement and graphically the most eye catching.
The pattern is cut out from a white gold dial base and the eyes of the fish are meticulously engraved. The guillocheur then forms tenth of a millimetre symmetrical motifs. Parallel curves accentuate the head, tail and fins, while the body of the fish is covered with shiny scales.
The enameller marks out the outline of the motifs using a fine gold wire to separate the various enamel colours, a process known as cloisonné enamelling. The enamel is finally placed in each fish and fired in an oven at a very high temperature, an operation that the artisan will repeat several times in order to intensify the colour. The last firing is followed by a lapping/polishing operation designed to position the partition wires on the same level as the enamelling, and glazing – meaning applying a layer of varnish – that give the dial a radiant glow.
The Dove Wtach: Enamelling, Engraving, Guillochage and Gem Setting
The dial representsa depiction of doves in flight and uses 4 métiers d’art
The engraver begins by drawing the outline of the doves on a yellow gold dial base, before proceeding to “champlever” them, meaning engraving the motif before the enameller fills the cavities thus formed.
Then comes the turn of the enameller. It is up to the artisan to create and choose the perfect harmony of the shades which, once bonded by firing in the often, create this radiant violet hue. The enameller completes his task by applying a translucent enamel coating to the violet birds. For their white counterparts, he opts for an opalescent enamel that reveals the engraved motifs and creates a striking depth effect.
Once the enamelling is complete, the gemsetter highlights one of the doves.
Finally, the guillocheur, does his part in accentuating the depth effect of the dial. Due to the extreme difficulty of this process, it is extremely rare for an enamelled piece to be guilloché-worked as a final phase. The expert takes the time required to patiently incise the material and thus create a truly lifelike depiction of the doves.
Shell watch: engraving and champlevé enamelling
The details of the dial (starfish and shells) of this piece are truly astounding
First of all, the engraver traces the shapes of the shells on the dial using a drypoint and then hollows out the fields or cavities while protecting their outlines in order to create a relief engraving using this champlevé technique.
Then comes the turn of the enameller, who fills the cavities with enamels before firing them several times at a temperature of 800° to 850°C. Several firings are required to complete this work, which is perfected by lapping-polishing and glazing-varnishing. The engraver sets the final touch by engraving the surface of the starfish. The champlevé enamelling technique calls for excellent mutual understanding and cooperation between the two artisans and which will strongly influence the final result, since any discordance could jeopardise their joint work.
The tonneau shaped Malte collection has been redesigned in celebration of Vacheron Constantin’s 1st tonneau watch made in 1912.
Certain may think that the new Malte may lack the presence of the previous models but I find the new collection less bulky and more refined.
Moreover all the models apart from the lady’s model (which has a quartz movement) are all officially approved as meeting the new criteria of the Hallmark of Geneva.
Currently available in only a rose gold case of 28.3 x 38.7 mm it houses a quartz cal 1202 and is set with diamonds on the bezel.
Malte – Small Seconds
I really like this model, it is refined, elegant and yet has presence on the wrist. It comes in a 36.7 x 47.6 mm rose gold case. The watch houses cal 4400/1.
Malte – 100th anniversary
This is a platinum rendition of the Malte small seconds (without the seconds!) but in a platinum case and painted black Roman numerals and limited to 100 pieces. The dial is quite fascinating as it has a somewhat grainy glittering dial and even though the case and dial combination may be considered rather austere it will make a great dress watch.
Malte – Tourbillon
NIIICCCEEEE. This version is just stunning and tops my wish list. The rose gold case is slightly larger than the small seconds models at 38 x 48.2 mm and houses a brand new movement cal 2795, comprising 169 parts, beating at a leisurly frequency of 2.5 Hz (18,000 vibrations/hour) and a 45 hour power reserve. The large tourbillon cage takes up a large part of the lower half of the dial taking center stage and distilling a quite aura of sleek elegance. Last but not least the movement finish is nothing short of astounding may it be on the back plates, the tourbillon cage or the underdial.