WOW 10 years already !! I remember when I was moderating the Vacheron Constantin on the Purists back in 2005 and all the anticipation and fun I had working on the 250th anniversary celebrations.
In the past 10 years Vacheron Constantin has totally revamped its collections, has come out with over 15 different manufacture movements and variants all featuring the Geneva seal , set up a bespoke department and what is most probably the most amazing inhouse team of metiers d’art artisans (artistic crafts such as enamelling, guillochage, gem setting and engraving) and is preparing to stun the horological world in 2015 for its 260th anniversary.
Yes how time flies…. As Anthony G. Oettinger put it « Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.”
SIHH 2015 will represent true fireworks for the horological aficionado and the Vacheronista in particular as Vacheron Constantin is presenting not only a new collection called Harmony but finally its first inhouse chronograph movements (yes movements – plural - as there are 3 different calibers !) as well as a highly modified version of the Lemania based cal 1141 which now features the Geneva seal and goes under the Cal 1142 denomination.
However, before delving deeper into these amazing chronographs lets take a step back and go back in time over 80 years ago to the 1930s where Vacheron Constantin created some of the most delightfully refined and creative constant force table clocks. These clocks were magnificently finished, skeletonized and hand engraved. The movement featured a double barrel with a remontoire d’égalité and constant force. Even though 12 ebauches were made, only 5 were known to have been finished : 3 completed in 1932 and 1933 and two which were cased in the 1990s. With the Metiers d’Art Arca Vacheron Constantin revives these table clocKs and develops a whole new movement.
Vacheron Constantin shall be creating 12 unique Arca clocks, each equipped with the new Vacheron Constantin Cal 9620 comprising a constant-force mechanism and a 30-day power reserve and each housed in a different case.
The 1st model is housed in a rock crystal case, the 12 satin-brushed silver Roman numerals have been individually crafted and then coated with black Grand Feu enamel. The facetted silver feet supporting the table clock feature 12 unique hand-guilloche motifs coated with translucent colors of Grand Feu enamel. Since each foot is an all-of-a-piece construction, the guillocheur has had to extend the décor to five faces!!!
The Calibre 9620 which has been developed specially for these clocks is directly inspired in shape and function by those originally used in the 1930s including the 30 day power reserve and the constant force escapement.
The 30 day power reserve in obtained via 2 barrels each with a spring measuring 1 meters!
This endurance is optimised by the meticulous finishing of the components, reducing friction and thus wear. A power-reserve indicator at 6 o’clock on a sapphire crystal makes it easy to monitor the table clock’s level of energy.
The clock’s barrel delivers energy to the regulating organ (composed of an escapement and the sprung balance), which divides time into equal units and guarantees precision rating. The precision of a movement depends on the stability of its frequency, achieved by the regularity of the regulating organ’s oscillations. This in itself results from the regularity of the energy transmitted by the escapement to the sprung balance so as to ensure that it always oscillates in the same way and according to the same amplitude. However, the force delivered to the motor organ varies according to the degree of wind, a fact that inevitably leads to periodical variations in energy, which is often too strong in the beginning and too weak towards the end. These variations result in instable frequencies and thus variations in rate. Therefore, only a constant force can ensure a reliably regular frequency.
Various constant-force auxiliary mechanisms have been developed to deal with the significant variations in the energy delivered by the barrel and to ensure the stable and regular oscillation amplitude of the oscillator. The principle behind these devices consists in absorbing and neutralising the excesses and variations in the driving force acting on the escapement pinion, so as to ensure that the latter can transmit equal and constant impulses to the oscillator. In other words, constant-force auxiliary mechanisms may be regarded as a kind of filter intended to cancel out the effects of the variable force that the motor organ delivers to the escapement.
There are various types of constant-force auxiliary mechanisms. Some act upstream from the gear trains, on the barrels (fusée-chain transmission); while others act directly on the escapement (constant-force escapement). For its new Métiers d’Art Arca collection, Vacheron Constantin has chosen to act exactly between the motor organ and the escapement featured in the historical 1933 clock that has inspired these models.
To regulate the excess energy transmitted by the twin barrels to the escapement, this table clock has a subsidiary device that filters the energy delivered to the escapement. This device is notably composed of a mobile lock and release system linked to a spring, with the latter’s degree of tension regulated to contain a predefined and constant quantity of energy. In concrete terms, when the variable energy reaches the barrel, the mobile lock and release system of the subsidiary power drive locks and tightens its spring. When the system is released, the spring is let down, transmitting only the defined degree of energy to the escapement. That is how this device serves to supply a constant force to the escapement, which can thereby maintain the stability of the oscillator’s amplitudes and thus the rating precision of the movement.
Such a mechanism proves particularly useful on a movement endowed with a substantial power reserve such as that of Caliber 9260. The duration of the power reserve notably depends on the length of the barrel springs. The longer the spring, the greater the number of oscillations, and hence the higher the risk of isochronism flaws.
The constant-force mechanism of Caliber 2960 endows the table clock with remarkable rating precision corresponding to less than a one-minute deviation per week: an impressive feat for a caliber with such a low frequency (2.5 Hz) and that requires winding just once a month!
Amazaing, stunning, sumptuous, remarkable or just plain drop dead gorgeous! Pick your superlative to define these two platinum watches with hand engraved calibres, engraving which reminds me of those found on certain hunting guns made by Beretta or Purdey.
Two calibres have been chosen, both in platinum cases: Cal 2260 with tourbillon and 14 day power reserve in a 41 mm case and Cal 4400 in a 39mm case.
What I particularly love about the engraving is that even if the floral motif is extremely Baroque it is far from being old fashioned and stuffy and on the contrary gives enormous panache and vigour to the overall design of the watches.
One of the great difficulties of the task was to engrave such slender components without damaging the functionality of the mechanisms. No part to be engraved has been made any thicker to facilitate the task of the engraver, who must therefore sculpt surfaces that are less than one millimetre thick. The other difficulty resided in the fact that the engraver had to work on parts that have been previously bevelled, straight-grained, circular-grained and polished.
The engraver uses a chisel (not the kind used by Rodin!), and first marks out a line engraving to define the contours of the motif. He then removes a certain amount of material using the champlevé technique. This operation that involves hollowing to a depth of 2/10th of a millimetre serves to create a volume effect and brings out the raised motif. With parts sometimes measuring less than 0.35 mm thick, there is a considerable risk of piercing or distorting the metal. Working around the chamfers, the inside of the bridges and plates as well as the jewel holes – which cannot be altered in any way. This painstakingly intricate labour of love, entailing more than ten days spent engraving a single calibre, reveals an admirable contrast between the brilliance of the polished motifs and the matt appearance of the other surfaces. A subtly patinated anthracite colour is finely wrought with a tiny pointed tip, enhancing the volumes and relief effects.
Even if these two models are not limited editions per se they are limited by the low production numbers due to the time it takes to engrave them -10 days per calibre!
For its 260th anniversary Vacheron Constantin launches a brand new cushion shaped collection called Harmony (which has nothing to do with the Harmony models from the 1980s). The cushion shaped cases are a nod to some of the amazing cushion watches the brand made in the roaring 20s. The other aspect of this collection is to house medium to high complications but no time only models.
It is also worthwhile to underline the fact that you will never see the Arabic numerals of the dials elsewhere as they have been designed specially by the design team headed by Vincent Kauffmann for this collection! Original pear hands complete the design DNA
And wait for it…
All these models house new inhouse calibres and one is an evolution of the Lemania based Cal 1141 but heavily modified as to respect the Geneva seal criteria and as such is now named cal 1142 !!!!
The 7 models presented at SIHH are all limited editions made specially for Vacheron Constantin’s 260th anniversary and feature special design elements notably on the movement decoration: a hand engraved floral motif inspired by the fleurisanne adornment as found on the balance-cock of the first pocket watch signed by Jean-Marc Vacheron in 1755, this engraving appears on the balance-cock of the manual wind chronographs, the bridge of the tourbillon carriage or the rotors of the automatic models.
Regular production models will shortly follow but will not have these engraved elements.
Housing the new automatic Cal 2460DT (233 components – hacking seconds) The Harmony Dual time is launched in a white gold and rose gold case for men (40x49.3mm) limited to 625 pieces each as well as a smaller version for ladies(37mm X 46.6mm) in white gold and diamond set bezel (88 round cut diamonds and 1.2 cts) limited to 500 pieces.
The subdial on the bottom right indicates the 2nd time zone and is linked to the day/night indicator found on the subdial on the bottom right. All settings may be done by the crown in both directions, without any risk of damaging the mechanism.
Housing the new Calibre 1142. The previous Cal 1141 which had been used for over 20 years in different manual wind chronographs (think Chronograph Historiques, Malte –when it was a round model, and the current Traditionnelle) has been revamped to meet the Geneva seal criteria, has a higher frequency (3Hz rvs 2.5Hz) and no longer has a swan neck regulator but the balance is now regulated via micro screws and has been renamed calibre 1142. Like all the new chronograph movements in the collection the column wheel screw is adorned with the Maltese cross.
This calibre is now housed in a ladies chronograph in a 37 mm x 46.6 mm pink gold case whose bezel is set with 84 round-cut diamonds of approx. 1.2 carats and is limited to 260 pieces.
If you’re expecting a perfectly balanced and neutral opinion on this watch you may want to skip this section. I am having trouble typing this paragraph as I can’t manage to put my jaw back in place and my heart is no longer beating but ticking to the pace of cal 3300 found in this model. You heard it here first, but this is my next watch.
OK enough about me
Development work on Caliber 3300 (252 components) began in 2008, based on the same fundamental determination to develop a traditional chronograph architecture equipped with a column wheel and a lateral coupling clutch, while endowing it with all the technical and aesthetic attributes of contemporary technology.
I won’t go into huge details on this calibre (as well as with the other new chronograph calibres) since I will be posting a featured article on them later this year.
Among the major evolutions are a 45-minute counter – rather than the traditional 30-minute type – as well as a dynamic chronograph-activation system devised by the development team. On traditional constructions, the mechanism is sometimes activated but does not actually start if the pusher is not pressed firmly enough. With this “all or nothing” system, the gears and cams cannot be set into motion without actually starting the mechanism, thereby considerably optimising the durability and reliability of the movement. Moreover, thanks to a new “friction” technique for the lateral coupling clutch, the chronograph seconds hand avoids the little jerk that tends to occur when the chronograph is activated.
Even though the 42 mm x 52 mm and 12.81 mm thick case may seem a bit big but the watch sits perfectly on the wrist and the mono pusher is so nice and smooth. And I almost forgot to mention the power reserve indicator placed at 6 o’clock (65 hour power reserve).
The Harmony Chronograph is also limited to 260 pieces
Development of Cal 3200 (292 components) started at the same time as Cal 3300 and they both share many similar features with the exception of course of the tourbillon escapement found in Cal 3200 however the continuous seconds hand is no longer at 9 o’clock but directly placed on the beautifully finished tourbillon cage.
Because of this the left hand side of the dial is a bit empty and this breaks in my opinion the equilibrium of the dial.
Housed in a platinum case the Harmony Chronograph Tourbillon is limited to only 26 pieces
Behind a rather pompous name is one helluva amazing extra slim split seconds chronograph – one of the most difficult horological complications to correctly master!
The Harmony Split Seconds chronograph makes its mark in the field of ultra-thin horology by setting a new world record as the automatic movement measures just 5.20 mm thick and the case is 8.40 mm thick. It took prodigious feats of miniaturisation to develop and ensure the faultless, high-precision operation of this elaborate construction within such a small space. It also required the skills of the most experienced watchmakers at VC to assemble and adjust to perfection the 459 parts of the new automatic Vacheron Constantin Caliber 3500 – some of which, such as the tiny springs, measure just 3/100ths of a millimetre.
The use of a peripheral rotor (mounted on ball bearings) is a first at VC. The goal being not only to enable an uncluttered view of the calibre but mostly to maintain the slimness of the movement.
This calibre obviously benefits from the developments of the two other manual wind chronograph movements designed by the VC teams, including the so-called “friction” technique for the lateral coupling clutch, which serves to reduce a potential jerk of the hand when the chronograph starts running. Another particularly notable breakthrough is the blocking of the rotor when the barrel is sufficiently wound, thereby avoiding excessive tension in the winding spring.
The chronograph functions (start, stop and reset) are controlled via the push piece in the crown whereas the split seconds functions are controlled via the pusher at 2 o’clock.
This watch was a true slap in the face when I saw it first and my hands were all sweaty and shaky from holding such an amazing timepiece. Everything in this watch is amazing from the proportions of the case, to the beautifully finished movement which is a sight for sore eyes with its different polished and brushed surfaces and the angling is comparable to none.
What I particularly appreciate is that the Vacheron Constantin team who worked on this calibre managed to perfectly align the chronograph and split seconds hand and not cheat by creating a wider chronograph hand atop the split seconds hand due to alignment issues!
Certainly one of the most exciting watches I have seen in quite some time. Bravo!!!!
Cal 3500 is housed in a 42mm x 52 mm platinum case and limited to only 10 pieces.
All I can say is that SIHH 2015 was amazing for Vacheron Constantin fans with timepieces directly aiming at the collector’s heart: no frills, no chichis but pure technical watchmaking! But there is more to come….much much more to come. But you have to be patient as the year is still long…..
classic. I still remember your first HL report a few year ago.
At approximately 5-515 AM Indian time Monday morning, I actually thought I was hallucinating when I saw three in-house chronographs on THC page. This is truly n amazing achievement.
- Thanks for mentioning that the calibers will be used in regular production models once the LE run is over. That is good news and also makes sense.
- Does the revised Lemania caliber mean that the Traditionelle Chronograph will be discontinued or will it receive the new caliber and become a GS hallmarked model?
- What is your honest opinion about the Harmony Dual Time? I like it; I find it interesting; but I am having trouble with the day night indicator. Maybe it is not the indicator per se but the actual look of the indicator. To me this looks better as a ladies model. Maybe the regular model whch will follow will be simpler and easier on the eye.
- Other than that, I love this years launches.
the dual time, it's not my favorite ogf the lot but I personally quite like the day / night indicator, its quircky:-)
said that even though VC will be making an in-house chrono, they will not let go of the Lemania. And that is such a nice thing to do. So in effect you have four Chrono calibers now, not counting the one in the OS.
I think I have to see the Dual Time in the flesh. Pictures do not always do justice. Very few timepieces are love at first sight based on a picture.
But one thing is for sure - I would love to own a Harmony timepiece. I cannot wait to see what else VC will do with the Harmony in terms of simpler models. It is designed to be a technical colelction, so there is always the possibility of a chronometer, moonphase, PR, etc. etc. One's imagination can run wild.
I also wait to see the the regular Harmony Monopusher after the LE has run is complete.
Also, will the Traditionelle Chronograph be given a face-life to house the new Caliber 1142?
look like a toy! I also thought that the red text on the doctor's dial chronograph was too bright/loud. But those impressions were primarily due to the blown up Press Release photos.
All of these features are much more subdued and elegant in the metal. You will have to see it for yourself, but chances are good that you will agree.
Best Regards, Dan
Yes, I must see them in the flesh.
Some pieces take time before one warms up to them. Perhaps for me the DT is one such piece.
Yes, I must see them in the flesh.
Some pieces take time before one warms up to them. Perhaps for me the DT is one such piece.
Alex, thank you for the thorough description!
and lovely also, thanks Alex.
I hope to read more about tech specs in the future as it's clear to me, the most important news is about that.
Calibre 3300 gets clearly inspiration by the 27 CHRO (or Lemania 2320 or 1141 whatever), it would be interesting to know the main differences which make calibre 3300 different.
Congrats on your new beauty then, can'r wait to see it in metal.
I'm overwhelmed by such huge step ahead made by VC this year towards mechanical excellence.
strart/stop/and reset instead of one, the gearing,friction system etc... but I'm preparing an article on this so you'll have all info soon :-)
Amazing year for Vacheron and greet achievement, kudos to the development team for the caliber and the designer for that line. A beautiful beautiful line, very "Vacheron Constantin" imho, so charming, warm and romantic. Nothing cold here.The chronograph is amazing, I had doubts about its size but it looks good actually ! fantastic job.
And they are so beautifully finished ! The Maltese cross details are killers !I won't even talk about the Split second... it's mesmerizing... what a beauty, beautiful case, dial, incredible proportions for that complication.The power reseve doesn't bother me that much with your photos. Still that pusher on the lady chronograph and on the split that I would highly recommend to replace with an olive one.
But overall wow, what a year, and the clocks are cherry on the cake !
thanks again Alex
Thank you for the great report from SIHH. What an amazing anniversary for Vacheron - truly a technical tour de force and a bold move in design. Honestly, I have always liked simple round cases (it must be because I come from the US midwest - a generally conservative place, where "style" is concerned) but these pieces are lovely and I am sure they will grow on me as I see them more. I could see from your writing that you are not really sure about the Harmony Chronograph - still "on the fence" as we say. hehe. Thanks again for the great report. I always look forward to them. I cannot wait to start seeing these amazing movements in the metal.
As I look at this SIHH I think to myself about VC - who else has the combination of technological skill, tradition and history, artistic style? I think it may be no one. While there is certainly competition all around, I am not sure if there is one manufacture that is playing the game at such a high level in all areas of horlogerie.
fan of the harmony Chronograph and started putting funds aside the moment I saw it
glad you enjoyed the offerings
Spectacular effort and presentation. A personal thank you for the white metals, just incredible.
Merci and keep the photographs coming,
Best to all,
I adore the new collection though it is way out of my aesthetical boundaries...
I absolutely love the grade pulsations rail on the monopusher, nice touch, kind of like on the infamous medicus (this time Vacheron got it right with the movement though :-)
Can't wait fo the new Overseas!!!
I would tend to agree with you that this is the pick of a very nice bunch. Only one reservation: I just wonder, on reflection, whether VC should have left the '3' and the '9' out completely. Clipping the 2, 4, 8 and 10 is one thing, but I have never known VC to chop the '3' and '9' in half before. Any thoughts on this?
there are a few vintage examples where 3 and 9 are clipped by chrono subdials, and many where the 6 was bisected by the subseconds. This arrangement in the Harmony model was likely dictated by the size of case (42mm) vs size of movement (32.8mm), which left some space outside the subdials to fill. It doesn't cause me any difficulty, nor does the power reserve at 6 o'clock; I'm still giddy over the movement .
You can always opt for the "simple" Harmony monopusher chrono if that dial really bothers you. You can see with the expanded Pulsations scale, the issue is resolved.
what we are about here on THL
As always, Alex, thank you for such a great report.
It is always a great pleasure to read your SIHH personal journeys...
There is now a new VC at the top of my wish list - the Harmony chrono is 'almost' perfect, it is the complete package! I absolutely adore both the 3200 and 3300 calibers, and I especially like the fact that they have been built in a completely different way than what is the industry norm (horizontal vs. vertical clutch, etc.)
1) to confirm, the regular version of the chrono will have the same color scheme on the dial, the only difference being the lack of gold engraved parts of the movement?
2) the shape of the Harmony line is somewhat similar to the QdI (cushion shape with a round dial). Given VC's previous desire to have a clear offering and designating one 'shape' per line, should we fear for the future of the QdI?
Again thank you my friend!
The QDI will remain within the collection but may take a younger and more niche path but nothing is yet finalised as even though both the Harmony and the QDI have a cushion shape they are worlds apart in design.
As for the limited and regular versions of the Harmony Chrono the main difference will be the lack of engraved balance cock in the latter. There may be other small design elements (ex color of numerals9 but nothing finalised yet
Good to see you back buddy
Good to hear that the QDI remains within the collection for the moment.
As you know, I am a big fan of the line and I do believe that there is a place for it within VC.
However I don't have a good feeling about its long term prospects - it seems to me that this could become the next 'Malte' collection, with a perpetual identity crisis and a reinvention of the line every other year or so...
The first version of the QdI was perfect for me, but apparently the market just didn't react well to it (hence the full dials becoming the norm).
Still, I hope that VC will take, as you put it, a 'younger / more niche path'...
my mentor on the design team was very eager to discuss impressions of the QdI so I took the opportunity to try and sell him on improving the water-resistance (sadly, may only be possible by abandoning the modular case) and evolving to semi-transparent dials, like this concept posted on the left by MGM back in 2010:
Perhaps they would be receptive to further input. Maybe a poll or something?
I think that the new models have lost the 'DNA' of the line and a lot of their appeal (at least to me) with the non-transparent dials...
all I can say is that I just love looking at these watches...already spent a couple of hours blowing them up one at a time to get a closer look...
there just isn't anything better for eye-candy
Would it be crass and unfeeling to ask what the cost would be for a chronometer with all that beautiful engraving?
I can only imagine the skill it would take to do that intricate work - it would take nerves of steel.
Once again Alex, your report on the new models preseted at the SIHH is a masgterpiece. The photos especialy are as good as having the piece in hand.
The new collection "Harmony" is a dream. The name is so well chosen as all the models are perfectly harmonious. The dials are absolutely balanced, I find this watch the most perfect timepiece created for a long time by any brand. Fabulous inhouse calibres, a finely designed case and very smart dials. It must be a very sensual feeling to wear such a masterpiece.