Dr Jeckyll or Mr Hyde?

Vacheron Cosntantin is a rather surprising brand in terms of product design. It is a brand known for its classic conservative style yet if you look at its history its is the creator of some designs which at the time were considered as being extremely avant guard and which with the passing of time have become classics.

As soon as 1906 Vacheron Cosntantin played with see through dials with one of the 1st open dial watches: a perpetual calendar minute repeater. However, experts and collectors more or less agree that Vacheron Constantin’s big jump into the design word dates from the early 20s and their collaboration with Parisian case makers Verger Frères. The mix of technical savoire faire and French design savvy and flair led to the creation of some astounding pieces such as the Constant Force Clock, Bras en L’air, Shutter watch, snuff box. Some say that the Verger Frères blood still runs within the brand making it the most “Mediterranean” of Swiss watchmakers. 

Dr Jeckyll or Mr Hyde?
1906 opendial perpetual calendar minute repeater
The 40s and 50s saw the brand play with lug shapes with some wild and audacious models, at the same time in the 50s the brand tested extra large watches. At a time where men’s watches were in the 33-35mm range it launched a series of 38mm models as well as the iconic Cioccolatone (put size) which served as the inspiration of the Toledo 1952 launched in 2003. 

Dr Jeckyll or Mr Hyde?

Unfortunately for almost 40s years (from the 60s til 00) Vacheron Cosntantin focused mainly on the very conservative men’s watches. Was it the launch and immense success of the extra flat calibre 1003 which “bride” the brand? I don’t have an answer even though during that time the brand still demonstrated remains of its creative spirit with some very daring pieces such as the Chronometre Royal ref 6694 which I like calling Batman’s watch or the iconic Mercator launched in 1994. 

Dr Jeckyll or Mr Hyde?
Ref 6694

Of course all these watches seem rather classical today but we need to put them in context and a bit like like David Lynch's Eraserhead or Massive Attack's Blue Lines they have gone from avant guard when they saw the day to classics today.

The new millennium seems to have given a big boost design wise to Vacheron Constantin first timidly with the open dial 247 launched in 2003, the open dial Malte perpetual Calendar retrograde from 2006 but even more with the audacious Malte Tourbillon Black Nickel of 2006 (made for Singapore and Malaysia boutiques) or the amazing Spoutnik made for the Russian market in 2007. 

Dr Jeckyll or Mr Hyde?
ref 247

Dr Jeckyll or Mr Hyde?
Black Nickel Malte Tourbillon (scan courtesy of Duncan)

Dr Jeckyll or Mr Hyde?

These watches as interesting and daring as they are, are not destined for the mere mortal either due to their extremely high price or their extremely low production numbers (3 for the Malte Tourbillon Nickel or 10 for the Sputnik).

2008 saw the launch of the Quai de l’Ile a whole new collection light years away from what we were accustomed to: Vacheron Cosntantin’s interpretation of 21st century watchmaking and this time as regular production models accessible (more or less) to all. 

Dr Jeckyll or Mr Hyde?

So my question is which is the Vacheron Constantin you like? The conservative and classic Dr Jekyll or the audacious and wild Mr Hyde?
This is one of the reasons I love VC!
09/24/2008 - 12:33
I believe there is a little Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde in me and this characteristic of VC throughout its history is one of the things that really attracts me to the brand. That being said, I tend toward the conservative Dr. Jeckyll side a bit more. With the wild Mr. Hyde side of VC, I appreciate the challenges taken and feats accomplished, but when I look at each individual watch I become binary - I either love it to death or it does absolutely nothing for me. BR, Dan
An interesting dichotomy for VC and if I simply answered...
09/24/2008 - 13:07
on impulse, then I would probably choose the "conservative and classic Dr. jekyll".  However, when you consider the pieces suggestive of the "audacious and wild Mr. Hyde", then I seem to have a strong preference for that side.  Perhaps I need to differentiate between VC and watches in general.  generally speaking, I lean more towards the classical and traditional side of horology but when considering the specific watches of VC, then I am really attracted to their more modern pieces.  Not sure if this really makes sense to anyone else but at least I have some clue for myself. Cheers, Duncan
Definitely Mr Hide when he is casulally dressed
09/24/2008 - 13:57
I mean I love VC's when it dares but with simple appearance. The "1972" we talked in another post is the perfect example. Bold design but simple. I also love quai de l'ile and the crazy Sputnik.  It was very "Doctor Jekyll" these last years, but the Quai de l'ile gives me a new hope for a new modern line in parallel of the traditionnal models.  François
09/24/2008 - 14:49
And important that VC dared where nobody went, and still do so, keeping the spirit of VC.
Hm...I'd say 80% Dr. Jeckyll, 20% Mr.Hyde
09/24/2008 - 15:28
So far I have only got 2 VCs...they are of classical designs and I love them! Maybe the 3rd one would be one of more modern ones?  I dunno, haven't got the clue yet... My friend has been asking me to sell my Malte chrono to him...I told him, you can have my RO chrono instead . The VC stays with me!
Alex, what about Overseas chrono?
09/24/2008 - 15:41
Does that fall into Mr. Hyde category? I really love the Japan version with blue dial...maybe when I make some more dough  Hey, it's my 400th post!
I don't think the Overseas was avant garde enough at its launch to be
09/25/2008 - 11:47
part of the Hyde category Agree on the Japanses version which is awsome Congrats on your 400th my friend
Merci Alex! (nt)
09/25/2008 - 18:47
Re: Dr Jeckyll or Mr Hyde?
09/24/2008 - 17:20
(0% Dr. J...10% Mr. H for me! I do like a beautiful, elegant classy dial, sometimes with a little hint of adventure and an exhibition back which I can admire in private... just like a woman Joseph
Re: Re: Dr Jeckyll or Mr Hyde?
09/24/2008 - 17:22
Oops, Sorry, that should have read 90% Dr. Jekyll JB
JB, I must admit it - I like the way you think! (nt)
09/25/2008 - 06:06
VC's ambiguous approach is what really attracts me to the brand...
09/24/2008 - 18:49
it offers a perfect blend of classic and modern design/approach. That is absolutely perfect for me. I love the fact that the manufacture has a rich history and heritage in haute horologerie. This really is strength and know-how to be implemented in the future developments. Innovation is also the future drive for VC (QdI being the best example).    Being in the younger VC's audience I have to say I have seen more and more contemporary aspects of the brand's design in the recent years. I really love the direction VC is headed and I can tell there is no going back  This only reinforces my loyal belief and love in the brand. In that respect, I am really anxious to see SIHH 2009 novelties... 
Wow,VC already introduced see-through dials in 1906!
09/25/2008 - 19:09
I'm young (in the watch world as well;), please be patient and allow me to ask seemed-to-be-stupid questions: In photo Ref 6694's Royal Chronometer launched in 1994, when was the Chronometre Royal in the forum logo launched? 1907? Ref 86122?? The see-throughs: Quai de l'Ile2008 is the most attractive, and the bigger the better for the dials : ) It's very difficult to answer Alex's question: which *is* the VC you like? Well, quite a few : ) Mostly modern but none in the mask serie, daring design is good, but it would be better if the mask can be painted flat on the dial instead of sticking out in the centre of it...will the next mask serie be Pekin opera masks?
the ref 6694 was launched in the 60s, the Chronometre Royal 1907 as
09/25/2008 - 19:31
shown in the masterhead was launched in 2007, you can read all about the (rich) history of the Chronometre Royal watches in my article on the CR (check the All Articles section). Don't know about the last Masks series but they should be unveiled in 2009.
The Sputnik is astonishing!
09/25/2008 - 20:22
The Sputnik is amazing.....
09/26/2008 - 09:19

I got a bit excited for a moment there, and then when I read about how limited it was, I realised that I will never be able to see one of these in the flesh alas....