You raise some extremely interesting points which I will try to answer the bestI can.
On a side note somewhere in the pipeline is an article on movement finish by VC but probably not until 2008…
For inspiration of cal 2450, the watchmakers and engineers of VC used calibre 1120, an ultra thin automatic created in the 60s, housed in most of VC’s automatics and considered to be one of the best automatic calibres in terms of construction and function.
Caliber 2450 which was launched in 2006 and is designed to be VC’s workhorse movement and constructed in a way that it can receive additional modules for complications.
It is important to note that not only the calibre 2450 receives the Geneva Seal (whose criteria are based on movement finish) but the extra modules will also file for Geneva Seal application.
In terms of finish Vacheron Constantin has decided to apply the utter highest level of finish possible for series production (meaning it won’t be the same as on a Philippe Dufour but certainly higher than any other mainstream brand). And this is obvious with the naked eye just looking at the movement, take a loupe and have a closer look and you will be surprised by the amazing quality of the flawless finish.
The movement finish extends to the rotor which is polished and engine turned Maltese Cross design with an exterior brushed sunray finish to reflect the light.
The same level of finish is applied to the non visible parts as it is to the visible ones. Of course this is a statement from Vacheron and I have not opened a watch myself but from the pictures I have seen this seems the case. Chances are that we may see some openwork models in the future enabling one to obtain confirmation of what VC states.
The movement plate is circular-grained - with 650 small circles produced manually by using small, abrasive pegs selected on the basis of the diameter of the circles to be made.
The hand-chamfered bridges are decorated by using a small abrasive grinding-wheel covered with emery paper. Philippe Dufour once said that you could recognize the correct application of the Côtes de Genève when the pattern perfectly aligns when the pieces are assembled, which is the case here (next time you have a look at a movement with the Geneva waves have a closer look and you will be surprised by the number of movements with poorly aligned stripes!!). The gear-trains and the heads of the screws with their chamfered grooves are highlighted with a highly polished finish.
The teeth of every wheel, every pivot and every sharp angle are hand polished, burnished and chamfered.
Of course this painstaking finish is not only done for aesthetical reasons but also for functional ones such as the overall reliability and good working order of the watch.
Throughout the manufacturing process, therefore, the parts are washed several times, with each kind of metal (steel, brass, silver nickel, etc.) undergoing very specific and effective cleaning operations. These must be vigorously applied to protect the decorations from deteriorating and to lengthen the life of the movements.
underdial view of Cal 2450:
Underdial view of Cal 2475 (Jubilé 1755) just to show you the amazing finish of the non visible components:
In terms of construction calibre 2450 here is what watchmaker John Davis wrote about calibre 2450:
“For one thing, the balance cock, regulator and balance assembly are all quite traditional if apparently very well executed. It's interesting that VC chose to stick with these traditional elements while the rest of the industry is going bridged, free-sprung balance. This is perhaps a demonstration of their willingness to hand adjust their watches or perhaps a nod to traditionalism and old-world style. There's a lovely Geneva stud and cover, a similarly elaborate locking mechanism and a pretty rugged looking micro-regulator. This combination of mechanisms is both expensive and relatively complex to manufacture and finish, allowing for some visual displays of craftsmanship, but is also likely to offer good reliability as well (shock resistance basically).
The hack lever offers an even more complicated visage, with old-world, almost chronograph looking levers and springs working together to show off finishing skills at least as much as to stop the balance when the stem is pulled out. Thank God for ceramic ball bearings as a counterpoint I guess.
Many of these elaborations (or at least the combination of them) are slightly over-the-top relative to most other modern automatics. No matter how high-end, most automatics generally show a more practical engineering and manufacturing approach than their manual wind brethren. Historically the keyless works, bridges, etc. are all slightly more industrially executed and practically engineered in self-winding calibers, but VC seems to have taken a deliberate turn in the other direction with this piece
Based on what can be seen and surmised only from the pictures (and surely that is a pitifully small sampling of what the movement truly contains), it does rather seem that VC is leaning towards some classical solutions executed with great elaboration and a willingness to put more parts and/or more work into the movement for its own sake. They want this movement to be a luxury watch movement through and through and they want us to know that too.”
The master watchmaker of an extremely well known high end brand (not part of the Richemont group) had dissected the calibre 2450 and told me that it was very well and intelligently constructed and perfectly finished. I also recently showed the calibre 2450 to rising stars of independent horology: Kari Voutilainen and Roger Smith and both not only liked what they saw but were impressed by the high degree of aesthetic visible finish. This is not a low feat when you know how critical these artisans can be of series production pieces.