Introducing the Patrimony Contemporaine Calibre 1731 Minute Repeater

from the press release

If there is one art that few watchmakers truly master, it is that of striking mechanisms, the horological complications acknowledged to be the hardest of all to produce. The Manufacture Vacheron Constantin has been creating such miniature marvels for over two centuries, and is now laying a new milestone with the Patrimony Contemporaine Ultra-Thin Calibre 1731, bearing the prestigious Hallmark of Geneva. This masterpiece of virtuosity combines the complexity of a striking mechanism with the additional challenge of producing the thinnest minute repeater calibre and the thinnest minute repeater watch on the market. At just 3.90 and 8.09 mm thin respectively, both the movement and the timepiece housing it are dedicated to the most accomplished expression of the watchmaking art.


It was in the 18th century that the first minute repeater watch was devised to provide an audible indication of the time in the dark, in an era before the advent of electric lighting. While this complication is no longer an imperious necessity, it continues to represent the pinnacle of the art of watchmaking. That is because each miniature repeater watch is unique and bears the unique signature of the master craftsman who made it. Each lives its own life, plays its own music, while making way for fleeting moments of grace and emotion when its chime rings out. On demand, the minute repeater sounds the hours, quarter-hours and minutes. After activating the repeater slide – in this case the only element of this major complication visible on the dial side – a hammer strikes the low-pitched gong to mark the hours, while the quarters are played by two hammers on the two gongs – one low-pitched and the other high-pitched – and the minutes are sounded on the high-pitched gong.

A legacy of expertise and excellence

Rather than merely building on a heritage, Vacheron Constantin nurtures an authentic and enduring love story with striking watches. The Manufacture made its first minute repeater on a pocket-watch in 1810, before combining striking mechanisms with major complications throughout the following decades, in each case producing exceptional timepieces that were among the most complicated of their era. Watches that have made history, such as the one developed for King Fouad of Egypt in 1929, or the timepiece created in 1935 for his son, King Farouk. In 1941, Vacheron Constantin launched its first wristwatch equipped with a single complication in the shape of a minute repeater housed within an ultra-thin movement: Calibre 4261. The quest for extreme slenderness continued over the years, and in 1992, the Manufacture once again transcended the realms of possibility by presenting Calibre 1755, a minute repeater measuring just 3.28 mm thick – truly unprecedented! Today, Vacheron Constantin celebrates this emotionally charged complication with an all-new calibre inspired by its illustrious predecessors: 1731, thus named in tribute to the birth of the brand founder, Jean-Marc Vacheron.

Calibre 1731, a gem of finesse equipped with an innovative device

It was in 2009 that Vacheron Constantin decided to create a new minute repeater combining slenderness, a pure sound, aesthetic beauty, reliability and sturdiness. Four years proved necessary to solve this complex equation. While the new Calibre 1731 is barely thicker than its predecessor from 1993 – 3.90 compared with 3.28 mm – due to its impressive 65-hour power reserve, it is nonetheless the thinnest on the market today, having successfully overcome the difficulty of assembling and adjusting parts that have been slimmed down to extremes. Nor are the technical feats confined to the ultra-thin side of its nature, since Calibre 1731 is equipped with a highly ingenious device developed by Vacheron Constantin in 2007 for the 2755 movement – another member of this exclusive family of minute repeater calibres: a flying strike governor. Contrary to classic lever-type governors, this one is completely silent. Its role is to steady the rate at which the hammers strike the gongs. Without a regulator or governor, this musical sequence would take place at the speed of the striking barrel-spring, and would merely produce a rush of indiscernible notes. The device developed by Vacheron Constantin comprises two inertia-blocks or weights designed to act as a brake on the rotating shaft of the governor and thus evening out the energy supplied by the barrel spring. To achieve this, it makes use of two opposing centrifugal and centripetal forces. When the governor spins, the centrifugal force pivots one end of the weights outwards so that the other end presses on the shaft so as to stabilise the rotation speed and thus ensure a steady cadence. Perfectly finished right down to the smallest details, the governor bears Vacheron Constantin’s Maltese Cross emblem, even though the latter cannot be seen from the front of the calibre.

The quest for perfect harmony

Particular care was devoted to the acoustics of the Patrimony Contemporaine Ultra-Thin Calibre 1731, since its sound is the very reason for being of a striking watch. Various technical choices were made to ensure a crystal-clear and entirely tuneful tone. The gongs are not only connected to the case middle to as to amplify the sound, but also for the first time stacked rather than placed side by side. The case is made to be as one with the movement, within a clever composition incorporating such subtle parameters as the airflow between the mechanism and the case, designed to achieve optimal propagation of the sound. The quest for perfection does not end there, since the case itself has been built without joints so that the elements can interact literally metal against metal and thus enhance the amplitude of the sound, while the flying governor ensures a steady rate of the hammer blows on the gongs.

While each master-watchmaker instils his own music into the minute repeater that he will take several months to assemble and fine-tune, the sound of the movement will be subjected to the keen ear of the virtuoso striking mechanism specialists within the Manufacture, and will undergo certain adjustments in order to achieve perfect harmony between low-pitched and high-pitched notes. And it is at precisely at 4:49 that the tests are performed, since that is the time when the cadence is the most clearly audible due to the almost identical intervals between the hours (4 strikes), quarters (3 strikes) and minutes (4 strikes).

The true soul of a repeater watch, the individual chime of each watch is recorded and carefully stored before it leaves the Manufacture, thus constituting a “soundprint” duly registered in the Vacheron Constantin archives. This procedure guarantees not only the lifelong repair of all its timepieces, both historical and contemporary, but also the ability to restore within its workshops the unique sound of each model equipped with a minute repeater.

The work of a single virtuoso master-watchmaker

For a master-watchmaker, taking part in creating striking watches is a supreme honour. An art that requires gifted hands, lengthy experience combined with infinite patience, as well as a truly musical ear. Watchmakers capable of mastering striking mechanisms thus belong to an extremely elite circle. At Vacheron Constantin, only the master craftsmen working in the “Grandes Complication” workshop create such marvels. To enter this inner sanctum, they must have acquired at least 15 years’ experience in the various other workshops, before working for two years under the mentorship of a master. While the minute repeater is probably the most fascinating of all complications, it is also the most demanding due to the large number of tiny parts that must be patiently assembled and made to interact, before repeatedly setting and adjusting them to the point of achieving perfectly smooth running and an absolutely pure sound. A single watch takes from three to six months to assemble and adjust. Concentration is a must at all times, since one small extra stroke of the file on the base of the gong could muffle its tone.

To work on such a complex mechanism, the master-watchmakers has over 1,200 tools, many of which he has made himself and some of which have been created to perform just one gesture. They form an impressive panoply, even through a master’s supreme instrument remains his own ear. For it is in placing his own personal ‘signature’ on the model during the sound-adjustment phase that he breathes life into the minute repeater.


Finishes in keeping with the noblest Fine Watchmaking traditions

Testifying to a degree of time-honoured know-how that sets an authentic Fine Watchmaking creation apart from the rest, the components of Calibre 1731 are patiently finished one by one, even though some will remain hidden. Whereas the mainplate is circular-grained, the hammers are specular polished so as to alternately catch the light or appear clothed in a deep black cloak so as to eliminate any trace of the finely worked surface. Meanwhile the bridges are enlivened with a delicate Côtes de Genève pattern to create a refined wave effect. While the artisans of the Manufacture Vacheron Constantin are well accustomed to the various finishing techniques, there is one that requires a highly demanding 18-month training period: bevelling or chamfering, meaning the specific work on the interior angles, such as can notably be found on the seven bridges of Calibre 1731.


When calibre and case set new ultra-thin records to form a unified whole

The epitome of classicism conveyed through absolute purity, the Patrimony Contemporaine Ultra-Thin Calibre 1731 conceals remarkable complexity beneath its apparent simplicity. Its design is inspired by an ultra-thin model created in 1955 to mark the Vacheron Constantin bicentenary and then revived in 2004 to give life to the Patrimony Contemporaine, reference 81180. Since then, its extreme slenderness, its pebble shape, its curved bezel, its cambered dial and crystal, its beaded minute circle, along with its baton-shaped hands sweeping over alternating triangle and baton-shaped hour-markers, have firmly established it as a timeless classic. While the new Patrimony Contemporaine Ultra-Thin Calibre 1731 has remained loyal to its timeless design codes, its case has been the object of subtle and complex workmanship so as to form a unified whole with Calibre 1731 and to set a double record: the thinnest minute repeater movement (3.90 mm) housed inside the slimmest minute repeater watch (8.90 mm). The curve of the case middle has been accentuated so as to trim down the silhouette, while the sapphire crystal case-back has been opened as broadly as possible so as to reveal the hammers, along with a rare glimpse of the gongs. On the dial side, Vacheron Constantin has opted for an extremely elegant small seconds offset at 8 o’clock, the first in the Patrimony Contemporaine line: a useful and playful way of making the Patrimony Contemporaine Ultra-Thin Calibre 1731 instantly recognisable.

Patrimony Contemporaine Calibre 1731

Patrimony Contemporaine Calibre 1731

Patrimony Contemporaine Calibre 1731

Patrimony Contemporaine Calibre 1731

Patrimony Contemporaine Calibre 1731

Patrimony Contemporaine Calibre 1731

Patrimony Contemporaine Calibre 1731

Patrimony Contemporaine Calibre 1731

09/24/2013 - 13:43
09/24/2013 - 14:04
09/24/2013 - 16:55
09/24/2013 - 18:26
09/24/2013 - 21:10
09/24/2013 - 23:12
09/24/2013 - 23:33
09/25/2013 - 20:58
09/26/2013 - 06:44
09/26/2013 - 13:57
09/27/2013 - 09:22
09/27/2013 - 16:56
Beautiful and very discreet.
09/24/2013 - 13:43
A true masterpiece and in line regarding the design with the other minute repeaters Vacheron Constantin has produced over the years. Thanks for an excellent article with incredible detailed photos. 
What can I say...
09/24/2013 - 14:04
... I have put watches up for sale! G
Love everything about this state-of-the-art masterpiece...
09/24/2013 - 14:08
but the off-center seconds sub-dial is a total turn-on for me. The repeater's slide mechanism and the sub-seconds just do it for me aesthetically. The movement is also out of this world. It was amazing seeing this very watch in a still pre-production version but the final results do exceed my expectations.
Hi Radek, I understand the location of the sub-seconds dial...
09/24/2013 - 18:50
is due to the construction of the movement.  The seconds hand is directly driven, and that is where the wheel is located on Cal 1731. BR, Dan
Alex, the case size was not specified
09/24/2013 - 15:02
Do you have that information? Also, will it be available in white metal? Many thanks Best, Joe
41mm, 8mm thick and no white metal for the moment
09/24/2013 - 15:17
I still remember the "ohhhhh" sound from SIHH...
09/24/2013 - 15:52
Immediately followed by a "woooow" when Charlie wandered in with this little surprise in his pocket and showed us it. It's magnificent and the offset subseconds is a really nice little twist to it. I love the pictures but I really hope I get to experience "the full monty" in real life sometime. :)
A really beautiful piece, Alex
09/24/2013 - 16:55
The movement looks unbelievable, a veritable masterpiece. Will you have a recording of the sound? Joseph
Yes I should have a recording of the chimes soon
09/24/2013 - 18:23
Re: Yes I should have a recording of the chimes soon
09/24/2013 - 21:27
Hi Alex, There is in fact a recording of the chimes on the VC website. Beautiful, charming tones! Joseph
Found it! Sweet tones
09/24/2013 - 21:36
and with volume fully up one can barely hear the gear train yes.  This piece is ooozing VC DNA
Joseph, did you count the chimes?
09/24/2013 - 21:52
When I re-visit the site, there is a new chime sequence played...very nice cool while the watch displays 10:09, LOL. Interesting though, I had to count one sequence several times to be sure: 2 hour strikes, 2 quarter-hour strikes, and 13 minute strikes!!!
Re: Joseph, did you count the chimes?
09/24/2013 - 22:27
No. I was just interested in listening to the quality of the tones. It was nice to get all three (hour, quarter-hour and minutes). Pretty decent for a wrist watch!
the science of sound
09/24/2013 - 23:19
I'd love to know the science behind the sound of this piece; case shape, materials, size must all be so important.  IIRC the smallest full minute repetition mechanical watch movement was a miniscule 7-lignes by Louis-Benjamin Audemars back in 1840s, but I wonder if the sound was all that good?
Fascinating movement design
09/24/2013 - 18:17
even surprising, with its Le Phare-type centrifugal governor.  The thinness and silent operation are very welcome!
In fact its a centripetal governor, which from understanding works
09/24/2013 - 18:25
in an opposite direction than a centrifugal one
Thanks for that info Alex
09/24/2013 - 19:31
The press release describes how both forces are used to control the speed of the striking mechanism:  The device developed by Vacheron Constantin comprises two inertia-blocks or weights designed to act as a brake on the rotating shaft of the governor and thus evening out the energy supplied by the barrel spring. To achieve this, it makes use of two opposing centrifugal and centripetal forces. When the governor spins, the centrifugal force pivots one end of the weights outwards so that the other end presses on the shaft so as to stabilise the rotation speed and thus ensure a steady cadence. If I understand the difference of VC's patent, the centrifugal force pushing outward on one side of the spinning pivoted weight tilts the other side inward so the centripetal force actually applies the braking effect, n'est pas?  VC traditional approach was to use an anchor regulator which was an adaptation of the Swiss lever escapement acting on the repeater's gear train.  Is this the first use of a centripetal/centrifugal governor on a VC repeater?
This system was first used in the Cal 2755 launched in 2008
09/24/2013 - 20:25
09/24/2013 - 21:22
It deserves its own book! JB
...don't we know someone who does that?....
09/24/2013 - 21:25
09/24/2013 - 21:59
This diskussion ist verboten!  Or as Sergeant Schultz used to say...
the Cal 1731 book will be out very soon :-)
09/25/2013 - 10:36
I hope to see this one soon!
09/24/2013 - 18:26
if only I were in HK for the events this week! Bill
Out of this world. Saw this on the THC yesterday and
09/24/2013 - 19:49
have been looking at the downloaded pics on my ipad ever since. The pic of the caseback side is mesmerising.  Love the off-centered sub-dial. This is a nice touch. And so nice to see a simple time only MR.  Alex, what is the cost of this piece in money (not organs, soul, family etc.)?
Oooh... Let's guess instead!
09/24/2013 - 20:10
CHF364.8k G
You're way off track Gary :-)
09/24/2013 - 20:27
I would assume its in the range of USD 500k +/-.
09/24/2013 - 20:45
Oh, that's reassuring
09/24/2013 - 21:24
CHF250k? (:-)
How 'bout 1/3 the cost of the 2755?
09/24/2013 - 21:48
How much is a 2755?
09/24/2013 - 23:28
CHF750k? G
I meant to say more than your original figure. I didn't check
09/24/2013 - 22:27
The exchange rate.
the same but in euros
09/25/2013 - 10:37
Alex, I have a question. Unlike another brand where
09/24/2013 - 20:50
one has to apply to the top management to acquire one of their ultra-grand complications, is it the same for VC? Does one have to send a letter of application to Mr. Torres?
none of that here, however if you wish to speed things up you
09/25/2013 - 10:39
can send me a check :-)
Please confirm it is 500 K euros? And how many does VC
09/25/2013 - 11:19
Plan to make in a year? Waiting lists?
around euro 270k and between 10-15 per year
09/25/2013 - 11:24
Thanks. Hopefully one day I can own one of these.
09/25/2013 - 11:32
Is there also an app?
09/24/2013 - 21:10
Mr. Google again - says there was a Sound of Time app released by VC today...
Re: Is there also an app? VC has just launched a new iPad
09/24/2013 - 23:25
Magazine called Hour Views which has a write up on the 1731. Plus lots more...
The Sound of TIme app is really cool. I think it is a great
09/25/2013 - 11:18
Per-requisite to anyone looking to own a minute repeater.
Re: Re: Is there also an app? VC has just launched a new iPad
09/25/2013 - 19:35
Ouuuu, thanks for this!
You've just triggered a memory, Alex
09/24/2013 - 21:33
When we were in Geneva last january, M. Le Francois, showed a few of us a repeater movement that he was checking over; with an interesting feature, the power train for the chiming action, unlike others, was silent. There were a lot of "oooh's" and "aaaah's" to be sure,and I should have paid closer attention. I'm sure it was this 1731 he held in his hands. Funny how certain things get triggered in one's head. Joseph
no that was the 2755 you saw
09/25/2013 - 10:43
'The Inner Sanctum'...
09/24/2013 - 23:12
Imagine the pride of the master-watchmaker having been invited into the 'Grandes Complication' workshop. A wonderful accolade after having spent at least fifteen years at various work-stations plus a further two years under the mentorship of a 'master'. This clearly underlines the level of expertise required to both make and create the 'striking watch'. The very nature of this work, particularly in the final tuning stages, calls for the individual chimes of each watch to be recorded and carefully stored and registered inreadiness to be placed in the VC archives. I find this level of expertise, dedication and commitment quite amazing. When time allows it would be good to see some 'natural' photographs, however, what is currently on offer shows a most desirable and beautiful piece in every respect. Tony
I don't think I could agree with calling JB a master...
09/24/2013 - 23:26
..I've seen some of his work you know... G
Re: I don't think I could agree with calling JB a master...
09/25/2013 - 01:14
Very funny!! The expertise may have been missing but the dedication and committment were there! Joseph
in the flesh scans coming soon
09/25/2013 - 10:47
What do you think Alex...
09/24/2013 - 23:33
Back in the day this beauty would have our friend, ThomasM's, name on it ;-) Miki
LOL you're right Miki :-)
09/25/2013 - 10:48
I always rated VC a non-pareil in terms of finish...
09/25/2013 - 00:16
But here the movement is beautifully conceived, designed and realised as well. The off-centre small seconds works perfectly IMHO too. Everything is just right. Chapeau!
Congratulations to the VC team !
09/25/2013 - 02:12
Wishes you success on this wonderful model ! Berny
There is a very interesting article in the Blancpain magazine...
09/25/2013 - 05:24
"Lettres" (Issue 12) on the making of a repeater watch. In general terms it applies to Vacheron too. Anyone reading it will gain a new repect for those who manufacture this rare and complex modality. In addition, the development of an entirely new (and thin) movement, with new technology for the repeater mechanism really puts Vacheron at the apex of movement design and manufacture. It really is a remakable acheivement and even more so when realizes the ccomplexity and exacting standards that are required from machine initially to man in creating the finished mechanism. I hope we have an opportunity to meet some of the people involved in creating this movement. Hats off to this new creation and the team behind it! Joseph
Re: There is a very interesting article in the Blancpain magazine...
09/25/2013 - 11:24
I read this article JB. I agree with you.
Almost perfect with ...
09/25/2013 - 16:11
Almost perfect with a twist, is even closer to be perfect. Congrats, VC! Looking forward to see and to listen to it, one day. Oliver
What a beautiful expression of horology
09/25/2013 - 16:20
VC have done a wonderful job and I am looking forward to catching a glimpse of this masterpiece in HK this weekend.
Such a
09/25/2013 - 20:58
master timepiece! I'm really hoping to be able to see this amazing watch at Salon QP.
Spectacular, and...
09/26/2013 - 06:44
on a personal, pedantic note, I am very happy and impressed that V&C has resisted the unfortunate trend to unnecessarily add blued screws in order to "adorn" their movements.
09/26/2013 - 13:57
Simple, elegant with a wonderful complicaiton. The nice little second detail goes very well to avoid a boring watch. What a wonderful Vacheron, very typical of the spirit og VC imho. thanks for sharing alex, François
really impressive caliber
09/27/2013 - 09:22
I wait to discover this nice thin MR and also hear the music !!!! I was also convinced when hearing the calibre 1755 in a small case. Have a good trip in HK dear Alex. Cheers, Liger
It's literally my dream watch
09/27/2013 - 16:56
I woke up that morning at 05:00something from a bad dream: my VC on the way to my wrist turned into a black Hublot with a red rubber strap! So I had to walk into a VC store and I decided to have a Patrimony Contemporaine in rosé gold turned out to be a good surprise : D
A true classic with flair! Sorry for the late response
09/27/2013 - 20:28
as I have been in Europe for three weeks! Nice to be back and what a welcome home present. Best to all, Tim
Hope you got in a little sightseeing Tim?
09/27/2013 - 22:39
A little. I did get to spend time at the V&C boutiques in Geneva
09/28/2013 - 01:33
and Paris! That was a real treat. More to come, but it will be a bit. Exciting times. Best to all, Tim