Vladimir*: the ultimate in complications and artistic crafts
The second special order was named Vladimir* by its owner. This Slavic first name is derived from the ancient term Volodimir, which literally means “domination by peace” or “peace to all.” This superlative watch is none other than one of the world’s most complicated timepieces. That is what its owner wanted, and Vacheron Constantin’s Atelier Cabinotiers gathered the resources to meet this very ambitious goal. As it began this extraordinary adventure and accepted this uncommon mechanical challenge, Vacheron Constantin knew it could count on its unusual expertise garnered over an uninterrupted span of more than 250 years in business. The Genevese Manufacture had demonstrated this during its quarter-millennial celebration in 2005 by designing and producing in its own workshops what was at the time the world’s most complicated wristwatch, the famous Tour de l’Ile. The Vladimir* model that has just left Ateliers Cabinotiers is even more complicated than that legendary model of 2005. The hand-wound mechanical movement of this unique Vladimir* watch drives no less than 17 complications. This exceptional movement, bearing the prestigious Hallmark of Geneva, has some 891 components, all hand-finished or hand-decorated at Vacheron Constantin. It is both a technical and aesthetic triumph that took Atelier Cabinotiers and its top-flight watchmakers four years to develop.
Just one look at the Vladimir*’s main dial, which was hand-engraved on a rose engine at Atelier Cabinotiers, gives an indication of the complexity of this horological masterpiece and reveals an impressive array of complications, in addition to the usual display of hours and minutes. To begin with the supreme example, the very refined 60-second tourbillon mechanism stands out at 6 o’clock, while next to it at 3 o’clock appears the moon phase on a blue sky with a precision moon in gold, smiling or serious depending on the phase and hand-engraved by Atelier Cabinotiers craftsmen. To its right, a smaller counter with a small blued hand indicates the striking mechanism torque, i.e., whether the minute repeater mechanism is engaged. In addition to the hour and minute hands – one-of-a-kind pieces made especially for this watch –that travel around the slightly off-centre minute markers, the front side of the main dial provides a second time zone with day/night indicator at 11 o’clock. The power reserve indicator is located in the 9 o’clock sector, also enhanced by a 52-week indicator. At this point, we have already seen seven easily identifiable complications on a well-balanced dial – with all of the motifs and materials having been selected by the purchaser – that are perfectly legible and aesthetically flawless. As another sign of the personalisation evident throughout the entire creative process, the guilloché pattern on the dial was also chosen by the collector of this exceptional timepiece.
The back is no less admirable than the front, having a wealth of information that is pleasantly arranged, exciting, subtle and surprising. On the upper portion, the perpetual calendar dials are arranged in a triangle, displaying the days of the week, month and date from left to right. A small window at 1 o’clock shows the leap-year cycle. In the centre of the dial, a blued hand sweeps over a small sector devoted to the equation of time, the variable difference observable between true (solar) time and the time marked by clocks, which for convenience is divided into equal intervals. Two other pieces of astronomical information are conveyed by hands traversing two sectors at 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock: the time of sunrise and sunset. The list of functions ends in a blaze of glory with a precision sky chart of the northern hemisphere, as one rarely sees it.
This exceptional mechanical watch bearing the Hallmark of Geneva has a setting to match. The Vladimir*’s case is itself a work of art, epitomising the legendary expertise and nimble fingers of Atelier Cabinotiers’ artistic craftsmen. On the sides of this unique and imposing piece, which is 47 mm in diameter, the signs of the Chinese zodiac appear in bas-relief. The motifs and the bas-relief technique (which is extremely rare in watchmaking) used here were both done by request of the owner. Before getting to the heart of the matter with regard to the subject and materials, the designers showed the purchaser many sketches. The decision was then made to depict the signs of the zodiac on both sides of the case, which itself is made of 18-carat pink gold. In the end, the twelve figures – from the dragon through the rabbit and the rooster to the snake – were made to stand out slightly from the main body of 18-carat pink gold. It was a colossal task for the engravers – the twelve figures alone took more than six months – and required that a very special case first had to be made with extra-thick sides, from which the superfluous material was removed, carving roughly at first and then in very fine detail. As with every other timepiece from Vacheron Constantin’s workshop, the case was then polished very subtly, a task made all the more difficult by the fact that it absolutely must not destroy the engraver’s incredible work on the bas-reliefs. In order to meet the challenge and create this extremely complex and unique timepiece, Atelier Cabinotiers called on more than 20 experts and craftsmen. It was a Herculean effort for a watch that deserves to join the legendary ranks of exceptional watchmaking.
* Vladimir is the name given by the owner
Atelier Cabinotiers Vladimir
Stamped with the Hallmark of Geneva
Energy Mechanical, manual-winding
Movement diameter 36.00 mm
Movement thickness 11.25 mm
Frequency 18’000 Vibrations / hour (2.5 Hz)
Indications Hours, minutes, second on tourbillon
Second time zone
Moon phase indication, age of the moon
Perpetual time equation
Week number indication
Power reserve Approx. 58 hours
Case 18K 5N pink gold
47.00 mm in diameter
Convex sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating on one side
Manual engraving of the 12 Chinese zodiac signs on the side of the case
Dial 18K white gold
Minute-track painted in white
8 applied hour markers in 18K pink gold
Strap Brown Mississipiensis alligator leather, square scales, hand-stitched, saddle finish
Clasp Buckle in 18K 5N pink gold
Polished half Maltese Cross
Case-back engraved with “Les Cabinotiers” identification and “AC” Hallmark