My Newest Acquisition

I have always been a fan of alternate time displays. Their uniqueness speaks to the ingenuity of the designer and perhaps his fantasy. Creating a display which is not based on a rotating pointer, yet is accurate and has an esthetic appeal can be a mind-boggling task. Pairing it with the appropriate movement just adds to the challenge.
The “wandering hour” watch, based on Cart’s design. The Saltarello, the double retrograde of the Mercator are all examples of Vacheron’s success in the alternate time display.
However, with the Tribute to the Great Explorers series, Vacheron has reached the culmination  of design. The bi-level display of enamel “grand feu” technique combined with Vacheron’s development of the “Star Wheel” concept (found in some AP designs) into a unique and very sophisticated movement presents the watch aficionado with a real Métiers d’Art masterpiece.
 
Several recent articles on this watch have been written, by Bill Lind, Anthony Tsai and Alex Ghotbi.  They do a great job of covering the details of the watch, so I’ll try not to be redundant.
The links are here:
 
http://vacheron.watchprosite.com/?show=forumpost&fi=14&pi=4656678&ti=714798&msid=&s=
 
http://vacheron.watchprosite.com/show-nblog.post/ti-453306/
 
http://www.thehourlounge.com/thread/view/tribute-to-the-great-explorers-marco-polo-my-dream-watch-that-got-away_50059_50059.html
 
I saw this watch in detail at the Vacheron Manufacture in 2006 on a TimeZone tour, (the Magellan version), in its disassembled state and was immediately taken by the design of the movement.
It is the caliber 1126AT, based on the robust JLC caliber 889. But what VC has done to it is nothing short of amazing, far exceeding the original movement and far ahead of anything AP had done with it.
There is a central gear to which are attached 3 cams set at 60 degrees apart. Each cam is in the shape of a Maltese Cross, and holds 4 numbers which appropriately as the arm swings down into the gap between the 2 levels (extending from about 5 -7 o’clock. Thus the correct time is displayed as the hour numeral sweeps from right to left, through this 132 degree lower level, marked with the minutes. (See the exploded diagram in Alex’s article.)
As it passes through the 60 minute marker and disappears, the next hour appears, and so forth.
The use of cams is a brilliant realization of this design concept and is a real tribute to the Vacheron engineers.
Perhaps this bi-level design and the sweep of the hours across the lower portion of the map symbolizes the passage of time or the vast distances over land and water the great explorers traversed…a fascinating metaphor!
As if the movement itself was not enough of a trial, the dial itself presented an almost insurmountable challenge. Since the dial actually consists of two dials, the larger main dial and the smaller sub-dial, a double challenge exists. The two dials must be made together to render the maps synchronous but also to match the colours of the land and water masses and the decorative touches which adorn the dials.
The technique of “grand feu” is a tedious, exacting difficult and demanding medium. Working with enamel itself is difficult enough, but decorating it raises the risks and rewards exponentially. Vacheron has perhaps the finest artists in this method of any watch manufacturer and the results show it.
I had an opportunity to discuss the technique with one of the artists at Vacheron. It is a meticulous process with onerous preparation required. Each colour must be applied separately, then fired and cooled slowly. An errant breeze, a slight fluctuation in kiln temperature and a week’s work ends up in the recycling bin. Furthermore, each colour behaves differently and the colour you apply may not be the colour that results after exiting the kiln. Many colours can be used and each one is fired separately. Thus each piece of this limited edition is truly unique.
It takes years of practice and practical experience with many failures to come to an understanding and mastery of this method. Yet Vacheron has used it extensively, with great success, most recently in the Chagall series of watches.
 
 
When Alex posted his article and photos, my response at the time (2010) was:
“I'm waiting too, Alex.
I have a Mercator and have missed a Great Explorers twice. But patience, patience, my precious will appear some day.”
 
Well, Le jour de gloire est arrivé ! ( to borrow a famous phrase J )
Bill Lind knew I was interested in this watch and one day recently, he called. I could hesitate no longer. It was now or never and I preferred now!
I had the perfect opportunity to pick it up since I knew I would be in Boston . It was a well-timed coincidence that I actually picked the watch up on the Columbus Day weekend. And to really put the extra icing on the cake, my Mercator is of the Iberian Peninsula from where Columbus began his voyage.
 
 My Newest Acquisition
The Magellan Explorer (2006)

My Newest Acquisition



My Newest Acquisition

My Newest Acquisition

My Newest Acquisition

My Newest Acquisition

My Newest Acquisition

My Newest Acquisition

My Newest Acquisition
Columbus sailes from right to left smiley

My Newest Acquisition

My Newest Acquisition

My Newest Acquisition
JB
10/22/2012 - 18:41
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JB
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JB
10/24/2012 - 17:43
Joseph you are my hero :-) You have a truly iconic VC and the
10/22/2012 - 19:04
perfect compagnion of the Mercator! Can't wait to see it in a few months time! Wear it in best of health mon ami and Bill is truly an evil man devil
Thank you Alex
10/23/2012 - 01:56
I will have it with me in january. As for Bill, I know, he is evil. He wouldn't stop twiting my arm! surprise Regards, Joseph
Mon Cher Joseph, you know how I envy you. Congrats.
10/24/2012 - 19:26
It will be hard to get a nicer VC (except an another HGE ou a Ma..q..). Take care
WOW!!
10/22/2012 - 19:08
Superlatives fail me Joseph heart Words and photos truly convey the beauty of your new timepiece!
Re: WOW!!
10/23/2012 - 01:57
Thanks Dean, for your kind words, Bring a loupe in January! cheeky
Curses!
10/22/2012 - 19:25
I am so happy for you, Joseph.  This is truly a beautiful watch, both visually and technically.  I had not seen any pictures of the caseback, at least I do not recall having seen any, and the Explorer looks to have a nice and interesting one.  I never thought about Columbus sailing right to left, but this is a nice detail -- VC thinks of everything, don't they? Your photos really are making me think about this watch in a different way and make the watch more interesting to me.  As I said in the title line, "Curses!" I really don't need another Vacheron to dream about...  Congratulations, my friend. Warm regards, Robert
Thanks Robert, you are very kind!
10/23/2012 - 02:00
Yes, initially I thought the back was a display back and actually was pleasantly surprised to see the compass rose. It really is an outstanding piece of work, both movement and dial. Warm regards, Joseph
Huge congratulations Joseph
10/22/2012 - 20:02
these 2 artistic watches are wonderful and complete the set together. What a nice story until your get it. You are LUCKY to reach your graal. We now expect you make the trip back (by plane) to Europe and share with us the view of these 2 beauties (during SIHH maybe). PS: If you wear both on your 2 arms, it will be difficult to be concentrated for some works LOL FELICITATIONS  du fond du coeur ++++ Liger
Merci mille fois!
10/23/2012 - 02:03
T'es tres gentil! I will definitly bring the Explorateurs and possibly the Mercator. Mais j'aurai besoin d'une montre quotidienne. Voila! C'est trois!! Amitiés, Joseph
Congratulations Joseph
10/22/2012 - 21:40
On your newest acquisition. Seriously, shouldn't you take a break now?! Best Gary
Thank you Gary!
10/23/2012 - 02:04
I have to stop now. I've run out of money! surprise Best, Joseph
This post has been long time coming, JB
10/22/2012 - 23:07
Congratulations, Joseph! Amazing story about a great explorer and a fantastic watch (actually two watches) that go along with it. You are an alternative time display conesseuir, my man. Mercator, Saltarello, Wandering Hour and now this gem - you have it all. What a fantastic theme to your collection... May it strike happy hours only!
Absolutely superb, JB!
10/23/2012 - 00:27
Sincere congratulations, and a wonderflu pair of enameled-dial Vacheron watches you have there. Can't wait to see it! Best, Paul
Paul, thank you so much!
10/23/2012 - 02:07
Looking forward to seeing you again. Regards, Joseph
Just as I Suspected - A European Invasion!
10/23/2012 - 01:29
Congratulations Joseph.  You have exquisite taste in watches!
Thanks Michael,
10/23/2012 - 02:08
I appreciate your kind words. Hopefully I'll see you in the near future. best wishes, joseph
That is fantastic, Joseph!
10/23/2012 - 03:10
You are on a tear, sir!  What a fabulous piece this is -- and it looks wonderful on your wrist.  Will hope to see it when next we meet! Best, Gary
Thanks, Gary
10/23/2012 - 16:58
It will definity be on my wrist. Heck, I'll even take it off and let everyone have a closer look!cheeky
Nice!!!!!!! Can't wait to see that beauty in Geneva. (nt)
10/23/2012 - 03:23
E
Thanks, Tim
10/23/2012 - 16:59
Looking forward to showing it to you. Regards, Joseph
What an amazing pair! From Iberia to the Americas
10/23/2012 - 03:54
I love the narrative Joseph,  the way you describe the wandering hour...so very ethereal!heart A great addition to the collection of a great collector!  How copacetic!!!yes BR, Dan
Dan,
10/23/2012 - 17:01
Thank you very much. Its a great piecemovement and dial. It's a fantastic Metier d'Art creation. I am very happy to finally have obtained one after all these years smiley Best, Joseph
Re: My Newest Acquisition
10/23/2012 - 07:22
That's absolutely breath taking.
Thanks very much.
10/23/2012 - 17:03
It's even more impressive in the "flesh"! A wonderful design!
Congratulations, Joseph!
10/23/2012 - 07:26
Congratulations are not enough for this kind of a catch. You really outdid your self and the prize is well-deserved.yes I think the Colombus theme is one of the nicer ones in the series.  I am really green with envy.cheeky Wear it in good health and may it time only happy moments, mon ami! (truly happy for you)yes Best regards, Kazumidevil
Kazumi, my friend,
10/23/2012 - 17:04
Thank you so much for your kind words. I hope our path cross soon. I would love to share it with you in person. Warm regards, Joseph
Wow, fabulous catch, and what a duo!
10/23/2012 - 14:36
The enamel ultra thin dial is a marvel , so hard to do. Fabulous Joseph! Enjoy them! Francois
Thanks Francois!
10/23/2012 - 17:07
The difficulty of working with enamel and its exacting requirements are one of the things that attracted me. And yet with all the difficulties VC came through with flying colours producing a stunning work of art. Best, Joseph
hats off to you sir! what a watch!!!!!!!!!!!
10/23/2012 - 16:35
VC
Thank you,
10/23/2012 - 17:08
It's a real masterpiece in so many ways!
Great watch, excellent article,
10/23/2012 - 18:05
thorough research and beatiful pictures. What a treat. Wear it in the best of health and may the map guide you safely across the ocean next time you travel to Europe.  Yours sincerely Kent
Kent, many thanks
10/23/2012 - 19:55
I am so pleased you liked the photos. and thank you for your kind wishes. Hopefully one of those voyages will include a visiit with you laugh Warm regards, Joseph
Chapeau, Joseph!
10/23/2012 - 23:36
Simply magical!... Congratulations my friend, I know how much, and for how long you had wanted to get a Great Explorers... I would say that this is one of my two favourite watches in your impressive collection (I do really, really, really like your Cabinotiers)... Definitely the most poetic - by far -  it is a real work of art!! The dial is really unique, and it is housed in the most beautiful VC case ( I love how the lugs go 'over' the case). I have to admit that I am not the biggest fan of yellow gold - but for this watch I think that it works well, as it fits with the colours used for the map. I loooove how the gold countour shines in your 7th picture (as always, great photography JB!).  I cannot wait to see it up close on Januarycheeky! Best,  Francois
Merci Francois,
10/24/2012 - 17:40
Thank you so much. It was a pleasure to share with everyone, and will be even more in January. I'm glad you notices the gold contours. I played with the light a bit and when I saw that I knew I had to photograph it. By the way, speaking of poetry, the penultimate photo for me is the most poetic or at least the most metaphorical. I found the map in my book "The Quest for Longitude", about John Harrison. The map was perfect and very close to the one on the dial. By playing with the light I was able to get a bright reflection on the bezel and the gold reflections on the little islands, that you pointed out. It was intentional. It was meant to symbolize the sun rising on an era of exploration in the new world and the treasures than lay therin. But there is also a prominent shadow approaching the coast which is a metaphor for all the ills that some of the explorers and certainly the conquistadors brought to the New World. I know it's hard to believe, but I really did think of those things when I created the shot. Sometimes a watch is more than a watch surprise Oh, and on a lighter note...I even remembered the names of the 3 ships of Columbus (without going to Wikipaedia). Somet hings from public school really do stick (LOL) The Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria! All the best, Joseph
Re: My Newest Acquisition
10/24/2012 - 17:35
Fantastic in every way ... what an incredible pictorial.  Congrats on reaching the end of your search ... and beginning a lifetime of enjoyment.  Cheers, Jeff
Jeff, Thank you very much
10/24/2012 - 17:43
I am really delighted with it. And thank you for your kind wishes. I feel like I have "climbed every mountain and forded every stream" (LOL) Warm regards, Joseph
Late to the party, but both are simply fabulous
10/25/2012 - 00:45
may they make you smile every time you strap them on the wrist! Your photo skills are a treat for us amateurs, I enjoyed imensly every one of them. It is more than evident that you invested huge effort in making them, giving a new dimension to these two beutiful masterpieces. Best, Marko PS- those cuff links, tell us more.....
Re: Late to the party, but both are simply fabulous
10/25/2012 - 07:02
Thank you marco. You are far too kind. I was pleased to be able to share the watch with everyone. Regarding the cufflinks...here's a link. Designed by me and made locally. I had hoped VC would come out with a design using the logo, but they never did; so I did it myself.http://www.thehourlounge.com/thread/view/cuff-links_29712_29712.html Best wishes, joseph