QDI review

I've had a couple of people ask me to complete this and it'd be a shame to waste a few weeks work on and off ,so here it is...................just remember it was written with someone like me (beginner) in mind and nobody here is likely to learn anything from it.......heard it all before I'm certain.   I just tried to bring together the best basic info along with the best pics into one article and add a bit of my own flavour to it and an intro to VC and why I think they're the best wink Sorry for any technical errors , if any.

Well the new timepiece has arrived and I thought I might as well make an attempt at a proper watch review. Hopefully someone will get something out of it as you could hardly pick a more difficult watch to summarise – this has been written gradually over a period of many weeks. It’ll also serve as a bit of a reference piece for me to refer to if need be. It’s a very long review so I’ve divided it into point form so any readers can skip the stuff they don’t want to read. The watch is a bit “love it or hate it” so maybe check the pics out before wasting your time wink   Before I start I’ll comment briefly on the photography. All except the last couple of photos of my watch have been externally sourced , either via people I know in VC circles or from the company itself. You will notice that the colour of the case and the look of the dial vary greatly depending on the angle and amount of light . That’s just the way it is with this watch – both the solid titanium case and especially the semi-transparent dial produce an amazing array of “faces” depending on the aspect. I can only assure you that all of these photos are of exactly the same model.   My Taste In Watches   Any review like this obviously reflects the taste of the author and is opinion only. I thought I’d state that in case any fanboys of other brands take offence. I’m an unabashed fan of VC and , to a lesser extent , Blancpain and JLC but anything I have to say about other brands etc... is never claimed as “fact” , just my observation.   The key for me is a combination of sleek, understated design that doesn’t attract too much attention and yet provides an interesting and luxurious experience. I have absolutely zero interest in the classic round gold dress watch and wearing suits is something done under sufferance. Therefore the watch must also be something that has a sporty or more aggressive edge to it than your classic dress watch , almost certainly a darker than average dial and something that speaks to me in terms of its design and materials.   “The Competition” and why Vacheron Constantin?:   Many watch buffs tend to defer to the idea of the Big 4 – the Big 3 Swiss watch brands (Vacheron Constantin, Patek Phillipe and Audermars Piguet) and the German – A Lange and Sohne. In terms of my taste I can eliminate a couple fairly quickly.   AL&S are undoubtedly a premier quality brand and really shook up the Swiss brands at one point – it wasn’t that long ago that they clearly led the field in terms of movement finish and arguably only Vacheron has caught up. They do have a black mark against them for going under financially and disappearing for a period but they have done well since being resurrected . On the whole I find their designs a bit too rigid and conservative and they don’t really have a sports watch as such. I do like a couple of versions of their Datograph if I was to ever relent and buy a dress watch , but on the whole they are just too conservative across the whole range.   AP have really done well in recent decades with their iconic sports watch the Royal Oak which really was the first genuine high end stainless steel “luxury sports”. They were also the first to use the exotic metals that I like so much like titanium and tantalum. Apart from the fact that I don’t like the industrial look of the Royal Oak and much prefer the VC Overseas , the brand in my eyes has become too much of a one trick pony, in that all anyone talks about is the Royal Oak and they persist with an endless array of mostly garish special editions of that one watch , usually with the high profile celebrity endorsement from Schumacher or whomever. I think their biggest plus is quickly becoming a negative.   Patek is the best competitor for VC and clearly has the best brand recognition and aura amongst the real high end brands. I’m not a fan of the company or their watches (they make little or nothing above 38mm for my big hands and are all but exclusively dress watches) but they have numerous things going for them:   - they were the first of the big 3 to move away from using “ebauches” (movement “kits” from other top manufactures like Jaeger le Coultre). Although Patek used ebauches just like AP and VC for a long time they have been pretty much 100% “in house” for quite some time . Many collectors view this as a big deal (me not so much) and it certainly adds an air of prestige. Vacheron is only now catching up and is approaching 60-70% “in house” to the best of my knowledge.   - they managed the big hit of the Quartz Revolution a lot better than the other main brands and emerged in much better shape in the 90’s compared to brands that , prior to quartz, had been considered equal or even superior (Vacheron).   - they are one of the few high end brands that remains independently owned, with the Stern family controlling the company since the Depression. Most others like Vacheron and JLC, AL&S ,whilst remaining fiercely independent, have been absorbed into larger groups.   - they have what is widely regarded as the best watch museum of its kind and actually bid up their own watches at auction to buy for their museum .     Aside from making top quality watches they have done an amazing marketing job and in many ways are the “rich man’s Rolex.” They’ve managed to perpetuate the idea, with great success, that a Patek is an investment (bidding up their own watches doesn’t hurt) and the ultimate status symbol. That sort of stuff doesn’t do anything for me, and the impression I get (disappearing up their own $%^# a bit LOL ) , turns me off.    Patek for me is certainly a great brand but just “not my cuppa tea.” Their “sporty” watches such as the Nautilus I struggle to consider sports watches but , in any case, I find them rather underwhelming to look at.     My Big 4 would be Vacheron Constantin, Jaeger le Countre, Blancpain and AL&S..     “Why Vacheron Constantin?”   Vacheron Constantin stands out for me as a company that has just about everything except perhaps image going for it. BTW if anyone is interested in the history of VC there is a great (hard to get) book that sits on my bookshelf called Secrets of Vacheron Constantin. It’s one of the nicest books I’ve seen on any topic .   QDI review   Vacheron were top of the pops right up to the 60/70’s but lost their mantle to Patek and have never really recovered the title. With the right marketing I think they might well do it again, but I’m happy enough for them to remain lesser known for the moment as I sort out my little collection . I once read an article that described Patek as the mature young king, Vacheron as the retired but still revered King Father and Audemars Piguet as the bright young price. Not sure about the AP reference – I think VC is reclaiming that ground as the agitator/ innovator- but I think that describes pretty well where Vacheron and Patek find themselves currently in the widely perceived pecking order.   Vacheron Constantin was formed in 1755 , 84 years before Patek, 120 years before Audemars and around 150 years before Rolex (then known as Wilsdorf Davis) so there’s no argument as to the brand history. Most of the major brands have innovations that they can claim – aside from having the “most complicated” and “most expensive” watch titles at various stages, for Vacheron it was being the first to produce interchangeable parts by machine in the mid 1800’s. Prior to that each watch was a one off that was essentially custom made. They have always had a great reputation for their classic dress watches such as the Patrimony , artistic innovation not seen in the more conservative brands such as Patek and are masters of skeletonization and movement finishing. One of the better examples of Vacheron’s innovative dress watches is the Toledo 1952 with its stepped lugs and domed square crystal.   QDI review   Yearly production figures are notoriously hard to get a hold of but as a rough guide Vacheron produces around 17,000-20,000 watches a year, Patek around 50,000 and Rolex around 800k to a million. So no issues with exclusivity. VC also have a dedicated custom watch service (Atelier Cabinotiers) that anyone can access and , in that regard, I believe it is unique amongst its peers.   It’s in the area of marketing that Vacheron excels in some areas and much less so in others. The big void from my point of view appears to be a lack of easy access to information on their watches via the website or other means..... it appears (via second hand opinion) that lack of information in regard to rarity etc... also affects their auction results and has caused a resultant drop in prestige and retained value in that area. Personally I don’t mind as I think it allows access to the brand at a better price point , but once I’m done buying they definitely need to lift their game! cheeky   On the whole though I get the impression that VC is in the early stages of a strong revival. Their subtle brand image appeals to me greatly and the quality, diversity and artistry within their range is “best in class”. I sense a real passion ,fun and energy within the company that is unlike any other within the “Big 4” and that’s also reflected in the way they welcome new customers. I have been pleasantly surprised by the “social media” side of the business and how quickly I have been welcomed into the “family” and have established good name basis relationships with people at the company and within the collecting community. Once the move to in house movements is completed in coming years then they’ll really be in a position to challenge for the throne once again.     The 2000’s and 250 years   Prior to the year 2000 , even though IMO Vacheron were more tastefully artistic and progressive than Patek ,they were still a bit on the conservative side for my liking and although they produced many watches I admire, there was really nothing that I’d be dying to wear.   In the period 2002-2005 however , leading up to their 250th anniversary , VC seemed to get a second wind and just blew the roof off with special editions displaying amazing artistry and creativity. That all three of my so-called “grail watches” have been produced in the 2002-2012 decade is no coincidence.   Some examples of their creativity in this period:   Les Masques :   QDI review     Tribute To The Great Explorers:   QDI review     The Sputnik:   QDI review  
And so finally we come to the main subject of this review...............   The Quai de L’ile (KAY-duh-LEEL) Date – titanium     QDI reviewQDI review  After the hot run of amazing special editions Vacheron Constantin shocked most observers outside of their inner sanctum with the release of the Quai de L’ile in 2008. It was the first of these special “new age” watches to be turned into a brand new line and was the first watch collection from VC to use exotic metals such as titanium and palladium as standard. It also debuted a vast array of technological and contemporary design features, the likes of which haven’t been seen from any other major high end brand and it really stands alone in its own category. It was certainly the most significant release from a major brand in 2008 and ruffled a few conservative feathers in the process, leaving it with a “love it or hate it” type response amongst the watch collecting community.   Everyone knows that I rate the Overseas as the ultimate dressy sport watch and I suppose this is my ultimate sporty dress watch LOL. And about as dressy as I get too.   The name represents the street on which VC has had its headquarters in the heart of Geneva since 1874. I’m not sure that the name does the style of the watch justice but that’s a minor point.     From here on in I’ll use the abbreviation “QDI” to refer to the watch,   The Case: The 41mm case (add another 10mm for lugs) of the QDI Date Titanium is a unique modular construction made up of nine pieces affixed to a titanium inner case. The pieces in question:   -lateral flank (3 o’clock side) -lateral flank (9 o’clock side) - lugs at top - lugs at bottom - inter lug piece at top -inter lug piece at bottom -support plate -bezel -crown     This serves not only to allow customisation of materials –something not seen before in such a high end watch collection - but also allows easy and relatively economical repair via replacement of a smaller part when the damage is beyond polishing out. There were around 400 possible combinations at launch with a choice of metals ( titanium, palladium, pink gold) for the case, bezel, flanks ,lugs and crown....along with a range of dials (dark, grey,light) ,multiple straps and clasps.     The lines of the case are quite aggressive in nature courtesy of the sharply defined lugs and what could’ve been a fairly standard circular case becomes something akin to a large tonneau shape. I think it’s the perfect combination of traditional watchmaking craftsmanship, dressiness and sporty aggression.   As an example of the modular design I have included a couple of comparable photos below – one in titanium and the other in rose gold/titanium.   QDI reviewQDI review   The QDI also has a sapphire case back allowing a good look at the exquisite detail of the movement.     A weakness of the case (perhaps to be expected with the modular construction) is the very limited water resistance at 30m (basically splash protection)– not a big deal for me but perhaps a little lacking for a watch with a sporty edge to it.     The Dial: The case of the QDI is brilliant but it is the eye catching semi-transparent sapphire dial that really sets it apart (note: my watch has the dark dial variant.) – along with the sapphire case back it really achieves its goal of highlighting the mainplate and workings of the movement from all angles in a unique way that creates depth effects and differing degrees of transparency and colour depending on the viewing angle and available light. Add to that a combination of dial engraving and metal deposition technology along with secure micro-printing, invisible UV markings and security inks associated more with banknote technology and it really is a case of “Where do I start?”. Thankfully I have some amazing photography from Paul Boutros to assist in displaying this extremely hard to photograph dial.   The reference to banknote technology is not a coincidence either. Not only was much of the specialised technology for the dials developed in consultation with a banknote printing company but a young artist by the name of Roger Pfund had major artistic input into the design too. Roger is an award winning designer of currency artwork whose credits include work on series’ of the French Franc and Euro , as well as the Swiss passport.   The base sapphire crystal dial is displayed below QDI review     The markings on the dial are not traditional in any way,shape or form , so we’ll take a quick look at each of the technologies used.   a) “Swiss Made” and “Automatic” are laser engraved into the dial with no filling.   b) “Vacheron Constantin Geneve” and some of the hour markers (1,2,4,5,7,8,10,11) are laser engraved with white ink filler.   c) The date numerals (1 through 31) are laser engraved with black ink filler.   d) The Maltese Cross logo and the 3,6,9 and 12 hour markets are applied to the dial using a complex process called “galvanic growth of nickel.” I think I’ll just quote Alex Ghotbi from VC here : “   Galvanic growth process is both time consuming and complex, the sapphire crystal is first bathed in ultrasound, it is then covered with a layer of chrome and subsequently a fine layer of gold is deposited on top of the chrome layer using a vacuum metallisation method. It is then coated with UV lights sensitive varnish. The varnish is exposed to UV light through a mask with the desired motif (3,6,9,12 and the Maltese cross). The crystal is then placed in a nickel plating bath where it undergoes electroplating. Under the effect of an electric current between the tank and the crystal the nickel sulfamate is transformed into metallic nickel and deposited on the contact surfaces between the crystal and the bath. After 10 hours of treatment the layer attains a thickness of around 200 microns. The nickel plated surface is then polished and colored (rhodium or gold) according to the required finish. “   e) The micro text that , at normal viewing distance, forms the white circle surrounding the date numerals is applied to the dial in a process called “metallization” which involves covering a surface with a fine metallic deposit, in this case white gold. It is also used to apply the “sun logo” seen at around 4.30 on the dial.   The micro text is a translated extract from a letter sent from Francois Constantin to his associate Mr JB Vacheron in 1819 – the extract contains a phrase that has long been the company’s motto (as highlighted in bold) :”With your able assistance, I promise you that we will make as much from watchmaking as all the commercial travellers together.... I assure you that we will be strong: our watchmaking is highly esteemed here, by continuing to do better if possible and that is always possible."   The sun is designed to represent a clock on the Tour de L’ile in Geneva that, at one time, served as a reference time for all the watchmakers in the Saint-Gervais district of Geneva.     Finally , “Security Transparent Film” is stuck to the underside of the sapphire dial which is marked in security inks with micro printing and UV sensitive invisible ink. On the movement side the security film has hundreds of tiny Maltese crosses in black ink – on the dial side the film displays a pattern of concentric circles that are said to represent the spiral of time and also serve to track seconds.   An invisible ink disc affixed to the back of the sun that can only be seen under UV light is another security feature of the dial.   QDI review

QDI review
  The Movement: The 2460QH movement is designed and manufactured in-house by Vacheron Constantin and carries the prestigious Geneva Seal (link to  http://www.vacheron-constantin.com/en2/hallmark ). I remember reading that a Geneva Seal movement can be expected to take 40% longer to finish than a more standard high end product. Hours,minutes and central seconds are displayed in the traditional manner , whilst the date has a unique display whereby a white disc/paddle rotates underneath the dial highlighting the relevant number as engraved on the dial. The movement in this watch is coated in ruthenium as is the rotor with its semi-circular ribs , which underneath is 22K gold.   QDI review   credit: vacheron-constantin.com   The Presentation: The presentation box with integrated display window and separate travel case + accessories developed for the QDI have gradually made there way across the various VC ranges. A USB stick with technical information and photos/ video presentation is included , as is a magnifying glass ,cleaning cloth and a unique passport that , in keeping with the technology used in the dial, includes many of the security features seen in a personal travel passport , along with the Geneva Hallmark certification. The security features seen in the passport include:   - UV markings in invisible ink - line engraving and offset printing in security inks - hot stamping in silver ink - latent imaging (image varies depending on viewing angle) - laser perforation - micro printing - transvision       Each watch comes with an alligator leather strap and a vulcanised rubber strap .         Conclusion + A Note on Solid Dials:   There are very few brands ,if any, that have managed to push the envelope so hard and yet still produce a product that is all class and maintains the important elements that have made the brand great for so long. I see Vacheron Constantin as a brand that is deeply bonded to its history but is managing a successful modernisation that is appealing to younger collectors such as myself , whilst offending as few of its existing collectors as possible smiley Brands such as Zenith, Blancpain etc(which I happen to rate quite highly for the most part)... have at times taken their more extreme/sporty lines way too far and cheapened the brand in the process IMHO. As an example the L-Evolution line from Blancpain , introduced one year later than the QDI in 2009 , has a remarkably similar case outline to the QDI (is it just me?) and has at times included things like mircroprinting and sapphire dials, but to my eye is mostly an example of a brand losing their way in the name of sportiness and celebrity. I would call the Blancpain a R-evolution (for the worse) and the QDI a genuine and successful evolution. Despite my misgivings I’d still rate Blancpain , along with JLC as my 2nd favourite brands.   Having said all of the above I can only assume that the reason for the introduction of the solid dials in the QDI was to appease some of the more conservative fans of the brand. To me they look rather bland in comparison and a bit of an afterthought.   QDI review     Not a great note to finish on , so let’s just say that I think the QDI Date with transparent dial(along with the sapphire case back) is my favourite modern watch on the market at the moment and the ideal blend of classical watchmaking and modern design. The security features are impressive but really not that necessary as no counterfeiter in his right mind would expect to make a copy of this watch and get it past anyone with half an eye. All in all a brilliant surprise from the people at Vacheron Constantin.     I would like to acknowledge the help and mentoring of the many good people on The Hour Lounge and Timezone , but in particular Alex Ghotbi, Paul Boutros, Bill (WHL) and Francois (Veillotron). Special thanks to Paul Boutros for permission to use his amazing photos.

Lastly a photo of my actual watch and a quick wrist shot

QDI reviewQDI review
WOW what a review! Bravo love your thought process and impressions and
11/20/2012 - 10:49
congrats on your Quai de l'Ile, my all time favorite VC collection! May it time only happy moments
Re: WOW what a review! Bravo love your thought process and impressions and
11/20/2012 - 11:13
Thanks Alex smiley   I think the only thing I'd change is the strap - just too short.  I'd consider my wrist medium size at best and I only have two holes and no "tail" to work with and it's annoyingly not quite long enough to fit into the strap holders. I've just realised I fell into the bad habit tick-talk mentioned re using the abbreviation "Vacheron" in my review blush  If there was an edit function I'd edit it .  I tried to use VC as much as possible but I think subconsciously when you're using the long hand you just get sick of typing "Vacheron Constantin". Forgive me Mr Talk angel
LOL, you're forgiven....once ;-)
11/20/2012 - 16:33
You could also balance the universal karma by using "Constantin" for shorthand enlightened.  Thanks very much for reminding us of the characteristics for this uniquely designed timepiece that really surprised the watch world when introduced; "THAT is a Vacheron Constantin?"  Yes indeed, not all stuffed shirts in this house, we also wear baggy shorts and skater shoes on occasion cool. Curious to learn if there is a long strap available; please keep us informed.  You may have a head-start on a future Hour Lounge watch too!  Reminds me of the great fun we all had using the design software on the website a while ago:
Wonderful Review
11/20/2012 - 11:56
Thanks and congratulations Brent.  The QDi is a favorite of mine and one of these days I will add one to my collection.  Your write-up, including your thoughts on the state of the indistry and the brand is excellent.
Congratulations Brent!
11/20/2012 - 16:17
A great review and some interesting comments on the industry. Your passion is shared by many here and we all welcome you as a true VC aficianado. Your watch is a real beauty and a great combination of art and scince (as watches should be laugh). Wear it in excellent health! Joseph
Sorry for the typos...
11/20/2012 - 16:18
"aficionado" and "science"
Congrats Brent!
11/20/2012 - 17:50
What a beautiful new VC and a very nice write up too! Wear it in the best of health and happiness. Makes me worried now that I may not stop at 1 VC too! :) As Alex had warned us before.... Cheers Robin Wong
11/21/2012 - 00:33
One day I get one. I hvae my specifications, written below to Alex. Mostly I want it in a classic size, around plus or minus 38 mm, I also would love one in steel, at last at the places where ALL my WG watches are marked , by cuffs and what most people don't think of, the suit. Evene the finest silk leaves marks, I noted. Only place to place WG is like on this Rolex, on the bezel ring! On the bracelet the two middle links are in WG, but they fast get more worn than the outer steel pieces! OTH, you only use a Rolex like any other everyday watch, so in that case it doesn't matter. But when it comes to a QDI,  you wear it in another way. Thanks for a very professional and interesting article, my friend! Cheers " The Wind Is Free " Doc