a review of the Quai de l'Ile Retrograde Annual Calendar

As you probably all know by now I’m a HUGE fan of the Quai de l’Ile which is not only my favorite VC collection but also one of my watches which gets the most wrist time. 

a review of the Quai de l'Ile Retrograde Annual Calendar
my QDI day/date


In an article I had written back in 2008 this is what I said:

Like Queen’s 1975 hit single Vacheron Constantin’s Quai de l’Ile uses complex construction elements, apparently non-related to each other and never merged before to create a perfect whole, and as the music video of Bohemian Rhapsody established the visual language of modern music video clips, the Quai de l’Ile will certainly establish what 21st century Haute Horlogerie will look like.

The Quai de l’Ile (QDI) is Vacheron Cosntantin’s first new collection in 8 years, since the launch of the Malte line in 2000…and what a collection! Definitely worth the wait: modern, dynamic, youthful, alternative and yet everything you could expect from the world’s oldest and one of the most prestigious manufactures.
Two years later I wouldn’t change a single word. 2011 will see the launch of new Quai de l’Ile models one of them being the Retrograde Annual Calendar which I got to wear for a week and here’s a short review.

Some history 
Vacheron Cosntantin’s 250th anniversary in 2005 was a form of catharsis; with the models presented, the brand squeezed in 250 years of savoir faire and paid tribute to its rich history. It also freed its creative spirit and enabled it to focus no longer on its past but on what its future should look like.

Starting January 2006, the design team set to work with the following criteria in mind: non-round and non-tonneau case with powerful character, modern without being gimmicky, transparency and a strong identity. The goal was also to find a way to showcase the wonderful underdial finishing of the brand’s new in-house automatic calibers in a modern manner with open dials and using a very specific treatment highlighting certain areas of the movement

150 sketches and a year and a half later the Quai de l’Ile was born!

Launched in 2008 it was considered a wild step for VC with the extremely modern case and dial mix also a first in the fine horology world: the possibility of personalizing the case and dial due to the “Lego” style construction of the case gave the owner a choice between palladium, titanium and rose gold.


A brand new calibre 
This new Quai de l’Ile houses the automatic in-house Calibre 2460, for which the watchmakers and engineers at VC have developed an Annual Calendar complication featuring a moonphase indicator on top of which is placed the seconds hand on the left side of the dial. The month indication is on the lower side and the date is indicated via a retrograde hand which takes up a large part of the right hand side of the dial thus explaining the ex-centered moonphase and month indications. 

a review of the Quai de l'Ile Retrograde Annual Calendar

a review of the Quai de l'Ile Retrograde Annual Calendar

a review of the Quai de l'Ile Retrograde Annual Calendar

a review of the Quai de l'Ile Retrograde Annual Calendar


Case 
The case of the Annual Calendar is 2 mm wider than its QDI siblings (43 mm vs 41mm) due to the fact that more space was needed for the date indication. 

Quai de l'Ile Annual Calendar

a review of the Quai de l'Ile Retrograde Annual Calendar

a review of the Quai de l'Ile Retrograde Annual Calendar

Quai de l'Ile Annual Calendar

The 43 mm cushion-shaped case is extremely Art Deco-inspired and yet very contemporary in its construction. It is made up of 10 parts, 7 of which make up the middle. All these parts are fixed to a titanium inner case which serves as a classical movement ring used to fix the movement in the case and it also provides the water resistance of the watch. The crystal and back as well as their respective gaskets are screwed directly to the inner case.

These parts create the possibilities for personalization. The Quai de l’Ile Annual Calendar will be offered in rose gold, white gold and rose gold with white gold flanks and bezel. The owner can however go deeper in the personalization process if he/she wishes. 

Quai de l'Ile Annual Calendar

Quai de l'Ile Annual Calendar


I’m a sucker for the QDI case; it is not just a cushion shape, but a concentration of subtlety and details mixing straight edges and voluptuous curves, brushed and polished surfaces which reflect the light at different angles. 


a review of the Quai de l'Ile Retrograde Annual Calendar

Quai de l'Ile Annual Calendar


Dial 
This is where I have a dilemma.

Vacheron Constantin offers the new QDI with a full dial which is far from being classical with its multi-layered construction consisting of a raised outer ring and satin-brushed inner circle with satin (but non-brushed) raised subdials and date arch, giving the impression of an industrial post-modern look. The dial also features 12 applied Arabic numerals and 6 baton markers with beautifully brushed surfaces and polished sides which provide a fascinating contrast. 

a review of the Quai de l'Ile Retrograde Annual Calendar

Quai de l'Ile Annual Calendar

a review of the Quai de l'Ile Retrograde Annual Calendar


I love the highly-engineered transparent dials of the original Quai de l’Ile models but many commented on legibility issues and a full dial will certainly please many, even though for me this tones down the edge of the original dials.

Currently two dial variations are offered opaline and slate grey, the latter being my favourite as I find it more daring (and the one I got to wear for a week). 

Quai de l'Ile Annual Calendar

a review of the Quai de l'Ile Retrograde Annual Calendar

a review of the Quai de l'Ile Retrograde Annual Calendar


Functions

Moonphase:
I didn’t like it at the beginning as I found it too bland, but then I had a look at what VC offered and think any other choice would have been too classical and not fit with the overall look of the watch. The moon looks quite industrial and goes well with the design of the watch but a more life like moon depiction may have looked nicer.

Subseconds: The hand is placed atop the moonphase display but I find it too short, this is particularly visible when it moves above the moonphase display. 

a review of the Quai de l'Ile Retrograde Annual Calendar

Month subdial: It is placed slightly to the left of the 6 o’clock position with one out of two months indicated via abbreviations (Dec, Feb, Apr etc…) and the missing month indicated by a black stroke. Here I also find the indicator hand too short and it would have looked much better had it been slightly longer. 

Quai de l'Ile Annual Calendar

Day indication (or rather lack thereof): This is a missing feature that some commented on but it really doesn’t bother me and I can’t quite imagine where this indication could be placed without cluttering the dial. I guess the choice was having day indicator or a retrograde date and for me the retrograde function wins hands down.

Date: The retrograde date indication may seem complicated to read since only 1 out of 3 dates are indicated, (ex: 25 followed by two strikes for 26 and 27 then 28 indicated in full numerals ) nevertheless, after a day or two you get used to it and reading the date becomes simple. 

a review of the Quai de l'Ile Retrograde Annual Calendar

Conclusion 
I am totally biased to the QDI because it is everything I like in contemporary watchmaking: beautiful modern design, cutting edge technology merged with good old watchmaking! Vacheron Constantin proves here that traditional watchmaking is still alive and that to be modern you don’t have to forego what makes a high end watch stand out: a perfect mix of design and technique and impeccable movement finish. No use of weird dental hygiene metals, PVD overkill or organic design gimmicks in this baby!

As for the new Quai de l’Ile Annual Calendar, I find it to be a great watch with a useful complication (I’m a sucker for retrograde displays so that’s a big plus in my book), great looks, the Quai de l’Ile presence and a fantastically-finished movement but –and there is a but- the full dial lacks the twist and visually innovative character of the transparent models, but hey what the hell do I know? Supposedly the few retailers who saw the watch swiped out their check books with the certainty of those who know they are betting on the right horse… and anyway, as they say, de gustibus non disputandum est.

Vultus est index animi!
12/22/2010 - 17:22
Or the horological equivalent being the dial reveals the soul of the watch .  Wonderful review and photos Alex .   Just as I'm hoping the trend for large watches is over, VC launches a more rotund version of the QdI...and that to accomodate design elements which IMHO aren't as successful as they might have been.  MGM's version still rocks: click here to see the post.
Thanks for the early review
12/23/2010 - 02:25
I look forward to spending more time with this model (And I suspect we'll see dials on the the other, older QDI designs in the near future). Count me as one who really likes the sapphire dials and thought they are part of the essential DNA of the QDI, so I'm a little disappointed that it isn't part of this watch. I can also see how the annual calendar indications would be hard to read with such a dial, so I understand the need to go with a solid dial. It is attractive in and of itself. When I posted a photo of the watch on a different forum the reception was rather cool. I suspect people will warm up to it in time. Bill
If I were ever able to affort a complicated watch - again...
12/23/2010 - 18:22
This beautiful time-peice would be the one! At least I have some shot a reading it's dials. Miki
No surprises here, Alex - it's a super choice!
12/23/2010 - 20:32
A stunning watch nicely underpinned by your superb article and great scans. I reckon you might choose to wear the QDI on Christmas Day? Have a wonderful holiday and thank you again for making the HL forum such an inviting place to visit. See you in the New Year! Warmest best wishes, Tony
Thanks for the review Alex
12/24/2010 - 10:35
The white gold version looks really awesome! I love the gray dials VC have been using lately. Thank you for the good work with the lounge that you do Alex and I wish you a merry christmas! Martin