Note: This is an article which I had first posted on ThePurists in January 2007. I have not made any changes to the original text but have added extra comments in italics.
Vacheron Constantin presents the Patrimony Contemporaine Bi-Retrograde Day / Date
Click on the photos for a larger image
The first time I saw the Patrimony Contemporaine Bi-Retrograde Day / Date, Steven Tyler’s voice screaming, I’m baaaack…I’m back in Saddle again echoed in my head! As in Aerosmith’s 1976 hit which slowly builds up to the drum beat and Joe Perry’s inimitable guitar riffs Vacheron seems to be slowly building up what may become one of the most exciting model ranges available from major manufactures: the Patrimony Contemporaine: an immediately recognisable VC style, elegance, flamboyance, manufacture movement and a je ne sais quoi lead me to be very very excited with not only the present but of what the future holds…
The lines of the Patrimony Contemporaine, launched in 2004, are an obvious nod to VC’s past and its gorgeous timepieces from the 50s. This year (note 2006) the Patrimony Contemporaine Automatique was launched housing the new automatic manufacture calibre 2450, a new family member shall be added early 2007 with the arrival if the Bi-Retrograde (note:this model was launched early 2007 in certain markets but has been available globally since May 2007).
Retrograde models are pretty much fashionable today and many brands offer a retrograde indication, but what is interesting to point out is that Vacheron Constantin was the very first to integrate a retrograde function in to a wrist watch and that was back in … 1933!
Vacheron Constantin perpetual calendar minute repeater from 1936
The Bi-Retrograde as its name specifies, indicates the day via a retrograde hand placed at the 6 o’clock position and the date via a hand on the upper part of the dial. Speaking of which, at the end of the Swiss watch fairs this year (note: Swiss fairs 2006) I asked a friend of mine who is a big collector with excellent knowledge and taste what he had thought of the 2006 vintage and his reply was without appeal: “Don’t they know how to make dials anymore?” How true, often we had seen amazing timepieces with sublime movements totally ruined by flat and lifeless dials.
Vacheron Constantin may not be known for watches which would knock you stone dead from complication indigestion but they sure know something about design and the dial of the Bi- Retrograde is a sight for sore eyes, it is slightly convex adding to its vivacity and presence. Furthermore its cream color marries well with the rose of the gold applied markers. 8 baton markers indicate the 5 minute increments whereas 3 beautifully arrow shaped appliques indicate the 15 minute increments and are placed at 3-6-9. Golden dots represent the minute markers.
The retrograde hands are of black polished steel and depending on the light they can look black, grey or brown giving an excellent effect.
At 11.30 PM the hands start moving to the next day/date, by midnight the day hand has made the next jump and by 12.10 AM the date indication has done the same. Both hands jump without quivering and place themselves exactly on the correct indication. This is even more true when the day and date hand has to move from Sunday to Monday and from 31 to one when they have to instantly go back to the starting position.
The date is printed on the periphery of the dial in a semi circle from 9-3 where the day indications are placed in a semi circle between 7-5. The overall impression is one of a harmonious equilibrium, a lot of thought has gone into the dial with each element perfectly occupying the space the retrograde indications is a pleasant break with the circularity of the time indication. What I particularly find pleasing is that no seconds hand disturbs the quietude of the dial.
The case as the name of the model also indicates is from the Patrimony Contemporaine range, at 42.5mm it may be a bit large (Personally I would have liked a 38mm case but a smaller case may have destroyed the dial’s equilibrium) but with its down turned lugs and smaller back (the case is somewhat bowl shaped) the watch sits perfectly on the wrist. Even though the case of the Patrimony models does not revolutionize case design it is perfectly made, it is both very sensuous and curvy but also masculine and modern with its rather thick bezel and strong lugs.
Note: This autumn, in celebration of Cortina’s anniversary (a historical VC retailer based in Singapore) a special 35 piece edition of the Bi Retrograde will be offered to the lucky Singaporean collectors. This model is in platinum with a gorgeous ruthenium dial. Absolutely lovely
Movement is the VC inhouse Caliber 2460 (bearing the Geneva Seal) which is based on calibre 2450 with a retrograde module. After having shown the movement to two different watchmakers (who do not work for Richemont) both lauded the quality of the visible finish of the movement which I must admit is top notch. VC has obviously decided to apply a much higher degree of finish to its in house movements and the bevelling, the circular graining and the immaculately applied Geneva waves have been done with great care and an obvious mind for details. It is interesting to note that the hacking mechanism is actually visible from the back. Last but not least the guillochage applied to the 22k rotor makes you want to take the watch off all the time just to look at it! One criticism I may have is the small size of the balance but this is purely aesthetical and does not have any adverse effect of the accuracy and timekeeping of the watch.
I was also very pleasantly surprised with the deployant buckle. How can one be surprised by a buckle you may ask? Well, here VC shows once again its attention to details, the centre of the double folding clasp is adorned with polished and brushed finish, furthermore the centre is adorned with a branch of the Maltese Cross for the best effect!
You may be wondering why I am so excited for such a simple watch which does not break any horological grounds. Well, that’s just it! It’s easy to get excited for über complications, world first or other record breaking timepieces whose price point would make it available only to a very privileged few. With the Patrimony Bi-Retrograde we have all of VC’s essence in one watch: a consistent design: classic yet with a twist, creativity, in house manufacture movement and as a whole a perfectly executed timepiece which you want to strap on your wrist as soon as you see it.
Note: With time I still love this piece and think it would look good in any collection. Aficionados seem to be thinking the same since the watch has been selling like hotcakes and there is a waiting period to receive the watch. Having tried it on again I really think it would be even more desirable had it been 40mm, but hey now that Vacheron Constantin’s bespoke ateliers are up that can become a reality!
Movement 2460G4, automatic mechanical
Stamped with the Poinçon de Genève
Height of movement 5.40 mm
Diameter of movement 25.60 mm (11½ lignes)
Jewels 27 rubies
Frequency 28,800 vibrations/hour
Power reserve Approx. 43 hours
Indications Hours, minutes, Date and day with flyback hands
Case 18 K pink gold 5N
42.50 mm in diameter
Sapphire glass with anti-reflective coating on one side, convex
Water–resistance, Tested at a pressure
of 3 atm (equivalent to 30 metres)
Dial Silver opaline, 48 « pearl » external minute-track,
Polished Maltese cross
Strap Brown Mississipiensis alligator leather, hand-stitched,saddle finish
Clasp Folding clasp in 18K pink gold 5N. Half Maltese cross