In september 2015 Vacheron Constantin presented the ref 57260, with 57 complications it was and remains the world's most complicated watch ever made.
However there were questions whether we would see certain complications found in this überwatch in wristwatch format.
Well here is the first spinoff with the use of an armilliary tourbillon
In fact this Maitre Cabinotier is a unique piece with a dual retrograde time display and a double axis spherical tourbillon, inspired by French chronometry of the 18th century yet made with 21st century watchmaking in mind and the use of new avant garde techniques.
The movement coated with NAC (a special metal alloy) is also revealed through lateral windows of the impressive 45.7mm 18K white gold case flanks (the case measures 20.6mm thick but includes the domed crystal)
Before delving deeper into the amazing technical feat of Cal 1990 let's just step back and savour what vacheron Constantin has done: A superb timepiece, viciously cool in looks and with such audacity that we rarely expect from these venerable Geneva based brands. Vacheron Constantin has given its vision of 21st century Haute Horlogerie and the result is nothing short of astounding.
Double retrograde system
The manually wound calibre 1990 movement developed and manufactured by Vacheron Constantin features retrograde hours and minutes indications with instant flyback. The hands flick back to zero in high speed and to have them as lightweight as possible they are crafted in titanium.
The elegantly structured tourbillon operates as a sphere perpetually rotating on two axes under a sapphire crystal dome at 9 o'clock. It’s called an armillary tourbillon because it is based on an armillary sphere like the one incorporated in an astronomic clock made by the French clockmaker, Antide Janvier, in the 18th century. The tourbillon is a visual evocation of the rings and hoops of the ancient model of the celestial sphere. The spherical balance spring, which was first developed by Jacques-Frédéric Houriet in 1814, is particularly rare in today’s watches. The shape ensures the concentric development of the spring and consequently the isochronism of the balance wheel. The tourbillon carriage, made of lightweight aluminium alloy, incorporates Vacheron Constantin’s Maltese Cross emblem, which forms up every 15 seconds as the tourbillon rotates. This ongoing spectacle may be admired every 30 seconds through a sapphire crystal opening on the side of the case.
As fascinating as it is for its action and construction, the armillary tourbillon achieves remarkable timekeeping precision. It is fitted with a new type of escapement, developed and made by Vacheron Constantin that has the escape wheel and lever in silicon with diamond pallet stones for resistance to wear and long life. The escapement, made as lightweight as possible by the use of high-tech materials, contributes significantly to the performance of this watch, which greatly exceeds the COSC requirements. This level of precision is all the more noteworthy considering the large amount of energy absorbed by the double retrograde indications.
Contemporary styling and finish
Another feature that makes the Maître Cabinotier retrograde armillary tourbillon watch original is the modern styling applied to the architecture and finish of the movement. The calibre 1990 is electro-plated with an NAC treatment in a dark anthracite colour creating a mirror-polished effect. On the dial side the movement displays its modern architecture with sharply cut bridges tempered by a sunburst satin finish and Geneva stripes. The back presents a more conventional look, finished with Geneva stripes making an elegant counterpoint to the contemporary face of this unparalleled watch in the Vacheron Constantin collection. The painstaking work of chamfering all the angles took more than 130 hours!!
The indications are shown on two dials that partially cover the baseplate so as to reveal the outlines and contemporary finish of the movement. On the right, the retrograde minutes and hours hands describe a semicircle over a sunburst satin finish punctuated by applied white-gold hour markers and a black minutes scale. Placed symmetrically, the tourbillon carriage carries the seconds pointer around a scale on a silvered disc.
Four patents are pending for the Calibre 1990
1. The instantaneous retrograde system
The minutes cam alone determines when the hands for the minutes and the hours fly back. The retrograde action of both hands is thus synchronised at noon and at midnight.
2. The collet
The collet fixing the spring to the balance staff is made in lightweight titanium to improve the isochronism of the balance. Titanium’s weight and volume match those of the other materials in the regulating organ, making the collet ideal for use in a tourbillon.
3. The multi-carriage tourbillon
The tourbillion is made up of two carriages, one inside the other. As they rotate they form a Maltese Cross every 15 seconds. The tourbillon has a Vacheron escapement and sprung balance. The escape wheel is made of silicon with a diamond-like coating, while the diamond pallet stones have a very low coefficient of friction.
4. The lever
The silicon lever can be fitted with movable pallet stones so that the watchmaker can adjust them as in a conventional pallet lever. The diamond coating of the lever makes it stronger and more resistant to wear, while the friction between the fork and impulse pin is markedly reduced.
Technical data for Calibre 1990
35 mm (15’’’ ¾) diameter, 10 mm thick
Approximately 65 hours of power reserve
2.5 Hz (18,000 vibrations/hour)