A very different view on the Quai de l'Ile

I stumbled on the following article on the Quai de l'Ile on abloogtoread.com. The author has a rather contrarian view on the Quai de l'Ile and I thought it might be of interest to the Loungers to read it. I agree with certain points and disagree on many but it is definately a witty article.

click here to read the original article


Do you recall thinking how dumb it was to combine a toaster oven and a radio? Perhaps it could have some conceivable space saving use; but really, What is the point? To prove it can be done? If you haven't heard of concept, it stems from the idea of unnecessary convergence products. You see combinations of products like this all the time, and sometimes they make more sense than others. Other times however, the whole idea is so repugnant both visually and in execution, that it just makes you upset. Not upset at the idea itself, that is all fun and games, but combining X and Y would be cool! Rather, what is disturbing is the notion that a dedicated group of otherwise intelligent people sat down for months designing, engineering, and executing a monstrosity. Having said that, the following is my perception and opinion of the new Vacheron Constanin Quai de l'Ile collection, which follows this theme.

It is important to state that for the most part, I really like Vacheron Constantin as a brand. They have been around a long time in one form or another, and release some really attractive watches for the high-market watch consumer world. I don't know what inspired them to create the Quai de l'Ile collection, but I hope it is damned to eternity.

Lets start off explaining what the collection is. And this might take a while. So if you feel the need to stop and say, "wait, why did they do that? That doesn't really make sense." You can do so. The watches combine three main things. Haute horologie with in-house movements, manufacturer customizable watches, and passports. There are two base movements to choose from. A standard three-hand model with the date, and a calendar model with a power reserve. Other than the fact that they are in-house Vacheron Constantin movements, there is nothing to be excited about here.

Next is the customization. Each watch has various pieces that are customizable, which Vacheron Constantin will do for the customer. You need to go to one of 100 points of purchases around the world to do this, which actually makes no sense as you just sit there and use a computer tablet to choose everything. You could just as easily do it from your home. But why do that when you can fly to Geneva to use their computer, and have a snobby "brand consultant" explain how people of your ilk lack the finger things in life? Other than engraving your name on the back of the watch, your choices are pretty simple. There are three different case materials (rose-gold, palladium, and titanium), which you can mix and match on the seven main pieces that make up the case. For the face, you have a few options, and of course there are various strap options. Vacheron Constantin likes to boast that there are over 400 possible combinations, which utterly does not excite me. As though the user is engaging in a total leap of personal creativity by making these simple decisions. I am not impressed. No matter what changes you make to the case, it still basically looks the same.

Actually, the Vacheron Constantin Quai de l'Ile watch case is quite attractive. It is the face which is ugly as sin. I don't know that the case really benefits too much from these options, but its not too bad as a base. The face on the other hand tries to be too much. It is cluttered without having much function, and the transparency makes it look confused and really not well designed. Part of this has to do with Vacheron Constantin trying to appeal to a less aged market, with a "sporty new look" (at which they failed), and the other reason for this has to do with the "security" features of the watch. Then again, I don't see any sport in the watch. I just see a lot of retro 50's design accents and sunbursts. The design of the semi-transparent face over the skeletonized movement looks like a snowy TV screen. It's just awful on the eyes. There is next to no elegance in the face or hands at all. Just look at those standard hands. Why would anyone pay upwards of $40,000 for such simple and uninteresting hands. What gives Vacheron Constantin?

am going to sum up what I feel about the customization in this watch by referring to the reason anyone spends a lot of money on a watch. Money well spent goes for a really nice design, created by a really good designer. No one is going to spend $20,000 plus for a watch designed by me, so why am I being asked to spend this (and a lot more) for a watch "customized by me." I pay good money for expert advice. I want a damn nice watch specially crafted to be that way, not a bunch of silly options like "titanium or rose gold?" You know what my response would be? "Whatever looks better, duh." Watches are like art, and I pay for artistic and engineering talent. Not some gimmicky way of making a watch more personalized. I like the rear engraving option, but there is nothing novel about that. Basically this whole customization thing really feels arbitrary and self defeating.

So the next part of the watch is the really weird part. The "passport angle." For whatever reason, Vacheron Constantin felt there was not enough "security" their watches. So they hired the same guy who designed the Swiss passport to "protect" the Quai de l'Ile. What does this mean? Basically you get a passport with the watch, that "cannot be copied!" You also get features in the watch face that make it really hard to duplicate, such as micro printing, patterns, and images only seen in special lights. Okay fine; Vacheron Constantin congratulations, you've made a passport and watch face that cannot be reproduced for the most part. What is next for you? Don't you see the mere novelty in this and practically no usefulness. It will be a cool thing for about 10 minutes. You store the watch passport away, and cannot even really see the security features on the watch anyway. It is just another gimmick. I thought people with this type of cash to burn on watches thought about these things? I get the concept, I really do. I am just not sold. But then again, there are those few times during your life when the watch needs servicing, and you'll send it to Vacheron Constantin who will certainly check for its authenticity!

am not going to spend a lot of time talking about the passport derived features of this watch. It is obvious that I don't care about them, and it adds no utility to this watch, nor does it make the watch look nicer. Just the opposite, and the watch looks like the terrible result of an argument between an engineer and an accountant paranoid people making knockoffs. All this time the designer is on vacation. Looking at this watch makes me think I am having vision problems! Trust me, I have seem the Quai de l'Ile watches in person, they don't look any better in reality than they do in pictures.

If you want to learn more about the whole watch passport that comes with the purchase, or the little watermarks and things on the watch that are hard to copy, go right ahead. It is all rather pointless to me to be honest. Who will want to copy this watch anyways? Ok, so you have a "personalized" watch, and you want to make sure no one copies it. It doesn't really look nice enough to copy in the first place. Next, the type of people that buy watches like this aren't going to get one off the street in China or on some knock off website. Like I have said before, the people who buy $200 fake watches are not the same people who could ever afford the real thing. So Vacheron Constantin isn't trying to protect a market. Maybe someone else can explain it to me, as this level of sophistication seems to be lost on me.

So what are we left with? A brand with a history of some really nice watches that in my opinion made a big mistake here. No doubt that the Quai de l'Ile watches will be high quality and decently put together. I don't deny that. What I cannot understand is where the real value is, where the appeal is, where the aesthetic is, and exactly who is interested in these watches. Vacheron Constantin remarks that they are attempting to target a younger market with the Quai de l'Ile, but I am part of the younger market and they threw a total air ball on me. But hey, you never know, these watches might become a hit. I'd find a lot more to like about them if the dial matched the grace of the case, or if the novelty features at least made me think, "cool" for more than millisecond. But they don't I am forced to shun this poor franken-watch in its lonely pursuit to find affection.
Yes, very witty, but....
10/23/2008 - 01:26
on some points the author is lacking an appreciation of the history of VC.  In fact, the idea of cutomizing the watch is totally in keeping with the huge variety of variants one finds in vintage V&C pieces, even under the same reference number.  To me, knowing that in the future there will be hundreds of QDI variations out there makes me smile, and keeps the tradition alive. Now, to the aesthetics.  He rightly points to the similarities of the case with "retro 50's" designs...another homage to tradition and one which I greatly appreciate.  The dial designs are the most transient features of the program and I look forward to many other designs to maintain customer interest in the future. I share his confusion on the whole concept behind the passport.  Counterfeit watches have always been easy to spot for those that spend the time to familiarize themselves before purchasing.  Does a star on the hood make a Trabant into a Mercedes?
Re: A very different view on the Quai de l'Ile
10/23/2008 - 02:21
Hi Alex, Thanks for posting this very interesting article. The author raises a number of interesting points and there are some with which I do agree. The article is a bit over the top but that's just the writers style. He does admit to the long history of VC but bases his argument on the functions of the watch primarily and the artistry secondarily. I certainly agree with the appeal of the case. It is an excellent design which combines aspects of tradition and modernity and I hope, like Dean, that they continue to use it in other watches. However, and I know this may sound a bit heretical, the appeal for me ends there. Although I think the design and implementation of the dial, crystal etc. is quite marvellous, I don't find it personally appealing. I agree with the author that it is far too busy and distracting. Its almost as if they took some concepts of Les Masques and went a little too far in the realisation. But, hey, that's me and you know I'm more of a traditionalist. As far as the anti-counterfeiting aspect is concerned: I think that VC as well as other manufacturers will need to incorporate these devices not just for the present but also for the future and that fact probably swayed them into including all those "doo-dads" on the watch and the whole passport concept. I think it could have been done a bit more elegantly though. Its a bit too much "in your face" for me. I don't buy the author's argument about the market appeal. There are plenty of people out there that want to look like they're wearing a $40k watch but only want to spend $400. So I think there will be attempts to produce QdI fakes. In fact, I'd put money on it! There is no doubt as to the superiority of the design. engineering and quality control and I do definitely admire those aspects, but I would prefer some other Vacheron models instead. My 2 cents worth. Joseph
Well, some will get "it" and some will not...
10/23/2008 - 04:38
just as some will like the Quai de l'Ile and others will not.  Personally, I love the watch but the passport has keft me scratching my head at times.  However, I am willing to take a wait and see approach with regards to the plans for the passport and its role in VC's product and marketing strategy. Cheers, Duncan
Re: A very different view on the Quai de l'Ile
10/23/2008 - 05:29
Gentlemen,    I am flattered to read your discussion over my article on the Vacheron Constantin Quai de l'Ile. It was with passion that I wrote the article, my intentions not being malicious, but rather observant toward a brand that I admire. For what is a brand without opinionated followers?    My points seem to be well taken by you, and I encourage the discourse. A few of you seem to be very hesitant to 'disagree" with Vacheron Constantin. Don't be. The best customers and fans "tell it like it is." You should not be expected to love it all. Do you love all art? You only can appreciate some art, when there is other art you patently don't like.    Before I wrote the article, I spent a good deal of time analyzing the watch from a practical and aesthetic standpoint. Which is what I encourage everyone to do. I don't know as much about the detailed history of Vacheron Constantin as many of you do, but I am familiar with most of their line currently, and over the past few years. Also realize that I am among the younger generation of watch lovers, so I have a different perspective that more established horological enthusiasts. Thank you again for the discourse and I look forward to more in the future. Best, Mr. Ariel AdamsaBlogtoRead.com watch blog
Ariel, you are correct when you say that
10/23/2008 - 13:04
a brand needs opinonated followers, that the best customers and fans are the ones that "tell it like it is".  I am very happy that Alex put your interesting article on the HL - I am always interested in hearing other people's views/perspectives (the world would be a boring place if everybody always agreed), and I quite enjoyed reading your work.   However, as Duncan said, to each his own. Like you, I am part of the younger generation of watch lovers (at least, I would like to think so), and the QdI speaks to me in such a unique way. I love the case which is IMO a modern reinterpretation of a vintage case, combined with this very modern dial. I agree with you that this is not a sport watch, but I am not sure this was VC's intend anyway (they do have the OS line as their sporty collection). Hard to categorize, but IMO it is an uber-cool and modern dress watch - I think Alex our moderator described it best by comparing it to Portishead's music... I do not find the dial too busy - especially for the Date/Time simple model. Definitely one of VC's best creations IMO. VC has been for most of its history an innovative brand, and I think that the release of the QdI is a continuation of this great tradition. On the passport, I don't know why people are making such a fuss about it. It's just part of the packaging and the whole marketing. I quite like it, as it is an original way of having a certificate of authenticity...  I do not doubt your passion one minute (why otherwise write the article?), and I was wondering which are your favorite models from VC? Cheers,  Francois
With regards to the suggestion that Quai de l'Ile is...
10/23/2008 - 14:37
a sports watch, I can only say that I have never heard anyone at VC categorize the watch as such.  In fact, I have heard them openly discuss that QDI is not a sports line. In this day and age of modern materials and contemporary designs, it is not accurate to automatically categorize a titanium watch as a sports watch.  That is a narrow view and one that fairly consider the evolution of haute horlogerie.  Let's not be bound by the ties of old-fashioned thinking and the norms of 10-20 years ago. As a point of reference, I am waiting on a high complication that will be cased in titanium.  It is most definitely not a sports watch. Just my two cents worth... Cheers, Duncan
another point I forgot to mention...
10/23/2008 - 19:57
for me, the ability to personalize the watch is the Ultimate in luxury. Giving the customer a choice is always a good thing IMO. Same for bespoke suits/shoes - apart from having them fit you like a glove, the great thing about these is being able to chose the tissue/leather that one prefers... My 2c. Francois
Ariel, unlike my fellow Loungers I openly admit I didn't enjoy...
10/23/2008 - 20:40
reading your write up on QdI. First, I didn't quite find your opinions witty in any way. But that's probably because I am a big fan of VC and QdI in general... I didn't find your opinions objective nor impartial at the least (although you claim to have spent an amount of time inspecting the watch) - but that's obvious because there is only one person that stands behind them and then again I am a big fan of VC and QdI... I didn't quite like the way you presented your views because you discredited a big number of people who stand behind the project at VC. I never try to judge other people's work in public. You did that without a second thought of possibly hurting those people's feelings... I think there are other polite ways to express one's opinions. But since you opened the discourse I am speaking my mind in the open. Still, you have every right to hold your opinions and are entitled to freely speak your mind. I do agree with Francois that the world would be boring without adversative opinions... And I do agree with Francois on most points presented by him - also being in the VC's younger audience! QdI speaks to me like no other watch at this point. This is all I could have expected from VC. Personalization is the coolest aspect of the whole concept. VC plays a market innovator here and whether you like it or not others will have to follow suit in one way or another...  I just love the watch and am getting one soon
Re: Ariel, unlike my fellow Loungers I openly admit I didn't enjoy...
10/28/2008 - 07:14
Gentlemen,   I am glad to have espoused such an intense conversation. A lot of good points have been raised, and I don't disagree with anyone save for one suggestion, that 'one should not judge other people's work in public' as suggested by Radek. Look, maybe this is a inherent difference between an American and European attitude, but when do we bite our tongues at an art show? The mere fact that an artist displays his or her work publically calls for productive criticism. Where is our cherished sense of independent thought? How little the world would change from eon to eon if people didn't display their dissatisfaction or thoughts publically.    When you are demanding what some people consider a fortune for a device that tells the time in a manner less capable than a $10 quartz movement based watch, you aren't selling a mere timepiece, you are selling art, a look, and a lifestyle. You should be so open to praise and critique that you should be begging for it.     Another gentleman here put it best, that if he likes 20% of what a brand offers, then he really likes the brand. You can still be the world's biggest fan of a company and still disagree with them. After they have put on their song and dance presentation before unveiling a new offering you should be able to shrug and say you aren't moved. I know this situation, I'd seen the who little game of showing a new watch, and waiting for the audience to gasp with impressed affection. You don't need to state "it stinks" if you don't like it, but you don't have to put on a fake smile and pretend to love it. All of us here are diehard watch lovers, and we each love different watches. We don't all have the same 10 watches. If we did, there would be no point in having forums such as this. I love that I can be so utterly moved by one watch, while feeling utter apathy or disdain for the next. As most of you pointed out, my feeling on the Vacheron Constantin QDI placed more emphasis on practical and logical consideration as opposed to, "I just don't like it." Further, to Radek who suggested that I had not experienced the watch personally, I have, I held it, I wore it, I saw it in action. To speak my mind, is a luxury and a gift. And to have fine and varied things such as watches to discuss, makes it all the better.      What Vacheron Constantin watches do I like? Well the Overseas is a great example of a classic sporty watch. Seeing it makes me feel as though I am experiencing a brand with decades upon decades of history, and so it is true with VC. The bezel, with its hearkening to the emblen of the brand is fine frame for a simple, yet elegant masculine watch. Also, while the use of platinum is exuberant at best, I like the platinum patrimony (and other all or mostly platinum watches) that Vacheron Constantin has to offer. I am amsued to see the lengths that VC took to have platinum in everything, even the stitching. It is a great looking watch, and if you have one, it will constantly make you chuckle at how wealthy you are. It is similar to having a gold toilet. Uncessary, but you can appreciate the hours of dedicated craftsmanship involved in making your wrist (or rear) something of legend.       Which brings one last point. Wealth. Some of us have it, and some do not. Though having it or lacking it does not seem to change our appreciate for fine things. If I were a man of great means, I might idly judge the watch, and appreciate its finger points while dismissing the extreneous elements. Passport to accompany the watch? Well it is uncessary, but it does make for fancier packaging. That is what a person to whom the 'investment' in this watch is minimal might think. And that is ok, but those people don't represent all of us. I am of the opinion that most people of means, got to that fortunate position, not by exuberant spending, but by cleverly assessing value, and finding a good deal. The idea is that while the passport feature is charming at best, it is highly uncessary, and something that represents little value (to me). It is worth the extra $5,000 - $10,000 premium that VC places on it? Not in my humble opinion. So when I spend my resources on a watch, I prefer to know that each monetary unit is going to a well appreciated facet of the watch and design. And for the rest of you, my sincere envy. :) Oh, and pardon any typos or mistakes in this reply, it was written in haste. Best, Ariel aBlogtoRead.com
Welcome Ariel, I look forward to more commentary! nt
10/23/2008 - 23:56
nt
One can't be expected to like all of a company's offerings.
10/24/2008 - 02:06
I would say that if I like 20% of a company's models that is a company that I like a lot. For most companies, the applicable percentage is 0%. I happen not to like the QdI, in part because I prefer a "classic" look and in part because I perceive the whole passport and customization thing as a pretext for charging more than the watch should cost based on purely horological considerations. Others may disagree, enjoying the modern look and perceiving more value than I do in the passport and customization features. I predict, however, that 30 years from now the QdI will not be among the most desirable vintage Vacherons . . . unless it sells so badly now that it ends up being truly rare. May we all be around in 30 years to see whether I was right.