Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Vacheron Constantin: Past Master

Vacheron Constantin has been at the vanguard of mechanical watchmaking since 1755 — and it intends to stay there.

Vacheron Constantin can take pride in something that is true of only a handful of Swiss watchmakers: It has managed to thrive for centuries without growing old-fashioned. Since 1755, the Geneva-based manufacture has produced timepieces of exceptional quality and delivered them to kings, queens, celebrities, captains of industry and connoisseurs. And yet the revered maison remains at the forefront of innovation in terms of both style and substance. For proof, look to its highly sought-after mechanical watches, whose extraordinary technical features, contemporary design codes, and Hallmark of Geneva certification ensure that the brand lives up to its remarkable historic reputation.

Caliber 1120 QP

Platinum Status
Few wristwatches reflect Vacheron Constantin’s capabilities better than the Patrimony Perpetual Calendar Collection Excellence Platine, which was unveiled earlier this year in Geneva. As the newest model to join the watchmaker’s flagship Patrimony collection, the timepiece is the embodiment of classic horology.

Whereas simple calendars need to be manually corrected after every month with fewer than 31 days, the perpetual calendar keeps ticking, as its name suggests, in (virtual) perpetuity. Beloved by watch aficionados, the complication allows for the watch to display the correct date, including leap years, until March 1, 2100. The technical know-how required to keep track of minute irregularities in the calendar is matched only by the expertise it takes to miniaturize the movement so that it remains ultra-thin, slimness being a signature feature of Vacheron Constantin’s timepieces.

The model’s 41mm platinum case houses an automatic winding movement (caliber 1120 QP) that bears an exceedingly slender profile; just 4.05mm thick. The dial, meanwhile, contains a wealth of information — date counter, moon phase, day of the week, plus a 48-month display with a leap year indication — without sacrificing the clean and sophisticated styling for which Vacheron is known.

Patrimony 42mm

Big Time
Even though the Patrimony collection remains Vacheron Constantin’s iconic line of dress watches, the brand recently endowed three of its models with a more generous 42mm case.

The minimalist aesthetic of the new Patrimony timepieces — which come in platinum, white gold, or rose gold editions — mixes taut lines with gentle curves to create a pleasing and powerful design statement. The dials — slate-colored in the platinum version and silver opaline in the gold versions — are simple and understated. A small seconds subdial is the watch’s lone concession to ornamentation.

The Patrimony 42mm is equipped with a sapphire crystal caseback that reveals the watch’s hand-wound movement, which was designed, developed and built entirely in-house as part of the watchmaker’s strict manufacturing process.

Patrimony Small Model

Refined Romance
For its new Patrimony Small Model, Vacheron Constantin opted to take the opposite tack. Instead of boosting the watch’s diameter, the watchmaker designed a compact 36mm timepiece that’s ideal for smaller wrists.

Equipped with an automatic movement certified by the Hallmark of Geneva, the streamlined watch measures just 8.1mm thick. Its silver opaline dial features an aperture-type date display and a central seconds hand, as well as long applied hour markers. Available on a white or rose gold bracelet, the Patrimony Small Model is the perfect timepiece to wear every day. Understated and classic looking, it blends seamlessly with office attire, and yet, when paired with an evening wardrobe, it easily transitions into night.

Global Ambition
If the Patrimony collection represents Vacheron Constantin’s refined and serious side, the Overseas collection reflects its sportier and more robust persona. Introduced in 1996, the Overseas model borrowed some of its design elements from the legendary “222,” a sport watch fitted with a screwed-down bezel and caseback that was presented in 1977 to honor the watchmaker’s 222nd anniversary (the 222 was itself derived from Vacheron’s steel form watches of the 1930s.)

Overseas World Time

With world travel as its guiding inspiration, the Overseas has remained a touchstone for the brand for the past two decades. Reinvented earlier this year, the collection now includes the handsome Overseas World Time, a model that displays 37 time zones on the dial — even those offset by a quirky quarter-hour (such as Nepal.)

Encased in steel and boasting three dial variations — translucent blue, silver-toned, or brown lacquer — the World Time model, with its iconic six-sided bezel, features a Lambert projection map depicting the continents and oceans, as well as a translucent lacquered disc marked with city names. A sapphire overlay uses subtly graded smoky tints to indicate day/night hours, while a translucent and lacquered outer ring shows the hours and minutes.

Developed and manufactured entirely in house according to the strict guidelines of the Hallmark of Geneva, the World Time is powered by an automatic movement that carries a 40-hour power reserve. Interestingly, the model achieved a high rating of anti-magnetism (it is protected up to 25,000 A/m) while maintaining a sapphire crystal back. The watch is fitted with an interchangeable strap system that includes a stainless steel bracelet, an alligator leather strap and a rubber strap.

Overseas Small Model

Small Wonder
For jetsetters with a strong sense of style, the Overseas Small Model features all the signature touches of the collection — from the gold luminescent faceted hands and hour markers to the Maltese Cross emblem on its bracelet. It addition, it includes 84 round-cut diamonds, totaling more than one carat, that decorate the six-sided bezel.

Available in either stainless steel or rose gold with three dial variations — rosy beige, blue or brown — the model’s 37mm case houses a new in-house automatic movement with a 48-hour power reserve. Visible through the sapphire caseback is a 22k gold oscillating weight decorated with a wind rose. Like all watches in the Overseas collection, the Small Model is sold with three interchangeable bracelet and strap options. And like all of Vacheron Constantin’s mechanical timepieces, it bears the prestigious Hallmark of Geneva.

All of which is by way of saying that even as the firm is now entering its 27th decade of continuous operation, make no mistake: Vacheron Constantin is, and will remain, a paragon of contemporary watchmaking.

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