As the world's oldest watchmaker, Vacheron Constantin faces high expectations from its admirers and competitors. With this year's record-breaking ultra-thin pieces, a Japanese lacquer addition to the Metiers d'Art collection and the introduction of three complicated models in platinum, the brand more than delivers in response to demands. This year marks the 55th anniversary of Vacheron Constantin's Calibre 1003 which, with a thickness of 1.64mm, is still the world's thinnest mechanical manual-winding movement on the market. The movement was first launched in 1955 to equip three round watches, which became the world's thinnest watches at the time, measuring 4.54mm. Vacheron Constantin reinterpreted one of those three watches this year to case the Calibre 1003. This new timepiece, the Historique Ultra-fine 1955, has now set the record for the world's thinnest hand-wound watch at 4.10mm thick. To make 2010 a tribute year to the brand's success with ultra-thin timepieces over the years, Vacheron Constantin, founded in 1755, released another reinterpretation of a decades-old ultra-thin watch. Production of the ultra-thin self-winding Calibre 1120 began in 1967 and the movement was housed in a square-shaped model from 1968. The new model released this year is equipped with the same movement, but now with a water resistance of three bars and a Maltese Cross which decorates an oscillating weight which gives a power reserve of about 40 hours. Even with these new additions, the new Historique Ultra-fine 1968 is no thicker than its predecessor, and is in fact even thinner, measuring 5.50mm compared with the original 6.52mm. Christian Selmoni, product marketing director at Vacheron Constantin, says that the Ultra-fine 1968 is his favourite novelty this year. 'Over the last few years we have seen so many big watches,' he says. 'While they are very easy to read, I think people are getting bored.' Some watchmakers think of ultra-thin movements as a complication in itself, given the technical skill needed to craft such a small mechanism. Selmoni says that the brand will continue to focus on and develop its technical expertise but that, as one can see with the brand's Metiers d'Art line, 'there is always room at Vacheron Constantin for creativity and beauty'. The Metiers d'Art line began in 2004 with the Tribute to Great Explorers collection, which showcased the collaboration between master enamellers and the brand's expert watchmakers. This year, Vacheron Constantin looks to the traditional art of Japanese lacquer, travelling to the former imperial capital, Kyoto, to work with master lacquer artists from Z?hiko, a Japanese lacquer company founded in 1661. A specific lacquer technique called maki-e is employed for La Symbolique des Laques collection. Maki-e means 'sprinkled picture' and the technique involves sprinkling gold or silver dust over a wet, freshly lacquered surface. Selmoni says that Zohiko's long history and expertise in the art form is the main reason Vacheron Constantin decided to establish a collaboration with them. 'The maki-e technique practised at Zohiko has a very long tradition,' he says. 'We asked the masters to use their traditional maki-e technique and simply adapt it to our watchmaking.' The full La Symbolique des Laques collection will be released over three years, with a new set of three watches launched each year in a limited edition of 20. The record-breaking Calibre 1003 is used to equip the collection and, for these models Vacheron Constantin uses a skeletonised version of the movement, crafted in white gold. A ruthenium treatment is used to tone down the radiance of the gold so as to highlight the maki-e craftsmanship. The theme of this year's set is Saikan no sanyu - 'The Three Friends of Winter'. The three friends, namely the pine tree, bamboo and plum tree are particularly resistant to cold temperatures and, as such, are symbols of longevity. The idea of three trees weathering harsh winter months is meant to be a metaphor for the importance of loyalty and friendship during hard times. Each of the three trees is paired with a bird. For 'The Pine Tree and Crane Watch' - Matsu to tsuru - the hardy and long-living pine is paired with the white crane, its colour an indication of old age. The bamboo matches the sparrow for its vitality in the Take to suzume model, and the plum tree is paired with the nightingale in the Ume to uguisu model for their welcome of spring's arrival, one through its flowering and the other through its song. Vacheron Constantin also launched three novelties within their Patrimony Traditionnelle collection this year, casing each of these models in platinum. The brand chose platinum for its purity and quality. The metal is 95 per cent pure, compared with the 75 per cent purity of 18k gold. Its rarity is also 30 times that of gold, and the hardness of platinum means that it makes for an exceptionally resistant watch case. The three platinum timepieces released this year are the 'Calibre 2253', 'Calibre 2755' and Chronograph Perpetual Calendar 'Calibre 1141QP' models. The Calibre 2253 is a grand complication watch limited to only 10 pieces. Astronomical complications include sunrise and sunset times, an equation of time display and a perpetual calendar. The watch is fitted with a tourbillon escapement. What is particularly notable about the model is its power reserve of 336 hours, or 14 days. Minute repeater enthusiasts will appreciate the centripetal governor device in the Calibre 2755 model. The governor steadies the hammer's striking rate and, in contrast to traditional strike regulators, is completely silent. The model also features a tourbillon and perpetual calendar. The Chronograph Perpetual Calendar 'Calibre 1141QP' is equipped with a hand-wound movement that drives the watch's chronograph and perpetual calendar. The watch has a power reserve of about 48 hours, and features a small seconds dial on the left, central chronograph seconds, a 30-minute chronograph counter on the right and a moonphase display along with date hands at six o'clock. Days, months and leap years are displayed in apertures around the dial.