Vacheron Constantin has little to prove, given its hallowed history and position among the elite of watchmaking. But it is in its nature to keep exploring and innovating, and so the company continues to surprise.
“This is a very important year for Vacheron Constantin, as we are celebrating 260 years of uninterrupted history,” says CEO Juan-Carlos Torres. “Watches&Wonders visitors will be able to discover the ‘Most Complicated Watch’, incorporating new and unique complications, entirely created and designed by our master watchmakers over a period of eight years and commissioned by a collector.” The “Most Complicated Watch”, Reference 57260, is a double-dial, entirely original creation with 57 complications, including multiple calendars and a double retrograde rattrapante chronograph. Complications such as these, as well as being conceived, designed and manufactured from the ground up, need to be incorporated into the overall design of the watch. Even conventional complications have to be modified and a new movement created.
Noteworthy as a triumph of watchmaking is the Hebraic Perpetual Calendar, a complication which has not been done before. Complex mathematical calculations are presented in a logical, readable display. The Double Retrograde Rattrapante Chronograph is another first. It is visually bold and mechanically ingenious, read in the same way as a split-seconds chronograph, though the two hands never actually meet but operate on two separate scales on opposing sides of the dial. There are two register dials for the chronograph, counting each elapsed minute up to 60 minutes and each elapsed hour up to 12 hours so that events of up to 12 hours in duration can be accurately recorded.
Other features are the Westminster Chiming, Alarm and Special Night-Silence Feature; the latter is developed so that it does not chime between 10pm and 8am without needing to be manually set. It doesn’t end there: a digital world-time display, a double perpetual calendar and a fully visible armillary sphere tourbillon are also features of Ref 57260.
With so many complications, Ref 57260 has to offer ease of use. A three-position winding crown has a corresponding indication window on the caseband to show the position of the crown during winding or setting. A coaxial button in the crown controls the start/stop and return-to- zero functions of the double retrograde chronograph, and the push-button in the caseband at 11 o’clock activates and restarts the rattrapante chronograph function.
The watch is realised in polished 18ct white gold with glazed bezels, and the lines are clean and elegant. Even the alarm winding crown is flush-fit in the caseband. There are dials on each side with rotating discs for display. The hours, minutes and seconds are shown on separate chapter rings. Vacheron Constantin craftsmen will be in Hong Kong to demonstrate their work at Watches&Wonders, giving visitors the chance to explore the many complications of Ref 57260.
How does Vacheron Constantin marry this spirit of innovation with respect for tradition? Torres says: “Vacheron Constantin is proud to be the oldest manufacture in continuous production, thanks to its founding values, supported and transmitted through four centuries, dedicated to the same commitment to high watchmaking excellence.
“This long heritage is not only a great source of inspiration for our timepieces, but also installs Vacheron Constantin as a key player in the Genevan and Swiss watchmaking history up to the present time.
“Rich in this expertise, our watches are timeless and beyond fashion.” The introduction of Historiques Cornes de Vache 1955 (pictured above) is a case in point. It is a contemporary interpretation of a 1955 original from the brand’s creative archives, complete with the famous cowhorn-shaped lugs. The new watch is housed in a 38.5mm platinum case and powered by hand-wound Calibre 1142. The original was the maison’s first water-resistant and antimagnetic chronograph.
The CEO says the maison has a lot more to offer at Watches&Wonders. “We started this anniversary year by presenting our anniversary collection, Harmony, with the first seven models, issued in limited editions – contemporary timepieces featuring a new cushion shape and a design inspired by one of the brand’s first wristwatch chronographs introduced in 1928.” Harmony includes a new chronograph model for women. “We noticed a growing interest for feminine mechanical watches, and this is a worldwide trend that is to continue. “We will also present a new collection dedicated to women: Heures Créatives. These models engage three emblematic artistic periods: art nouveau, art deco and the 1970s.”
This is a jewellery collection of exquisite 18ct white gold watches set with diamonds: Heure Romantique, Heure Discrète and Heure Audacieuse, all powered by the mechanical hand-wound movement Calibre 1055. Heure Romantique embodies the organic, swirling shapes of art nouveau, a period in which decoration was all-important – and romantic. In 18ct white gold, Heure Romantique is embellished with 104 round-cut diamonds and has a mother-of-pearl dial. In true belle epoque style – this is a reinterpretation of a 1916 model. On the fully diamond-paved version, 621 diamonds grace the dial, case and link bracelet.
Heure Discrète celebrates art deco’s clean linesfrom the 1920s, marking the emergence of the modern woman. It is based on a fan, with 286 diamonds set in white gold, which can be pivoted to reveal a mother-of-pearl window with the hands. Heure Audacieuse evokes the 1970s and its liberated women. It is a cuff watch in which the buckle is the case, with the entire surface of white gold covered in diamonds of different sizes. A precious version is invisibly set with 172 baguette diamonds.
The maison has a long history of engagement with Asia, and Watches&Wonders provides the opportunity to meet customers. Torres says: “Our long tradition with Asia started back in 1845, when the first Vacheron Constantin timepieces were sent over to China. We have continued to serve the Asia-Pacific region, and this long-lasting history allows us to see the future.”