The year 1956 was a good one. My Fair Lady opened on Broadway and Elvis had his first hit. IBM came up with the first hard disk and the polio vaccine was created. In 1956, Vacheron Constantin broke new
ground in watch design with reference 6073, demonstrating that bold creativity could combine beautifully with traditional classicism.
This year is another good year for Vacheron Constantin and its many adherents. SIHH 2018 saw the introduction of FiftySix, a collection that salutes reference 6073. This collection could well be the entrée into the brand for a younger clientele who may have found the image of the oldest of Geneva’s watchmakers a little intimidating.
CEO Louis Ferla acknowledges that Vacheron Constantin has always been a “maison for connoisseurs”. Just one year into the job, Ferla says: “We needed a collection which was a little bit younger and this is what we are doing with the FiftySix. We propose more ‘mid-complication’ in the day-date with power reserve indicator both in steel and in gold, and the complete calendar also in steel or gold. We have one three-hand reference which is a little simpler, but they all have a lot
This “simpler” model has hours, minutes, central seconds, date aperture with stop-seconds and the highest level of finishing with very fine detail.
The influence of the Maltese Cross, symbol of Vacheron Constantin, is subtle but unmistakeable. The lugs of the case are inspired by the branches of the Cross. The open-work oscillating weight in polished and satin-brushed 22ct gold has a Maltese Cross applique and a frosted-snailed finish.
In a number of ways, this is a collection of firsts, in addition to the oscillating weight created for the collection. The crystal, which stands well proud of the bezel, is sapphire; the self-winding movement, the choice of gold or steel, the 1950s-style sector-type dial are all innovations.
“We agreed with our partners, our clients and our team that we need to create for every collection one entry door where we can share the passion, to create one reference allowing people to enter the world of Vacheron Constantin.”
That world is still the world of haute horlogerie, magnificently exemplified by Les Métiers d’Art, creations which are full of wonder.
The newest collection is a tribute to the gravity-defying aérostiers, hot-air balloonists of the late 18th century. In Les Aérostiers collection, each of the five models is dedicated to a flight taken between 1783 and 1785.
Vacheron Constantin Showcases Swiss Watchmaking Culture in Beijing The fundamental of Métiers d’Art is to ally a skilled craft, often an ancient one, to a technically exciting movement, in this case Calibre 2460 G4/1. Against a plique-à-jour enamel dial, a gold hot-air balloon is hand-engraved and micro-sculpted in relief. Each miniature is a tiny masterpiece against a translucent background of sky blue, dark blue, turquoise, brown or burgundy. Calibre 2460 G4/1 is self-winding and visible through the caseback. Apertures around the dial display hours, minutes, day and date. Only five of each of these models will be made.
Collections with a strong following have been expanded. Overseas, Traditionelle and Les Cabinotiers all welcome two additions.
Overseas dual time, in pink gold or stainless steel, is in the best tradition of Overseas – handsome, comfortable and user-friendly. The new Calibre 5100 DT is a mechanical, self-winding movement. Overseas ultrathin perpetual calendar in pink gold is only 8.1mm thick and also has a moon-phase indicator.
Traditionelle is a collection of high-end mechanicals, now enriched by a complete calendar and a tourbillon. The pink gold Traditionelle tourbillon is the first by Vacheron Constantin to have a self-winding movement developed in-house.
The Traditionelle complete calendar – day of week, date and month – is also in pink gold with a precision moon phase. In keeping with tradition, Vacheron Constantin has interpreted these two watches in Collection Excellence Platine editions, in 950 platinum, true collectors’ items, identifiable by the secret Pt950 inscription. Traditionelle complete calendar in platinum is limited to 100 pieces and the tourbillon to 25 pieces.
Les Cabotiniers is very high horology indeed. These are unique pieces with outstanding complications, as many as 15 or 16. This year sees the debut of Grande Complication “Ornementale” and Grande Complication “Crocodile”, with front and back dials and superb master engraving.
Where to now for Vacheron Constanin? Ferla is in no doubt. “We don’t want a revolution – we want an evolution and a continuity. For our clients, Vacheron is somehow unique. And why? We have been standing since 1755, over 260 years. And, still today, if you come with a watch from the 18th century, we will repair it. And why we are able to do that is because we constantly innovate. When we do things, we do them with a very high level of passion.
“My mission is to safeguard the DNA of Vacheron Constantin: simplicity, elegance, high level of finishing. But we always try to push the boundaries.”