The 1950s were in full swing. While some watchmakers made it a point of honour to keep pace with advances in aeronautics, underwater exploration or cars racing round tracks, Vacheron Constantin stuck to its guns and carried on making traditional watches for the well-groomed gentleman. Fifty years later, this mix of functionalism and minimalism would inspire a future icon: the Patrimony, a watch that is classic, traditional but never out of style.
When Vacheron Constantin launched the Patrimony collection in 2004, mechanical watchmaking was a newly thriving business, heralding a slew of technical bravura, unbridled design and larger volumes. The fashion was for superlative watches, some bordering on extravagance, not to say excess. Not at Vacheron Constantin, where there would be no question of letting trends dictate an end to elegance, sacrificed on the altar of innovation and technique. Classicism remained the order of the day, expressed with the utmost elegance by an aesthetic interpretation of two styles from 1957. Both sported a round case, a slim bezel, short lugs, a flat dial and a “pearl” minute track. A few subtle differences helped tell them apart: reference 6187 displayed hours, minutes and a large centre second hands, while reference 6179 featured small seconds at 6 o’clock, materialised by a slender cross, and no minute track.
An original, understated design
And so the Patrimony collection came about through a desire to revive 1950s elegance and to favour a functional aesthetic which, by eschewing excess, restored the watch to its essential role of keeping time. Since 2004, Vacheron Constantin has continued in this vein. Each version of the Patrimony is a lesson in sobriety, irrespective of the complications proposed, from the most simple to the most complex. In 2013, the brand rose to the twofold challenge of associating a minute repeater, an exploit for any watchmaker, with the excellence of an ultra-thin movement. The resulting Patrimony Minute Repeater Ultra-Thin and its Calibre 1731, hallmarked Poinçon de Genève, gave the Manufacture not one but two world records: that of the thinnest minute-repeater movement in the world, standing 3.90mm high, and that of the thinnest manually-wound minute repeater watch on the market, with a height of just 8.09mm.
Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Contemporaine ultra-Thin calibre 1731
Simple yet complex
Designs that appear simple on the surface are often the most challenging to achieve. Behind the Patrimony’s conscious minimalism lie a multitude of carefully planned details. The dial is always the epitome of refinement, accentuated by applied indexes that follow the contours of a subtly curved case. Finely curved hands keep track of time along a circular minute track with “pearl” or dot markers. These are the hallmarks of an enduringly classic collection, intended for men and women with diameters that range from 36mm to 42.5mm and driven by in-house movements that display varying degrees of complications. Alongside the record-breaking minute repeater, the Patrimony line includes an ultra-thin perpetual calendar, a retrograde date-day, and a moon-phase also with retrograde date, now a signature complication of the collection. Other, simpler models, in every way true to the original inspiration, add to the collection with an automatic version showing hours, minutes, seconds and date. For the purists who enjoy the ritual of winding their watch themselves, there is a Patrimony with a manually-wound movement.
This year, functionality and perfectly balanced proportions again take pride of place. For the first time, this quintessential dress watch drapes itself in a majestic blue, courtesy of four new models in pink gold. The latest to date introduces a perpetual calendar module to the renowned in-house Calibre 1120. A magnificent example of horological understatement, the Patrimony Manual-Winding concentrates on the essential indications of hours and minutes. It is driven by Calibre 1400 whose slim profile is an exact match for the collection’s natural sobriety. Also beating beneath a beautiful blue dial is the automatic Calibre 2450 Q6 that drives the Patrimony Self-Winding with date. Last but not least is the Patrimony Retrograde Day-Date, brought to life by the automatic Calibre 2460 R31R7/2. Once again, Vacheron Constantin has risen to the challenge of minimalism with an undeniably technical watch. Where purity of form meets manufacture-made quality, the Patrimony continues to impose its style with the force and refinement of a true classic.