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Vacheron Constantin and the power of the imagination at...
Watches & Wonders

Vacheron Constantin and the power of the imagination at Watches & Wonders

Friday, 08 May 2020
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Christophe Roulet
Editor-in-chief, HH Journal

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6 min read

Presented earlier in the year, the Égérie women’s watch collection set the tone for the Genevan brand’s emotionally-charged releases for 2020, which include some remarkable grandes complications.

For Vacheron Constantin, watchmaking, even at its most consummate, is nothing without emotion. This is why every mechanism that leaves the Manufacture’s workshops, from the most simple to the most complex, is imbued with the characteristic elegance of the brand – as Heritage and Style Director Christian Selmoni confirmed when introducing Vacheron Constantin’s latest releases on the watchesandwonders.com platform: “In a context where everyone needs to escape, we pay tribute to the unlimited power of the mind and the beauty of imaginary worlds. Our timepieces are products of emotion, creation and imagination.”

For women

The venerable Manufacture, established in Geneva in 1755, already set the tone earlier in the year with the unveiling of Égérie, its new collection for women. Despite its reputation as a maker of highly complex watches for men, Vacheron Constantin has always given time a feminine touch. Indeed, its archives reveal numerous ladies’ watches that are remarkable as much for their mechanisms as for their decoration. Accordingly, one of the watches presented at the Watches & Wonders online fair is a fully-paved moonphase in the Égérie line. Was this enough to reset the gender balance? Apparently not, as 2020 releases include a Traditionnelle that is also Vacheron Constantin’s first automatic tourbillon for women.

Our clients, both men and women, are looking for rarity and authenticity manifested through fine craftsmanship and a flawless aesthetic.
Christian Selmoni

Measuring 39mm in diameter, this Traditionnelle tourbillon is fitted with Calibre 2160 which debuted in 2018. A slim movement at 5.65mm high, it beats at a stately 18,000 vibrations/hour, allowing time to appreciate each “pulsation” of the tourbillon. Power reserve is a comfortable 80 hours. “We’ve always considered the ladies’ and men’s segments as similar,” says Christian Selmoni. “All our clients are looking for rarity and authenticity manifested through fine craftsmanship and a flawless aesthetic. We’ve observed that both men and women are showing a particular interest in astronomical complications. Automatic movements also rank high among expectations, as does the personalisation offered by interchangeable straps. This is something we introduced on the Overseas that is also available in the Égérie collection with a new strap mechanism.”

And for men

Maintaining this all-important balance, Vacheron Constantin is also launching a men’s complication watch in the Traditionnelle line, namely a tourbillon chronograph described as “a modern expression of Geneva’s grand watchmaking tradition.” Proving itself worthy of this tradition, the 42.5mm case contains Calibre 3200 with 292 components – the very one that Vacheron Constantin developed for its 260th anniversary in 2015. Distinguished by a 2.5 Hz frequency (18,000 vph) and 65 hours of power reserve, shown at 6 o’clock, it drives a monopusher chronograph with a dynamic “all or nothing” activation system and, at 3 o’clock, a 45-minute counter. The chronograph’s lateral clutch mechanism in combination with a column wheel ensures a smooth start for the chronograph hand. The tourbillon, generally driven by the fourth wheel pinion, is in this case driven by the intermediate wheel of the running seconds display. This allows a wider opening onto the upper plate for an expanded view of the tourbillon.

Skeletonising the 276 components in Calibre 1120 is a feat in itself.

These peregrinations through high watchmaking countries continue with an ultra-thin perpetual calendar in the Overseas range, a collection dedicated to travel and which is progressively bringing in grandes complications. And so after last year’s automatic tourbillon comes a perpetual calendar that is all the more remarkable in a skeletonised execution. Almost every one of the 276 components in Calibre 1120 – just 4.05mm high – has been painstakingly cut and filed. This is an impressive feat in itself, even before the complex hand-finishing that includes straight-graining the bridges to create a satin effect, bevelling straight and rounded edges for play of light, as well as circular-brushing, sunburst finishing, circular-graining and polishing to give definition to each surface.

Beyond compare

The journey ends with Les Cabinotiers where we enter the highest realm of watchmaking. It’s here, in this specialist department, that Vacheron Constantin fulfils requests for bespoke timepieces and also produces one-of-a-kind watches; the likes of the two Grande Complications that complete La Musique du Temps, a collection of chiming watches that was first unveiled in December last year. As a crowning glory, the Manufacture has imagined Tempo, a double-sided watch whose 24 complications are brought to life by Calibre 2756, a new Manufacture movement with 1,163 components. The front side displays the time, chronograph measurements and perpetual calendar indications. Astronomical functions take over on the reverse side, including solar time, equation of time, sunrise and sunset, day and night duration, and the age and phases of the moon. There is also a tourbillon regulator and a minute repeater. In what could easily pass for understatement, Vacheron Constantin describes the Tempo as “an authentic watchmaking challenge.”

La Musique du Temps, a collection of one-of-a-kind chiming watches, ends on a high note.

The second proposition to come out of Les Cabinotiers, Ode to Music is an astronomical striking Grande Complication which has nothing to envy its “predecessor”. The starting point was Calibre 1731, a minute repeater chosen for its extreme slimness. The next step was to rethink its construction in order to incorporate an array of astronomical indications. The resulting Calibre 1731 M820 comprises 19 complications, including civil, solar and sidereal time, each with its own gear train in addition to that of the minute repeater. All within a calibre less than 8mm high, housed inside a case that is 12.54mm thick and 45mm in diameter. Undoubtedly, Vacheron Constantin ends La Musique du Temps on a high note!

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