The New Vacheron Constantin Fiftysix Day-Date Limited Edition, Exclusive To MR PORTER
Is history a constant process of gradual change, or significant steps that at one stroke usher in a new era? Perhaps a bit of both. The Beatles changed the history of music when, aided by Mr George Martin, they saw the full potential of the recording studio, and over eight years of astonishing creativity between 1962 and 1970, produced in Abbey Road’s Studio Two – the very same room you see here – a series of albums that redefined pop and rock music for ever.
In watchmaking, a shift had taken place approximately a decade earlier, with the widespread adoption of water-resistant cases and automatic movements. We take these fundamentals for granted today, which both date back to the late 1920s, but it wasn’t until the 1950s that the universal standard for a wristwatch ticked both of these boxes. Of course, many watches remained hand-wound, and today a manual watch is often prized by connoisseurs. But in that age of change, automatic was the future. And water-resistance is obvious and crucial to a public increasingly likely to wear a watch through all manner of activities.
So when Vacheron Constantin wanted to create a watch that epitomised the meeting of modernity and tradition, it’s no surprise that it took as its inspiration a lesser-known reference from its archives – the reference 6073, one of its first watches to be both self-winding and water-resistant.
The Fiftysix, which was named in honour of the 6073’s year of release, is very much its own thing aesthetically (although, as we shall see, its design also neatly encapsulates this juxtaposition of the classical and the modern), but its spiritual link to the 6073 is clear. Introduced in 2018, the Fiftysix is a reaffirmation of the values that we now see as essential to any watch, and in the time since, has expanded to include a wide range of complications and aesthetic executions.
The watch you see here is a first, however; the first strictly limited member of the Fiftysix family to be produced in a run of just 30 pieces, each individually numbered with an engraving, and exclusive to MR PORTER. It sits with the existing Fiftysix Day-Date references, but with some crucial differences that set it aside. A petrol-blue dial is naturally the most evident and the change of colour alters the watch’s character emphatically. (Vacheron Constantin’s style and heritage director Mr Christian Selmoni is meticulous about the precise shade of blue to be deployed within each family of watches – the Fiftysix’s blue dials are darker and more contemporary than those on the Overseas, for instance.)
Unlike either of the previous Day-Date references, it provides for a high-contrast difference between handset, hour markers and dial, bringing a more dynamic air to the watch. This informal, relaxed approach is mirrored by the choice of strap, which is a matte-finished calfskin leather unique to this watch, with contrast stitching and fastened with a steel folding clasp.
The Fiftysix Day-Date is powered by Vacheron Constantin’s calibre 2475 SC/2, an automatic movement with a 40-hour power reserve, beating at 4Hz. Like all Vacheron Constantin movements, it is manufactured to meet the standards of the Poinçon de Genève. Often referred to as the Geneva Seal or Geneva Hallmark, this is an independently regulated mark of quality that’s among the most exacting in the industry. Not only does it demand that the watch measure up when it comes to accuracy, water-resistance, power reserve and all other functional claims, but it places strict requirements on the maker to use the best possible practices in the design and finishing of the movement itself.
If you were to imagine this movement – with its 264 components – as an orchestra playing in harmony, the requirements of the Poinçon de Genève elevate that orchestra to London Symphony or Berlin Philharmonic levels. Hence, you will find details such as radial Côtes de Genève finishing on the side of the movement plates hidden under the dial, never to be seen by anyone other than the watchmaker who services the watch. Every edge is perfectly bevelled, every jewel pristine; every screw-head polished and fitted in a matching countersink. Every surface is given some level of finish; in short, a truly virtuoso performance.
Through the sapphire caseback of the watch, you’ll see plenty of this work in detail thanks to the openworked rotor (bearing the maison’s Maltese Cross emblem), which allows a better view of the escapement and gear train than is usually found in an automatic watch. Wound by the movement of your wrist, as you wear it, you are in a very real sense conducting this miniature orchestra with your every move, a personal performance by one of Switzerland’s finest.