Introducing Vacheron Constantin
How to wear the world’s oldest watch brand in a thoroughly modern way.
If longevity and tradition are the hard currency of Swiss watchmakers, then none is richer than Vacheron Constantin. Established in 1755, it has an unbroken history stretching back more than a quarter of a millennium, with a client list that includes emperors and popes, presidents and kings. As you might expect, the company majors in the traditional methods of hand-finishing and decoration, and is recognisable for its classical, elegant designs, such as the Patrimony and Traditionnelle. But its 20th-century history should not be overlooked either, particularly the addition in 1977 of the 222, the forerunner to the Overseas, a “sports luxe” design that stands alongside the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and Patek Philippe Nautilus as one of the most desirable bracelet watches around.
Today, Vacheron Constantin continues to develop its reputation as a builder of extraordinary timepieces. Its Métiers d’Art department produces some of the most finely handcrafted dials, and in Les Cabinotiers atelier it has a bespoke workshop capable of seemingly anything: in 2015 it unveiled the world’s most complicated watch, a pocket watch with 2,826 parts that took three master watchmakers eight years to complete.
The brand has now arrived on MR PORTER, so to help you choose the right Vacheron Constantin for you, we take a whistle-stop tour of the key styles.
The Patrimony is Vacheron Constantin’s flagship range – to understand its ultra-classical designs and finely finished movements is to understand not only the essence of the brand, but also something fundamental about Swiss watchmaking as a whole. The concept of patrimony – literally “that which is handed down from your fathers” – underlines the ubiquitous emphasis on tradition and heritage. This is about as pure as Swiss watches get: in its time-only form, the Patrimony is recedingly minimalist, and when complications are added – such as the perpetual calendar, itself a true calling card of high-end watchmaking, capable of accounting for leap years without adjustment until the year 2100 – the overall form remains simple, legible and clear. Measuring 41mm across and just 8.96mm thick, it houses an automatic movement with a 40-hour power reserve.
How to wear it
It may seem like overkill to have both Patrimony and Traditionnelle in one watch family, but when you’re more than 260 years old, there is a lot of watchmaking tradition to go around. At Vacheron Constantin, the Traditionnelle line tends to house the more showstopping displays of watchmaking expertise (as well as no shortage of classical design, it must be said). So here you’ll find flying tourbillons, minute repeaters, grand complications and gem-set masterpieces. The Traditionnelle Tourbillon, launched at the SIHH in January 2018, gives absolute centre-stage to the tourbillon at six o’clock. Shaped like a Maltese cross – an emblem of the brand since 1880 – the tourbillon’s technical purpose is to help counteract the negative effects of gravity on the function of the watch by constantly rotating the escapement.
In modern-day watchmaking it serves a different de facto purpose: that of demonstrating that you have the in-house ability to create one of the most intricate mechanisms possible and decorate it to the highest degree.
How to wear it
While a 41mm rose-gold watch would typically be a perfect match for a tuxedo, especially with a coloured jacket (and this is no different), there’s a degree of flamboyance here that could also see it work well with statement prints.
Vacheron Constantin’s newest model, the Fiftysix, is – in its simplest incarnation, the stainless-steel automatic with date – one of the brand’s most versatile pieces. Contributing to a more casual aesthetic are slightly thicker case lines and prominent Arabic (as opposed to Roman) numerals – most Vacheron Constantin watches use slender baton markers for the hours. A slimline movement, visible through the sapphire-crystal display caseback, helps keep the overall thickness at 11mm, while the watch’s diameter of 40mm makes it a good all-purpose timepiece. Of course, it wouldn’t be Vacheron Constantin without more complex and luxurious options on offer, and the Fiftysix is also available in a pink-gold “complete calendar” version, displaying the day and month in two windows at 12 o’clock, the date around the edge of the dial via a dark blue hand, and the phase of the moon in a cut-out dial at six o’clock.
How to wear it
Conceived as an integrated bracelet design – one where the lines of the case flow directly into the bracelet – the Overseas can trace its DNA back to the late 1970s, when Vacheron Constantin joined rivals Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe in producing stainless-steel watches with geometric designs that represented a major departure from the round-cased, predominantly gold watches that had come before. The Overseas has now evolved into a fully fledged collection, the most recent refresh coming in 2016 when the range gained in-house movements throughout – including, for the first time, the chronograph. This 42.5mm model is water-resistant to 150m and comes with two alternate straps, leather and rubber, which clip in and out using a simple patented mechanism. Alongside it in the range is a new addition, the Overseas Dual Time – appropriately enough – uses a third central hand and a day-night indicator at nine o’clock to keep track of time in a second time zone.
How to wear it
Stylistically, the Overseas is Vacheron Constantin’s most versatile model, partly thanks to those swappable straps: it can be dressed down for a holiday or work seamlessly with a suit. Perhaps the best option is a middle ground – the ever-elusive “smart casual”, paired with unstructured jackets or cashmere cardigans over a shirt and tie.