Vacheron Constantin is back with three more watches you can’t buy
They’re one-of-a-kind and already spoken for, but the brand will be more than happy to make you another.
The biggest names in watchmaking have earned their place in many winders and wishlists by making watches that appeal to as many people as possible. Vacheron Constantin obviously does this, too, releasing every year a plethora of timepieces that cover everything from the simple to the complicated, the sporty to the elegant, and the bedazzled to the meticulously handcrafted.
But the truly heart-stopping pieces are the ones it can make to appeal to just one person: You. That is what Vacheron Constantin’s Les Cabinotiers department was set up to do. Whether it is to customise existing models or to build completely original ones based on their customers’ wildest fantasies, the highly skilled team behind Les Cabinotiers are up to the task.
Since the options seem endless, Vacheron Constantin releases a handful of one-of-a-kind models every year not only to remind its clients of what its watchmakers and artisans are capable of (i.e a lot), but to serve as inspirations for future horological dreams. The brand’s theme for 2021 is Le Temps Celeste, meaning Celestial Time, and the three unique pieces recently unveiled at Watches & Wonders are indeed out of this world.
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ARMILLARY TOURBILLON PERPETUAL CALENDAR – PLANETARIA
An armillary sphere is a crude model of the universe made up of a framework of rings used by early astronomers to demonstrate the movements of heavenly bodies, and it is this ancient tool that inspired the conception of the Armillary Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar – Planetaria.
The dial provides a lot of information, but everything has been thoughtfully laid out for easy reading. To start with, the hours are placed in the sub-dial at 3 o’clock, sharing the space with a precision double moon phase.
Two more spheres (weighing just 0.12g each) are located at the top and bottom of the dial, representing the Northern and Southern hemispheres respectively, and these complete rotations in opposite directions along the 24-hour scales that rim each globe. The tinted sapphire crystal halves that sit above the globes also act as day/night indicators.
The northern sphere is also where you’ll find the retrograde day of the week, while the southern one is dedicated to retrograde months. On the far right arc of the dial is a retrograde date, and a tiny aperture at 4 o’clock reveals the leap year.
Finally, the eye will be drawn to the double-axis tourbillon and its spherical balance spring – an arresting example of the popular complication that Vacheron Constantin first made for the Reference 57260 in 2015, the most complicated pocket watch in the world.
The Calibre 1991 that resides in this 46mm by 20.2mm pink gold case was four years in the making and is made up of 745 components. The movement itself, which has been certified with the Hallmark of Geneva, is a manual winding one measuring 35mm by 11.2mm, and has a power reserve of approximately 60 hours.
MINUTE REPEATER TOURBILLON SKY CHART LEO CONSTELLATION JEWELLERY
Since this year’s theme is dedicated to the heavens, a constellation motif is apt, even if the chosen constellation seems somewhat arbitrary. Still, this watch could be a teaser for what Les Cabinotiers will able to accommodate in terms of specific astrological Zodiacs (to go along with its annual Chinese ones for extra luck).
The watch’s namesake dominates the top half of the dial, where brilliant-cut diamonds are set in the constellation of Leo. The hand-guilloche that fleshes out the lion’s form was apparently an added challenge for the craftsmen, as the rose engines used to engrave its polygons and lines are traditionally used to engrave more circular, geometric patterns.
In the lower half, a stunning one-minute tourbillon spins away as it bears the small seconds hand. The chamfering and polishing of the tourbillon’s bar alone took 36 hours of manual work.
The watch is also equipped with a minute repeater – the same one first used in the 16-complication La Tour de I’lle watch created for the brand’s 250th anniversary in 2005 – as well as a rotating star chart on the back.
Another poetic complication borrowed from the legendary Reference 57260, the star chart completes one rotation every sidereal day (23 hours, 56 minutes and 4 seconds). An off-centred ellipse also highlights the current position of the stars in the Northern hemisphere.
There’s just enough bling on this piece as well. A hundred baguette-cut sapphires are split among the bezel, lugs and crown, and the 45mm white gold case is paired with a dark blue alligator strap with a gem-set gold buckle.
Calibre 2755 TMRCC is the movement taking care of it all, and the 413-part movement will require manual winding every 58 hours.
REGULATOR PERPETUAL CALENDAR – MOONLIGHT JEWELLERY SAPPHIRE
Perpetual calendars are one of the most complex endeavours in watchmaking, and all too often they look the part, too. There do exist examples that streamline the indications to the point of being austere, but this lightly iced model by Vacheron Constantin finds a happy middle ground by using a regulator-style dial.
Regulator watches (and historically, clocks) are characterised by hours and minutes that run on different axes. The hours are usually placed inside a sub-dial while the minutes are centrally mounted, as seen here in the Regulator Perpetual Calendar – Moonlight Jewellery Sapphire.
By highlighting this 18th-century style, the brand has stuck to the use of just two sub-dials, with the lower one dedicated to a highly precise moon phase encircled by a date indicator. Meanwhile, the day and month can be read from small apertures on either side of the hours sub-dial in the top half of the watch face.
In order not to disrupt this pleasing symmetry, the leap year has been placed unobtrusively at 4 o’clock within the hours sub-dial.
Artistry fills up the rest of the space. Radiating from the centre is a spiral guilloche that meets a ring of 36 baguette-cut diamonds alternating with 10 sapphires. Beyond that, another 44 baguette-cut diamonds sit in a white gold bezel measuring 42mm wide.
On the back, you can admire the movement’s circular-grained mainplate, bridges decorated with Cotes de Geneve, and more guilloche on the 18K red gold oscillating weight.
Aside from the rotor, the entire watch stays true to its cool, frosty theme, as it comes with a matching dark blue alligator strap and an 18K gold pin buckle set with 12 baguette-cut diamonds.