March 27, 2023
by Mike Razak
The Tradionelle collection from Vacheron Constantin has seen some of the brand’s most impressive work. This is, by its own account where Vacheron comes to the horological playground, with a modern case platform in which the brand shows the world what it can do. Ironically, some of the most exciting pieces from the Traditionelle collection are anything but traditional: one of the most exciting additions to the Vacheron Constantin catalogue in recent memory was the Traditionelle Twin Beat, an openface perpetual calendar with a sleep mode. For Watches and Wonders 2023, the brand has expanded its offerings of openface models with the Traditionelle Tourbillon Retrograde, featuring exactly what its name suggests: a tourbillon on display with a retrograde date.
The case of the Vacheron Constantin Traditionalle Tourbillon Retrograde features the collection’s signature case in pink gold. The 41mm case x 11.07mm is fully polished with a slim bezel with a slight step down to the midcase. The lugs feature a gentle curve and, like all Traditionelle models, feature feet at their termina that may serve to give the watch a better fit around the wrist. Another signature of the Traditionelle family is the caseback’s fluting around its edge, giving the models a bit more verve, however subtle. The pull-out crown features the Vacheron Maltese cross and the watch has 30m of water resistance (which is to be expected). It’s fitted with a grey alligator strap with an ardillon (tang) buckle in rose gold, both of which seem to match the dial perfectly. Both the top and back have sapphire crystals.
The dial is perhaps as complicated as the movement that sits beneath it. The open-faced approach sees the mechanics of retrograde complication on full display, with a hand guilloché fan carrying the numbered dates. The grooving of the fan is echoed in the pattern of the sapphire dial that makes up the lower half and surrounds the tourbillon. Take special note at how VC has matched the pattern from the sapphire dial to the brushing on the plate of the exposed movement. The tourbillon isn’t ordinary either, as it’s been heightened to be perfectly level with the dial for a bit more of a show. The dauphine hands and applied indices are rendered to match the case and feature a high polish. Legibility is always hard to determine from renders, but I think the contrast of the gold against the grey will help in that regard; I am concerned, however, about being able to read the black and silver retrograde hand against the grey and gold components beneath (check back soon for our hands on and see for yourself!). My favorite part: the Vacheron name and logo appear to be etched on the underside of the case’s sapphire crystal.
Just last week we saw an update of the Carl F. Bucherer Manero Peripheral collection, one of very few watches in production to feature a peripheral rotor in its automatic caliber. Now Vacheron has come along and updated its peripherally winding Caliber 2160—debuted in 2018, it was the brand’s first automatic tourbillon movement—with a retrograde date complication to create the Caliber 2162 R31. The advantage of mounting the rotor peripherally, of course, is that you can provide an unobstructed view of the movement and keep that movement quite thin. As you’d expect, the 2162 features exceptional hand finishing, including slate grey coloring and with the hand-beveled tourbillon cage with the Maltese cross alone taking 12 hours to complete. The movement is also marked by the Poinçon de Genève, certifying that it has met strict standards for finishing, timekeeping, and having been made within the Canton of Geneva. The movement has 242 components and beats at 18,000 vph with a respectable 72-hour power reserve (Down from the 80 hours of the 2160). That slower beat rate allows for a more relaxed and enjoyable showing of the tourbillon action.
The balancing act between modern and traditional can be extremely delicate. We’ve seen Audemars Piguet fully commit to modern design, while Patek Philippe seems hopelessly mired in the past. Vacheron Constantin, though, seems to have managed this challenge ably with the entire Traditionelle collection. With the Traditionelle Tourbillon Retrograde, the exceptional finishing and conservative case are combined with a decidedly contemporary dial to further demonstrate Vacheron Constantin’s mastery of both the past and the present. Vacheron Constantin was unable to provide pricing information ahead of press time for the Traditionelle Tourbillon Retrograde. For more information, please visit the brand’s website.