Today, I’d like to revisit the oft neglected Vacheron Constantin Overseas Chronograph Automatic as a fine daily wearing sports watch produced by one of the major Swiss prestige brands. One of the reasons for this is that later in the year, we will get some cool new dial colors of the current Vacheron Constantin Overseas Chronograph model. In 2015, Vacheron Constantin celebrates its 260th anniversary, having started back in 1755. The Vacheron Constantin Overseas began life as a collection in around 1977 with a model known as the Vacheron Constantin 222. This was five years after Audemars Piguet released the game-changing luxury sports watch we all know and love; the Royal Oak, in 1972.
Gerald Genta designed the Royal Oak for Audemars Piguet and a slew of similarly designed sports watches for other brands such as IWC and Patek Philippe. Vacheron Constantin’s luxury sport watch was, rather, designed by the then very young Jorg Hysek. From the Vacheron Constantin 222, the Overseas was officially born. More on that via Vacheron Constantin’s own forum here. Fast-forward to the modern era, and the Overseas watch as we know it is a product of a 2006 redesign. I last covered the Vacheron Constantin Overseas Chronograph Blue here in 2012, and return now with the rubber strap as well as some fancier photography.
In 2012, I commented on the fact that we watch lovers as a whole have been collectively waiting for a new Overseas collection for a while. With the current collection being nine years old,it is entirely possible that Vacheron Constantin could benefit from a redesign or face-lift to their entry-level (relatively speaking) steel sports watch. Arguments can be made for and against this position, but I do think that with the popularity of high-end sport watches around the world and the value it would bring to Vacheron Constantin in terms of attracting new eyes, it might be a good time to add some additional modern touches to the Overseas collection.
Does that mean the current Overseas models are lacking? No, actually. Aside from not having some of the trendier modern materials or fresh movements of some of the competition, the Overseas Chronograph is a well-sized, very comfortable, and highly legible classic design. Its distinctive qualities (such as the bezel) are matched with a contemporary case that melds refined beveled edges with a strong, masculine shape. The actual dimensions are 42mm wide and a reasonable 12.45mm thick.
Currently, the Vacheron Constantin Overseas is available in a range of versions in steel as well as 18k rose gold. Of course, there is the neat bracelet option as well, which I happen to like, but the leather or rubber strap is more casual and sporty, offering a more simple fit. Dial colors are this lovely blue in the ref. 49150/B01A-9745 as seen here, as well as gray, black, and white. Additional colors will be available later in 2015, which will once again add some accents colors to the Overseas collection that have been missing from the main collection for a while. Perhaps they will be in anticipation of a future overall Overseas update?
The Vacheron Constantin Overseas Chronograph collection contains the Vacheron Constantin caliber 1137 automatic chronograph movement. With 40 hours of power reserve and operating at 3Hz, the column-wheel based chronograph with a big date indicator is acceptable but isn’t on par with the more impressive specs of some other high-end sports watches. In my opinion, companies offering $20,000 steel chronographs should be pushing to offer at least 4Hz frequency movements with power reserves of three or more days. A good example of a modern high-end sports chronograph movement is the Blancpain caliber F385 (hands-on here). Operating at 5Hz, it has a power reserve of 50 hours and a silicon hairspring with a chronograph that uses both a column wheel as well as a vertical clutch. Movement lovers familiar with the internal components of their luxury watches are correct to demand a lot from brands, and I’d like to see Vacheron Constantin offer beautiful, as well as high-performance movements in their sport watch collections.
From a quality perspective, the steel case of the Overseas is top-notch with wonderful polishing and excellent detailing. The dial elements, while traditional, are crisp and make for excellent legibility. Vacheron Constantin makes for a very easy to wear and enjoy timepiece that has the feel of high-end luxury but the comfort of a familiar daily sports watch. You’ll get that “watch snob nod” wearing an Overseas with a crowd of watch people, but at the same time, you have a watch that goes casually with jeans that you can wear out without fear it will be noticed as an item of conspicuous spending.
Of course, the Vacheron Constantin Overseas and Overseas Chronograph watches aren’t cheap. They are Vacheron Constantin timepieces after all. Though at this level, comparing similarly “prestigious” brands and their steel sports offerings the Overseas is at least competitive. Retail price for this ref. 49150/B01A-9745 Vacheron Constantin Overseas Chronograph watch with the blue dial is $21,500. vacheron-constantin.com