April 6, 2021
by Zach Pina
Back when we were doing the tradeshow circuit, we’d run from meeting to meeting, shooting dozens of watches at a time before rushing to the next appointment. In this highly compressed format of seeing new and interesting things, it was pretty easy to get jaded – even at the sight of interesting, or oftentimes spectacular, offerings. Every new appointment would require a slightly higher dosage of the extraordinary to yield any meaningful reaction. The Vacheron Constantin Overseas Ultra-Thin Perpetual (go hands-on here) was one of the very first watches I experienced during one such tradeshow haze that I specifically remember left me feeling shook, like I’d just hit the mainline. And this year, for the all-digital Watches & Wonders presentation (join me in pouring another one out for SIHH), Vacheron Constantin has introduced another pair of Ultra-Thin Perpetual calendar watches, this time in white gold – and again one with a fully skeletonized, or open-worked dial, and the other in a more traditional closed-dial offering.
Now, if you’ve been paying close attention, this particular 2021 release is technically a bit of a repeat from last year when we were given the same pair of dials but cased in rose gold. However, if you’ve been holding out because rose gold wasn’t your thing, you might be happy you waited the extra 12 months. That same 41.5mm case silhouette returns, as do the ultra-thin (4.05mm-thick!) in-house manufactured cal. 1120 QP movements. The whole watch measures a whisper-thin 8mm-thick, which, even with the added complication and thickness of the perpetual calendar, results in an on-wrist experience that’s sure to punch through even the most jaded of outlooks on watchmaking.
It’s hard to explain exactly why this watch struck such a chord with me, while many others did not, though much could be said about its ability to tread so deftly between its über-luxurious gold veneer and high complication watchmaking inside while maintaining real-world practicality and the undeniably cool factor that can only come with the tangible weight of a precious metal. And with or without the complication inside, the Overseas Ultra-Thin is an absolute delight on the wrist, and arguably feels as though it’s the most ‘pure’ expression of how the seamless integration of case and bracelet, and interchangeability of said bracelet help transcend the Overseas from a precious object to a practical, real-world thing that one could enjoy wearing every day. Especially now in white gold, which hides a bit of the overt flashiness one could expect to get from a rose or yellow gold.
As cool, and probably as more approachable, as the standard closed-dial variant might be, the real star of the show in this pocket of releases is likely once again to be the open-worked version – a watch that took home top honors in the “Calendar and Astronomy” category in last year’s GPHG (essentially, the “Oscars of watchmaking” as the show is commonly described). It’s unlikely that Vacheron would be able to repeat that feat this year with what’s essentially the same watch, but in white gold – but even in a second helping, it’s still no less impressive.
With nowhere to hide imperfection, nearly all of the 276 components of the perpetual calendar movement have been hollowed-out and individually finished, using nearly every technique in the “handbook du haute horlogerie” (*not a real thing), from beveled movement edges and circular brushing & graining, to hand-polished and sunburst finishes – it’s all here, and all in the name of optimal viewing pleasure through both the front and the back of the watch’s sapphire crystals. Where many skeletonized dials tend to falter is in the legibility department, and while the beveled, sword-shaped hands might get a bit lost against the components in the dial, Vacheron was wise to preserve the chapter ring, moonphase, and calendar indicators in solid blue to better separate the dial’s individual elements. This is a nice difference from last year’s rose gold version which rendered those details against white, which looked awfully cool but made those elements much harder to read. Of course, if it’s legibility that you’re after, the closed-dial variant with its deep blue lacquer dial might be more up your alley, anyway.
Brand: Vacheron Constantin
Model: Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Ref. 4300V/120G-B945/ Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Openworked Ref. 4300V/120G-B946
Water Resistance: 50M
Case Material: 18k white gold
Movement: 1120 QP/1 (1120 QPSQ/1 for Openworked); Does not require adjustment before March 1, 2100 for day, date, month, or moon phase indicators. Hallmark of Geneva certified case & movement
Power Reserve: 40 hours
Strap/Bracelet: Each comes with solid white gold bracelet, alligator leather strap, and rubber strap
Price & Availability: $88,000 USD for blue dial/ $115,000 USD for Openworked
Both variants of the movement run at 2.75 Hz, and maintain a 40-hour power reserve. And since this is a perpetual calendar from Vacheron (remember, a ‘complete’ or annual calendar requires intermittent yearly adjustment but a perpetual should not), it’s designed to run without correction for the next 80 years, which is not too shabby at all if you’re one of those “set-it-and-forget-it” types with a good winder and all the time in the world. And though still quite expensive, there appears to mercifully be no increase in price between last year’s rose gold and this year’s white gold variants. For the solid blue lacquer dial (ref. 4300V/120G-B945) Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin in white gold, expect to pay around $88,000. That price increases to $115,000 for the boutique-exclusive Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-thin Skeleton (ref. 4300V/120G-B946). Learn more about both references at vacheron-constantin.com.