A Historical Difference

It could well be the fact that the Royal Oak is a 1970s Gérald Genta-design, while the Overseas (originally called 222) is most likely not. The history of the 222 that led to the first Overseas of 2004, is filled with riddles and confusion. It was believed by a former CEO of Vacheron Constantin, Mr. Proellochs, that the celebrated designer Genta was involved in the design of the 222, the watch that celebrated the manufacture’s 222nd anniversary in 1977. The strongest evidence points in the direction of a young Genta-inspired in-house designer named Jorg Hysek. However, for many years, Hysek’s contribution was obscured in favor of the Genta rumor, not in the least by VC execs. Unfortunately, the confusion doesn’t seem to do the Overseas any good when you look at the Chrono24 “barometer.”

There’s also an important difference in the history of these big brands. A considerable upset in the timeline of VC is the year 1987, when Sheik Ahmed Zaki Yamani, the former Oil Minister of Saudi Arabia and an avid watch collector, became majority shareholder of the company. He then folded Vacheron Constantin into his personal portfolio of holdings, Investcorp, only to sell it in 1996 to its current owners, the Richemont Group. Yes, Vacheron Constantin has an uninterrupted history dating back to 1755, but still, the nine-year hiatus in being a pure Swiss company apparently left a dent in its perception and therefore comes at a cost. The 100% Swiss history that ‘AP’ has, brings confidence to the hearts and minds, as well as the wallets of not all, but at least some watch lovers.

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The Dilemma: Overseas or Royal Oak?

Now it’s down to the most important question: is the Overseas an alternative to the Royal Oak? If it were just the product itself, the answer would be an easy “yes.” Build quality is of comparably high quality and the Overseas has an ace up its sleeve in the shape of the prestigious Hallmark of Geneva – the bonus straps don’t really count. On the other hand, the Overseas may be a true child of the 1970s just like the Royal Oak, but it’s not a Genta design and it only became the Overseas in 2004. The Royal Oak, on the other hand, comes from a family owned manufacturer, it has had Genta and Royal Oak written all over it all along – and this is reflected in its rock-solid value. The ‘cheapest’ Overseas for men, the three-hand 41mm reference 4500V/110A is priced at $20,900. The direct competition in terms of size is the Royal Oak Selfwinding 41mm ref. 15400ST.OO.1220ST.01 that is priced just under $18,000 – so well under the VC. If you take a Royal Oak with the same price as the Overseas, you’ll be looking at the 39mm Royal Oak Extra-Thin ‘Jumbo’ ref. 15202ST.OO.1240ST.01 – and while that isn’t perfect either, it still remains one of the few watches these days deserving of the “iconic” term.

So, after taking everything into consideration, the imaginary $20k is best spent on a Royal Oak. The Royal Oak has an uninterrupted history, it’s a Genta original, and it holds its value. The biggest problems the Overseas is facing are the fact that VC can’t re-write the history books or quickly create a new history for the Overseas, and they can’t control resell value – though a famously good after sales service and other perks could perhaps help in that department. However, what they could do to maneuver the Overseas out of the Royal Oak’s dominant shadow, is to do the unthinkable: drop the Overseas in price. Make it a surprisingly “affordable” (perhaps a more fitting term would be “competitively priced”) alternative to the Royal Oak. Sure, it’s a highly unlikely strategy in this segment, and it won’t make current Overseas owners happy, but it might well be the only strategy to take on the mighty Royal Oak. And current owners either had already been aware of the Overseas resale values, or they did not care in the first place. Anyhow, a more competitive Overseas could be the start of a great history without any confusion. vacheron-constantin.comaudemarspiguet.com

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