When learning about the new Vacheron Constantin Traditionelle Chronograph Perpetual Calendar, the first question on my mind was: “just how new is it, really?” In other words, after we saw the manufacture release a number of rather lust-worthy pieces in recent years, how excited will the world of watch enthusiasts and collectors get by a very classical-looking, albeit rather bulky watch that merges two, by now, well-known complications?
Vacheron Constantin – one of the handful of Swiss luxury brands that seemingly enjoys to refer to itself as “the Maison,” with a capital “M” – calls this new Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Chronograph Perpetual Calendar “the ultimate expression of this successful synergy, combining tradition and formal elegance with supreme mastery of horological complications.” Hmm.
To start with the unquestionably desirable properties of this Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Chronograph Perpetual Calendar watch (reference 5000T/000P-B048), we’d best look under its hood first, as it features the manufacture’s in-house-made 1142QP caliber. Considering its perpetual calendar and chronograph functions, its relatively low component count of just 324 parts and 21 jewels testifies to some rather clever movement engineering. On the sapphire caseback side, you’ll get to enjoy an unobstructed view of what has to be a familiar site to any seasoned watch lover: a hand-wound chronograph, in all its beauty.
The picture is made complete by a large balance wheel with variable moment of inertia screws in its periphery. Across from it, a column wheel sporting the brand’s Maltese cross logo, plus of course some rather beautifully curved cams and bridges and your typical, albeit not that fancy-looking wheels for the chronograph mechanism. To describe it is a mouthful, but with the hand-finished, mirror-polished, Geneva striped and perlage-adorned parts, the 1142QP truly serves as a worthy successor for the brand’s historical hand-wound chronographs.
To spice things up a bit, Vacheron Constantin has fitted a perpetual calendar complication to the dial side of the caliber, with indications for date, day of the week, month, leap year and phase of the moon. Even with the base movement – that runs at 3 Hertz and provides 48 hours of power reserve – being sandwiched in between these two respectable and indeed evergreen complications, the 1142QP movement measures 27.5 millimeters wide and 7.37 millimeters thick. Manageable proportions for a high complication.
We must also note that Vacheron Constantin say they have created the 1142QP movement to better comply with the recently updated requirements of the Geneva Seal (all discussed here in great detail). The 1142QP offers a 0.5 Hertz bump from 2.5 to 3 Hertz in frequency to help ensure it performs better during and after the shock resistance tests of the Seal, while the power reserve has been increased to 48 hours, with, as they claim, special attention dedicated to improving the efficiency of the chronograph function – again, to help it comply with the Seal’s relatively new and rather strict criteria concerning power reserve claims while the watch’s functions are being used.
This, though, brings us to the question of why the ab ovo heavy 950 platinum case ended up being 43 millimeters wide – not unusually large for luxury watches of this century, but in this instance it still is a rather odd choice visually for such a classic piece, as the proportions of both the front and back of the case appear to testify.
Large watches are sort of in, and they appear to be here to stay, but for top-dollar “flagship” pieces, collectors’ evaluations sometimes boil down to elements as subjective and intangible as proportions and balance of design. While the perfectly round bezel and the straight, sensibly styled lugs leave little room for error, the three small-ish apertures in the top half of the dial, along with the two subdials set so close to the center, do give away the ambitious combination of a large case and a more “traditionelle” movement.
Even the “face of the Moon” appears to be a little confused or distressed – although its 22 karat, hand-engraved white gold disc will definitely be a treat to scrutinize from up close. The case-back view tells a similar story: there’s a lot of case around that movement, although the coined and notched tiers do help ease the polished platinum’s visual heft.
So, if what you want is a truly impressive and uniquely Vacheron piece from the brand – with one of the finer hand-wound chronograph movements that “the Maison” has to offer – what, exactly, is wrong with the almost objectively equally elegant, albeit much more uniquely styled (and, mind you, about $80k more affordable) Harmony Chronograph (hands-on here)? With the money saved, you could also pick up the also trademark-VC design Patrimony Perpetual in gold (not in platinum), and still have a few extra thousand laying around.
So, even when considering that merging two such challenging-to-make complications into one movement is not easy or in fact usual, the question remains who this 43-millimeter platinum beast is exactly for – when the same brand offers two other, equally (if not more) remarkable pieces that can be had for the cost of this one single reference? The Traditionelle very much deserves to live on – but, as I see it, the stellar Harmony and Patrimony from recent years still steal the show. Price for the Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Chronograph Perpetual Calendar is $150,000. vacheron-constantin.com