The editorial team’s test bench has in recent months reviewed a number of creations from the greatest watch manufacturers. One of the most legitimate names was nonetheless missing from this prestigious line-up, and Vacheron Constantin now offers us a chance to complete this non-exhaustive overview of the Haute Horlogerie scene with its Patrimony Contemporaine retrograde day and date model.
The oldest of the Geneva watch manufacturers admirably embodies the precepts of horological artistry as it has developed over the centuries in this city on the far end of Lake Léman. Artistic crafts have always held a key place in the collections of Vacheron Constantin, which has thereby managed to preserve the prestigious heritage of the “cabinotiers”. Moreover, the crafting of Grande Complication movements, often bearing the Hallmark of Geneva and exuding an aura of timeless – one might almost say very Calvinist – classicism, form the cornerstone of Vacheron Constantin’s identity.
It will not come as revolutionary to learn that the object of this test bench shows us that the Geneva-based Manufacture fully deserves its place in watchmaking history, while subtly avoiding the pitfall of remaining static and frozen in time, since there is something undeniably modern about this Patrimony Contemporaine retrograde day and date.
This newly released model can spark some fairly surprising reactions. Its “great classic” style might lead one to think that feelings would be relatively unanimous, yet opinions differ quite sharply regarding the aesthetic options taken with this watch. One therefore deduces rather than perceives – and therein lies the entire brand genius – a character that is at once powerful and discreet.
Perfectly attuned to current standards, the case measures 42.50 mm in diameter and 10 mm thick. It single-handedly sums up over a century of wristwatch history, since it could have been born with the greatest elegance at any time during this period, and it is a well-known fact that successfully designing a classic case is one of watchmaking’s greatest challenges. One of the secrets of this absolute success lies in the stunning design of the lugs. Their fully mastered length and slant ensure an equilibrium that achieves true perfection (editor’s note: the first time such a status is granted in this column).
The dial and hands evoke a far more contemporary form of art and design. The splendid opaline silver-toned dial gracefully displays the applied gold hour-markers. The hour and minute hands are of the baton type in the same color as the case, while the day and date are displayed by black arrow-type hands sweeping over black pad-printed indications. It is doubtless the association between the shape and color of the hands with the surprising font of the days that most strongly contributes to the powerful identity of this model and thus to the sharply divided opinions it inspires.
The movement powering this new Patrimony is the standardized in-house self-winding 11 ½’’’ Caliber 2460 beating at great magazine of timepieces I 51 28,800 vph. The very fact that it bears the Hallmark of Geneva makes it unnecessary to describe in detail the exemplary quality of its production and finish. With its 40-hour power reserve, one might be tempted to reproach a level below that of current standards, but one must recall that the optimal rating of a retrograde indication (and in this case two) is fairly energyhungry. Moreover, the excellent chronometric stability and automatic winding of this movement mean that this potential counter-argument can be eliminated as having no bearing on performance. On the movement side, the hand-guilloché oscillating weight appears above a traditional “Geneva” décor.
Beneath the dial, the module reveals all the splendors of Haute Horlogerie as defined by the Hallmark of Geneva. The hand-polished angles feature enchanting shapes, a graceful vision revealed to those privileged to admire this hidden face.
This is however also where one finds what might be described as the Achilles’ heel of this watch. The centering of the day indicator appears identical to that of the same module without a retrograde day indication. While this centering may be perfectly suited to a hand performing a full 360° sweep, it seems rather dicey for a retrograde indication, and that is probably the reason behind the pad-printed day markings that do not appeal to all tastes.
The precision timers at Vacheron Constantin certainly require no lessons in chronometry, since their impressive mastery of this field has been admired and envied for more than 250 years. As revealed in this model, their expertise is clearly backed by the watchmakers’ talent, since the quality of the finishing and precision required to meet the criteria of the Hallmark of Geneva has an undeniable effect on chronometry itself. Finally, the developers of this caliber have clearly made energy- and construction-related choices aimed at enhancing chronometry. The measured results therefore come as no real surprise, and yet reading off the rating results is nonetheless a fairly moving experience. At 0 hours and after 24 hours, the amplitudes measured were all over 265°, with rates falling within the range of 0 seconds/day and 6 seconds/day. It is worth pointing out that, in a quest to find an improbable flaw, these measurements were exceptionally done in six different positions!
Just over three hours of the cyclotest procedure were enough to fully wind the spring after stopping. Here too, the going grain has been perfectly optimized. This model is of course perfectly comfortable on the wrist. The gentleness of the lanternage is perceptible during timesetting and means that the quality of execution can be sensed even with closed eyes. The same goes for the two fast correctorpushers of which the force and the return jumper-springs are ideally adjusted.
This Patrimony Contemporaine model from Vacheron Constantin thereby represents a pure and understated expression of the expertise that the brand has been cultivating for two and a half centuries. Those won over by the fairly daring aesthetic will find in this model a watch that will accompany their daily lives with a timeless elegance of which they will doubtless never tire.