Juan-Carlos Torres, CEO Vacheron Constantin, had mentioned this new development in an interview granted to WorldTempus in 2014. His words have now been confirmed, since the company has its own in-house chronograph movement – or in fact movements in the plural, since the Geneva-based brand has effectively scored a triple whammy by launching three calibres at once, all housed within its new Harmony line. This was of course no ordinary occasion, since this year sees Vacheron Constantin celebrating 260 years of uninterrupted activity, and we all know the brand is very keen on anniversaries.
Vacheron Constantin had long relied on an external supplier – now known as Manufacture Breguet after many years under the name Nouvelle Lemania – for its hand-wound chronograph movement. Breguet had announced that it was planning to recover exclusive use of this calibre that has been produced non-stop for more than 20 years and ideally lends itself to various high-end interpretations. Vacheron Constantin systematically submitted it for Poinçon de Genève certification, a token of quality to which the brand remains more strongly attached than ever.
All this meant that Vacheron Constantin had its work cut out to replace this movement with its essential characteristics. Hand-wound chronographs represent a prestigious type of movement that many brands regard as a watch industry gem – especially since it serves as a basis for even more prestigious extrapolations such as the split-second chronograph or the addition of a perpetual calendar.
This new line of calibres begins with reference 3300. The simplest of the three new movements, it is distinguished by a broad 14 ½-ligne diameter, its elegant design, high-.end finishes, monopusher operation, as well as its bi-compax configuration at 3 and 9 o’clock. It also drives a display of the 65-hour power reserve, the minimum expected of a contemporary high-end movement.
Working on this basis, Vacheron Constantin has created a complete series of complications. The first evolution, Calibre 3200, looks so similar to the 3300 that one might almost imagine taking the latter and simply replacing the balance with a tourbillon escapement. That is of course not the route taken, particularly with such an elegant tourbillon, appearing at 12 o’clock through an opening in the baseplate, and thus by extension through the dial.
While the 3300 is intended for wider use and 3200 has an extremely noble vocation, another variation offers a set of sophisticated characteristics that make it the pride and joy of the ‘family’: Calibre 3500. It is equipped with a split-second function, a complex and prestigious feature that Vacheron Constantin had foregone for many decades. It is now making a spectacular impact on the field since this calibre is now the thinnest in its category at just 5.20 mm, despite the fact that split-second mechanisms are by definition greedy when it comes to stacking up the millimetres. This movement is all the more interesting in that it boasts another exceptional characteristic. A sure sign of the times, the 3500 features automatic winding, but not via a classic rotor. Its finishes are too beautiful to be hidden by a semi-circular disc, even beautifully executed or skeleton-worked, which is why this calibre is wound by an engraved yellow gold segment rotating around the periphery of the movement.
Perhaps the most astonishing thing is that after years of development and at the exact same time as the launch of the type 3300 calibres, Vacheron Constantin announced that it had reached an agreement with Breguet to continue using the calibre bearing reference 1142 in its nomenclature… but from now on exclusively for women’s chronographs.