Few brands do “retro” as well as Vacheron Constantin. One of their recent runaway hits was the Cornes des Vache, while the 1921 “Driver’s Watch” epitomises the Historiques Collection’s way with period elegance adapted for modern wear. Choosing a specific timepiece from another year as inspiration for a new family of watches, Vacheron will unveil the FIFTYSIX® collection at SIHH 2018.
1956 was the year that the company released the Reference 6073, itself a distillation of the most tasteful elements of the decade, the period where 1940s elegance would make way for pending Mad Men urbanity. Indeed, Vacheron itself considers the 1950s to be the golden age of round timepieces. The series is identified by VC as “masculine”, and I am not in the mood to stir it up in the new post-Oprah Age of Gender Revelation, but the watches are not even remotely what used to be called “feminine”, let alone unisex. Get over it.
VC says the 6073 was inspired by the Maltese Cross, but – aside from prominent display of the company’s chosen logo borrowed from the Crusades – this motif is best noted in the lugs, said to resemble a branch of said cross. All of the models are round-cased, with the even hours shown with Arabic numerals and the odd hours with baton indices. The three watches are powered by self-winding movements, and include both simple and complicated offerings.
This choice of movement is significant because the 6073 was one of the first lines in Vacheron’s history to be equipped with the self-winding Calibre 1019/1. Also noteworthy, and made evident by the robust casework, is the model’s water-resistant construction: In sharing a number of characteristics with the 1950s watches and the continued nods to the Maltese Cross, the new FIFTYSIX employs the distinctively shaped box-type crystal that rises above the bezel. Instead of the earlier Plexiglas or mineral glass, the new crystal is sapphire.
A transparent case back exposes the movements’ Côtes de Genève, circular graining and snailing finishing, as well as the handsome new oscillating weight designed by Vacheron Constantin for this collection. This polished and satin-brushed 22-carat openworked rotor bears a Maltese Cross applique and a frosted, snailed finish, serving as a signature feature of all FIFTYSIX® models.
If the original offered firsts, so, too, does the FIFTYSIX: for the first time in its history, VC is offering a classic collection both in gold and in stainless steel. In showing its appreciation of this material as a valid alternative to precious metals, the maison has also chosen to grace the steel editions with white gold hands and appliques.
Perhaps the most obvious of retro touches is the distinctive sector-type dial. Two subtle tones are applied to the inner and outer dials on all models, creating a sense of depth. Separating the new watch from its predecessor, however, is the recessing of the crown into the case, protecting shoulders on either side.
The FIFTYSIX® collection comprises three 40mm diameter models. The three-handed FIFTYSIX® self-winding, in steel or pink gold, houses a brand-new mechanical self-winding movement, Calibre 1326, endowed with a 48-hour power reserve. It provides hours, minutes, central seconds and an aperture-type date indication is equipped with a stop-seconds device. The monochrome dial – grey on the steel version and silver-toned on the pink gold version – exhibits a sunburst effect, and the baton-type gold hours and minutes hands and hour-markers are coated with a luminescent material. This model is fitted with an alligator leather strap secured by a polished half-Maltese cross-shaped steel folding clasp or pin gold buckle depending on the version.
The day-date FIFTYSIX® in steel or pink gold adds functions driven by the Calibre 2475 SC/2. Equipped with a stop-seconds device, the model also shows day-of-the-week indication at 9 o’clock, date at 3 o’clock and power-reserve display at 6 o’clock. Its movement is fitted with a ceramic ball bearing rotation system requiring no lubrication and guaranteeing the movement’s longevity.
Complementing the characteristic look of the collection, this version features a monochrome dial with double opaline-sunburst effect that is enhanced by the additional contrast of its two snailed counters. It is fitted with an alligator leather strap secured by a polished half Maltese cross-shaped steel folding clasp or gold pin buckle, depending on the version.
Lastly, the FIFTYSIX® complete calendar with moon phase provides the day of the week, date, month and moon phase, powered by the Calibre 2460 QCL/1; the moon-phase function requires adjustment only once every 122 years. The collection’s opaline-effect dial features two rectangular apertures at 12 o’clock, indicating the month and the day of the week. The date is displayed by a central gold hand, while the moon disc at 6 o’clock features a blue night sky and 18K gold moons.
As with previous historically-inspired models, and if the sneak-preview images are anything to go by, the FIFTYSIX collection may prove to be one of the highlights of SIHH 2018.