A maison with rich and illustrious history such as Vacheron Constantin benefits from the wealth of star models in its heritage that serve as guiding lights by which to steer its path into the future; its heritage is also a vast magazine from which it draws ammo to fire from the hip. Vacheron Constantin does this through its Historiques collection which it started in 2006 to re-interpret iconic models from its past for today’s consumers. So far, we can safely say that the greatest hit from this greatest hits list is none other than the Cornes de vache of 1955.
First launched in 1955, “Cornes de vache” is a bicompax chronograph, supremely elegant in its embodiment of the design codes of the day, with the exception of a livewire of contention deftly sewn into the design orthodoxy – voluptuously shaped, virile, eponymous lugs in the shape of cow horns. We checked – it’s not just bulls (“taureau”) that have horns (“cornes”), but cows do, too. Certainly the ones in Switzerland, as the Swiss voted last year by a slim majority against awarding government subsidies to farmers who choose not to dehorn their cows. And it doesn’t hurt that “vache” has a more resonant ring to it, in line with the maison’s name.
In any case, re-editions of the Cornes de vache have stirred up much feeling in the watch community, to say the least. Revolution founding editor Wei Loh declared it “one of the greatest contemporary works of modern, classic design purism,” while former editor-in-chief Suzanne Wong confessed the watch left her “tongueless”. Vacheron Constantin released a platinum version in 2015, and this was followed by a pink gold version in 2016. Considering how steel case renditions of precious case watches can drive collectors into a frenzy like chumming the water for sharks, this year’s release of the Historiques Cornes de vache 1955 in stainless steel (ref. 5000H) looks set to register more than a passing tremor.
Besides its sensuous lugs, the original Cornes de vache of 1955 (ref. 6087) also bore the distinction of being Vacheron Constantin’s first water-resistant chronograph. In comparison, the contemporary re-editions are more appropriately sized for this present era; at 38.5mm as opposed to the original’s 35mm; while remaining handsomely slim with a case height of 10.9mm, with water resistance to 30m.
In place of the 1955 model’s manual-wind cal. 492, the stainless steel ref. 5000H is driven by the manual-wind cal. 1142, featuring column wheel with screw head shaped as a Maltese cross, the brand emblem of the maison. Visible through the crystal caseback secured a 10-sided bezel, the cal. 1142 has a power reserve of 48 hours and is hand-decorated to Geneva Seal perfection.
On the dial, the five-minute scale in red perfectly complements the dark red-brown of the calf (what else?) leather strap created by Milanese leather goods company Maison Serapian, while adding a sporty accent to the elegant opaline dial. At the same time, exemplary clarity is afforded by having time markers and hands in white gold, and chronograph hands (central seconds, minutes register) in blued steel.
As the previous re-editions in precious metal tapped into the collective will of watch lovers the world over, our money is on the stainless steel 5000H making an even bigger splash.
Manual-wind cal. 1142; column wheel; 3Hz; 48 hours power reserve
Stainless steel, 38.5mm diameter, 10.9mm height; crystal caseback; water resistant to 30m
Calf leather with steel buckle