Vacheron Constantin led off its 2021 novelties this year with new versions of familiar faces: the renewed Historiques American 1921 in a white gold case, celebrating 100 years since the original’s release, along with a trio of Overseas models expanding the popular range with new materials and complications. Alongside these launches, the Swiss maison had a few more very notable watches up its sleeve, like the one we focus on today, the Traditionnelle Split-Seconds Chronograph Ultra-Thin, which joins Vacheron’s ultra-exclusive Collection Excéllence Platine.
The new limited edition is the latest to house the brand’s manufacture Caliber 3500, an ultra-thin split seconds chronograph movement developed for 2015’s Harmony Ultra-Thin Grande Complication Chronograph, in which it debuted. Vacheron Constantin’s revival of the movement comes as part of an effort to bolster the “Classic with a Twist” theme that it has adopted for this year’s launches, i.e., highlighting the venerable watchmaker’s “creative energy” while also celebrating its extensive history.
The watch’s 42.5-mm case is made of 950 platinum and has a mirror-grade polishing throughout, sharp edges on its otherwise curled lugs, and a flattened bezel topping it. The watch is only 10.72 mm thick, justifying its “Ultra-Thin” moniker, and features rectangular and crown-set pushers for its chronograph functions on the right side. It is secured to the wrist with a blue alligator leather strap, with platinum and silk stitching and a platinum buckle in the familiar half-Maltese cross shape.
The dial beneath the sapphire crystal hosts a traditionally inspired chronograph configuration, one that is likely derived from wartime and postwar-era split second chronographs produced by Vacheron; in contrast to the Heritage American 1921, however, the brand doesn’t call out any particular heritage model as inspiration in this instance. The dial, like the case, is constructed of platinum, though it opts for a sand-blasted rather tha polished finish, all the better to contrast with the black and polished accents on its surface.
Along the dial’s outer edge, we discover a printed tachymetric scale that provides an outline for the applied, white-gold hour markers. One step closer to its center are two indented, parallel subdials for the running seconds and for 60 elapsed chronograph minutes, another small subdial at 6 o’clock for the power reserve indication, and an applied Maltese Cross, above the classical Vacheron Constantin logo, at 12 o’clock. At the center of the dial, two thin Dauphine hands determine the hours and minutes, while two blued hands for the split-seconds chronograph stand at the ready to be activated.
For those unfamiliar, a split-seconds chronograph is a rare mechanical complication used for measuring two different passing periods of time. In the case of this model, when the crown is pressed, the center sweep-seconds hand and the split-seconds hand begin their measure simultaneously while remaining superimposed. When the second pusher at 2 o’clock is activated, the split-seconds hand stops, while the sweep-seconds hand continues running, allowing the first interval to be recorded without the chronograph stopping entirely. Today, if you truly need to measure split-second times you’ll likely have a hardy, quartz-powered digital chronograph to assist you, but the draw of mechanical luxury looms large in the market, and many collectors will find this piece of complex high horology very appealing.
Making this split-seconds complication possible is the aforementioned Vacheron Constant Caliber 3500, a highly decorated, beautiful movement visible through a sapphire exhibition window in the knurled-edge platinum caseback. The automatic caliber, wound by a 22k yellow gold peripheral rotor, is incredibly thin at only 5.2 mm, ticks at a frequency of 21,600 vph, and holds a power reserve of 48 hours. Like all movements developed by Vacheron, the 3500 carries its region of origin’s prestigious Hallmark of Geneva stamp.
As alluded to above, the Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Split-Seconds Chronograph Ultra-Thin comes as part of the brand’s Collection Excellence Platine, a collection composed entirely of timepieces whose cases, dials, and buckles are all forged in 950 platinum. Accordingly, the watch will be extremely limited, to 15 total editions, and priced at $288,000.
To learn more, visit Vacheron Constantin here.
Are you sure the watch is limited to 10 editions? The engraving on the caseback suggests 15 editions.