Autumn is in full swing, bringing with it the usual traditions and rituals: playoff baseball, cheesy Christmas movies on the Hallmark Channel, and the first rumblings of new timepieces set to debut at the 2019 Salon International de la Haute Horologerie (SIHH) in Geneva. The first exhibiting watch maison to oblige this year is Vacheron Constantin, and considering the pair of horological chefs d’oeuvres it’s leading off with, it’s hard to imagine what the 260+-year-old brand plans to release as an encore in January. Here’s your sneak peek at the Les Cabinotiers Minute Repeater Tourbillon Sky Chart and Les Cabinotiers Grand Complication Phoenix.
Both unique pieces hail from Vacheron Constantin’s Les Cabinotiers collection, named for the most experienced watchmakers of the 18th century, the Age of Enlightenment’s “alchemists of time” who crafted extraordinary timepieces by special commission. Preceded in 2017 by a grand sonnerie and a celestial grand complication, this year’s Les Cabinotiers models both incorporate multiple complications and artisanal case enhancements.
Inspired by the legend of the phoenix, the mythical bird that rises from its own fiery ashes to represent immortality, the Les Cabinotiers Grand Complication Phoenix packs no less than 15 complications into its meticulously engraved, 47-mm rose gold case. The roster includes a tourbillon (with a distinctive Maltse-cross-motif bridge), minute repeater, perpetual calendar, power-reserve indication, sunrise and sunset times, equation of time, sky chart, age and phase of the moon, sidereal hours and minutes, seasons and zodiac signs, and even a mechanism indicating the torque of the repeater’s striking mechanism. Of course, this cornucopia of complications requires two dials to showcase them all, both in a striking opaline slate gray.
The manufacture movement, Vacheron’s manual-winding Caliber 2755, composed of an astounding 839 components and endowed with a 58-hour power reserve, ticks inside an 18k rose gold case, which features two ancestral engraving techniques — pounced ornament (or bas-relief) on the caseband and fine line engraving on the bezel and caseback, combining to create a sculptural 3D effect for the ornate image of the legendary firebird that encircles the case. The watch comes on a brown, hand-stitched Mississippi alligator strap, which closes with a rose-gold folding clasp shaped like a half Maltese cross and engraved with an ornamental pattern. The one lucky owner will have the watch delivered in a special winder box made of Macassar ebony wood, alongside a corrector pen and a magnifying glass.
Whereas the Phoenix watch showcases the engraving skills of Vacheron’s Les Cabinotiers workshops, the case of the Les Cabinotiers Minute Repeater Tourbillon Sky Chart — 45 mm in diameter and made of 18k white gold — demonstrates the Geneva maison’s expertise in “invisible” gem-setting, with a baguette diamond-set bezel framing a black dial with diamond hour markers, a central guilloché pattern, and a large tourbillon at 6 o’clock.
The watch combines three major complications — tourbillon, minute repeater, and the one that dominates the rear dial of the watch: a celestial sky chart depicting the night sky above Geneva, with the Milky Way and constellations, as viewed through a telescope. This disk spins fully on its axis every 23 hours and 56 minutes, corresponding to sidereal time. The concave shape of this dial accentuates the depth effect, while an ellipse drawn on the sapphire crystal indicates the exact position of the constellations when the wearer consults the watch. Indications for the sidereal time, months and cardinal points complete the picture.
Also equipped with Vacheron’s Caliber 2755 — found in complicated models in the manufacture’s Patrimony collection, and here enhanced with the sky chart functions — this one-of-a-kind timepiece is mounted on a black, large-square-scale Mississippi alligator strap with a white-gold clasp, and delivered in a Macassar ebony wood winder box. Both of the new unique pieces from Vacheron’s prestigious Les Cabinotiers workshop are priced upon request.