With 263 years (and counting) of watchmaking history to draw from, Vacheron Constantin needed to reach back only a little more than half a century to find the inspiration for its latest all-new timepiece family, unveiled today at SIHH 2018 in Geneva. The Vacheron Constantin FiftySix collection takes as its template a vintage model from 1956, the now-iconic Reference 6073, giving it an elegantly modern twist and offering three distinctive models.
Like its historical predecessor from the heyday of bobby socks and muscle cars, the FiftySix models feature a unique case design inspired by the Maltese cross, long identified as a symbol of the brand, with each of the curved lugs representing one branch of this 15th-century badge of honor. (The Maltese cross itself became associated with the Genevan manufacture thanks to its resemblance to a small component found in historical mechanical movements that helped regulate the degree of winding and unwinding in order to enhance the watch’s precision.) The collection is also unified by a number of other elements, all directly referencing the 1956 original.
Among these elements are the box-type crystals that rise well above the bezel, made of modern, scratch-resistant sapphire in the new models, as opposed to the plexiglas and mineral glass used in the vintage pieces; the use of self-winding movements in all the FiftySix models, including one entirely new in-house caliber, honoring the Ref. 6073 as one of the first Vacheron watches to be equipped with this type of movement; and the sector-type dials, with alternating Arabic numerals and baton hour markers in their chapter rings, enhanced with two separate, subtle tones to their finishing.
In a historic first for Vacheron, the maison is offering all of the FiftySix watches in both gold and steel case variations, though the brand points out that even the latter models will not be lacking in luxurious character, using white gold for their hands and appliqués. Finally, in one notable departure from their 1956 forebear, the FiftySix models have a recessed crown for a more elegant and contemporary case profile.
The Vacheron Constantin FiftySix collection kicks off with three models and six references, all in 40-mm cases in either stainless steel or 18k 5N rose gold — the FiftySix Self-Winding, a three-hand with date; the FiftySix Day-Date; and the Fifty-Six Complete Calendar.
The aforementioned new manufacture movement, Caliber 1326, makes its debut in the FiftySix Self-Winding, equipped with a 48-hour power reserve and stop-seconds device for easy re-setting. Like all the movements in the collection, it boasts an all-new openworked rotor, made of 22k gold with a frosted and snailed finish, that evokes the shape of the Maltese cross much like the cases do. Also like the other movements, it’s visible through a sapphire caseback, allowing the wearer to admire not just the rotor but the array of other haute horlogerie finishes, including côtes de Genève, circular graining and snailing. (Vacheron has not stated that this new caliber meets the Hallmark of Geneva criteria, as do most of its other in-house movements.)
The watch’s dial has a double opaline-sunburst effect, gray on the steel version and silver-toned on the rose-gold, and features luminescent coating on the baton-type hands and hour markers. The Mississippi alligator strap, with its half-Maltese-cross-shaped buckle, is brown on the rose-gold watch and dark gray on the steel model and has a calfskin inner shell and tone-on-tone stitching.
Moving up a few notches in complication, we have the FiftySix Day-Date, powered by the Vacheron Caliber 2475 SC/2, here with the addition of the openworked Maltese Cross-inspired rotor, which is fitted with a ceramic ball-bearing rotation system that requires no lubrication and thus helps to optimize the movement’s long-term accuracy. The dials’ double opaline sunburst effect contrasts with the two snailed counters — one for the day of the week at 9 o’clock, the other for the date at 3 o’clock. A hand-type power reserve display joins these two indicators at 6 ‘clock. The rose-gold model has a silver-toned dial, the steel model a gray-toned one; the alligator straps are brown on the gold watch, dark gray on the steel.
The most complicated model, and dubbed by Vacheron the collection’s “highlight,” is the FiftySix Complete Calendar, whose movement is the Hallmark of Geneva-stamped in-house Caliber 2460 QCL/1, the same movement used in another of Vacheron’s SIHH debuts, the platinum-cased Traditionnelle Complete Calendar, that we previewed back in November. The elegantly arranged dial displays the month and day of the week in two rectangular apertures at 12 o’clock, the date by a central blued pointer hand on a 31-day scale, and the moon-phase in a semicircular window at 6 o’clock. The moon-phase in this watch is notable in that it requires adjustment only once every 122 years, as opposed to the three-year intervals demanded by most standard moon-phases. Gold is used here for the Arabic numerals, hour markers, and hands, as well as for the moon disk — and, of course, for the case and buckle of the rose-gold version of the watch. As in the other two FiftySix models, the steel reference is matched with a gray dials and strap, the gold with a silvered dial and brown strap.
Prices for the FiftySix collection: the Self-Winding is $11,700 in steel, $19,400 in rose gold; the Day-Date, $17,400 in steel, $32,500 in rose gold; and the Complete Calendar, $21,600 in steel and $35,800 in rose gold.