Vacheron Constantin displays its mastery of complex mechanical movements at SIHH 2017 with the introduction of two new complicated pieces in its Cabinotiers collection.
Les Cabinotiers Symphonia Grande Sonnerie 1860 is the company’s first grande sonnerie for the wrist, but it is by no means the company’s first chiming watch. Vacheron was making pocketwatches with grande and petite sonnerie mechanisms as early as 1827, combining them with minute repeater functions in 1908, and created its first ultra-thin minute repeater caliber for wristwatches in 1991.
The Cabinotiers Symphonia Grande Sonnerie 1860 is the culmination of this expertise. It was 10 years in development and took a single watchmaker some 500 hours to assemble. It contains the hand-wound Caliber 1860, with 727 components, several built-in security mechanisms, and a double-barrel power source. The grande sonnerie automatically strikes the hours and quarters, while the petite sonnerie automatically strikes the hours only, and a minute repeater, activated by a pusher on the crown, strikes the hours, quarters and minutes on demand. A setting on the case side displays the mode: GS (grande sonnerie), PS (petite sonnerie) or S (silent), adjusted by turning the bezel.
Unless it is on “silent” mode, a grande sonnerie can be required to strike up to 912 chimes per day, and to accommodate the power needed for this, the movement has two barrels: one dedicated to the striking mechanism, with a 20-hour power reserve; and the other powering the movement, with a 72-hour power reserve. The chiming mechanism incorporates six security systems to prevent damage to the movement while the gongs are in action. Mode isolators ensure that during time setting, the watch will not chime, and when chiming is in progress, the watch cannot be set. If a change in mode is made while a chime is in progress, it will not be activated until the previous chime is complete. If the power reserve is too low to chime to the end of its sequence, it will not activate. The movement also eliminates “phantom” quarters, the gap of silence that would otherwise occur between the hours and the minutes when there are no quarter hours to chime.
Aside from hours and minutes, the minimalist dial is adorned only with a small, offset small-seconds indicator at 7 o’clock and two power-reserve indicators: one at 5 o’clock for the time, and the other at 2 o’clock for the strike mechanism, with a serpentine hand. The case is 18k white gold, and measures 45 mm wide and 15.1 mm thick (the movement is 37 mm wide by 9.1 mm thick). Le Cabinotiers Symphonia Grande Sonnerie 1860 was made according to the standards of the Geneva Seal, and was developed by a single Vacheron Contantin watchmaker, Jerome Brestaz, over a 10-year period. It is a unique piece, priced upon request.
Vacheron Constantin also introduced the Cabinotiers Celestia Astronomical Grand Complication 3600 at SIHH this week. All functions, including 23 complications, are contained in an integrated movement, the manual-wound Caliber 3600, which was five years in the making.
It incorporates six barrels (for a three-week power reserve), powering three dedicated gear trains: one for civil (mean) time, one for solar time (which varies from mean time by +14 to -16 minutes) and one for sidereal time, which varies from mean time by about four minutes a day. It is a perpetual calendar, and also tracks moon-phases, tide levels, sunrise and sunset, zodiacal signs, seasons, solstices and equinoxes. A mareoscope function depicts the alignment of the sun, moon, and earth. On the caseback is a celestial chart with the Milky Way, constellations of the Northern Hemisphere, and a power reserve indicator. It is also a one-of-a-kind piece, valued at about $1-million, and has, according to Vacheron, already been sold.