Not every watch brand can claim its products are “supreme expressions” of “the most demanding Geneva haute horology traditions”, ones “inherited from the 18th Century” and do so with a straight face.
With Vacheron Constantin such a statement is less a piece of PR hyperbole than an expression of incontestable fact. Having been making watches basically since watchmaking began, the maison is among the most respected high-end watchmakers today, having amassed 11 awards from the Grand Prix d’Horogerie de Genève, the annual watchmaking prize all journalists are contractually obliged to call “the Oscars of the watch world”.
Today Vacheron announces a new take on its Traditionnelle Complete Calendar, a watch that, as its name suggests, sits within its Traditionnelle collection, a line “reminiscent of the watches made by the cabinotiers, the Geneva watchmakers who plied their trade during the Age of Enlightenment”. Which is not something you could say about, say, Swatch.
(The term refers to Geneva’s most skilled horologists from the 18th century who practised watchmaking in their workshops called ‘Cabinets’. These were essentially cramped attics in the tallest of buildings to get the most natural light possible. These craftsmen received countless requests from people all across Europe to build them custom-made timepieces that would help them flaunt their social as well as professional standing. Today Vacheron operates its own “Les Cabiontiers” division in tribute.)
The Traditionnelle Complete Calendar, then, is a handsome, stylish and paired-back “complete calendar” watch, one that shows the day, the date, the month, as well as the phase of the moon. The model has previously been available in 18ct pink gold and platinum, and is now released in a 41mm white gold case with a slate grey dial.
Vacheron Constantin says the new colours give the watch a more contemporary look, which highlight the layout of the displays. That may well be true, but its watches are already a masterclass in design and finishing, simultaneously complicated and legible.
Its watches do a lot, but they never look like a lot. Whereas most triple calendars display their wares with sub-dials, the Traditionnelle Complete Calendar tucks the day and the month around the rim of the dial while the date is discreetly indicated by the central hand.
The triple calendar complication was originally developed for use in pocket watches, before appearing as a feature in wristwatches in the 1920s, when Vacheron Constantin and Rolex began making them. Their popularity really took off, though, in the mid-20th century, with several other brands introducing their own versions. Vacheron Constantin remained a key player, however. In 1942, it released the ref. 4240, with the date on the periphery and the day of the week and the month seen in windows at 12 o’clock. This limited-edition, vintage timepiece is now highly collectable among watch enthusiasts. The company launched a watch inspired by its retro appearance in its “Historiques” collection in 2017.
The Traditionnelle Complete Calender has 308 components in its self-winding movement, helping to power the moon phase indicator at 6 o'clock, which will require adjustment once every 122 years. Pick one up today and you’re good until November 2143.
It’s a beautiful, beautiful watch, perhaps the definition of “discreet luxury” – something that’s as true today as it presumably was when the cabinontiers plied their trade during the Age of Enlightenment.
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