THE VACHERON CONSTANTIN FIFTYSIX COMPLETE CALENDAR IS INSPIRED BY A 1950S VACHERON CONSTANTIN MODEL, THE REFERENCE 6073. HOWEVER, AS ANGUS DAVIES EXPLAINS, THIS PARAGON OF FINE WATCHMAKING IS NOT A FACSIMILE OF A FORMER GREAT, BUT A TIMELESS WATCH IMBUED WITH PEERLESS CRAFTSMANSHIP AND AN IMPRESSIVE AUTOMATIC MOVEMENT, RELEVANT TO A MODERN-DAY AUDIENCE.
As a young boy, I recall my father saying that the music at the time was ‘not as good as in my day’. My grandmother talked about ‘food tasting better in her day’. On the face of it, everything seemed better in times gone by.
Now I am older, I reminisce about the ‘good old days’ and look back at my youth through rose-tinted glasses. The fact is, while some aspects of life have deteriorated, many things have improved. There is merit in revisiting the past, reinterpreting what has gone before, but embracing the new and the advancement it confers.
I am reminded of this scenario when I look at the Vacheron Constantin FiftySix collection. The Genevan watch company has delved into its history, reappraised the reference 6073, a model from the 1950s, and conceived an array of new watches applicable to a modern-day audience.
The Vacheron Constantin FiftySix collection includes an elegant self-winding model featuring centre seconds and date, a day-date watch with a power-reserve indication, a complete calendar and, lastly, a tourbillon. While each model shares certain design elements, they all have their own distinct personality. Personally, I am drawn to the handsome lines of the Vacheron Constantin FiftySix Complete Calendar.
While the Vacheron Constantin FiftySix Complete Calendar shares a similar appearance to the reference 6073, it incorporates many new and unique design details. The dauphine-shaped hands of the 1950s watch have been supplanted by baton-style hour and minute hands, lined with luminescent treatment.
The hours are denoted with a combination of Arabic numerals sans serifs and luminescent batons. The latter indices are used to indicate the odd-numbered hours, while the non-luminescent numerals represent the even-numbered hours. A sector-type dial delineates the hour track from neighbouring indications. The hour track is adorned with a sunburst motif.
At the heart of the dial are three indications; day, month and moon-phase. The latter indication depicts the moon with two 18-carat discs against a deep blue sky and requires adjustment only once every 122 years. The centre of the dial is opaline, providing a becoming contrast with the aforementioned sunburst motif. A chemin de fer delineates the central area of the dial from the hour track.
A blue hand with an openworked tip circumscribes the dial, indicating the prevailing date. The date indication employs numerals in a modern typeface and the display is snailed. The watch is fitted with a box-glass sapphire crystal which causes the numerals to appear elongated when viewed from the side. Personally, I find this endearing.
When viewed in isolation the Vacheron Constantin FiftySix Complete Calendar appears classical, however, when it is placed adjacent the reference 6073, it looks modern and more relevant to today’s watch-buying audience.
There is a part of me which loves the styling of vintage wristwatches, however, they often appear lost when affixed to my oversized wrist. The Vacheron Constantin FiftySix Complete Calendar befits modern tastes, measuring 40mm in diameter. The timepiece remains modestly proportioned when compared with many competitors’ watches, but its scale should suit a broad array of would-be buyers.
The reference 6073 was fitted with a mineral glass. Today, most watches are fitted with sapphire crystals which are tougher and less susceptible to scratching. The Vacheron Constantin FiftySix Complete Calendar is fitted with a box-glass sapphire crystal as well as a pane of sapphire crystal to the rear, affording wonderful views of the automatic movement.
Contrasting the silhouette of the reference 6073 with its modern-day counterpart, the case shape of the contemporary is more organic. The lugs seamlessly merge into the caseband and exhibit a smooth sinuous shape. On the historical watch the crown sits proud of the caseband, whereas on the modern-day timepiece the crown nestles within the caseband.
With the Vacheron Constantin FiftySix Complete Calendar each element enjoys a harmonious relationship with its neighbour.
Similar to a high-performance car where the prospective buyer eagerly lifts the bonnet, on a Vacheron Constantin timepiece there is a tendency to gravitate to the caseback. Indeed, on seeing this watch for the first time, I turned the watch over and quaffed the mechanical excellence housed within the case.
This self-winding movement features a 22-carat openworked oscillating weight. A highly polished, Maltese cross, Vacheron Constantin’s logo since 1880, spans the open section of the rotor.
Beneath the oscillating weight is a horological vista par excellence. The Poinçon de Genève denotes the movement has been made to a matchless standard. The bridges are adorned with Côtes de Genève and feature resplendent bevelled edges. The jewel and screw sinks are polished to a brilliant gleam. The mainplate is adorned with perlage and the wheels are circular grained. Everything is distilled to an exacting standard.
The Calibre 2460 QCL/1 has been developed and manufactured by the Swiss firm. The balance has a frequency of 28,800 VpH (4Hz) and the movement contains 27 jewels. The power reserve is sufficient to deliver approximately 40 hours of autonomy.
The dial of the Vacheron Constantin FiftySix Complete Calendar presents information in a succinct, user-friendly form. The space between the day, date and month indications augments ease of read-off. The moon-phase indication is exquisite with gold discs depicting the moon against a sumptuous blue sky. While the dial is highly functional it also exhibits a handsome appearance. In particular, the sector-dial juxtaposes two contrasting finishes to comely effect.
Vacheron Constantin has expertly enriched the case with a multitude of contours, with each facet enjoying a beautiful reciprocity with light.
The case of the Vacheron Constantin FiftySix Complete Calendar is the pleasing consequence of evolution. Where the reference 6073 featured discrete elements, such as the lugs and crown that stood back from the main case, the shape of the modern-day watch appears more fluid, as if honed by crashing waves into a smoother form.
The Calibre 2460 QCL/1 stands testament to the Maison’s unwavering quest for perfection. Each part is beautifully executed. The composition of the watch is the consequence of painstaking endeavour, a fact verified with the Poinçon de Genève.
I have no doubt when the reference 6073 was unveiled, it was considered an exemplar of haute horlogerie. Clearly, Vacheron Constantin found it helpful to look to its past for inspiration. However, in my opinion, the Vacheron Constantin FiftySix Complete Calendar usurps the reference 6073. It delivers something new, fresh and befitting of today’s watch buyers. Moreover, it perfectly illustrates that not everything was ‘better in my day’.