Revered Swiss watch house Vacheron Constantin recently launched a new collection, its most playful to date. While nodding at the brand’s history, it’s perfect for cosmopolitan men of the world, of any generation. ‘Authenticity is the new buzzword and this will be even more important in the future,’ says Christian Selmoni, Vacheron Constantin’s heritage and style director. ‘Younger buyers especially want to know about the essence of a brand. They want a reason to buy a product and they want to connect with the makers, so all brands are having to address their story and past.’
This storytelling is at the centre of modern watchmaking. Vacheron Constantin has a rich history but has kept its archives to itself. For the Fiftysix, however, Vacheron is relaxing and the launch even includes its first Instagram campaign. ‘We have a great heritage stretching back to 1755 and we would be crazy not to use it,’ Selmoni says. ‘But, at the same time, the Fiftysix is something we are promoting in a new way. We are using social media because our clients are. With Fiftysix we are getting closer to our customers.’
And past-meets-present is a good description of the watch itself. The original brief called fora piece linked to the past but, at the same time, one that was modern. On the history side, the watch inspiring the collection is a model from… you guessed it, 1956 – the year that Elvis Presley hit number one with Heartbreak Hotel, that Norma Jeane Mortenson legally changed her name to Marilyn Monroe and a Hollywood actress became a princess when Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier III of Monaco. In simple terms, the year 1956 revolutionised pop culture.
Reflecting the ‘disruptor’ year, the Fiftysix collection represents a new pillar for Vacheron Constantin to sit alongside its classic timepiece collections – Patrimony and Traditionnelle – and the sportier watches of the Overseas range. Filling the gap for an elegant timepiece that is more casual, the new watches complement the existing families but offer something different. Vacheron set out to be disruptive in its own way.
Turning to the archives, the 6073 model from 1956 was the inspiration for the new collection. ‘For us, it is more about incorporating hints from the past, this is what makes the Vacheron Constantin vibe,’ says Selmoni, explaining that a combination of elegance, sophistication and refinement is what makes a watch a Vacheron Constantin; a watch noted for its beauty and style first, with a slow dawning of, ‘Oh, of course, it’s a Vacheron’.
With an entry-level price of £10,100, the Fiftysix collection comprises three variations: a three-hand with date; a complete calendar version; and a day-date with power reserve indicator. All are available in 40mm cases of either steel or pink gold, with their in-house self-winding movements, featuring a polished and satin-brushed openworked gold rotor with applied signature Maltese cross, visible through an exhibition caseback.
The design initially seems a departure from the maison’s aesthetics, but closer examination reveals similarities – the Maltese cross-shaped lugs of the 6073 reimagined for the 21st century to give a sleeker, sportier look. The box-type crystal, which sits above the bezel, is a nod to 1950s styling, as is the sector-type opaline-sunburst dial. All models are water-resistant
to 30m and fitted with an alligator leather strap with either a polished half Maltese cross-shaped steel folding clasp or gold pin buckle.
The self-winding model houses a new calibre 1326 movement with 48-hour power reserve. It’s very appealing – executed in shades of grey, with a sunburst dial, luminescent hour indicators and hands, hours, minutes and central seconds plus a date window at three o’clock and a stop-seconds device. The day-date is powered by the calibre 2475 SC/2 with stop-seconds device. A double-sunburst-effect dial features two sub-dials at nine and three o’clock, indicating day-of-the-week and date respectively, plus an arced indication of the watch’s 40-hour power reserve at six o’clock.
The Complete Calendar is a highlight of the collection and a masterclass in simplification. Hours and minutes are represented traditionally, through central hands against a chapter ring with alternate Arabic numerals and baton-style markers, while seconds are shown through a lancet-style sweep seconds hand. The triple display is uncluttered and sophisticated with the day of the week and month in windows at 12 o’clock and a moon disc at six, which is accurate for 122 years before it needs slight adjustment. The date is indicated at the periphery of the dial via a guillochéd track and a blued arrow hand. Inside the case, beats the 308-component self-winding calibre 2460 QCL/1.
The jewel in the crown of the collection is the Fiftysix Tourbillon. Boasting a slender exterior at just under 6mm thick, thanks to its peripheral oscillating tourbillon, it’s also equipped with a 22ct-gold peripheral rotor.
A retro contemporary everyday watch family, the Fiftysix collection provides most things to most people. As appealing to a novice buyer as it is to a long-time collector, the Fiftysix encapsulates the history of Vacheron Constantin. Summed up by Selmoni, ‘the Fiftysix was unexpected, but you have to adapt in order to move forwards. The watch is proof that, even if we are 265 years old, we can still do cool things.’