Since its introduction in 2016, I have a soft spot for the latest generation of Vacheron Constantin Overseas, whether the classic time-and-date model or more complex editions, like the Dual-Time. Even though slightly less coveted than its direct competitors (the Royal Oak and the Nautilus), it remains one of the best options in the luxury sports watch category, with a superb execution. But then came the Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Skeleton… And now, this adds to the handsome design some truly impressive watchmaking and decoration skills. A niche model for sure, but one with quite some appeal.
BRIEF BACKGROUND OF THE OVERSEAS
In 1977, Vacheron Constantin introduced reference 222 to mark the brand’s 222nd anniversary. Designed by Jörg Hysek, the 222 was a high-end sports watch with a tonneau-shaped 120m water-resistant case, a serrated bezel and an integrated bracelet. Reinvented in 2016, under the aegis of artistic director Christian Selmoni, the Overseas collection is Vacheron’s answer to the luxury sports watch. The distinct, powerful design of the case is built around a hexagonal, notched and polished bezel evoking the insignia Maltese Cross resting on a tonneau-shaped case with contrasting matte finishes. Complemented by automatic, anti-magnetic movements, the versatility of the watch is underscored with its winning DIY system to change the mood of the watch with the any of the three bracelets provided. Ranging from automatic time-and-date models to dual time and world time models, from chronographs to tourbillons all the way up to ultra-thin perpetual calendars, the collection is well furnished.
The Overseas 4500V, the “simplest” version in the current Overseas collection, yet with all design elements shared with today’s Ultra-Thin QP
What is interesting to note is that the ultra-thin perpetual calendar made its debut back in 2016 with the relaunch of the Overseas. A somewhat unexpected complication in a family of luxury sports watches, the closed model version is now joined by this openworked version.
More Luxury than sports watch
The original concept behind the luxury sports watch is an interesting mix between high-end watchmaking, with delicate, thin and nicely decorated movements, inserted into a highly designed, highly finished case but still quite robust stainless steel case attached to an integrated bracelet. Almost 50 years later, this concept is still alive, however, brands have also added haute horlogerie codes to these watches. Understandably, when your name is Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe and, of course, Vacheron Constantin, complicated movements are part of your DNA. It thus made sense to see these rather simple watches receiving far more advanced movements. And the perpetual calendar made its entry in all three watches produced by the “Holy Trinity” – with the Patek 5740G, multiple Royal Oak QP (incl. this superb record-breaker) and Vacheron Constantin with its Overseas Ultra-Thin Perpetual Calendar.
Below: the “Holy Trinity within the Holy Trinity”… 3 ultra-thin, ultra-high-end, superbly finished and rare QP editions of the 3 most emblematic luxury sports watches.
However, in the context of these watches, the “sports” in the name is less relevant and the “luxurious” takes far more importance. And while Audemars Piguet has decided to also have a skeleton version of its Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar that is all about boldness and modernity, Vacheron Constantin answers with its signature codes, meaning delicate movement, full gold attire and more traditional design. Quite relevant with the image we all have of Vacheron, indeed.
Fully exposed mechanics
The layout of this Vacheron Constantin Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Skeleton is identical to the closed dial version and is arranged around four sub-dials. The ring at 12 o’clock indicates the months, but you will notice that they jump in a strange order. A typical Vacheron feature of its QP movements, this 48-month sub-dial indicates the months of four years, including the months of the leap year. The days of the week at 9 o’clock are countered by the date at 3 o’clock and the phases of the moon are placed at 6 o’clock. The pink gold hands and applied hour markers are enhanced with luminescence and there is a chapter ring for the minutes with blue Arabic numerals and black markers.
A highly regarded complication, the perpetual calendar movement (calibre 1120 QPSQ) powering this watch appears in a new guise and now reveals all its intriguing mechanical parts under the sapphire crystals on both sides of the case. Skeletonisation is an art in itself and consists of hollowing out components without compromising their reliability. And when it comes to skeletonising an already complicated QP movement in an ultra-thin format, there are very few watchmakers qualified for this challenging task.
Since the movement is now on view, special handmade finishes have been performed on the parts: surfaces are decorated with satin-brushed finishes; straight lines and curves are bevelled to catch the light; and then there is circular brushing, sunburst finishing, circular graining and polishing. In addition to the hand-crafted finishes, some parts of the mechanism are treated to an NAC electrolytic process that gives them a contemporary anthracite grey colour. Another touch that contributes to its contemporary face is the thinly veiled cover of the moon phase crafted in sapphire to reveal the second moon.
Classic Overseas design
Regarding the case of the Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Skeleton, no major evolution to be found, as this high-end edition retains the same case and proportions as the non-skeleton version. As such, it comes with a rather large (however more compact than numbers would indicate at first) case of 41.5mm made of 18k pink gold. However, the case is (very) thin with only 8.10mm in height, which is quite impressive considering the complexity of the movement. Design-wise, all the signature elements of the Overseas collection are retained, such as the barrel-shaped case with its Maltese-cross inspired bezel, the succession of brushed and polished surfaces and the perfect integration of the gold bracelet within the overall lines of the case.
As expected from Vacheron Constantin, the execution is above suspicion, with delicate finishing and great attention to details. The bracelet, for instance, even shows hand-made sharp angles, polished to a high gloss. Being fairly thinner than the classic time-and-date model, the Overseas Perpetual Calendar isn’t as robust but it still retains a very decent 50m water-resistance and a soft iron casing ring around the movement for anti-magnetic protection.
On the wrist, no debate about the visual presence of this watch, which makes a deliberate statement… in a refined manner. The watch sits well on the wrist with some weight but great balance. When worn on leather or rubber, it gains in elegance and discretion.
To power the Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Skeleton, Vacheron Constantin relies on a movement that is actually very relevant, historically-speaking. Indeed, the Calibre 1120 can find its roots back in the mid-1960s, as the JLC calibre 920 and it was, in 1976, the movement used by the original 222. While heavily modified and modernized, the architecture of the Calibre 1120 is immediately recognizable. For instance, it retains the signature supportive beryllium ring (providing stability to the oscillating weight) and the original 2.75Hz frequency (19,800 vibrations/hour).
Just like the front side of the watch, the back of the calibre 1120 is heavily hollowed to reveal its technical elements. The decoration, with its modern anthracite coating, is superb – hand-polished anglages, straight-grained bridges, fully opened rotor, bevelled wheel spokes…
Like all models in the collection, the Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Skeleton is equipped with one of the best strap/bracelet self-changing device available on the market – it requires no tools, only a push on the button located at the back of the bracelet/strap and can be done within seconds (the system is visible on the caseback photo above).
In this case, the Overseas Perpetual Calendar is delivered with an 18k pink gold bracelet with satin-brushed Maltese Cross-shaped links (and still the superb finishing found on all models) and two additional straps in blue alligator leather and blue rubber, as well as an additional 18k pink gold folding buckle.
Price and availability
The Vacheron Constantin Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Skeleton (Ref. 4300V/120R-B547) is priced at EUR 130,000 and is only available from Vacheron Constantin boutiques.
More details at vacheron-constantin.com.
This post first appeared on Monochrome Watches - An online magazine dedicated to fine watches.