Let’s go straight to the point and not turn around the topic; in 2022, as part of the collection presented at Watches and Wonders Geneva, Vacheron Constantin is reissuing its emblematic luxury sports watch launched in 1977 for the 222nd anniversary of the brand; the 222. The third member of the iconic Holy Trinity of luxury sports watches (next to the Royal Oak and the Nautilus, all three sharing at the beginning the same base movement), the new Vacheron Constantin Historiques 222 is a typical vintage-inspired watch, yet with some important evolutions to be noted. And the first one being quite obvious; it isn’t released in stainless steel but in yellow gold. And there’s some more to be said about this Historiques 222, so let’s dive into the history and the details about this new, properly appealing watch.
Historical Reminder, the Vacheron Constantin 222
In 1972, the watchmaking world saw the introduction of a brand new concept, a watch designed as a coherent object with perfect integration between the bracelet and the case, a stainless steel watch with robustness and casualness in mind, yet with a high-end ultra-thin movement and finishing that were done in the same vein as a precious, complicated timepiece in gold. Designed by Gerald Genta and released in 1972, the AP Royal Oak created the genre, soon to be followed by many, including Patek Philippe in 1976 and, a year later Vacheron Constantin. And here you have what collectors named the Holy Trinity of luxury sports watches.
To celebrate the brand’s 222nd anniversary, Vacheron presented the 222, designed by a young man named Jorg Hysek. Like Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe, the 222 was a radical breakaway from its traditional dress watches. “I wanted to design an elegant sporty timepiece while striking the right balance between these two elements to fit in with Vacheron Constantin’s classic and refined universe,” explains Hysek. The 222 included all the classic elements of the genre, starting from its barrel-shaped case, prominent bezel with complex shape, a bracelet fully integrated within the whole design, an ultra-thin movement and this typical combination of luxury and casualness.
The Vacheron Constantin originally came in stainless steel and was water-resistant to 120 metres, and yet it measured only 7mm in height thanks to its ultra-thin movement measuring barely 3.05mm – the calibre VC1120, based on the Jaeger-LeCoultre calibre 920. The Jumbo was a time-and-date watch without seconds that measured 37mm in diameter. Following the initial Jumbo steel model, the 222 was subsequently interpreted in 34mm and 24mm steel, yellow gold or two-tone iterations, polished or gem-set but always with the emblematic fluted bezel and the Maltese cross emblem nestling in the right-hand corner of the case at 5 o’clock. It will remain in production until 1985. Later, the design and style of the original model resurfaced in 1996, with the creation of the Overseas Phase 1.
This will lead the brand to the creation of two other generations Overseas, including the current model that is often regarded as the direct descendant of the original 222. But today, it’s not about inspiration, but about re-issuing the emblematic design, yet with a few differences.
Vacheron Constantin Historiques 222, The basics
What Vacheron Constantin has been doing here is to offer an updated interpretation of this legendary model in its Jumbo version, with a design that largely evokes the past (in fact, in a highly faithful way) yet with multiple evolutions to be seen on the construction of the case, of the bracelet and of the movement. And yes, as you can see, the brand took the decision to release this watch in yellow gold and not in stainless steel, and surprisingly as part of the permanent collection. The Vacheron Constantin Historiques 222 is not limited in numbers, yet it’s a boutique exclusive and won’t be available in large quantities anyway. In the same vein as the Cornes de Vaches Chronograph, the American 1921 or the Triple Calendar, this new interpretation of the 222 keeps the spirit of the Historiques collection, where the watches are not identical replicas of the original watch, but instead contemporary reinterpretations. Yet here, design-wise, the connection is pretty obvious.
Here’s a quick summary of what you need to know:
- identical diameter of 37mm, slightly thicker case of 7.95mm (about 1mm more)
- the same overall design, including the fluted bezel and the Maltese Cross logo at 5 o’clock
- the case now has a 3-part construction (no more monobloc) with independent caseback and see-through crystal, water-resistant to 50m (no more 120m)
- the case is made of 18k 3N yellow gold – a slightly more vintage hue of gold – and so is the bracelet. Finishings are identical to the historic model, yet have been refined
- gold-toned dial with still a 2-hand and date display, historic font for the Automatic mention
- the date window has been significantly offset from the outer rim of the dial to enhance legibility
- the bracelet is fitted with a new triple-blade clasp
- the bracelet articulations have been revisited to hide the visible pins and improve comfort on the wrist
- the movement has been changed, becoming calibre 2455/2 with 4Hz frequency and 40h power reserve. Also now features quick-set date. New rotor a fluted motif echoing the bezel
Vacheron Constantin Historiques 222, The Details
While the section above was here to give you the quick facts about the new Historiques 222, let’s now have a closer look at this watch, that we managed to see in the metal right before the show. Basically, there’s a direct connection between the old 222 and the new 222, and the overall design leaves no doubt on the origins of the 2022 re-edition. It is, overall, faithful and extremely well executed, as you’d expect from Vacheron Constantin, and the new watch is certainly playing on a different league than the older watch when it comes to precision of the assembly and refinement of the decoration. But there are important evolutions to be noted regarding the technical specifications, some that rather drastically change the watch.
What is still alive is the sporty-chic attire of the watch and its appurtenance to the luxury sports watch category. In most areas, this Vacheron Constantin Historiques 222 is entirely respectful of Jorg Hysek’s initial design and the proportions have been, on most parts, respected. As such, the case measures 37mm in diameter and retains the barrel-shaped central part topped by the signature fluted bezel of the collection and the Maltese Cross at 5 o’clock, here applied in polished white gold. Finishings techniques have been respected too, with circular brushed surfaces on the bezel, vertically brushed surfaces on the case, horizontally brushed surfaces on the sides and multiple thin polished bevels around the case and the bezel to enhance the luxurious feel.
All in all, the Vacheron Constantin Historiques 222 is respectful of the original model, albeit with a few adjustments in the interests of modernity. Importantly, the monobloc construction of the original watch, which required the movement to be cased-up from above, then closed by a screw-down bezel (something that guaranteed a 120m water-resistance) has been replaced by a more classic 3-part construction, with an independent caseback that features a see-through window. This has two consequences. First, the height of the case is now 7.95mm instead of 7mm. Still fairly thin, obviously. Second, the water-resistance of this new 222 is now 50m. In all fairness, I think there’s not much to debate here, since no one will ever take such a precious watch underwater anyway. 50m WR is more than enough on a daily basis.
The most obvious thing that will be discussed with this new Vacheron Constantin Historiques 222 is the fact that the brand decided to release it in yellow gold and not in stainless steel – even though I’m pretty sure a steel model will follow at a certain point. A deliberate choice that must have been deeply debated internally. So, for this first edition of the Historiques 222, we have a case and bracelet made of 3N yellow gold, a warmer hue of gold that reminds me of vintage watches. Overall, the result is extremely appealing and coherent, even though a stainless steel model would have gained my heart.
The bracelet follows the same principles. Identical at first sight, with its original links and its well-integrated design, it is superbly executed with deep attention to detail and refined brushed surfaces with thin polished edges. Thin and comfortable, the bracelet has been modernized with a modern triple-blade folding clasp, replacing the stamped double-blade clasp of the original watch. Also, the bracelet articulations have been revisited to hide the visible pins and improve comfort on the wrist. Obviously here, modernity has its advantages (even though a micro-adjustment system would have been wise).
As for the dial, it’s again the same concept. Overall faithfulness, yet with some evolutions. Just like the older version of the yellow gold model, the new Historiques 222 has a tone-on-tone dial in matte gold colour, with straight hour-markers and baton-type hands in yellow gold. These are filled with Super-LumiNova. The matte surface of the dial keeps things relatively discreet and the dial retains the classic 2-hand and date display, as well as historic logos and fonts. The main evolution concerns the position of the framed date windown, which has been significantly offset from the outer rim of the dial (to enhance legibility according to the brand) with a complete minute track.
Visible under the sapphire caseback is the Calibre 2455/2. The base movement is well known at Vacheron since it was already used in multiple ultra-thin Traditionelle automatic models with small seconds. It has nothing in common with the old JLC base movement, which is still used in the Overseas Ultra-Thin for example. Here, we’re talking about a modern conception, which is manufactured in-house and certified by the Hallmark of Geneva.
The movement is still thin, at 3.6mm, and stores about 40h of power reserve. It now runs at a 4Hz frequency for better accuracy. It is, as expected, finely decorated and features an 18k yellow gold rotor decorated with a fluted pattern that reminds of the bezel. And an important update, it finally has a quick-set date – something owners of the old watch, or any watch with the old JLC base will certainly appreciate.
The first comment that comes to my mind is: “why?…” Why hasn’t Vacheron Constantin created a stainless steel edition of this watch. Well, I surely shared this with the teams of VC, and the answer was that a steel with grey or blue dial version would have been too expected, too deja-vu and that gold was the preferred choice of the brand’s collector’s base. I let you decided whether you agree or not with this choice.
Now, having spent an hour with this watch on the wrist, I can tell you this: the overall execution is simply stunning. The work done on the case and the bracelet, the precision of all the parts, the beauty of the finishing, the smoothness of the watch on the wrist… There’s proper attention to details everywhere. The term luxury in luxury sports watch is clearly justified here. The updated on the bracelets, namely the new articulation and the new clasp, are also very much appreciated.
Also, being a full gold watch, expect a piece with some heft. It is heavy. Period! And, also important, despite the 37mm of the case, the Vacheron Constantin Historiques 222 isn’t a small watch. The case and mostly the way the bracelet follows the line of the case makes for a watch with an undeniable presence.
Availability & Price
The Vacheron Constantin Historiques 222 yellow gold re-edition for 2022 (reference 4200H/222J-B935) will be launched as part of the permanent collection, and thus not as a limited edition. It will only be available from the brand’s official boutiques, in rather low quantities. The price (including taxes) will be EUR 62,000 or CHF 63,500.
For more details, please visit www.vacheron-constantin.com.