Monochrome Watches
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The Impressive Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers Récits de Voyage Collection

A series of unique pieces takes us on a whirlwind global tour with pit stops at key destinations in VC’s international expansion.

| By Rebecca Doulton | 8 min read |

Vacheron Constantin invites us on an exotic journey of discovery with its latest Les Cabinotiers Réctis de Voyages, unique timepieces that trace the international expansion of the Maison. Established in 1755, the founder’s grandson, Jacques-Barthélémi Vacheron, and his partner, François Constantin, were quick to appreciate global markets leading to commercial ties with Central Europe, South America, Scandinavia, Asia, the United States and China. Following in the founders’ footsteps, these unique watches not only touch on geographical areas where Vacheron Constantin blossomed, but they also pay tribute to the distinctive artistic character of these locations. A true showcase of the Maison’s commitment to preserving ancestral artistic skills, the beauty of the Récits de Voyages timepieces is never skin deep thanks to Vacheron’s extraordinary horological legacy.

Minute Repeater Tourbillon Tribute to Arabesque

In 1817, Vacheron Constantin established ties with Turkey, then the centre of the Ottoman Empire. Expanding to Egypt and the Middle East, commissions for complicated pocket watches ensued from the ruling families in the region. With this chapter in mind, Les Cabinotiers has crafted a Minute Repeater Tourbillon engraved with traditional Muslim motifs, modelled on the rich floral and arabesque patterns found inside the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.

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Intricately engraved by hand over three months, the experience and dexterity of the master engraver’s hand were fundamental when negotiating the tenth-of-a-millimetre incisions in the white gold dial and case. Featuring a finely engraved white gold lattice-work cover inspired by mashrabiyas (balcony windows with latticed screens), the white gold dial reveals its refined, filigree beauty thanks to the matte black background. The 44mm white gold case features organic volutes and a geometrical pattern on the flange achieved using line and intaglio engraving.

No less formidable is the sophisticated in-house calibre 2755 with tourbillon, exposed on the dial at 6 o’clock, and minute repeater, using technology developed for the striking mechanism of the ultra-complicated Tour de l’Ille timepiece produced for the Maison’s 250th anniversary.

Quick facts: 44mm diameter x 13.5mm thickness – 18k white gold hand-engraved case and dial–  manual-winding calibre 2755 with tourbillon and minute repeater – 471 components – 18,000vph/2.5Hz – 58h power reserve –hours, minutes, tourbillon with seconds, minute repeater and power reserve – Hallmark of Geneva certification – black alligator leather strap, white gold folding clasp – ref. 6650C/000G-084C – unique piece

Minute Repeater Tourbillon Tribute to Art Deco

The next destination on the itinerary is New York. By the early 20th century, the Maison was well established in the city, attracting magnates like oil baron Rockefeller and car manufacturer James Ward Packard. To trumpet their ascending financial situation, business tycoons invested in skyscrapers, like the famous Art Deco Chrysler Building gracing New York’s skyline.

The Minute Repeater Tourbillon is an ode to the splendour of Art Deco with a dial embellished with wood marquetry. Like the technique of cloisonné enamel, the motif on the dial is achieved using 110 tiny wood pieces set inside gold frames. Hand-carved from pearwood and tulipwood, stained in black or blue and sanded, it took one month for the marquetry specialist to create the pattern resembling the spire of the Chrysler building. A gold pearl minutes track and 11 faceted diamond hour markers diminishing in size as they reach noon – to accentuate the vanishing line – indicate the time while the tourbillon regulates the movement.

The 18k pink gold case is engraved with herringbone motifs and measures 44mm across. The model is powered by the complex in-house calibre 2755 with a minute repeater and a tourbillon regulator. Like the Tribute to Arabesque model, the 58-hour power reserve display is featured on the caseback, and the repeater is activated with the slider on the left side of the case.

Quick facts: 44mm diameter x 13.5mm thickness – 18k rose gold case with herringbone engraving – wood marquetry dial with 11 baguette-cut diamond hour markers – manual-winding calibre 2755 with tourbillon and minute repeater – 471 components – 18,000vph/2.5Hz – 58h power reserve – hours, minutes, tourbillon with seconds, minute repeater and power reserve – Hallmark of Geneva certification – dark blue alligator leather strap, white gold folding clasp – ref. 6520C/000R-085C – unique piece

Memorable Places

Composed of four unique micro-sculpted gold dials inspired by architectural landmarks in the Far East and Geneva, Memorable Places reflects Vacheron’s mid-19th century expansion in Asia, particularly China. Using a new technique of hand-engraved dials made from three golds, all four models have 40mm diameter gold cases with a slim height of 9.10mm thanks to the ultra-thin calibre 1120 powering the watches.

Relying on 19th-century illustrations, the dials depict the Tour de l’Ile in Geneva – the location of the Maison’s workshops for 30 years, the archaeological site of Angkor Thom in Cambodia, the Imperial Chinese Summer Palace, and the Confucious Temple and Imperial College Museum in Beijing.

Strikingly realistic, the master engravers first micro-sculpt and line-engrave the thin gold plates (from 0.4 -0.8mm thick) to create the details and then superimpose the different layers, which takes 200 hours per dial. In the case of the Angkor and Summer Palace dials, the tree’s foliage has been damascened. Developed as the successor to the legendary 1.64mm manual-winding calibre 1003, Vacheron presented the ultra-thin 2.45mm thick automatic calibre 1120 in 1968.

Quick facts: 40mm diameter x 9.10mm thickness – 18k pink or white gold cases – hand-engraved three gold dials depicting historical landmarks –  ultra-thin automatic calibre 1120 – 144 components – 28.40mm x 9.10mm – 19,800vph/2.75Hz – 40h power reserve – hours and minutes – Hallmark of Geneva certification – black or dark brown alligator strap, gold pin buckle – Tour de l’Ile ref. 2000C/000G-106C unique piece – Imperial Chinese Summer Palace ref. 2000C/000R-104C unique piece – Confucius Temple ref. 2000C/000R-105C unique piece – Angkor Thom ref.  2000C/000R-103C unique piece

Malte Tourbillon Tribute to Haussmannian Style

This unique piece celebrates Vacheron’s expansion in Paris in the early 1820s and pays tribute to the urban planning project of Georges Haussmann.

Inspired by Baron Haussmann’s late 19th-century architectural makeover  “to aerate, unify and embellish” Paris, an architectural Malte collection case was chosen for the occasion. The 18k pink gold barrel-shaped case is hand-sculpted with motifs of Haussmann’s grandiose architecture with a lion and a frieze in champlevé on the case middle and gadroons engraved on the bezel, lugs and caseback.

What is even more remarkable, perhaps, is the fact that the movement is adorned with motifs recalling the metal structures of the Eiffel Tower. Working on a skeletonised version of the ultra-thin (6.1mm thick) in-house tourbillon calibre 2790 with date and power reserve, the master engraver decorated the bridges, mainplate and fixed parts, front and back. Unveiled in 2014, the tonneau-shaped, manual-winding calibre 2790 offers a view of the tourbillon beating at a slow tempo of 2.5Hz with its tourbillon carriage shaped like a Maltese cross.

Quick facts: 38mm diameter x 41.5mm length x 12.7mm thickness – 18k hand-engraved pink gold – grained pink gold chapter ring with gold indices, openworked dial – skeletonised ultra-thin manual-winding calibre 2790 SQ – 29.3mm x 6.1mm – hand-engraved bridges and mainplate – 246 components – 18,000vph/2.5Hz – 45h power reserve – hours, minutes, tourbillon with seconds, date, power reserve – Hallmark of Geneva certification – brown alligator strap, gold folding clasp – ref. 30135/000R-089C – unique piece

Grisaille High Jewellery Dragon

This unique piece takes us back to China, where, from 1845, Vacheron forged commercial ties. Decorated with a green grisaille enamel dial – a first for the Maison – the dial features a five-clawed imperial dragon. Thanks to the brand’s famous ultra-thin calibre 1120, the case maintains a slim, elegant profile of 8.90mm.

Housed in a 40mm white gold case, the flanks, bezel and lugs are set with 146 baguette-cut diamonds – without forgetting the inverted brilliant-cut diamond in the crown. A rare technique dating to the 16th century, the art of grisaille produces a chiaroscuro effect and involves the application of layers of white Limoges enamel to a dark enamel base. Fired repetitively in a kiln, the dragon’s forms take shape, and the enameller finishes the process with a fine layer of green-tinted translucent enamel to bring out the contrasts.

Quick facts: 40mm diameter x 8.90mm thickness – 18k white gold set with 146 baguette-cut diamonds (7.10 cts), crown set with inverted brilliant-cut diamond – green grisaille enamel on dial – ultra-thin automatic calibre 1120 – 144 components – 19,800vph/2.75Hz – 40h power reserve – hours and minutes – Hallmark of Geneva certification – dark green alligator strap with white gold pin buckle set with 16 baguette-cut diamonds – ref. 2017C/000G-096C – unique piece

Armillary Tourbillon Tribute to Art Deco

The last stop on the tour is New York, and again, the inspiration is Art Deco-inspired skyscrapers. Staged in a large 45mm hand-engraved yellow gold case with a thickness of 20.10mm, the in-house calibre 1990 with a bi-axial armillary tourbillon regulator and bi-retrograde hours and minutes puts on a fascinating show. The tourbillon is located on the left side of the dial and protected by a domed sapphire crystal, while the retrograde hours and minutes are featured on the right with a semi-circular gold track with applied gold Roman numerals and a white minutes track.

Decorated by a master engraver, the gold case and the mainplate and bridges of the movement have been sculpted in bas-relief. The black bridges on the dial are decorated with hand-guilloché motifs recreating the radiating, geometrical patterns of Art Deco. The reverse side reveals the engraved bridges with motifs from New York skyscrapers.

Protected by four patents, manual-winding calibre 1990 incorporates technical solutions developed for Les Cabinotiers Ref. 57260, the world’s most complex timepiece with 57 complications.

Quick facts: 45mm diameter x 20.10mm thickness – 18k hand-engraved yellow gold – bi-axial tourbillon on left side of dial, bi-retrograde hours and minutes on right – black bridges dial-side decorated with hand-guilloché, hand-engraved bridges reverse side – manual-winding calibre 1990 – 299 components – 18,800vph/2.5Hz – 58h power reserve – retrograde hours, minutes, small seconds on armillary tourbillon – Hallmark of Geneva certification – black alligator strap with yellow gold folding clasp – ref. 9860C/000J-090C – unique piece

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