Nearly as old as the art of horology itself, Vacheron Constantin cemented its position as the father of the barrel-shaped watches known as “tonneau” cases, an iconographic design feature that has stood the test of time for over a century and continues to be a sign of prestige. The “tonneau” Malte collection is without question one of Vacheron’s gifts to the horological industry.
With the hallmark of the Geneva seal in place, we know the company’s Malte piece will be truly something special, and this year at SIHH, we aren’t given just one, but rather two new Malte pieces from Vacheron Constantin. These two watches may come from the same line of tonneau cases, but the similarities end there. Having each been created under watchmaking’s two different, overarching schools of thought, the new Malte pieces are polar opposites of one another. One favors refinement and balance; the other, sheer horological prowess. We introduce to you the new white gold Malte Small Seconds and the Openworked dial tourbillon for SIHH 2014.
The popular tonneau case design dates all the way back to 1912 when Vacheron took this revolutionary step in breaking away from the traditional round dial pocket watch cases. Although there are other manufacturers who subsequently incorporated the tonneau design into their collection, none was able to do it as successfully as did Vacheron Constantin. Over the years, the Malte became a distinct line representing the best of what Vacheron has to offer, identifying itself by awe-inspiring horological complications and refinements that are only equaled by the best watchmaking the industry has to offer.
Malte Small Seconds
The new white gold Malte Small Seconds may be similar to the current rose-gold version from the Vacheron Constantin Malte collection, but the change in color is nonetheless something worth a second look. It is a traditional timepiece that does its job of time-telling effortlessly. It is its very simplicity which is a visual representation of refinement: a piece crafted with an end in mind, striking a balance between reliability and exceptional finishing.
With simple features and the indication of hours, minutes and seconds shown on a subdial in the 6 o’clock position, this piece may be seen as an understatement for some; but its sheer simplicity and the elegance of its most important function is what makes the Malte Small Seconds something to yearn for. Take away for a moment all complications, and the limitless desire to see something new, and you will see how this watch is the embodiment of what a traditional timepiece should be. The new Malte Small Seconds, although it boasts no spectacular complications, is, in our own opinion, gorgeous in every corner and curve.
- Case: 36.70mm x 47.61mm (18k White Gold Tonneau Case), sapphire crystal exhibition case back
- Movement: 4400 AS Hand-wound Caliber, 127 parts, 21 jewels, 28 800 vph and 65 hours power reserve
- Indications: Hours, Minutes and Small Seconds subdial
- Dial: Silver and sand-blasted with 10 baton hour markers and 2 Roman markers in 18k white gold
- Strap: Black Alligator mississippiensis leather strap with a white gold half Maltese cross clasp
Malte Openwork Tourbillon
Developing a tonneau-shaped caliber entirely in-house calls for exceptional mastery; openworking it and staging it to create a subtle interplay of light and shadow among the layered depths of the calibre represents the ultimate challenge in watchmaking. The tourbillon in this regard is simply the cherry on top.
What you are seeing here is the creme de la creme of tonneau cases, representing 500 hours of conception and design by the watchmakers and artisans of Vacheron Constantin. The three-dimensional effect created by the openwork aesthetic and architectural approach in engraving is a high-wire act shown on a microscopic scale. To do this, during engraving, Vacheron Constantin’s artisans create tiny triangles which are composed of recurrent straight lines before hand-drawing and chamfering the 246 parts of the calibre. This geometrical mosaic forms an architecture, generating a voluminous effect through light and shadow. The engraving thus creates mesmerizing light effects that put the openwork dial on a whole different level.
The process of openworking:
The added complexity of openworking a dial is essentially a purely aesthetic approach in horology. However, it does induce an added complexity in watchmaking that allows the craftsmen to express the intricacies of a movement’s design and reveal its inner beauty. Although a standard exhibition back could also work, openworking takes the concept a notch higher. Watch manufacturers do these kinds of things not because the consumer needs it, but rather because they can.
Once the watchmakers are able to conceptualize the openwork design, the artisans take over. The mainplate, bridges, barrel, and other parts are hand engraved by creating subtle contrasts between the polished finish that catches the light, and the hand-drawn parts that accentuate the radiance. Sculpting the entire movement by hand, they create a matte finish to instill a unique character by turning mechanical art into a transparent and ethereal mechanical wonder.
The new Malte Openwork Tourbillon sports the 2790 SQ caliber which appears to be a derivative of the 2795 caliber found in the existing Tourbillon Malte. Similarly, the piece will bear the Hallmark of Geneva seal to represent the standard of excellence and evoke the emblem of the company. In addition, a small seconds at the 6 o’clock is also found on the tourbillon carriage and a power reserve and date dial are present in the 10 and 2 o’clock positions respectively.
The sheer complexity in crafting this piece puts the new Malte Openwork Tourbillon among the very best of what Vacheron Constantin has to offer. All of this is done in an effort to show the company’s horological prowess, hailing the new Malte as a feat of haute horlogerie among tonneau cases for many years to come.
- Case: 38.00mm x 48.24mm (Platinum Tonneau Case), sapphire crystal exhibition case back
- Movement: Tourbillon 2790 SQ Hand-wound Caliber, 246 parts, 27 jewels, 18 000 vph and 45 hours power reserve
- Indications: Hours, Minutes and Small Seconds on tourbillon carriage, power reserve and date indicator
- Dial: Sapphire crystal with engraved and inked markers surrounded by opaline state-colored metal ring
- Strap: Black Alligator mississippiensis leather strap with a platinum half Maltese cross clasp
Visit www.vacheron-constantin.com for more information.