As you know, our first impressions of the 2018 launch of the Fiftysix collection were mixed. Introduced as the brand’s more casual collection, with steel options and automatic movements, and choice of complications. The Fiftysix taps into the ongoing trend for vintage-style watches by taking inspiration from a VC model of 1956 and has lightened up the mood of the dial with contemporary and more casual touches. Touted by VC as a “modern, elegant and relaxed collection” with a “resolutely cosmopolitan style”, our mission today is to determine if the model we had for our hands-on session lives up to Vacheron Constantin’s concept. The proof is in the pudding, so let’s take a closer look at the Fiftysix Day-Date steel model.
Complex Case, Elegant Proportions
Like its siblings in the current line-up – Complete Calendar and the automatic time-and-date model (excluding the tourbillon with its 41mm case) – the case measures 40mm with a thickness of 11.6mm. Recurring to certain design cues of the 1956 reference 6073, the lugs represent the four arms of Vacheron’s emblematic Maltese cross.
Worn on the wrist, you can really start to appreciate the elegance of the proportions and the way the light plays with the polished surfaces.
Available in steel and pink gold, the case is a harmonious blend of different shapes. Just look at how those lugs taper in the centre (around the recessed crown) and then thicken and plunge towards the strap. The triangles wedged between the round bezel and the lugs, a key design feature of the 1956 model, evoke the arms of the Maltese cross and add interest and character. Another direct link to the reference 6073 is the box-type crystal rising high above the bezel. Although the original was made from mineral glass, the Fiftysix has a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal.
Compared to the pink gold version of the Day-Date, the steel model comes across as more austere, ‘techier’ and slightly edgier. In a nutshell; much more contemporary. A distinctive feature of all the Fiftysix models is the sector-type dial. Popular during the 1950s, sector dials, with their ‘retro science lab’ look, have definitely made a comeback (see Jaeger-LeCoultre’s successful Master Control Collection with sector dials or even Laurent Ferrier’s Galet Square).
The more I look at the dial, the more I realise what a strategic role the small power reserve indicator plays in the overall mood of the watch. Perched just above 6 o’clock, the power reserve is formed by a quarter circle and goes from a darker grey to a lighter grey to indicate the amount of fuel left in the tank. This small arch breaks the rigid symmetry of the dial making it fresher, less classical and infinitely cooler.
Two concentric chapter rings demarcate the hours and minutes while the grey opaline centre of the dial features two horizontally aligned sub-dials for the day of the week and date. Each individual area contained within the rings is decorated with a different finish playing with different tones of grey.
The finishes are exquisite, in line with VC quality and liven up a potentially ‘plain’ monochrome background – look how well the day and date counters stand out with their snailed backgrounds. You can see the elegant sunburst-brushed finish of the hours track hosting the applied white gold Arabic numerals (beautiful typography chosen!) and baton hour markers with a strip of luminescent material (the hour and minute hands are also gold with luminescence).
Beady-eyed readers will notice that the general layout of the calendar and power reserve indications on the Fiftysix Day-Date dial is a clone of the Traditionnelle Day-Date and as such shares a very similar movement, albeit with different finishes.
Automatic Calibre 2475 SC/2
Like the Fiftysix Complete Calendar model, the automatic movement of the Day-Date bears the coveted Hallmark of Geneva seal and has been developed and manufactured by Vacheron Constantin. Turning the watch over offers a view of the openworked 22k gold oscillating weight with a polished Maltese cross, the Côtes de Genève stripes on the bridges and the circular graining on the plates. With a frequency of 4Hz, the movement has a power reserve of 40 hours.
Seeing this watch in official photographs is a far cry from handling the real thing. What might come across as cold and technical in the photos comes alive with the refined details and finishes on the dial. With its interesting case shape, sector-style dial, low-key monochromatic colour scheme and richly executed and contrasting finishes, the Day-Date is ultimately an extremely elegant watch. Short of classifying this watch as “cosmopolitan”, I would say that this is a watch with a lot of attitude and lashings of style. It’s the kind of watch that gets noticed without shouting. With such a beautifully designed power reserve indicator on the dial, it’s a shame that the power reserve is on the low side…
The Vacheron Constantin Fiftysix Day-Date comes with a grey alligator strap and steel folding clasp and retails for EUR 17,300 (incl. taxes). For more information, please visit vacheron-constantin.com.