The launch of Vacheron’s Fiftysix collection in 2018 was a surprise for many of us, marking a clear separation from the brand’s classic collections. Originally positioned as an entry-level collection to attract a younger generation of clients, the Fiftysix touted an automatic three-hand model in steel with an ‘accessible’ price tag of EUR 11,000. Although the notion of Vacheron Constantin producing an ‘affordable’ watch is at odds with the brand’s venerable reputation for Haute Horlogerie, the idea was to seduce a younger, trendier customer. How? By jumping on the ever-so-trendy retro bandwagon and revisiting a 1956 model in a contemporary key. Distilling a fashionable retro-contemporary vibe, the Fiftysix has appeared as a complete calendar, a tourbillon, and a day/date.
Having experimented with silver and blue dials, Vacheron decided to produce a rich, warm brown colour to offset the luxurious appeal of 18k pink gold. Last April, two 40mm pink gold boutique-exclusive models with sepia-brown dials – a complete calendar and automatic – were welcomed into the Fiftysix family. The combination of a pink gold case with a warm brown dial is classic and luxurious, but details like the sector dial, the calfskin strap with beige stitching, and the touches of lume assert its more casual personality.
Reference 6073 of 1956 was the brand’s first automatic, water-resistant watch with case lugs that evoked the four arms of the emblematic Maltese cross. The 40mm case of the Fiftysix picks up on the Maltese cross configuration but in a bolder, more contemporary fashion. Although design elements on the dial of the original have not transitioned to the Fiftysix, the presence of a box-type crystal rising high above the bezel evokes the vintage reference 6073 along with the sector dials that were popular in the 1950s.
Fiftysix Complete Calendar
This is the most complete model in the Fiftysix line-up with day, date and month indications, as well as a precision moon phase requiring no adjustment for 122 years. Simpler and less expensive than an annual or perpetual calendar, complete or triple calendars complete 31-day cycles and require an adjustment five times a year. Given the appealing layout of a complete calendar, having to adjust the watch five times a year is not such a daunting task after all.
The layout corresponds to the traditional layout of triple calendars: two windows for the day of the week and month below 12 o’clock and an aperture for the phases of the moon at 6 o’clock. The date is displayed by an additional gold arrow-tipped hand and placed on the dial’s outer perimeter, a format that is also known as a pointer date.
Matching the luxurious 40mm x 11.60mm pink gold case, the applied Arabic numerals are also made form pink gold as are the baton hour markers. Underscoring its contemporary character, the baton hour markers and the hour and minute hands are treated with luminescent material. The hallmark Fiftysix sector dial, with its white and black railway track in the centre, provides a refreshing 1950s counterpoint to the classic brown and gold background. The attractive shade of brown selected for the dial is decorated with sunburst and snailed finishings.
An in-house automatic 2460QCI/1 calibre powers the Complete Calendar with Hallmark of Geneva certification. Like the lugs, the openworked 22k pink gold rotor traces the form of the Maltese cross.
Quick facts: Fiftysix Complete Calendar Ref. 4000E/000R-B065 – 40mm x 11.6mm – 18k pink gold – box-type sapphire crystal over dial, sapphire crystal caseback – 30m water-resistance – brown dial with applied pink gold numerals and markers – in-house calibre 2460 QCL/1 automatic – 28,800vph – 40h power reserve – Hallmark of Geneva certified – hours, minutes, central seconds, complete calendar, precision moon phase – brown calfskin with beige stitching and 18k rose gold pin buckle – EUR 36,400
Representing the simplest model in the Vacheron Constantin Fiftysix line-up, the Self-Winding is a three-hand-and-date watch combining vintage styling with contemporary details. With its clean, simple layout, this automatic best incarnates the vintage aspirations of the Fiftysix family. Like all Fiftysix models, the dial displays a sector layout with an outer minutes/seconds track and an interior black and white railway-style track. Opaline, sunburst and snailed finishes enrich the sepia-brown dial set off with applied gold Arabic numerals and markers. A discreet date window at 3 o’clock and touches of luminescent material on the hands and markers confirm its function as a daily beater.
The gleaming 18k pink gold case has a 40mm diameter and a height of 9.6mm. However, the movement is not an in-house calibre and is not certified by the Hallmark of Geneva seal. This decision drew much criticism in its day by those who considered an outsourced movement a ‘betrayal’ of the brand’s principles. In effect, the watch is equipped with a movement produced by ValFleurier (part of Richemont Group) and based on a Cartier ébauche. Running at 28,000vph, the movement can store 48 hours of power. In keeping with the excellent finishings throughout, the movement is also beautifully decorated with Côtes de Genève and features an openworked 22k pink gold rotor shaped like a Maltese cross.
Quick facts: Fiftysix Self-Winding Ref. 4600E/000R-B576 – 40mm x 9.6mm – 18k pink gold – box-type sapphire crystal over dial, sapphire crystal caseback – 30m water-resistance – brown dial with applied pink gold numerals and markers – automatic calibre 1326 – 28,800vph – 48h power reserve – hours, minutes, central seconds and date – brown calfskin strap with 18k rose gold pin buckle – EUR 20,000
The winning combination of delectable brown dials and luxurious pink gold cases is hard to beat. However, the inherent risk in this combination is that the watches could find themselves sitting in a more grandiose, formal category that might alienate the very crowd that the Fiftysix is trying to please. Fortunately, the vintage vibe and certain design features, like the sector dial, the application of luminescent material and above all, the more casual and laid-back presence of a calfskin strap with beige stitching, manage to ground these models and make them suitable for everyday wear.
Since we’re dealing with Vacheron Constantin, the concept of “entry-level” has to be understood in stylistic and not monetary terms. After all, the simplest steel model starts at EUR 12,300 and prices ascend to EUR 128,000 for a gold tourbillon. The overarching vintage vibe of the Fiftysix collection is clearly designed to seduce a younger generation who admire the brand but don’t want a classic watch that their father or grandfather might endorse.
More details at Vacheron Constantin.