SIHH 2017 – Vacheron Constantin unveils its first ever Grande Sonnerie wristwatch with the one-of-a-kind Les Cabinotiers Symphonia Grande Sonnerie 1860, a horological masterpiece boasting ingenious security devices, a smart strike-mode selector operated via the bezel and “phantom” quarters elimination. It’s an impressive watch that we present to you today (and one that we’ll be reviewing in greater detail once the SIHH over).
The grande sonnerie and petite sonnerie hold a special place in the world of Haute Horlogerie. There is only a handful of watchmakers capable of manufacturing such works of arts, often regarded as the ultimate horological complication. Both the grande and petite sonnerie strike the hours and quarters in passing, though only the grande sonnerie repeats the hours at every quarter. Usually, they feature a selector to silence the mechanism and are combined with a minute repeater to chime time on demand. Their creation requires utmost technical expertise as hundreds of components are required to interact simultaneously and strike time indications perfectly. All while while managing energy consumption. (For more information about alarm, hour-strike, repeater, musical and other chiming watches, read our technical perspective The Sound of Time here).
Interestingly, the conception and development of the movement is the result of a joint work with Complitime. Both partners have put in common resources and know-how to give birth to two distinctive calibers, with different architecture and some technical choices, however sharing several similar features.
Vacheron Constantin has a long tradition of crafting striking watches, having already produced grande and petite sonnerie pocket watches. This one-of-a-kind Les Cabinotiers Symphonia Grande Sonnerie 1860 however is the brand’s first grande sonnerie wristwatch. This impressive horological masterpiece combines a grande and petite sonnerie with a minute repeater. Its innovative strike mode selector is integrated into the 30° rotating bezel with a pointer indicating PS (petite sonnerie), GS (grande sonnerie) and SIL (silence). The minute-repeater is activated by a coaxial push-piece built into the crown and engraved with a Maltese cross (Grande Sonnerie watches usually don’t feature the traditional repeater trigger, as the energy required is stored in a dedicated sonnerie barrel).
The movement features two barrels – one is wound clockwise to power the time indication and offers a 72h power reserve; the other is wound anticlockwise to power the strikework and features a 20h power reserve. Unusually, the striking mechanism is visible at the back of the watch and not hidden beneath the dial. This allows for clear viewing of the mesmerizing play of its racks, feeler-spindles, snails, hammers and gongs through the sapphire crystal caseback. The architecture of the movement and top-notch finishing of the 727 components are superb. Another interesting and distinctive feature of the movement, aimed at enhancing the acoustics, is the elimination of the “phantom” quarters, the small silence generally perceptible between the chiming of the hours and minutes. Whatever the hours, quarters or minutes, the time interval between each sound remains identical!
Grande and petite sonneries usually require cautious handling – inappropriate operation may damage the movement and servicing such mechanisms is a long and complex process. Therefore, Vacheron Constantin has developed several systems for simple and secure use of the watch:
- During time-setting, no chime can be sounded.
- When chiming is in progress time-setting is impossible.
- No new chiming operation can begin while another one is sounding.
- When a change of mode is made while a chime is in progress, it will only be activated once the previous chime is complete.
- The striking mechanism will not be activated, whether in passing or on demand, if the strikework barrel does not have enough power reserve left.
The complexity of the watch (a 10-year development, 727 components, 500 hours of assembly performed by a single watchmaker) is highlighted by the sobriety of its design. The movement is framed by a round case in white gold, 45mm in diameter and 15mm thick. The understated elegance of the 18k gold silver-toned dial is enhanced by refined finishing, white gold baton-type hour markers and Roman numerals for quarters. It features small seconds at 7 o’clock, the power reserve indicator at 5 o’clock and the strikework power reserve indicator at 2 o’clock with serpentine hand.
The Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers Symphonia Grande Sonnerie 1860 watch comes on a black hand-stitched alligator strap with alligator lining and is secured by a white gold folding buckle. It will be delivered with a resonator to enhance its sound.
Technical specifications of the Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers Symphonia Grande Sonnerie 1860
- Case: 45 mm x 15.1 mm – white gold – sapphire crystal on the front and on the back – possibility to customize the caseband.
- Movement: Caliber 1860 – bi-directional manual winding – 72h power reserve for the movement, 20h power reserve for the strikework – 21,600 vibrations/h – 37 mm x 9.1 mm – 727 components, 74 jewels – hours, minutes, small seconds, grande sonnerie, petite sonnerie, minute repeater, movement power reserve indicator at 5 o’clock, strikework power reserve indicator at 2 o’clock, strikework mode selection via the bezel (grande sonnerie – petite sonnerie – silence)
- Strap: hand-stitched alligator leather strap on white gold folding buckle
- Reference : 9200E/000G-B099
- Piece unique, Hallmark of Geneva, Boutique exclusive
- Price: on request only