Renewing an icon is not an easy task (not an easy task at all!) However, as iconic as it is, the Vacheron Constantin Overseas has been in the collection, with an unchanged design, for the past 12 years. The Overseas had its last update in 2004, and the only alterations have been cosmetic, meaning new dial colours, and adding some complications. Until now, the Overseas collection didn’t comprise a true heir to the Overseas ancestor, the Vacheron Constantin 222, which was the brand’s luxury sports watch back in the 1970’s. In other words, there was no Overseas Ultra-Thin. And that’s remarkable since the Overseas plays in a special category, the Holy Trinity of luxury sports watches (the AP Royal Oak, Patek Philippe Nautilus and the Vacheron Constantin Overseas.) Now, for the very first time, there will be an ultra-thin Overseas and it comes with the same (base)movement, dubbed calibre 1120, as used by the other two Holy Trinity of luxury sports watches. An exiting moment now Vacheron Constantin is back in the game, and the Vacheron Constantin Overseas Ultra-Thin immediately ranks among the most desirable luxury sports watches.
Let’s have a closer look at the new Vacheron Constantin Overseas Ultra-Thin ref. 2000V with calibre 1120, however first we have an in-depth view at its historical background!
A short history of the Vacheron Constantin sports watches and the Overseas
The association of the words sports watches and Vacheron Constantin really starts in 1977. At that time, the two other member of the Holy Trinity (PP & AP) already had their own versions of the luxury sports watches on the market: the Royal Oak and the Nautilus, two watches designed by Gerald Genta and based on the idea of the porthole. The reaction of Vacheron Constantin, was the 222, that was introduced for the brand’s 222 anniversary. It was in the same vein as aforementioned luxury sports watches: a stainless steel watch, with integrated bracelet, luxurious feel and masculine design. However, even if some similarities can be spotted in the design of the Royal Oak, the Nautilus and the 222, and contrary to popular belief, it is not designed by Gerald Genta! The person who designed the 222 was a young man named Jorg Hysek (who’s now also the namesake of another brand.)
Several features of the 222 were kind of special: the shape of the case (a sharp tonneau with a round bezel), the shape of the bracelets links, the design of the notched bezel or the Malte Cross integrated in the case, just below the dial. The Vacheron Constantin 222 was powered by the ultra-thin calibre 1121 (which is basically the same movement that the AP and PP competitors used; all are based on the JLC calibre 920). The 222 was produced in 3 variations, steel, gold/steel and all gold and in 2 case sizes (38mm for the automatic and 34mm with a quartz movement). This now a highly sought after piece that was rapidly discontinued (in 1984) and they only produced 500 pieces. Although not really part of the Overseas collection, the 222 can be seen as the ancestor of the collection.
The “real” Vacheron Constantin Overseas was introduced in 1996. “It was decided to create a sports / chic watch directly getting its design cues from the 222 launched almost 20 years before: a tonneau shaped case with a round serrated bezel, this time in the form of a broken Maltese cross. The design team was composed of Dino Modolo, independent designer in charge of many Vacheron Condtantin designs of the time and Vincent Kaufmann a young in-house designer, today heading the VC design team. First was launched the time only model housing cal 1310 based on GP calibre 3100 in a 37mm case.” It has been followed in 1999 by the chronograph, housing the Piguet-based automatic calibre 1137, which was based on the Piguet calibre 1185 that was modified to add a big date mechanism.
The roots of the collection are here: the specific Malte Cross bezel, the tonneau shape of the case, the simple-looking dial with elegant hands, the integrated bracelet. While the design has evolved, the base is already here.
The latest execution of the Vacheron Constantin Overseas (well, the latest before the one that we’ll introduce to you in a few lines) was unveiled in 2004, with a more masculine and sporty design. The main evolution concerns the bracelet, that integrated the brand’s symbolic Maltese cross with brushed and polished angles (one of the reason to change the design was that the older bracelet was somehow “shaving” the arm of the owners.) The original Overseas models were also muscled up: a time-only and a chronograph both in 42mm cases. Later a Dual Time was added and one featuring a Perpetual Calendar. These models were no longer certified as chronometers but came with an antimagnetic protection. Finally, Vacheron Constantin switched to the calibre 1126 for the time-only model.
The new Vacheron Constantin Ultra-Thin ref. 2000V
After an already impressive introduction of novelties last year – remember the entirely new Harmony collection with three new calibres – the Geneva-based brand now introduces a completely revamped Overseas collection that also comprises (again) three new movements. The Overseas Ultra-Thin ref. 2000V however relies on a tried and tested calibre 1120. A good choice if we may say, because it still is the world’s thinnest automatic movement with a full rotor. The result is the ULTIMATE luxury sports watch that comes in 18k white gold with a sophisticated grey/brownish dial. While it might have the looks of steel, like the aforementioned sports watches from its ‘Holy Trinity’ peers, Vacheron Constantin decided to introduce it in precious metal. This also, partially, dictates its rather “luxury” price of…. take a deep breath… € 60.400 Euros (yes that includes tax/VAT) or $ 55,750 USD.
The price is steep. Period. However if you have any doubts, or are slightly baffled by the price, I suggest you visit the nearest Vacheron Constantin boutique or authorised retailer, hold the Overseas Ultra-Thin in your hands, try it on your wrist. Hold that moment, feel the quality, look at its superb finish, the understated styling that is so typical Vacheron, and ask yourself again whether you think it’s worth it. In all honesty, the Vacheron Constantin Overseas Ultra-Thin ref. 2000V could well be my favourite of the 2016 edition of the SIHH. There, I said it.
In comparison the Patek Philippe Nautilus ref. 5711R (introduced last year) has a list price of $ 51,000 USD and its sibling from AP, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak is available for $ 50,800 USD. Although we need to add that these are last year’s prices, and we can only imagine that both Patek and AP have increased prices of these two direct competitors of the Overseas Ultra-Thin ref. 2000V.
Another important fact that certainly has an effect on the price, is that Vacheron Constantin decided to make the Overseas Ultra-Thin to the standards set for the Geneva Hallmark! In 2012 the requirements for the Geneva Hallmark have been made stricter, and now include the components that link the movement to the case and dial, and the performance of the watch on the wrist of its wearer (which will be mimicked by a machine). With the new requirements it is the entire timepiece that bears the Hallmark of Geneva. Please keep in mind that the Geneva Hallmark is an independent institution, who does all the testing on each individual watch.
The case and bracelet
The 18k white gold case and bracelet feature a very refined finishing, with alternating polished parts and satin brushed parts. The case measures 40mm in diameter and only 7.5mm in height, and wears extremely comfortable! Although VC claims that the movement is enclosed in a soft-iron casing, for anti-magnetic purposes, the case-back features a sapphire crystal pane to allow you to enjoy the beauty of the movement, hence no soft-iron casing visible there. And honestly, we prefer the watch to be thin over anti-magnetic properties.
While the ‘normal’ Overseas is water proof to 150 meters, the Ultra-Thin is water proof to 50 meters, and comes with out a screw-down crown. We assume you won’t take this one down on a dive trip to see the coral reefs, however you would not have to be scared at 20 or 30 meters depth. A bigger danger is the shower, or taking a plunge in the pool after you have been sunbathing. Sudden strong fluctuations in temperature are the biggest threat to any watch’ water tightness.
The very refined and thin 18K white gold bracelet features a stunning finish for the bracelet: polished and satin-brushed finished links, including polished interior angles (!!), and altogether they create a shape of a half Maltese cross. In design it is extremely close to the 2nd generation Overseas that was introduced in 2004, however in refinement the bracelet of the Ultra-Thin is much softer, thinner and feel more supple on the wrist. The new bracelet is secured by an 18K white gold triple-blade folding clasp with push-pieces and comfort-adjustment system, and that works just brilliant. A nifty detail is that the bracelet can be exchanged quite quick.
The Overseas Ultra-Thin, just like his ‘normal’ Overseas siblings, comes with three types of easily interchangeable straps: the 18K white gold bracelet, and two additional straps that each come with an 18K white gold folding clasp. All three come with an easy-fit system, so it’s easy to exchange and secure them in place without any need for tools.
The Overseas comes with two additional straps:
- a hand-stitched dark grey alligator leather with large rectangular scales, featuring a black nubuck lining with a micro-perforated effect, which comes with an 18K white gold buckle
- a black rubber strap that also comes with an 18K white gold buckle
Vacheron Constantin calibre 1120
The movement has been in Vacheron Constantin’s collections since the late 1960’s and originated from Jaeger-LeCoultre calibre 920. Patek used it as calibre 28-255 and AP used it as calibre 2120. It measures a mere 2.45 mm in thickness, and it is still the world’s thinnest automatic winding movement with a full rotor (compared to micro rotor movements that can be thinner). Vacheron Constantin decided to A) keep it thin, and B) maintain a very clean design. Two choices that led to using calibre 1120, instead of calibre 1121 (with date), or calibre 1122 that has an additional central second hand.
What we need to understand about this movement, is that it was developed in the 1960’s. That’s pre-AutoCAD era, pre-industrialisation era (at least for the Holy Trinity), so the movement is not the youngest, nor has it been developed using the newest techniques. These kind of high-end movements need adjusting by a watchmaker. Not “just” a watchmaker, but a highly skilled watchmaker, who has experience working on such a fragile ultra-thin movement. Working on these movements costs a lot of time, assembling, adjusting the rate, fine-tuning everything. And that’s costly. However it really is one of the nicest movements ever developed, and, is to this day still being used by both AP (for the Royal Oak Ultra-Thin ref. 15202) and in several Vacheron Constantin timepieces (some of which we’ll cover soon!)
Calibre 1120 is the version without date or central second hand, and measures only 2.45 mm in height. The version with date (cal. 1121) takes it to an overall thickness of 3.05mm and it is even possible to add a central second hand (calibre 1122.) Calibre 1120 features the new 22K gold Overseas winding mass, and the main spring can store up to 40 hours of autonomy, when fully wound. It ticks the time away at a steady, but rather unusual, pace of 19,800 vibrations per hour (2.75 Hz). The movement comprises 144 individual components, of which 36 jewels. Bear in mind, everything is finished to the Geneva Hallmark standards!!
It’s not difficult to rate this watch, as it scores very well on all accounts. Build, finish, refinement, comfort, style, and not in the last place the Geneva Hallmark. In this perspective it out-ranks the direct competition, although the Patek Nautilus also meets the standards a quality seal, namely the Patek Seal (however that remains an interesting matter, since it boils down to judging their own product.)
As a collector and watch aficionado I’m very pleased to see Vacheron Constantin back in the game. Last year, with the introduction of the very elegant Harmony collection was already a great come-back after some ‘quiet’ years. Late last year they simply crushed all records with the introduction of the most complicated watch in the world, and now they introduce three new calibres in a new and revamped Overseas collection. Very impressive achievements altogether, however the one that pleases me the most is to finally see a true heir to the Vacheron Constantin 222, in the shape of the new Overseas Ultra-Thin ref. 2000V.
A superb watch and a thoroughbred luxury sports watch. Certainly it would be pleasing to see a steel version of the Overseas Ultra-Thin, but who knows, maybe Vacheron Constantin will introduce it in the coming years. Fingers crossed!
Later we’ll have a close look at the Overseas Ultra-Thin Perpetual Calendar. For now we dream about the absolutely stunning new Overseas Ultra-Thin!
More info about the new Overseas collection and availability on the Vacheron Constantin website.