Vacheron Constantin’s exquisite pocket watch boasts 57 complications
There are many paths to becoming a watch collector. Timid first steps, consisting of a watch here and there, usually marking a special occasion or a key event in one’s life, can quickly grow into a near obsession. For some, the acquisition process is just as important as the possession of the timepiece, and it’s rendered particularly sweet when the watch happens to be a highly coveted limited edition. These are often branded as trophies, almost status symbols, to show the collector has achieved a high level of watch knowledge and has a strong enough network (and sufficient funds) to be allowed access to rare watches. At some stage, though, even the most ardent and avid collectors can find themselves looking for something even more rare and significant: a bespoke watch.
There is significant appeal in knowing that the timepiece you are holding was crafted just for you—to your specifications. There is nothing more rare and precious to a watch aficionado. This goes beyond having some sort of personalisation, such as an engraving. Think about it—asking a watchmaker to not only make you a unique timepiece, but also to include complications that no one has ever made before. The intellectual challenge alone would whet the appetite of some of the world’s best watchmakers, but the path between a technical concept and the finished product can be very long and tortuous.
Such projects have occasionally been undertaken and have produced legendary timepieces. However, these were generally created decades ago, when watchmakers and brands were still very much artisanal, and watch production was counted in the hundreds or a few thousands per year, not the tens of thousands that many brands are now capable of producing. But there is a manufacture today, one that has grown from strength to strength over more than two
centuries, which has not only the ability, but also the strength of will to devote the resources necessary to produce bespoke watches—vacheron Constantin.
The depth of the brand’s ability is second to none, for it’s one of the very few manufactures with an uninterrupted history, now reaching a staggering 260 years. Vacheron Constantin has acquired a significant knowledge base during that span, and there are few complications it has not ably tackled and delivered. Such is its ability that it has an entire department dedicated to making custom pieces: the Ateliers Cabinotiers. It’s here that potential bespoke timepieces are conceived and evaluated, not only for their technical feasibility, but to ensure they meet the aesthetic and technical standards Vacheron Constantin imposes on all its watches.
In what could perhaps be its proudest moment, Vacheron Constantin has unveiled a timepiece it describes as its “most complicated ever.” That’s a description you may have come across before, but when it comes from a manufacture with such a long history, it is not to be taken lightly. Despite
REFERENCE 57260 IS NOT ONLY A COMBINATION OF NUMEROUS COMPLICATIONS BUT ALSO OF SOME PREVIOUSLY UNHEARD OF ONES, SUCH AS THE HEBRAIC PERPETUAL CALENDAR
THE REFERENCE 57260 RECENTLY TOURED THE WORLD, INCLUDING A FLEETING APPEARANCE IN HONG KONG AS PART OF VACHERON CONSTANTIN’S 260TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATIONS
the excitement and pride with which the maison’s watchmakers talk about the new timepiece, it goes by a modest name—its reference number, 57260.
In all likelihood, that number will enter watchmaking legend, as the timepiece truly does achieve new technical heights in mechanical watchmaking. With no less than 57 complications, the Reference 57260 is not only a combination of numerous classical functions, but also some complications previously unheard of in a mechanical timepiece, such as the Hebraic perpetual calendar, and the split second chronograph with retrograde opposing hands. A number of chiming complications have also been incorporated; there is a grande and petite sonnerie, a minute repeater, and an alarm. A unique twist is the addition of a “quiet” mode, or a specific period of time during which the chiming functions are automatically silenced. A full exploration of the technical depth of the Reference 57260 would require a great number of pages; suffice it to say, it has grabbed the attention of watch connoisseurs the world over, most of whom will, unfortunately, never have an opportunity to lay eyes on the timepiece.
As you may imagine, a piece of this complexity required a significant amount of time to develop and construct. For Vacheron Constantin, it’s the culmination of eight years of work, during which three master watchmakers worked full-time not only addressing the complex task of combining so many functions, but also creating a number of new complications. The fact the manufacture is capable of crafting such a timepiece—which, incidentally, meets the modern codes of the Geneva Seal—shows a technical and artistic depth representative of its tremendous history. The Reference 57260 recently toured the world, including making a fleeting appearance in Hong Kong last month at Watches & Wonders, as part of Vacheron Constantin’s 260th anniversary celebrations.
The magnificent Vacheron Constantin timepiece will soon be in the hands of its owner, no doubt becoming the pinnacle of an already astounding collection.
TIMED PERFECTION Vacheron Constantin’s Reference 57260 has 57 complications. All the functions are activated via discreet sliders on the case (below left)
GRAND REVELRY Clockwise from above: A timepiece-inspired dessert served at the Sky 100 anniversary dinner; the Vacheron Constantin management team toasts the anniversary; CEO Juan-carlos Torres with Mandarin Oriental chef Uwe Opocensky, who created the menu