Vacheron Constantin’s new Fiftysix collection straddles both the vintage and the modern by reinterpreting a 1956 classic for the present day, writes Jamie Tan
acheron constantin’s output in the past few years has been prolific, to put it mildly. The Genevan manufacture introduced the Harmony in 2015 as a fully fledged collection, then followed up a year later with a complete revamp of the Overseas line. This year, it has unveiled yet another new family: the Fiftysix. The Fiftysix draws its inspiration from Ref 6073, a simple three-hand dress watch that Vacheron Constantin released in 1956. The collection isn’t a mere facsimile though. “The Fiftysix is not a reissue. Instead, it’s a
new collection of retro-modern timepieces—new watches with vintage touches inspired by the original,” shared Christian Selmoni, the brand’s heritage and style director. On the collection’s positioning, Selmoni elaborated, “This is Vacheron Constantin’s pillar for casual elegant timepieces. It is designed to reach a younger segment of clients who may know of the brand, but not understand us yet. This makes it a possible gateway product—an alternative door to the Overseas—through which they can enter the brand’s universe.” Indeed, the Fiftysix’s design will appeal to a younger audience looking for a timepiece that is less “serious” than the archetypal Vacheron Constantin watch, yet references the brand’s long heritage of fine watchmaking. Across the three models that currently make up the collection, one will see various references to the manufacture’s timepieces from the mid-20th century, as exemplified by Ref 6073. The angular lugs of the original, for instance, have been reinterpreted into sculpted ones that blend seamlessly into the case via flowing lines and curved surfaces, complete with a subtle shoulder where the crown sits protected. The box-shaped crystal—yet another hallmark of older watches—is also present in the new watches, albeit in sapphire rather than acrylic. The sector dial also bears mentioning. Note how this retro dial layout has been enhanced with a variety of finishes: a grained opaline surface in the centre, radial brushing in the middle, and a circular grained finish right at the outer edge. The applique indexes, meanwhile, are a mixture of Arabic numerals and batons to further reinforce the watches’ vintage vibes. Design aside, the Fiftysix’s models have been priced to be more affordable vis-a-vis Vacheron Constantin’s other collections such as the Patrimony. This has been made possible by offering the watches in both steel and gold references, in what is a first for the brand. The three current models that are available are also relatively straightforward with simple to mid-complications. The simplest among them is the Fiftysix Self-winding, which has a date counter to enhance its three-hand time display. The watch houses the calibre 1326, which comes with a 48-hour power reserve. The Fiftysix Day-date ups the ante by marking the date and day of week across two subdials at 3 and 9 o’clock, respectively, with a power reserve indicator at 6 o’clock. The addition of two subdials and an indicator to what is already a fairly busy sector dial is no mean feat; one can imagine the challenge of maintaining a pleasing proportion between the components, especially given how they play with light differently. Vacheron Constantin has gone one step further by breaking the symmetry afforded by the two subdials using the power reserve indicator to lend visual tension—and interest—to the dial. Finally, there is the Fiftysix Complete Calendar. This timepiece tracks the day and month via two apertures at 12 o’clock, while a blue central hand points to the date, which is marked on the outer chapter ring. A moonphase display that is accurate to 122 years completes the package at 6 o’clock. Such a layout is, of course, a decidedly vintage way to present a complete calendar’s information, with the moonphase lending a retro touch as well. The dial never feels overly busy though, thanks again to the careful balance of proportions and positioning of the various displays. The three new Fiftysix models are all available in either pink gold or stainless steel. The references in pink gold are fitted with matching brown alligator leather straps fitted with pink gold pin buckles, while their stainless steel counterparts have dark grey alligator leather straps with stainless steel deployant buckles. Enthusiasts keen on more complex complications should also keep an ear to the ground—we hear that the collection will soon include models with more elaborate mechanics.
AT A GLANCE With both the day and date displayed on subdials just like old watches, plus a power reserve below them, the Vacheron Constantin Fiftysix Day-date sports the busiest dial in the line-up