A BEAT OF ITS OWN
Vacheron Constantin reveals its musical leanings by joining forces with Abbey Road Studios, writes Sarah Maisey
“It’s all about timing,” Isabel Garvey, managing director of Abbey Road Studios, says. “Whether it’s the cue to the singer or the incessant beat of the drumming, it all comes down to timing.”
Speaking at the unveiling of a new partnership between Abbey Road Studios and Vacheron Constantin, and the official global launch of the Swiss watch brand’s latest collection, Fiftysix, Garvey draws a parallel between music and watchmaking – for although they appear to inhabit different universes, both are built around a strict adherence to timing.
“Music is a fantastic and universal driver of emotions, just like our watches. As we got to know each other, Vacheron Constantin and Abbey Road Studios discovered that we share the same values of technical excellence, constant innovation and savoir faire perpetuation, as well as a constant will to share and spread our passion,” says Louis Ferla, chief executive of Vacheron Constantin. “As we keep expanding our footprint in the world of music, we could not dream of a better and more relevant partner than Abbey Road Studios. Our association is more than natural and pre-empts infinite possibilities of creation and collaboration.”
Abbey Road is, of course, the London recording studio immortalised by The Beatles in their 1969 album of the same name, which featured a picture of the fab four on the zebra crossing outside the studio on its cover. Everyone from Ella Fitzgerald, Pink Floyd, Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse and Lady Gaga has recorded here.
Although this author must confess to favouring the Rolling Stones over the Beatles, standing in Studio 1 of the famous building, it is difficult not to be impressed. “Of the 210 songs that The Beatles recorded, 190 of them were recorded in the room where you are now standing,” Garvey points out.
Founded by Jean-Marc Vacheron in 1755 in Geneva, Vacheron Constantin prides itself on being the oldest watch manufacturer in continuous production. During its unbroken 263-year history, it has been responsible for creating some of the world’s most highly regarded timepieces. In 1770, Vacheron created his first complication, and in 1819, he joined forces with François Constantin, realising that two heads were better than one.
In 1839, Georges-Auguste Leschot was hired, and if his name is not familiar, his legacy will be – he is the diligent soul who standardised movements into calibres. Today, even in Geneva, a city considered to be the home of exceptional timepieces, Vacheron Constantin is regarded as one of the very best.
As part of their collaboration, Vacheron Constantin and Abbey Road will focus on “musical affinities and joint creative endeavours”, and have already joined
forces to produce an exclusive composition, the
Eternity song. This is performed at the Abbey Road launch by singer/songwriter Benjamin Clementine, who has been hailed as the voice of his generation and sang a live accompaniment to the Burberry January 2016 menswear show. Clementine is one of the new faces of Vacheron Constantin’s latest campaign, One of Not Many, which sees the brand teaming up with “talented artists whose personality and work express a constant quest for excellence, openness to the world, as well as a spirit of innovation and creativity”.
In addition to Clementine, faces of the campaign include musician James Bay, seasoned explorer and National Geographic photographer Cory Richards, and multidisciplinary designer, Ora Ito.
While the Fiftysix range was first shown to the industry in January with three models (a self-winding, day-date and complete calendar), the Abbey Road event marked the addition of a new 41mm tourbillon. At less than 10.9mm thick, the new tourbillon is equipped with a 22K gold peripheral rotor, and its calibre can be observed through a transparent caseback. The mechanics alone called for more than a dozen hours of chamfering and hand-crafted techniques, and the timepieces will be available in stores from April next year.
As we are often reminded, consumer power today lies not with retirees or the middle-aged, but with millennials and so-called Gen Z. With deep pockets and a seemingly unquenchable desire to shop, the collective spending power of these consumers, aged between 22 and 35 years, is remarkable. Forbes estimates that in the United States in 2017, millennials spent US$200 billion (Dh734.5bn), while in China, which accounts for 32 per cent of worldwide luxury purchases, the average age of high-spend customers is just 35 years old – a full decade younger than their non-Chinese counterpoints. Moreover, the majority of these consumers seems to be geared more towards experiences than to amassing possessions, which raises the question of where, exactly, this leaves luxury houses that sell exquisite things?
With a history spanning the violent upheavals of the French Revolution, and First and Second World Wars, and a shift from horse-drawn carriages to sending a man to the moon, the brand has learnt a thing or two about weathering social shifts. And the new collection is the latest stage in its evolutionary journey.
The Fiftysix tourbillon is still a very classically elegant watch, but is being presented as a more accessible option that retains all of the brand’s expertise, with a significantly smaller price tag. Setting you back a relatively modest €11,600 (Dh49,965), it is the very antithesis of fast fashion – handcrafted pieces that are still One of Not Many.
Singer and songwriter Benjamin Clementine, above, is one of the faces of Vacheron Constantin’s collaboration with Abbey Road Studios for the Fiftysix collection
The Beatles recorded 190 songs at Abbey Road Studios, left. Below, James Bay stars in Vacheron Constantin’s new campaign. Bottom, the Fiftysix collection is a more accessible option from the ultra-high-end watchmaker