THE SPIRIT OF FIFTYSIX

WatchTime - - Table Of Contents - By Mark Bernardo and Roger Rueg­ger

| We talk with Vacheron Con­stantin’s Chris­tian Sel­moni about the retro-con­tem­po­rary Fiftysix col­lec­tion.

— With more than 260 years of watch­mak­ing his­tory to draw from, Vacheron Con­stantin needed to reach back only a lit­tle more than half a cen­tury to find the in­spi­ra­tion for its lat­est time­piece fam­ily, un­veiled in Geneva at SIHH 2018. e Vacheron Con­stantin Fiftysix col­lec­tion is in­spired by a vin­tage model from 1956, the Ref­er­ence 6073, giv­ing the line’s three dis­tinc­tive mod­els an el­e­gantly mod­ern twist.

e Fiftysix fea­tures a case de­sign in­spired by the Mal­tese cross, long iden­ti­fied as a sym­bol of the brand, with each of the curved lugs rep­re­sent­ing one branch of this 15th-cen­tury badge of honor. Ad­di­tional el­e­ments are the box-type crys­tal ris­ing well above the bezel that is made of mod­ern, scratch-re­sis­tant sap­phire; the use of self-wind­ing move­ments in all of the col­lec­tion’s mod­els, in­clud­ing one en­tirely new pro­pri­etary cal­iber; and the sec­tor-type di­als, with al­ter­nat­ing Ara­bic nu­mer­als and ba­ton hour mark­ers in their chap­ter rings, en­hanced with two sep­a­rate, sub­tle tones to their fin­ish­ing.

In a his­toric first for Vacheron, the mai­son is of­fer­ing all Fiftysix watches in both gold and steel case vari­a­tions, though the brand points out that even the lat­ter mod­els will not be lack­ing in lux­u­ri­ous char­ac­ter, us­ing white gold for their hands and ap­pliqués and cre­at­ing an ex­cep­tional fin­ish. One of the many notable de­par­tures from the 1956 model: all Fiftysix watches have a re­cessed crown for a more el­e­gant and con­tem­po­rary case pro­file.

e Vacheron Con­stantin Fiftysix col­lec­tion con­sists of three mod­els and six ref­er­ences, all in 40-mm cases in ei­ther stain­less steel or 18k 5N rose gold – the Fiftysix Self­wind­ing, a three-hand model with date at 3 o’clock; the Fiftysix Day-date and the Fifty-six Com­plete Cal­en­dar.

e afore­men­tioned new move­ment, Cal­iber 1326 (based on the Cartier 1904), makes its de­but in the Fiftysix Self-wind­ing, equipped with a 48-hour power re­serve and stop sec­onds for easy re­set­ting. Like all the move­ments in the col­lec­tion, it boasts an all-new open­worked ro­tor made of 22k gold with a frosted and snailed fin­ish that evokes the shape of the Mal­tese cross, much like the cases do. Also, like the other move­ments, it’s vis­i­ble through a sap­phire case­back, al­low­ing the owner to ad­mire not just the ro­tor but the ar­ray of other haute hor­logerie fin­ishes, in­clud­ing côtes de Genève, cir­cu­lar grain­ing and snail­ing. (Be­cause the move­ment is not ex­clu­sively pro­duced in Geneva, the 1326 log­i­cally does not meet the Hall­mark of Geneva cri­te­ria, as do most of the brand’s other move­ments.)

e watch’s dial has a dou­ble opa­line sun­burst ef­fect, gray on the steel ver­sion and sil­ver-toned on the rose-gold one, and fea­tures lu­mi­nes­cent coat­ing on the ba­ton-type hands and hour mark­ers. e Mis­sis­sippi al­li­ga­tor strap, with its half Mal­tese cross-shaped buckle, is brown on the rosegold model and dark gray on the steel one. Each has a calf­skin in­ner shell and tone-on-tone stitch­ing.

Mov­ing up a few notches in com­pli­ca­tions, the Fiftysix Day-date is pow­ered by the Vacheron Cal­iber 2475 SC/2 stamped with the Hall­mark of Geneva, here with the ad­di­tion of the open­worked Mal­tese cross- in­spired ro­tor, which is fit­ted with a ceramic ball-bear­ing ro­ta­tion sys­tem that re­quires no lu­bri­ca­tion and thus helps to op­ti­mize the move­ment’s long-term ac­cu­racy. e di­als’ dou­ble opa­line sun-

burst ef­fect con­trasts with the two snailed coun­ters – one for the day of the week at 9 o’clock, the other for the date at 3 o’clock. A hand-type power-re­serve dis­play joins these two in­di­ca­tors at 6 o‘clock. e rose-gold model has a sil­ver-toned dial, the steel model, a gray-toned one. e al­li­ga­tor straps are brown on the gold watch, dark gray on the steel ver­sion.

e most com­pli­cated model in the col­lec­tion is the Fiftysix Com­plete Cal­en­dar, whose move­ment is the Hall­mark of Geneva-stamped in-house Cal­iber 2460 QCL/1, the same move­ment used in an­other of Vacheron’s SIHH de­buts, the plat­inum-cased Tra­di­tion­nelle Com­plete Cal­en­dar. e el­e­gantly ar­ranged dial dis­plays the month and day of the week in two rec­tan­gu­lar aper­tures at 12 o’clock, the date us­ing a cen­tral blued pointer hand on a 31-day scale, and the moon-phase in a semi­cir­cu­lar win­dow at 6 o’clock. e moon-phase in this watch is notable in that it re­quires ad­just­ment only once ev­ery 122 years, as op­posed to the three-year in­ter­vals de­manded by most stan­dard moon­phases. Gold is used here for the Ara­bic nu­mer­als, the hour mark­ers and the hands, as well as for the moon disk – and, of course, for the case and buckle of the rose-gold ver­sion of the watch. As in the other two Fiftysix mod­els, the steel ref­er­ence is paired with a gray dial and strap, the gold with a sil­vered dial and brown strap.

Prices for the Fiftysix col­lec­tion: the Self-wind­ing is $11,900 in steel, $19,900 in rose gold; the Day-date, $17,900 in steel, $33,400 in rose gold; and the Com­plete Cal­en­dar, $23,500 in steel and $36,800 in rose gold.

Watchtime met with Chris­tian Sel­moni, di­rec­tor of style and her­itage at Vacheron Con­stantin, to talk about the new Fiftysix col­lec­tion. WT: Where does the new line fit?

CS: e Vacheron Con­stantin men’s col­lec­tions are on the clas­sic side of things, like the Pat­ri­mony and the Tra­di­tionelle. In ad­di­tion, we have the Over­seas, which is more in the sports/el­e­gant seg­ment, and we felt that there is room for a new de­sign ex­pres­sion, which would be a lit­tle bit be­tween the two. We thought that it would be in­ter­est­ing to think about and to de­velop a col­lec­tion that would be a more ca­sual ap­proach to an el­e­gant time­piece, and so this is how we started to think about the Fiftysix. e sec­ond rea­son why we cre­ated the Fiftysix is that we wanted to cre­ate a new en­try door to the world of Vacheron Con­stantin. An en­try door by the style, which is, let’s say, retro-con­tem­po­rary, and also by the price po­si­tion­ing, which will take us to a dis­cus­sion, which we will have later, about the ma­te­ri­als and the move­ment.

at re­ally was the idea at the very be­gin­ning, to add a new col­lec­tion with a new per­spec­tive, which has this par­tic­u­lar po­si­tion­ing, which is new for us, be­tween the sports/el­e­gant and the clas­si­cal seg­ment of prod­ucts. For us it was a very nar­row path in terms of de­sign. We knew that we could in­cor­po­rate some typ­i­cal Vacheron Con­stantin de­sign el­e­ments in the time­piece, but we re­ally had to find the bal­ance be­tween clas­si­cism and moder­nity, be­tween vin­tage and con­tem­po­rary, and not lose both aspects. is is re­ally the key point of this de­sign, and we think that we came up with some­thing that has a lot of in­gre­di­ents for suc­cess. Of course, we are go­ing to launch this col­lec­tion next Septem­ber, so it’s a bit early to talk about suc­cess, but we have great ex­pec­ta­tions for this line.

The in­te­grated crown has been de­vel­oped to be a kind of de­sign code of the Fiftysix.

WT: Can you tell us more about the Ref­er­ence 6073 that in­spired the Fiftysix?

CS: Ob­vi­ously, we are the old­est watch­mak­ing mai­son. We haven’t stopped ac­tiv­ity since 1755, and so we have this great her­itage. When we are con­sid­er­ing launch­ing a new line, I think, for us, it re­ally makes sense to be linked with our her­itage. When we talk about clas­sic el­e­gance, it can be based on a vin­tage time­piece, and I think the era of the ’50s is a great place to re­visit. is decade has seen some of the most in­ter­est­ing de­signs in el­e­gant time­pieces, and we had this idea of re­vis­it­ing a clas­sic of this era, which is the Ref­er­ence 6073. is model has one thing that was par­tic­u­larly in­ter­est­ing, the fact that the lugs are a direct in­spi­ra­tion from a quar­ter of the Mal­tese cross. It was re­ally this as­pect that we wanted to un­der­line. I have to say that the Ref­er­ence 6073 has been an in­spi­ra­tion for the Fiftysix; it’s not a re­design that is based on this ref­er­ence. Our idea was much more to con­nect or to in­fuse this vin­tage ’50s spirit into the col­lec­tion, rather than to redo or re­design the Ref­er­ence 6073.

at’s why the dial is slightly dif­fer­ent from this par­tic­u­lar time­piece. We have Ara­bic nu­mer­als, but again, we have been play­ing with the ’50s spirit by cre­at­ing a dial that took some el­e­ments from the ’50s. So the Fiftysix is a mix of in­flu­ences, mostly from the Ref­er­ence 6073, but it also adds some dif­fer­ent aspects of the watches of the ’50s. It’s re­ally the key point of the de­sign, to cre­ate this retro-con­tem­po­rary look. And be­cause we know that there is a great trend for vin­tage, which is far above, far be­yond, watch­mak­ing. is is a trend that is sur­round­ing us ev­ery day. is is some­thing that we re­ally wanted to con­nect to. at’s the story be­hind, I would say, the main de­sign of the Fiftysix, and it’s also bring­ing us to those who would be our clients for the Fiftysix. As we wanted to cre­ate a new en­try door for Vacheron Con­stantin, we also wanted to ad­dress a new clien­tele and also, de­pend­ing on the mar­ket, a younger clien­tele. is is par­tic­u­larly true in the western coun­tries, since in Asia we al­ready have a younger clien­tele. I think in western mar­kets, it re­ally made sense for us. at’s why we have also de­cided to use steel as a ma­te­rial for

the watch, and to of­fer an en­try model that doesn’t have [a move­ment with] the Geneva Seal.

WT: So, the Fiftysix is based on the spirit of the era and the mod­els that were launched in the era, and not on a par­tic­u­lar model?

CS: When we want to re­visit a time­piece from the past, we go for the His­toriques col­lec­tion. In the His­toriques col­lec­tion we have plenty of room to do some ex­cit­ing watches com­ing from our her­itage. In that case, we are much more faith­ful to the orig­i­nal model, if I may say, be­cause we re­ally want to cre­ate that link be­tween to­day and yes­ter­day. In the case of the Fiftysix, how­ever, we re­ally wanted to take our in­spi­ra­tion from this era, and to choose one par­tic­u­lar model as an ex­am­ple of this era. is is re­ally a key point in the Fiftysix col­lec­tion.

WT: The Ref­er­ence 6073 was one of the first Vacheron Con­stantin mod­els to rein­tro­duce an in-house move­ment in the pe­riod it was launched, and now this col­lec­tion is the first one to in­tro­duce both stain­less steel and gold at the same time?

CS: We have some sim­i­lar aspects in both time­pieces, es­pe­cially the fact that the Ref­er­ence 6073 was fit­ted with the very first gen­er­a­tion of Vacheron Con­stantin au­to­matic move­ments, and also cen­ter sec­onds, date and lu­mi­nous mark­ers as well.

I think, for us, one of the chal­lenges that we had dur­ing the de­sign and de­vel­op­ment of the Fiftysix was re­ally the use of steel in a more el­e­gant time­piece. is is why we made a huge ef­fort in terms of the fin­ish­ing of the time­pieces. What is re­ally nice with this time­piece is the amount of care that went into the de­tails. From that point of view, for me, there is no ques­tion about the fact that this is re­ally a true Vacheron Con­stantin.

WT: How can a younger tar­get au­di­ence con­nect with a de­sign from the ’50s?

CS: I think that when we speak about de­sign in gen­eral, we have numer­ous ex­am­ples of de­signs from the ’50s that are still, to­day, very pop­u­lar. I think we are re­ally sur­rounded by the de­sign of the ’50s, and re­ally it has been a huge in­flu­ence. I think all the mod­ern, say the mod­ern cars of to­day, a lot of them, their de­sign was rooted in the ’50s – and the ’60s, too – but many from the ’50s.

WT: How much time did you have for de­vel­op­ment of this new line?

CS: A lit­tle bit more than one year and a half, which doesn’t leave a lot of time for the de­sign val­i­da­tion, in a nut­shell. But we were not cre­at­ing some­thing from scratch. We’re re­ally at home when we can cre­ate watches that are in­spired by the past. is is a recipe that we know, but it tends to be very chal­leng­ing in terms of de­sign. We had to find a good bal­ance be­tween past and present, and the rea­son why we have been suc­cess­ful in this time­line of only one year and a half is mostly due to the fact that we could get val­i­da­tions quickly. Everybody who was in­volved in the pro­ject, from the de­sign­ers up to the CEO, was pretty con­scious that we had to rush with this pro­ject. We have or­ga­nized, when nec­es­sary, meet­ings for val­i­da­tions, step af­ter step. We didn’t change the way we are work­ing. How­ever, the val­i­da­tion steps have been much quicker. One thing or so, which is, I think, very im­por­tant to men­tion in that respect, is the fact that we in the de­sign depart­ment have a dig­i­tal de­signer who is spe­cial­ized in dig­i­tal ren­der­ings. anks to 3-D dig­i­tal ren­der­ings, we were re­ally able to have an al­most real rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the fi­nal time­piece, in­clud­ing re­flec­tions of light on the sur­face of the case. anks to this, we had the pos­si­bil­ity to move quicker.

WT: How was the de­sign process af­fected if you had less time than usual?

CS: I think in many or­ga­ni­za­tions as well, if you con­sider it, it’s al­ways pos­si­ble to work and re­work and re­work. At a cer­tain point, I think that things must come to the fi­nal de­sign. We have man­aged to gain some time on the way and find some cuts along the way in or­der to gain some time for the launch of the Fiftysix. In other words, we didn’t do any com­pro­mises. We didn’t launch some­thing in which we were not 100 per­cent happy. I think it’s a very im­por­tant point. We re­ally had enough time to cre­ate mock-ups, in­clud­ing me­tal mock-ups, and so this is re­ally the re­sult of our ef­forts.

WT: The au­to­matic ver­sion uses a move­ment with­out the Geneva Seal. Why’s that?

CS: We did not re­ally ask our­selves the ques­tion, “Do we have to?” As we wanted to po­si­tion the line very clearly, be­ing a dif­fer­ent way to en­ter into the world of Vacheron Con­stantin, also by the price po­si­tion­ing, we had to find a way to have one model that could be the pos­si­bil­ity to en­ter our world. We came to the con­clu­sion that we had to use a dif­fer­ent move­ment for this au­to­matic ver­sion. is is why we have de­cided to use a base, which is not an in-house base. How­ever, it’s still a man­u­fac­ture move­ment, mod­i­fied to our re­quire­ments, in terms of fin­ish­ing. e fact that we have been able to share this move­ment re­ally al­lowed us to cre­ate a very in­ter­est­ing of­fer, which is the au­to­matic model in steel.

Ex­cel­lence, in terms of watch­mak­ing, in terms of move­ment man­u­fac­tur­ing, was the ini­tial idea. e Geneva Seal is an ex­ist­ing la­bel, a la­bel for ex­cep­tional time­pieces, and we de­cided to fol­low the cri­te­ria of the Geneva Seal for our move­ment de­vel­op­ment be­cause it was re­ally very close to what we are look­ing for in terms of ex­cel­lence in watch­mak­ing. And I

think we have demon­strated that we are able to do this from sim­ple to the high­est com­pli­ca­tion. Let’s men­tion the Ref­er­ence 57260. I think that it demon­strates the mas­tery of Vacheron Con­stantin to be able to reach that level. In the Fiftysix, we feel that it re­ally made sense to ad­dress a new client and of­fer a time­piece that has re­ally fan­tas­tic fin­ish­ing, both from the case, dial, hands, etc., and also from the move­ment point of view. With all that, the fact that it is not stamped by the Geneva Seal was not such a prob­lem. So this is why we launched it, and it re­ally makes sense for this col­lec­tion.

One thing that I can add to the dis­cus­sion about the move­ment is why we didn’t use the Over­seas au­to­matic move­ment. e an­swer would be that the di­men­sions of the Over­seas move­ment, in terms of di­men­sions and thick­ness, were not an op­tion for the Fiftysix. In terms of de­sign, it wouldn’t al­low us to cre­ate an au­to­matic time­piece as thin and el­e­gant as we have here, which is re­ally some­thing that we can also un­der­line. We had to find a way to make it el­e­gant, and so it means thin, as well. e older fam­ily of Over­seas move­ments has been de­vel­oped re­ally to fit into the Over­seas and to fit into a sporty line.

WT: What was the biggest chal­lenge for you when work­ing on the de­sign of the Fiftysix?

CS: I think that for the de­sign­ers, the chal­lenge was that we wanted to cre­ate a col­lec­tion of new time­pieces, mean­ing that the de­sign of the watch had to be, I would say, per­fect, from a sim­ple watch to a more com­pli­cated time­piece. at’s the ma­jor con­straint, when you cre­ate a new col­lec­tion, you re­ally have to think about the pro­por­tions. Will it work for a com­pli­ca­tion? Will it work on that kind of com­pli­ca­tion? Will it work for a sim­ple watch?

e in­te­grated crown has been, yes, has been de­vel­oped to be a kind of de­sign code of the Fiftysix. is is some­thing that I think is made with sub­tlety. You don’t im­me­di­ately see it, but it is some­thing that is a de­sign code of the Fiftysix.

It goes also into this no­tion of cre­at­ing a clas­sic yet con­tem­po­rary time­piece; el­e­gant, not sporty; steel, so that it re­ally is this mix we wanted to cre­ate with the Fiftysix. Not a fully clas­si­cal time­piece, and not a sporty time­piece, but some­thing that will be in the mid­dle. at’s why we’ve thought about this in­te­grated crown.

WT: Will there ever be a bracelet op­tion?

CS: It could be some­thing re­ally in­ter­est­ing. It’s a very good ques­tion, in­deed. Ob­vi­ously, when you cre­ate a new time­piece in steel, you’ll be asked, “How about a steel bracelet?” e an­swer is, “Let’s see,” but that will be a very in­ter­est­ing op­tion to the Fiftysix.

WT: What is your per­sonal fa­vorite of the new col­lec­tion?

CS: Very sin­cerely, the au­to­matic, the sim­ple model, be­cause I think for most of the watches I re­ally love, a lot of them are sim­ple watches be­cause sim­ple watches are the most dif­fi­cult to de­sign. I think this one was par­tic­u­larly in­ter­est­ing, and I like the pro­por­tions of the time­piece. I like, on the steel one, this com­bi­na­tion of gray tones. e dial is very so­phis­ti­cated. It has, de­pend­ing on how the light is catch­ing the sur­face of the dial, it can be dark gray or light gray, so I re­ally like it. —

The Mal­tese cross em­blem in­flu­enced the de­sign of col­lec­tion’s cases, buck­les, ro­tors and lugs.

Vacheron Con­stantin’s new Cal­iber 1326 fea­tures an open­worked ro­tor with a Mal­tese cross mo­tif.

Chris­tian Sel­moni, di­rec­tor of style and her­itage at Vacheron Con­stantin

The Fiftysix Day-date in rose gold (Ref. 4400E/000R-B436)

The Fiftysix Self­wind­ing in steel (Ref. 4600E/000A-B442)

The Fiftysix Self­wind­ing in rose gold (Ref. 4600E/000R-B441)

The Fiftysix Day-date in stain­less steel (Ref. 4400E/000A-B437)

The Fiftysix Com­plete Cal­en­dar in rose gold (Ref. 4000E/000R-B438)

The Fiftysix Com­plete Cal­en­dar in steel (Ref. 4000E/000A-B439)

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