A BEAT OF ITS OWN

Vacheron Con­stantin re­veals its mu­si­cal lean­ings by join­ing forces with Abbey Road Stu­dios, writes Sarah Maisey

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“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

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