Within the Holy Trinity of watchmaking, Vacheron Constantin receives the least attention. Compared to the pop culture hype generated around the Royal Oak and Nautilus, Vacheron has remained the quiet third pillar of the haute horlogerie market segment. While the brand may not have the same recognition in the broader world culture, watch collectors continue to obsess over Vacheron’s nearly unparalleled history — Vacheron has been around for longer than Patek and AP — and its classic timepieces. Vacheron has remained true to its identity, prioritizing the same qualities that made the brand successful in the 1700s.
Perhaps a quote from a letter sent by Francois Constantin to Jacques-Barthélémi Vacheron in the early 1800s best summarizes the ethic that has preserved the brand legacy: “Do better when possible, and it is always possible”. Today we will look at 10 of Vacheron’s celebrated pieces that you should consider adding to your collection.
Vacheron Constantin Overseas Tourbillon
At the intersection of complication and simultaneous simplicity, the Vacheron Constantin Overseas Tourbillon pairs the sophistication of the tourbillon with the design of a steel sports watch. Undoubtedly a modern watch, Vacheron’s Overseas is a case study in attention to detail. Visible through the tourbillon aperture in the dial, Vacheron’s Maltese cross motif is visible, affixed to the rotating chassis of the tourbillon. Extending the theme, Vacheron has brought one branch of the cross down the center of each bracelet link and around the bezel. An additional refinement on the movement side is Vacheron’s peripheral rotor, which rotates around the caliber without obscuring the tourbillon or any of the rest of the movement. The basic layout of this piece ostensibly suggests a lack of complexity, but any understanding of the watchmaking that went into this piece removes any doubts — this watch is undoubtedly a heavy hitter.
Vacheron Constantin Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin
Continuing with the theme of blue-dialed Overseas models, we arrive at the Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin. Coming in at just over 8mm in thickness, for a sporty take on the complication, it’s difficult to find a perpetual calendar with so much character. An additional attribute of this model (and all of the current Overseas collection) is its compatibility with a variety of straps that can be easily swapped in and out to change the identity of the watch. Vacheron has invested extensively in this strap system to increase the versatility of their pieces, and in turn the new setup is one of the better examples available in today’s market.
Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Minute Repeater Perpetual Calendar
For a more traditional Grand Complication from the brand, consider the Vacheron Constantin Minute Repeater Perpetual Calendar from the early ’00s. Measuring 37mm across and a modest 9.5mm thick, the classic proportions of the piece accompany its traditional dial layout beautifully. The curvaceous case side profiles allow this piece to resemble a pocket watch with lugs. A discreet minute repeater slide sits at the left side of the case, visually balancing the crown at 3. Teardrop lugs further emphasize the retro inspiration of the piece and a multi toned silver dial is beautifully grained in two directions to provide contrast. This watch is the ultimate grail piece.
Vacheron Constantin “Everest” Dual Time
In 2019, Vacheron Constantin created a prototype for a GMT wrist watch to outfit famed photographer and mountaineer Cory Richards on his Everest expedition. In 2021, Vacheron decided to create a limited edition run of 150 examples designed to resemble the famous prototype and the resultant piece has become a favorite among collectors. The automatic winding rotor is engraved with Mount Everest in commemoration of Richards’ expedition and the dial features a textured three dimensionality that helps distinguish the model from other production references in the Vacheron catalog.
Vacheron Constantin Historiques American 1921
Alongside the core collections of Vacheron Constantin, the Historiques remains a favorite among enthusiasts. Made to pay homage to vintage references in the Vacheron archive, the Historiques couple the vintage aesthetics of the pieces of old with the modern manufacturing techniques of contemporary times. Perhaps the best known model in the Historiques collection is the American 1921, based upon a 1921 model designed for drivers. The recognizable model is characterized by its rotated dial, cushion case, Breguet numerals and Breguet hands. A beautiful watch in white gold (also offered in platinum and rose gold), this reference is a classic in the modern collection.
Vacheron Constantin Les Historiques 1955 Cornes de Vache
Continuing with the Historiques Collection, the 1955 Cornes de Vache is one of the most underrated dress chronographs on the market. The Cornes de Vache was inspired by a rare (some say 36 pieces in total) production of chronographs beginning in 1955 with unique “bull horn” lugs. The heart of the piece, the beautiful caliber VC 1142 operates with a horizontal clutch and column wheel mechanism to provide excellent tactile feedback and equally strong finish quality. This watch represents much of what Vacheron is known for, yet for some reason it never achieved the fame of the Patek Philippe 5170 or the Lange Datograph — the two other chronographs most likely to be considered as alternatives. It deserves much more time in the spotlight!
Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Complete Calendar Openface
If you are looking for a more contemporary complication from Vacheron Constantin, consider the ironically named Traditionnelle Complete Calendar Openface. Ultra modern in design, yet traditional in its layout and underlying movement, the Traditionnelle Complete Calendar Openface displays the day, month and moonphase on sapphire discs. The use of sapphire for much of the dial componentry makes the gear train and cam system visible from the front of the piece. It’s a very interesting display, and one that’s unconventional for Vacheron, making it a bit more unique in the sea of traditional dress watches.
Vacheron Constantin Metiers D’Art Mecaniques Ajourées Ref. 82020/000G-9925
The craftspeople at Vacheron Constantin specialize in more than simply watchmaking. The brand enlists the help of engravers, dedicated painters for their enameling, and much more. To spotlight the work of these artisans, Vacheron created the Metiers D’Art Collection. A great example of the spirit of the collection, the Mecaniques Ajourées is adorned with engraving across its skeletonized dial carcass. In the creation of this watch, Vacheron stripped away almost all semblance of bridges or a baseplate. The piece has shed away roughly 50% of the metal that would typically be found on a caliber 4400 (the base for this piece). Subtly tucked around the perimeter of the dial, Vacheron has also incorporated a blue strip of Grand Feu enamel.
Vacheron Constantin Triple Calendar 4240
If you are looking for a piece of Vacheron’s history, a significant vintage reference that remains current in modern times, look no further than the Triple Calendar 4240. Released in 1942, the piece is a cornucopia of art deco watchmaking details. Grooved case sides, a pointer date, two tone dial and famous Vacheron Cornes de Vache lugs, this piece represents the era in which Vacheron ascended to the top of the market, arguably the golden age of the brand. So impactful was this reference, that Vacheron decided to recreate it (at a larger 40mm vs the original, sized at 35mm) with the Historiques Triple Calendrier 1942.
Vacheron Constantin Overseas Dual Time
To open and close with an Overseas model, we arrive at the Dual Time. A piece that ironically feels very balanced in spite of its asymmetrical dial layout, the Overseas Dual Time showcases the versatility of the Overseas design language. Born off of the blueprint of the reference 222, the overseas collection was Vacheron’s contribution to the integrated steel sports watch trend of the modern era. In 1996, the Overseas collection was introduced, and in recent years, the collection has received extensive praise within the watch community. Although the Overseas undoubtedly constitutes a sports watch, there’s a gem-like dressiness to the piece as well.