Some may consider it blasphemy to say so, but I would argue that the Vacheron Constantin Les Historiques 1955 Cornes de Vache 5000H/000P-B058 is one of the finest classically-styled chronographs on the market. It exudes an elegance that is nearly unrivaled, and while each of the old guard maisons has their own take on the no-nonsense dress chronograph, the Vacheron Constantin Cornes de Vaches has always stood out for its eponymous horn-shaped lugs and simple, balanced dial.
This Vacheron Constantin chronograph, more than many other timepieces with claimed vintage inspiration, finds its roots firmly in the past. The forebear of this watch is the Vacheron Constantin 6087, an exceptionally rare model—only 36 were produced over a decade, starting in 1955—that features the same exquisite lugs. In 2015, Vacheron Constantin decided to revisit the model as part of its Les Historiques line. The line celebrates the brand’s heritage and commitment to innovation and craftmanship in horology by revisiting some of its most iconic releases. The Cornes de Vache was a natural choice, considering its rarity and its status as a collector’s piece.
The greatest delight of the Cornes de Vache is the design of the lugs. At once pronounced and subtle, the “cow horns” flow naturally from the platinum 38.5mm yet immediately draw one’s attention. They merit the moniker: a top-down view evinces the menacing horns of a charging bull. As is often the case in the upper echelons of watchmaking, the lugs are individually welded to the caseband. You may argue that the “cow horns” look like tear drop lugs, but those are often pinched where they meet the case as opposed to the bulbous base of the horns. Given their elegance and unique form factor, it’s no wonder the model was named for them.
The rest of the case is rather understated, typical of the classic Swiss watchmakers. The simple round shape is just 10.9mm thick and features slab sides rendered in high-polish platinum—the flat sides will ensure that every bit of that 10.9mm is felt on the wrist. A rounded bezel echoes the softness of the lugs, which taper downward to give the watch a gently curved profile that rests easily. On the right side, the chronograph is operated with pump-style pushers, which are consistent with the vintage design of the watch. The slim screw-down crown ensures 30m of water resistance and is embossed with the Vacheron Maltese cross. The blue alligator leather strap tapers from 20mm to 18mm and ends in a platinum tang buckle in the shape of the brand’s cross logo.
The dial of the Cornes de Vache is all about creating elegance with a complication that often clutters dials—the chronograph. The caliber used employs a dual-register layout, with two chronograph indicators: the central sweep hand and the 30-minute subdial. Both feature heat-blued hands made from hardened carbon steel. The time is displayed with pencil hands—hour, minutes, and small seconds at 9 o’clock— crafted of 18k white gold. Those hands are matched by the baton hour markers. Vacheron has changed things up a bit, affixing roman numerals at 12 and 6. The use of baton markers gives this watch an aesthetic leg up on its contemporaries: while the subdials are just as large as you might find on offerings from other brands, they encroach only upon batons instead of eating into full numbers, giving the dial a cleaner look.
The silver-opaline dial features a beautiful, almost frosted finish, with the Vacheron name and logo snugly fit above center. Both registers feature radial finishing with crisply printed black numbers and scales; the minute track surrounding the central dial is similarly printed in black. Moving to the outer edge, the watch features a tachymeter scale painted in a vibrant blue, giving the dial a restrained pop.
The Vacheron Constantin Cornes de Vache features a screwdown caseback with a sapphire crystal, allowing the handwound movement to be admired. The caliber VC 1142 is manufactured in-house and is based on the Lemania 2310—a legendary movement that also serves as the base for movements used by Omega, Patek Philippe, and Roger Dubois, among others. The movement features a horizontal clutch and column wheel for smooth action, while affording 48-hours on a full wind.
Comprised of 164 components, including 21 jewels, the movement has a free-sprung balance that is adjustable and has a Breguet overcoil to ensure greater isochronism, beating at 21,600 vph. As one might expect, the movement and its components are expertly finished, plated in rhodium with Côtes de Geneve and anglage, and carries the Geneva Seal. The pièce de résistance? Vacheron has fitted the column wheel with a Maltese cross-shaped screw, truly making the movement their own.
Versus the Competition
There may be no better alternative to the new Cornes de Vache than a vintage Vacheron with almost identical lugs, the 4240 Triple Date. While the lugs are less pronounced, this solid gold model offers a bit more flash and a more practical complete calendar complication. Just like the Vacheron 6097 Cornes de Vache, this model, too, serves as the inspiration for a modern model from the brand’s Les Historiques line.
Another option from that line is the American 1921, a beautiful take on the driver’s watch, with the dial rotated 45 degress to make it easy to read while at the wheel. Finally, you can explore options outside the Vacheron Constantin marque—and there are plenty. an obvious option is the Patek Philippe 5170G, which keeps the general aesthetics of the Cornes de Vache, but loses the fancy lugs and adds intrigue with a pulsations scale in lieu of a tachymeter.
This watch is all about historicity and class. This is not a watch that will scream status—there’s not enough branding and the design isn’t recognizable enough. Instead, this watch is about an appreciation for the beauty of simplicity and classical watch design, without need for the latest and greatest, nor the need to show off. The Cornes de Vache is purely for the enjoyment of its owner, who will likely have a fascination with historical timepieces and maybe even with the Vacheron Constantin brand.
What can be said about a beautiful watch executed with perfection, that offers something just a bit different? Perhaps just that. The Vacheron Constantin Les Historiques 1955 Cornes de Vache is not just an exceptional timepiece, but presented in platinum as it is here, it sheds the color play of other variants in favor clean design and classic good looks.