Vacheron-Constantin-Metiers-D_art-Mecaniques-Ajourees-82020_000G-9925

Classical Form: The Vacheron Constantin Metiers D’Art Mecaniques Ajourées Ref. 82020/000G-9925

If you’re new to the world of watches, you might be unaware that for most of its history, watchmaking has been more of an art form than a commercial endeavor. Over time though — like with most things — watches transformed from a craft to more of a consumer good. I mean, as much as I love them, there’s no confusing a G-Shock or even a modern Rolex for a piece of art. That said, some watchmakers are intent on keeping watchmaking’s craftmanship roots alive. In particular, Vacheron Constantin has continued to make exceptionally high-level, hand-crafted timepieces. Here we have the Vacheron Constantin Metiers D’art Mecaniques Ajourées Ref. 82020/000G-9925. This is an open-worked skeletonized timepiece that features an exquisitely hand-decorated movement. It’s old-world craftsmanship built for the modern watch enthusiast.

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Vacheron Constantin Metiers D’art Mecaniques Ajourées Ref. 82020/000G-9925

History 

Vacheron Constantin is the world’s oldest continually operating watch manufacturer. The brand is coming up on 270 years in business; that’s a whole hell of a lot of experience in the craft of watchmaking. This reference 82020, in particular, is a part of a long legacy of beautifully done open-worked timepieces by Vacheron Constantin. In fact, the tradition goes all the way back to the very first watch Jean-Marc Vacheron ever produced in 1775. That initial timepiece featured an open-work and engraved balance cock. Over the centuries, the art of the open-worked movement was honed at Vacheron, with their first full open-work movement being introduced in 1924 and their first open-work wristwatch being released in the 1960s. The refinement and continuous improvement can be clearly seen here with this reference 82020 from 2021. This contemporary watch keeps Vacheron’s long legacy of beautifully decorated open-work timepieces alive and thriving in the twenty-first century. 

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Vacheron Constantin Metiers D’art Mecaniques Ajourées Ref. 82020/000G-9925

Design Details

I’m not going to lie; this watch is intimidating at first glance. The open-worked movement is a lot to take in. Visible through the front and the back of the watch, the movement has had so much metal removed that it contains about half the material of a standard caliber 4400. Then once all of that is removed, an artisan spends countless hours transforming the remaining components by hand into individual works of art, hand finishing everything from the bridges to even the screws. Anything that could be decorated was, and it’s a lot to take in. 

Vacheron-Constantin-Metiers-D_art-Mecaniques-Ajourees-82020_000G-9925
Vacheron Constantin Metiers D’art Mecaniques Ajourées Ref. 82020/000G-9925

However, even with the visual feast, the watch doesn’t let its form ruin its function. Your eyes quickly adjust and delineate the time-keeping information from the decorative flourishes thanks to the Roman numeral hour track and the blue Grand Feu enamel chapter ring that sits underneath it. This puts the most important information on top of all the decoration and adds a layer of separation and visual distinction. So even if you find yourself getting lost in the beautiful beveling and black polish, it’s easy to regain focus and tell the time, which, on a watch, is pretty important.  

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Vacheron Constantin Metiers D’art Mecaniques Ajourées Ref. 82020/000G-9925

As much attention as the beautiful movement grabs, I don’t think it should overshadow the case design. The 40mm, white gold case is pebble-like with a round, curvy, flowing shape. From the sides, the lugs disappear into the case seamlessly; however, from the top, they have a distinct step. This has a very intriguing visual “flow and crash” effect that, for whatever reason, I’m obsessed with. It’s so sculptural and artistic, and it might be my favorite trait on this watch. 

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Vacheron Constantin Metiers D’art Mecaniques Ajourées Ref. 82020/000G-9925
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Inner Workings

Inside the watch, the caliber 4401 is a true work of art, but its merit is not in its beauty alone. The caliber is based on the 4400, which Vacheron uses in several other manually wound watches such as the Historiques Americain 1921 and the Traditionelle Small Seconds. The movement has an ample 65-hour power reserve and, more importantly, a Geneva Hallmark indicating that the movement—and timepiece overall—is of the highest quality. Of the roughly twenty million watches produced in Switzerland each year, only a fraction—about 24,000—are stamped with this hallmark. The mark certifies that all parts of the movement down to the screws are hand-finished according to traditional techniques and, among other things, that the accuracy, shock resistance, water resistance, and power reserve perform as expected under the duress of daily wear. Despite this caliber and watch looking good enough to hang in a museum, it is, in fact, built to wear, and it is more than up to the task. 

Vacheron-Constantin-Metiers-D_art-Mecaniques-Ajourees-82020_000G-9925
Vacheron Constantin Metiers D’art Mecaniques Ajourées Ref. 82020/000G-9925

Versus The Competition

Skeletonized and open-worked watches are a very specific niche. So much so that I imagine a large majority of collectors who have one have a few. That said, a Vacheron open-worked timepiece is not like every other open-worked timepiece. The only other watchmakers who can compete with this level of craftsmanship are true heavy hitters. Here are a few to consider. 

Roger Dubuis is much, much younger than Vacheron, having been founded in 1995, but in the short time that it’s been in operation, Dubuis has built a reputation for creating exceptionally crafted timepieces. This is especially true of their skeletonized timepieces, which are a particular specialty of the brand. This particular model, the Excalibur 42 Skeleton Micro-Rotor Automatic, offers a contemporary approach to the skeleton technique allowing for a full view of the star-shaped bridges and fully hand-finished Poinçon de Genève certified movement. If you’re looking for something a bit more modern looking than the Vacheron but still love the old-world craftsmanship, this is for you. 

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Vacheron Constantin Metiers D’art Mecaniques Ajourées Ref. 82020/000G-9925

When it comes to traditional watchmaking, few companies can compete with Vacheron Constantin, so why try? If you want a Vacheron timepiece with an open-worked movement but for a slightly more approachable price — $37,500 — take a look at this white gold Patrimony Traditionnelle Openwork. Inside the timepiece is the 40-hour power reserve automatic caliber 1120. Like the 4401, it, too, is stamped with the Geneva seal of quality and features impeccable finishing. This 38mm white gold timepiece is a bit more reserved than the Ref. 82020, and while it’s not as rare, it is equally as exquisite. 

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Vacheron Constantin Metiers D’art Mecaniques Ajourées Ref. 82020/000G-9925

Personality

This watch has a very distinct aesthetic that is solely focused on illustrating Vacheron’s prowess as a watchmaker. While some timepieces are a wealth flex, this is a skill flex. Because of that, I think this watch is perfect for someone who’s in love with the craftwork on display in this watch, someone who knows what it’s like to pour decades into honing a skill and fully appreciates the work that went into hand finishing every little detail. 

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Vacheron Constantin Metiers D’art Mecaniques Ajourées Ref. 82020/000G-9925

Final Thoughts

I don’t think this watch is for everyone. I meant it when I said it was intimidating, and I think it takes a special person to appreciate it. It’s niche but necessary, and I think this is exactly the type of watch that I feel Vacheron has a responsibility to make. When you’re the oldest continually operating watch brand in the world, it’s your responsibility to carry the torch for the art of traditional watchmaking. This watch carries the torch proudly, and so does whoever wears it. 

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