Vacheron Constantin FiftySix: The Golden Era Returns
For the world’s longest continually-running watchmaker, change doesn’t come easy.
Vacheron Constantin has been going for more than 260-years now, and has done so with huge success. Indeed, it is considered one of the ‘holy trinity,’ a group of watchmakers so revered by watch aficionados that their individual brand names need no longer be said.
But with huge success comes one big challenge; how do you compete in an industry rocked by change (thanks, millennials) without selling out on your heritage and ideals? For Vacheron Constantin, the answer to its future lied in its past.
The year 1956 was a big one for Vacheron Constantin. It was already one of the most luxurious watchmakers in the world; its wrist and pocket watches were worn by the world’s elite (Winston Churchill had one, but so too did a young Marlon Brando). It had just pulled the wraps off the world’s thinnest wristwatch (at the time) as well as some promising new anti-magnetic chronographs (that would go on to set a standard that is still referenced today). In fact, it was doing so well that when reference 6073 rolled out of the brand’s Geneva-based manufacture, it didn’t cause much fuss at all.
It was humble, to say the least. Its 35-millimetre face was covered in plexiglass, and it was one of the first watches from Vacheron Constantin to be equipped with an automatic movement. It was a workhorse watch, one aimed at Geneva’s many junior traders who needed a simple but precise way to keep track of time. And while it was still finished to Vacheron’s exacting standards (it’s finely polishes faceted lugs were inspired by the shape of the brand’s logo, the Maltese cross) it was quickly overshadowed just a year later by the watch that would go on to inspire Vacheron’s huge Patrimony range.
Fast forward sixty years, and the world is a very different place. A reality television star is the President of the United States, the highest-sold watch in the world is made by a technology company, and unlike the year 1956, wristwatches are no longer necessary to keep track of time. So when Vacheron sought inspiration for a brand new range – one that it hoped would attract the next generation of collectors – it got a tad creative.
While the brand’s vast archives hold two and a half centuries of material, it was the fifties and sixties that are widely heralded as the golden era of watchmaking (so it made sense to start there). And it was while rummaging through images of enamel-decorated pocket watches and quirky ‘aronde’ shaped timepieces that the original reference 6073 model was re-discovered. Evidently, it was exactly what Vacheron’s design boffs needed, and earlier this year an entirely new range was announced that took inspiration from that humble wristwatch; the FiftySix collection.
At the time, reference 6073 was built for the everyman, and so too is the all-new collection (albeit, the everyman with around US$12,000 burning a hole in his pocket). The new collection is a classic mix of retro-stylings and modern-day watchmaking smarts, and marks the first time Vacheron Constantin has ever offered a classic collection in stainless steel as well as gold. That’s not to say the steel model is any less desirable, far from it in fact. Indeed, it might just be the prettiest of the bunch, complete with white gold hands and appliques that contrast against its sector-type dial.
The whole collection comes in an array of flavours, including a self-winding tourbillon movement with a peripheral motor (something not oft seen in the world of watchmaking these days), a complete calendar, a day-date, and a self-winding automatic. The watches have been given a more sizeable 40mm case, and all feature new movements that were inspired by the original model’s caliber 1019/1.
Ultimately, the FiftySix collection marks a departure for Vacheron Constantin – which usually prefers to announce grand complications that go well into the six figure mark. That said, if the FiftySix line is the result of what happens when it goes searching through its dusty archives, then we’d urge Vacheron Constantin to do it more often; we can’t wait to see what it finds next.