Vacheron Constantin Historiques Triple Calendrier 1942
The Vacheron Constantin Historiques Triple Calendrier 1942 upholds the Genevan marques’s reputation for creating elegant calendar watches. This model incorporates period details such as claw-type lugs and a case embellished with triple gadroons. However, this is not merely a replica of a former model but a sympathetic re-interpretation of a classic design, infused with a ‘contemporary twist’.
Calendar watches represent an important pillar of the Vacheron Constantin brand. Indeed, one of the first horological complications offered by the luxury marque, harking back to the 18th century, was a calendar displaying the date and weekday. Later, the Maison combined high complications such as minute repeaters with calendar displays, including the venerated perpetual calendar.
In the 1920s, Vacheron Constantin housed calendar indications within a wristwatch, skilfully miniaturising the know-how first seen within a pocket watch and adapting it for wear upon the arm. However, it was the 1940s which represented the heyday for Vacheron Constantin calendar watches.
At the time, the indexes on some references comprised of Roman numerals while other models featured a combination of Arabic numerals, often used to denote even-numbered hours, and dots, rectangular batons or triangular indexes to indicate the intervening hours. Typically a small seconds display was positioned at 6 o’clock and on some models, not all, this was combined with a moon phase indication.
The Genevan firm’s calendar watches were mostly housed in round cases endowed with claw-type lugs. However, throughout its lengthy history, Vacheron Constantin (founded in 1755) has repeatedly shown it can never be typecast. For example, the Toledo wristwatch (circa 1952), equipped with day, month, date and moon-phase indication, was presented in a striking rectangular case with curved sides, nipped at the waist.
Recently, I had the opportunity to don my brim edge Fedora and closely examine the Vacheron Constantin Historiques Triple Calendrier 1942 at close quarters. This sympathetic recreation of the 1942 timepiece, the reference 4240, successfully captures many of the period design elements found on the original watch. However, the Genevan Maison has not simply produced a mere facsimile of the ref. 4240 but chosen to distill the aesthetic, imbuing the model with some contemporary touches.
A brief look at the terms used with calendar watches
A complete calendar (full calendar) shows the date, the day of the week, the month and moon phase. Those months with less than 31 days require the wearer to manually adjust the date five times a year.
An annual calendar can show merely the date or it can be a full calendar. However, with this complication, the movement is able to differentiate between those months with 30 and 31 days, automatically changing to the 1st of the month when appropriate. The only exception to this is on the morning of the 1st March, when the date needs to be manually corrected.
A perpetual calendar automatically takes into account whether a month has 28, 29 (leap year), 30 or 31 days and adjusts the date accordingly. The wearer only needs to adjust the date in 2100, 2200 and 2300 which are not leap years. Typically, a perpetual calendar will display a full calendar and a leap year indicator.
Vacheron Constantin has much expertise making all three types of calendar watch, having made numerous examples of each. Currently, the brand does not offer an annual calendar, however, based on its vast experience, this complication would not be a problem to this high-end practitioner of watchmaking.
The Vacheron Constantin Historiques Triple Calendrier 1942 is offered in two colourways, one with burgundy dial accents and a second with blue dial detail. Personally, I favour the latter reference.
Image – ref 3100V/000A-B425
In the northern hemisphere of the dial, the brand’s emblem and nomenclature provide reassurance that this timepiece has been distilled to the nth degree and made to the most exacting standards. Indeed, for many years the cognoscenti have mentioned the company’s name in reverential tones and grouped it with Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe, two other esteemed horological marques, conferring the trio with the epithet, ‘The holy trinity of watchmaking’.
Image – ref 3100V/000A-B426
Beneath the aforementioned branding, two rectangular apertures frame the day and month. The two indications convey meaning using a slender blue typeface set against a crisp white backdrop.
The blue baton-style hour and minute hands are supremely slender. They exhibit a seemly, almost balletic poise, brimming with grace. However, on reading this, the svelte profile of the hands may lead to questions about the readability of the indications. Rest assured, while the hands are incredibly majestic they also prove eminently legible.
The dial epidermis is silvered, incorporating a subtle sunburst finish and exhibiting a muted cream tone. The dial provides a fantastic foil for the various hands. Each hour, save for 6 o’clock, is denoted with Arabic numerals.
A snailed small seconds display is positioned above 6 o’clock and incorporates a blued hand, Arabic numerals and a combination of short and long strokes. Every element is crisp and neat, superbly circumventing ambiguity.
A white track encircles the central area of the dial. The trackis marked with 31 values, each representing the date and each depicted with succinct blue numerals. A silver-toned hand, featuring a prominent red tip, kisses the date values, efficiently indicating the prevailing date. The juxtaposing of the white track against the cream dial hues provides an effective means of delineation as well as augmenting the visual allure of the vista presented. The font used for the blue date values matches the black hour markers, contributing to the overall cohesion of the dial design.
A chemin de fer graces the periphery of the dial and proves helpful when reading off the prevailing minutes.
One concession that the Genevan brand has made to modern tastes relates to the size of the Vacheron Constantin Historiques Triple Calendrier 1942. This modern-day recreation measures 40mm in diameter, making it significantly larger than most watches of the 1940s. However, this should not be misconstrued, the scale of this watch is not excessive, indeed, it would be considered modest when contrasted with the majority of present-day watches.
In the 1940s, claw-type lugs were very much en vogue, however, despite the passage of time, their aesthetic appeal remains undiminished. Quite simply, they remain supremely graceful. Moreover, their allure is not merely restricted to their aesthetic charm, they also unite ergonomically with the wrist.
Image – ref 3100V/000A-B425
The box glass sapphire crystal also doffs its hat to the design language of the 1940s era. It invites available light to flood the dial plane, augmenting legibility. The appearance of the case is wonderfully enhanced by incorporating a ‘triple gadroon’ caseband. This feature is comprised of three curved sections on the flank of the case, stacked one upon the other, implying the wall is made of three circular sections despite being of monobloc construction. This illusion bestows an eye-catching appearance and invites the wearer to examine the surface closely with an outstretched index finger.
The crown sits unobtrusively against the caseband, reinforcing the softly spoken character of the Vacheron Constantin Historiques Triple Calendrier 1942. The crown has two positions. When it is pulled out fully, the hour and minutes can be adjusted. Alternatively, when the crown is pushed fully home, the watch is in winding mode, allowing the wearer to energise the mainspring. The corrector, positioned within the caseband at 2 o’clock, allows the wearer to adjust the month display, using the corrector pen which is provided with the watch. A further corrector, for adjusting the date, is located is located at 4 o’clock.
A key attribute of any Vacheron Constantin watch is the matchless movement housed within the case and the Historiques Triple Calendrier 1942 proves no exception. Therefore, I applaud the historical firm for choosing to equip this timepiece with an exhibition caseback, affording views of the hand-wound Calibre 4400 QC.
The Vacheron Constantin Historiques Triple Calendrier 1942 bears the Geneva Seal, otherwise known as the Poinçon de Genève. Firstly, this symbol acts in the same way some wines are marked ‘appellation contrôlée’, indicating that a watch is ‘made by the craftsmen of the Republic and Canton of Geneva’.
In addition, the shield-shape symbol signifies that a watch has met a range of stringent criteria relating to the specification of components, their finish (where appropriate) and ‘reliability’. This latter criteria includes tests for the correct functioning of parts, water resistance and accuracy, to name but a few.
The Geneva Seal came into existence in 1886 and it has been an indication of no-compromise quality ever since. Those companies marking products with the Poinçon de Genève are regularly audited by independent inspectors. Only if these firms continue to fulfil the onerous criteria of the Geneva Seal can they continue to produce watches bearing the prestigious emblem. Needless to say, the Poinçon de Genève is only found on watches of the finest quality.
The hand-wound Calibre 4400 QC was ‘entirely developed’ by Vacheron Constantin and each example is painstakingly ‘crafted’ by their talented personnel. The movement is comprised of 225 components, including 21 jewels. Measuring 29mm in diameter, the movement occupies a significant proportion of the case, hence its scale befits the watch’s 40mm diameter.
Beyond its functionality, the Calibre 4400 QC indulges the wearer with matchless standards of finishing. The bridges are adorned with Côtes de Genève and engraved golden text. The edge of each bridge is beautifully bevelled, gleaming profusely with the merest suggestion of light. The highly polished screwheads sit adjacent shining sinks. Likewise, the jewels, which also fulfil the criteria laid down by the Poinçon de Genève, sit within polished sinks. The wheels are circular grained and the barrel is adorned with sunray-brushing. Personally, I adore the generous spacing between each of the bridges as they afford views of the circular grained base plate (perlage) and the peerless bevelling (anglage).
The balance, which has a frequency of 28,800 VpH (4Hz), is fitted with a sliding stud carrier. This is a wonderful detail from a watchmaker’s perspective. Allow me to elaborate.
When the watch is being regulated, often using a Witschi machine, various information is presented on the instrument’s read-out. This information includes the ‘rate accuracy’ expressed in seconds per day, the amplitude and the beat error.
When the balance oscillates to and fro, it swings through an angle of rotation. This angle, expressed in degrees, is referred to as the ‘amplitude’. The amplitude should not be too high or too low and provides a good indication of the movement’s health.
The swings of the balance, clockwise and anticlockwise should ideally match. If there is a difference between the clockwise swing and the anticlockwise swing, this is referred to as the ‘beat error’ and necessitates adjustment of the impulse pin in relation to the banking pins.
Now to the pertinent issue relating to the Calibre 4400 QC. On some watches equipped with a fixed stud carrier, the adjustment of the impulse pin is incredibly time consuming, necessitating the removal of the collet, the part which joins the inner coil of the hairspring to the balance staff. However, with the sliding stud carrier fitted to this movement, a watchmaker can easily reposition the balance and, by default, the impulse pin’s relationship with the banking pins. I apologise for this longwinded explanation, however, I hope this illustrates the Genevan Maison’s close attention to detail and the horological rectitude it upholds.
The sliding stud holder is beautifully mirror-polished. This form of finishing is the most challenging to execute. The finisseur places the part on a tin plate, covered with a fine layer of abrasive paste. The part is repeatedly rubbed against the tin plate, often in a circular motion, in order to produce a totally flat surface. Initially, the abrasive is coarse, however, this is changed for paste incorporating fine particulates. The resultant surface exhibits a mirror-like appearance from some angles while seeming black from others. To achieve a flawless finish takes an inordinate amount of time, but the Swiss firm repeatedly expends much energy in order to deliver perfection. Indeed, irrespective of where inquisitive eyes choose to dwell, each part of the Calibre 4400 QC is refined to the highest order.
The dial of the Vacheron Constantin Historiques Triple Calendrier 1942 is rich in period detail. However, the Genevan Maison has not sacrificed readability on the altar of style. The svelte hour and minute hands enunciate the prevailing time with lucidity and grace. The hour markers exude finesse, courtesy of the crisp font employed.
The day and month are revealed via two rectangular apertures which efficiently proclaim meaning at the exclusion of the superfluous. Indeed, the apertures remind me of film directors, framing a scene with hands in front of their faces. The pointer date succinctly imparts information. Quite simply, with all of the calendar functions depicted on the dial, there is no risk of any misunderstandings.
Vacheron Constantin has designed a case which captures the look of the 1940s but distilled for modern tastes. The 40mm diameter and exhibition caseback pander to modern-day wants without marring the model’s vintage appearance.
Personally, I am obsessive about movements and the Calibre 4400 QC indulges my horological foibles wonderfully. Each component is beautifully executed, the finishing is ‘top drawer’ and, despite this being one of the more accessible watches from the brand, there are no signs of any penny-pinching. Furthermore, anglage, perlage, Côtes de Genève and mirror polishing coalesce wonderfully, seducing any unsuspecting horophile with their coquettish charms.
The sliding stud carrier is just one example of the exalted specification of the Calibre 4400 QC. I have repeatedly asked myself whether the movement could be improved in any way. The balance is fitted with a simple regulator which adjusts the rate of the movement. A variable inertia balance would improve the concentricity of the hairspring and, by default, enhance precision. In theory, this would confer advancement. However, the absence of a variable inertia balance does nothing to diminish my genuine affection for this watch. Indeed, it reaffirms why I hold Vacheron Constantin in the highest regard and, in my opinion, this model perpetuates the brand’s reputation for making sublime calendar watches.
- Model: Vacheron Constantin Historiques Triple Calendrier 1942
- Reference: 3110V/000A-B426
- Case: Stainless steel; diameter 40mm; height 10.35mm; water resistance 3ATM (30 metres); sapphire crystal to the front and sapphire caseback
- Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds; day; month; pointer date
- Movement: Calibre 4400 QC; hand-wound movement; frequency 28,800VpH (4Hz); 21 jewels; approximately 65 hours of power reserve
- Strap: Dark blue hand-stitched alligator leather strap with steel pin buckle
- Price: £17,000 (RRP as at 8.7.2019)