Vacheron Constantin Malte Small Seconds White Gold

Angus Davies reviews the Vacheron Constantin Malte Small Seconds White Gold, a watch recently launched in white gold at SIHH 2014. The tonneau-shaped timepiece features some enhancements. Do these changes represent an improvement?

This detailed watch review of the Vacheron Constantin Malte Small Seconds White Gold includes live images and specification details.

SIHH 2014 - Vacheron Constantin Malte Small Seconds in white gold (inc. live pics)

The term “continuous improvement” has become commonplace in management meetings around the globe. Companies will endeavour to update products, services or processes, in a bid to make small incremental improvements.

These changes can deliver improved profits, reduce downtime, mitigate faults, enrich worker satisfaction or enhance quality. In some instances, changes can deliver several benefits at the same time.

SIHH 2014 - Vacheron Constantin Malte Small Seconds in white gold (inc. live pics)

This pre-amble leads me to discuss a new version of the Vacheron Constantin Malte Small Seconds, recently launched at SIHH 2014, now also presented in white gold. Shortly after the former pink gold model was launched at SIHH 2012, I reviewed the Vacheron Constantin Malte small seconds Reference: 82130/OOOR-9755, here on ESCAPEMENT. This existing pink gold model has also been updated and now incorporates some small subtle changes too. The question that I find myself asking is, do the changes represent an improvement?

White gold or pink gold

The first difference is obviously the availability of the new white gold case. I always liked the pink gold but, having placed the white gold version on my wrist, this would now be my preferred choice. The restrained character of white gold is wonderful and particularly suits the tonneau-shaped case.

SIHH 2014 - Vacheron Constantin Malte Small Seconds in white gold (inc. live pics)

A minute track

Vacheron Constantin has now included a minute track, enhancing the legibility and appearance of the dial. Ironically, whilst I perceive the addition of a minute track as an improvement, I never felt this was a glaring omission on the former model.

The caseback – formerly solid

The former model had a solid caseback, hiding the Calibre 4400 AS from view.

The rationale for employing a solid case back on the former model was that to reveal a round movement in a tonneau shaped case would have been considered poor form. Watchmaking etiquette dictates that the movement should emulate the profile of the case. Often high-end watch brands hide the movement when it does not follow the contour of the watch exterior.

Observing the craftsmanship within

Like many watch fanatics, I prefer watches which feature an exhibition caseback. In some respects, I liken this to being able to see an accomplished chef prepare a meal directly in front of the diner. The uncensored delivery of each sound, smell and sight feeds the senses with the drama and the added value of haute cuisine. Likewise, by incorporating a sapphire crystal to the dorsal flank of a timepiece, the eyes are indulged with an alluring spectacle of the best haute horlogerie has to offer.

I remember when I published my review in 2012, in my haste, I typed the watch had an exhibition case back. Within a matter of nano-seconds, Alex Ghotbi, received various messages from members of the brand’s Hour Lounge, asking if this was true. Clearly, my error was quickly remedied, but not after a plethora of comments from the informed members of the Hour Lounge entered Mr Ghotbi’s inbox.

Some time later, when selecting my own Vacheron Constantin, I considered the Malte Small Seconds. It was the absence of an exhibition case back which ultimately led me to select an alternative model, the Historique American 1921, a decision I have never regretted.

The case back – the new model affords a view

On seeing the 2104, Vacheron Constantin Malte Small Seconds White Gold, I noted the exhibition caseback and initially thought the watch must feature a new tonneau shaped movement. However, I was surprised to learn that the model contained the same, round, Calibre 4400AS.

SIHH 2014 - Vacheron Constantin Malte Small Seconds in white gold (inc. live pics)

This is arguably one of the most contentious changes of the watch.

Closing remarks

At first, some will question whether Vacheron Constantin was wise to take this unconventional approach, especially considering its elevated status within the industry. Personally, I am glad it did as it now allows the wearer to see some of the exemplary finishing of the movement within. Moreover, the balance and expertly decorated bridges are openly revealed.

SIHH 2014 - Vacheron Constantin Malte Small Seconds in white gold (inc. live pics)

Inquiring minds may wonder, why Vacheron Contantin did not produce a tonneau shaped movement. I suspect I know the answer. Demand for tonneau-shaped watches, in contrast with round cased timepieces, is usually very small. The cost of creating a specific tonneau-shaped movement for this model would represent an investment of several million Swiss Francs and, in reality, would never be recouped due to the limited demand for this type of watch. Ultimately, Vacheron Constantin has to be pragmatic and make judgements based on sound commerciality. In this regard, I don’t blame them, after all, a healthy Vacheron Constantin means that watch fans like myself can look forward to more delightful models in the future.

Returning to my opening question, does this represent continuous improvement? Yes, I would rather have a partial view of a wonderful movement than no view at all.

Technical Specification

  • Model: Vacheron Constantin Malte Small Seconds White Gold
  • Reference: 822230/000G-9962
  • Case: 18-carat white gold; dimensions 36.70 mm x 47.61 mm; height 9.10 mm; water resistant to 3 bar (30 metres); sapphire crystal to front and caseback.
  • Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds.
  • Movement: Calibre 4400AS, hand-wound movement; frequency 28,800 vph (4 Hz); 21 jewels; power reserve 65 hours; 127 parts
  • Strap: Black alligator leather strap presented on an 18-carat white gold buckle

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