Vacheron Constantin Metiers d’Art Mecaniques Ajourees

Angus Davies reviews the Vacheron Constantin Metiers d’Art Mecaniques Ajourees, an open-worked watch, featuring a Grand Feu enamelled ring and housing a skeletonised version of the Caliber 4400.

This detailed review of the Vacheron Constantin Metiers d’Art Mecaniques Ajourees includes live images and specification details.

Vacheron Constantin Métiers d’Art Mécaniques Ajourées - watch review by ESCAPEMENT

In the past, I have sat opposite a psychiatrist and been the subject of his professional interest.

Discussing thoughts and experiences with someone who you have never met before elicits an unhindered release of emotions. It may sound strange to reveal your inner thoughts to a complete stranger, but baring your soul to someone, who is not a friend, member of your family, or neighbour, is actually quite cathartic.

Baring the soul, requires bravery. Exposing one’s inner-self, potentially leaves the individual vulnerable to criticism or ridicule. Conversely, it can also reveal an inner quality which is truly beguiling and very attractive to others. Indeed, baring the soul, proves illuminating both to the subject itself and those observers who make its acquaintance.

Free disclosure of one’s inner psyche can confer wonderment and fascination to those who are invited to become intimately acquainted and the same could be readily applied to this latest model from Vacheron Constantin.

Vacheron Constantin Métiers d’Art Mécaniques Ajourées - watch review by ESCAPEMENT

The Vacheron Constantin Metiers d’Art Mecaniques Ajourees is an open-worked wristwatch which freely shows its inner thought processes. Nothing is hidden from view. Available in four versions, all models feature an enamelled ring encircling a vista of horological refinement. These rings, featuring grand feu opaque enamel, are presented in a choice of black, grey or blue hues.

A haute joaillerie version is also available with a black enamelled ring, wonderfully demonstrating the exalted craftsmanship of the maison’s gem setters.

However, it is the blue enamel which piques my interest and whets my horological appetite. Quite simply, it is stunning.

Vacheron Constantin Métiers d’Art Mécaniques Ajourées - watch review by ESCAPEMENT

Vacheron Constantin Metiers d’Art Mecaniques Ajourees High Jewellery (black enamelled ring) ref 8260/000G-9924 

A familiar friend

Vacheron Constantin has taken its Caliber 4400, a movement I am familiar with as it features in my own Vacheron Constantin Historique American 1921, and subjected it to extensive surgery, to create the Caliber 4400SQ.

The Caliber 4400 is a hand-wound movement, produced in-house by Vacheron Constantin with a frequency of 28,800 vph (4Hz). The frequency is actually quite high for a movement which often features in traditionally styled watches; I would have expected the frequency to have been a more traditional 2.5 Hz or 3 Hz. However, I have found the Caliber 4400 in my own watch to deliver superb accuracy, no doubt because of the high rate of oscillation.

Vacheron Constantin Métiers d’Art Mécaniques Ajourées - watch review by ESCAPEMENT

But, Vacheron Constantin goes beyond accuracy alone. The pleasure of haute horlogerie is not merely arriving at the end destination but the joy of the journey taken. Time is important, but if I simply wanted to know the prevailing hour, I could look at my mobile phone. Vacheron Constantin artistically creates mechanical masterpieces which example beautiful craftsmanship and this, in my opinion, is the raison d’être for purchase.

An expertise 

Adroit time-served hands have expertly removed any surplus material of the Caliber 4400, bestowing a lightness and fluidity to the sinuous lines of the resultant movement, the Caliber 4400SQ.

Vacheron Constantin Métiers d’Art Mécaniques Ajourées - watch review by ESCAPEMENT

To open-work, or skeletonise, a movement is not for the inexperienced. Removing material without the necessary skills could result in a loss of rigidity and the functionality of the watch could be compromised as a result.

I would liken this to an aftermarket coachbuilder removing the roof of a coupé, trying to create a cabriolet. The foolish will not compensate for the loss of metal above the driver’s head and a newfound absence of torsional rigidity will result in a compromised ride, scuttle shake or, worse still, a car which snaps in two.

Reassuringly, Vacheron Constantin are experts in the field of open-worked movements, harking back to 1924.

A delicious delicacy

The normal approach to openworking is to use a bocfil, a small handsaw, to cut out the mainplate and bridges, before drawing them out with a file.

Vacheron Constantin Métiers d’Art Mécaniques Ajourées - watch review by ESCAPEMENT

Vacheron Constantin chases the parts around their entire circumference, expertly sculpting them to accord a delightful depth.

Vacheron Constantin Métiers d’Art Mécaniques Ajourées - watch review by ESCAPEMENT

This exemplar of Swiss haute horlogerie distinguishes itself by taking each drilled and cut component and expending hours, manually imparting subtle contrasts. The highly polished edges, presented at 45°, contrast with the adjacent matte surfaces, which have been hand drawn with a file.

Vacheron Constantin Métiers d’Art Mécaniques Ajourées - watch review by ESCAPEMENT

The horizontal surfaces of components, presented parallel to the sapphire crystals, are delicately decorated with relief engraving.

Vacheron Constantin Métiers d’Art Mécaniques Ajourées - watch review by ESCAPEMENT

The curved openings and interior angles are beautiful to behold, but have necessitated many hours of patient endeavour. There is no machine which can deliver an expedient alternative. The seamless sinuous lines are the product of an artisan’s skilled manipulation of hand-held tools.

Justified courage

By exposing every surface to the scrutiny of the cognoscenti, Vacheron Constantin has shown great courage. Indeed, it leaves itself exposed to criticism should any item be delivered in anything other than perfect form.

However, the bravery it has exhibited shows great wisdom on the part of the company. There are no blemishes or imperfections to this timepiece. Everything is magnificent.

The resultant vista is a landscape which basks in ambient light, delivering a diamond-like brilliance which is most precious.

Vacheron Constantin Métiers d’Art Mécaniques Ajourées - watch review by ESCAPEMENT

Open-worked hands float above the anatomy of a finely executed movement in which each component is readily disclosed. I adore the light refracted through the pallet jewels of the Swiss lever escapement, industriously interfacing with the escape wheel.

Vacheron Constantin Métiers d’Art Mécaniques Ajourées - watch review by ESCAPEMENT

The majestic spectacle of the gear train, with its circular grained wheels collaborating to impart the hours and minutes, is truly magnificent. I adore the sight of the winding stem, visible at 3 o’clock, with its teeth creating a pattern of light and shade.

My favourite element is the open worked barrel cover, replicating the Maltese Cross synonymous with Vacheron Constantin. It is decorated with a series of patterns on each of the four arms created. The mainspring can be seen through a series of apertures.

Vacheron Constantin Métiers d’Art Mécaniques Ajourées - watch review by ESCAPEMENT

The dorsal aspect of the Vacheron Constantin matches the splendour of the front. It is simply beautiful.

Beautiful

The word “beautiful” repeatedly comes to mind as I write this article. I could thumb my thesaurus for alternative words, avoiding repetition, but I have not shied away from repeating this adjective as it captures my feelings with heartfelt honesty.

Vacheron Constantin Métiers d’Art Mécaniques Ajourées - watch review by ESCAPEMENT

Beauty extends to other elements of this composition. The grand feu enamel is stunning. The vivid shade of blue is gorgeous and, because of its protracted creation, will retain its showroom-fresh appearance for decades. There will be no fading or ageing at some point in the future. Grand feu enamelling delivers a permanence to the Vacheron Constantin Metiers d’Art Mecaniques Ajourees which feels only appropriate considering its labour intensive gestation period.

The 18-carat white gold case, measuring 40 mm in diameter provides a tasteful foil to the spectacle presented centre-stage. It has a height of 7.50 mm and, whilst in today’s climate this would not be considered ultra-thin, its svelte proportions are very appealing.

Closing remarks

The white gold of the Vacheron Constantin Metiers d’Art Mecaniques Ajourees perfectly complements the grand feu enamelling and open-worked movement. However, I do wonder whether a platinum case would be more befitting of this horological tour de force, bearing in mind the abundant care lavished on its creation.

Nevertheless, the Vacheron Constantin Metiers d’Art Mecaniques Ajourees is a sublime timepiece which seduces with its numerous curves and ravishing form.

Vacheron Constantin Métiers d’Art Mécaniques Ajourées - watch review by ESCAPEMENT

Vacheron Constantin has been brave, revealing the inner workings of this timepiece and showing that beauty is not merely skin deep but can also reside within.

In just the same way that bearing one’s soul can provide an illuminating insight, this timepiece exposes its psyche with fascinating results. The glorious mien vindicates the decision in being open with a breathtaking spectacle. The creation of this watch is incredibly complex, but arguably some of the most interesting minds are the most complicated, as any psychiatrist will attest.

Technical Specification

  • Model: Vacheron Constantin Metiers d’Art Mecaniques Ajourees
  • Reference: 82020/000G-9925
  • Case: 18-carat white gold; diameter 40 mm; height 7.50 mm; water resistant to 3 bar (30 metres); sapphire crystal to the front and caseback.
  • Functions: Hours; minutes.
  • Movement: Calibre 4400SQ, hand-wound movement; frequency 28,800 vph (4 Hz); 21 jewels; power reserve 65 hours; 127 parts
  • Strap: Blue Mississippiensis alligator leather strap presented on an 18-carat white gold buckle

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