Vacheron Constantin launched the Overseas in 1996. This year it has launched the very handsome Vacheron Constantin Overseas Chronograph with gorgeous blue dial. Angus Davies looks closely at the sporty timepiece from the prestigious haute horlogerie brand.
The sea has provided inspiration for poetry and song. Moreover it has elicited a profound need for man to explore.
As we study the sea, it proffers many personality traits, justifying due reverence. A gentle sea can cosset our bodies, imparting a maternal embrace, soothing the ills of life on terra firma. However, in a blink of an eye, the sea can become angry, tormented in fury, lashing away with barb-like waves, clawing at our limbs and threatening our existence.
The temper of the sea can humble the intrepid seafarer with its god-like power. Indeed, it is this contradiction in terms which John Keats examines in his poem, “On The Sea”.
Vacheron Constantin launched the Overseas in 1996. It was sporty, a change of direction for the brand at the time which doffed its hat to the great explorers of yesteryear. Indeed, the caseback featured an engraving of the Amerigo Vespucci galleon.
A stainless steel case with crenellated bezel and soft iron cage made it perfect for wearers with an adventurous bent.
In 1999, a chronograph version of the Overseas was launched. It featured the exclusive self-winding Calibre 1137. The chronograph movement with column wheel continues to be used to this day.
Until recently, the dial was only offered in black or white but, in 2012, a new dial variant was launched. It provided the perfect symbol for the budding mariner who wished to sail the seven seas. A rich ultramarine blue is reminiscent of the pure, sun-kissed ocean which has enticed men to voyage across waters. It provides the wondrous hue for this sea venturers watch.
Blue was a colour favoured by many brands in 2012. The regal tincture was born for luxurious watches.
Throughout history, blue has always been an opulent shade. The ultramarine pigment, a proximate component of lapis lazuli, was often used sparingly by artists due to its high cost.
The elevated price of ultramarine meant it was reserved for the most important works of art. Indeed, Giovanni Bellini used blue with sublime results in 1480, in his depiction of Madonna. The blue used in the painting, appears luminous and glowing.
Three snailed subdials feature on this blue horological canvas, set against a shiny surround.
At 3 o’clock, a 30-minute chrono counter features. It is marked with Arabic numerals showing; “5”, “15” and “25”. It is larger than the remaining two subdials, attesting to a greater importance. It is framed with a silver-coloured border.
At 6 o’clock, a subsidiary seconds display is featured. It is labelled “Automatic” and “Antimagnetic”. Indeed, the watch is protected against magnetism to 25,000 A/m.
At 9 o’clock, a 12-hour chrono counter is located. It employs Arabic numerals at; “3”, “6”, and “9”.
The hands, depicted on the dial, vary in form. The hour and minute hands are 18-carat white gold with white luminous centres. The white gold hands on the subdials at 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock vary in shape to the hand employed on the subsidiary seconds. I adore the playful use of shape to aesthetical please the wearer. The variation, shows considered design by the Genevan brand. However, despite the different lines used, everything works in perfect harmony.
Hours are depicted with applied 18-carat white gold batons, lined with luminous centres.
A large date features at noon. It displays the date via two apertures, ensuring peerless legibility. I particularly like how the central chrono seconds hand, lithe and svelte, rests between the two windows without obscuring the date.
The chapter ring features Arabic numerals and simple strokes to facilitate the recording of split second intervals.
There is much detail on the dial, yet nothing is unduly loud or detracts from the harmony of the whole. Whilst the design is faithful to the 1999 original, it still retains a fresh, timeless appearance, unsullied by the passage of time.
The crenellated bezel, is highly polished and dances with light in a joyous manner. This watch has a profound talent at playing with light and shade, reminiscent of an accomplished Old Master.
The bracelet of the watch blends polished and satin-brushed surfaces. The different finishes synergistically blend, and combine together in charming concert. The clasp, something I would seldom mention, is worthy of note. It features the Maltese Cross, the logo of the brand since 1880, which spans its form. The two halves of the Cross, kiss, perfectly aligned, no margin for error visible.
It is the small details featured on this watch, that enhances the enjoyment of the timepiece.
The caseback follows the historical convention of the other Overseas models, featuring the aforementioned sailboat motif. Purists will be pleased to see the soft-iron core is retained. However, for me, the absence of a sapphire caseback is frustrating. I want to partake in the joy of seeing the craftsmanship exampled and share the emotion of haute horology.
I have visited the Vacheron Constantin Manufacture and have had the good fortune to witness the matchless finishing of their movements. I feel the brand has deprived the wearer of a spectacular view of peerless polishing and bountiful brilliance which features on the Calibre 1137.
A water resistance of 150 metres is noteworthy and makes the timepiece ideal for daily wear.
The Calibre 1137 featured on the original 1999 model and, despite the onset of age, continues to offer excellence in abundance.
A chronograph with a large date, it features 37 jewels and 183 parts. Many rival brands will utilise fewer components, seeking cost savings and expedience. However, this type of culture is absent from the Genevan brand.
When I toured the facilities in 2012, it was clear there is an ubiquitous thirst for perfection. The word, “compromise” is absent from the lexicon used by the artisans at the maison.
The Calibre 1137 is a column wheel chronograph. This type of chronograph is only found in the finest timepieces featuring a stop watch complication. It is labour intensive fabricating the castellated column wheel, however expedience and excellence are seldom used in the same sentence. Lever actuated chronographs are more widely used on mainstream models produced by some other brands.
A few minutes at the modern edifice outside Geneva where horological dreams come to fruition, would seduce the most cynical spectator. I am a self-confessed admirer of Vacheron Constantin.
This watch sates my horological desires with the many aspects of its wonderful form. It is the successful conclusion of distilled craft and artisans endeavour.
Would I buy this watch? No, there are other models produced by Vacheron Constantin which indulge my voyeuristic need to see the movement. However, if this watch had a sapphire caseback, then it would be perfect and Overseas ownership would become a real prospect.
The poem, “On the Sea”, compares nature with the human being. Keats personifies the sea with character traits commonly found in man.
This watch harnesses human skill and creates something which delivers beauty which we often only see in nature. In summary this is an admirable timepiece for intrepid travellers seeking oceanic adventure.
Model: Vacheron Constantin Overseas Chronograph
Case: Stainless steel; diameter 42.00 mm; height 12.40 mm; water resistant to 15 bar (150 metres); sapphire crystal to front and solid caseback.
Angus is a self-confessed watch addict and is frequently asked to contribute to various printed magazines and websites around the globe. He also writes for individual watch companies on matters of horology and has appeared on television and radio as an industry expert.