Vacheron Constantin Overseas perpetual calendar ultra-thin
The Vacheron Constantin Overseas perpetual calendar ultra-thin is presented in a pink gold case and is now available with an ‘Overseas blue’ dial. The watch is supplied on a matching bracelet along with two additional straps in blue alligator leather and blue rubber. The straps can be easily changed thanks to the brand’s ingenious quick-release system.
This summer, despite Covid-19 thwarting the holiday plans of some sun-seekers, there will still be many people escaping to warmer climes. However, prior to boarding a plane, there is the matter of ‘packing’. It’s a ritual we have all endured at some point in our lives.
Numerous shirts have been ironed and neatly folded. Socks and underwear are allocated using the ‘two a day’ model. Shorts, trousers and trunks cover all the bases, from poolside chic to casual wear to gala dinner attire. And lastly, there is the matter of squashing everything into the suitcase without causing to many creases.
The reason for this introduction is that, as every holidaymaker knows, there is only so much one can pack into a small space. However, nobody seems to have told Vacheron Constantin. It has just unveiled a new model with slim proportions but housing much complexity. Indeed, the Vacheron Constantin Overseas perpetual calendar ultra-thin is housed in a 41.5mm 18-carat pink gold case with a height of just 8.1mm. Yet, despite its comparatively slender torso, this watch features a perpetual calendar, hardly a simple complication, and a moon phase indication.
The first Overseas model, displaying hours, minutes and date, was released in 1996. A chronograph version arrived later, in 1999. Unlike other collections from the Genevan Maison which tend to have a ‘dressy’ appearance, the Overseas is overtly sporty.
The Vacheron Constantin Overseas perpetual calendar ultra-thin features a ‘translucent blue lacquered dial’ and pink gold hour and minute hands with matching applied indexes. Both the hands and indexes are lined with luminescent material. Unfussy, white strokes are positioned in between each index. These white strokes are replicated on the adjacent rehaut, accompanied with Arabic numerals, positioned at 5-minute intervals.
Three snailed counters occupy the main area of the dial along with a crescent-shaped moon-phase indication. Located at 3 o’clock, a counter indicates the date, employing a supremely slender golden hand. Positioned opposite, at 9 o’clock, a further counter shows the day. Lastly, a third counter, residing at noon, displays the month and indicates the leap year when applicable.
Vacheron Constantin has endowed the moonphase indication with a depiction of the night sky, populated with constellations of golden stars. Most notably, the moon is portrayed with a gold disc. The moonphase is presented on a toothed wheel which rotates beneath the crescent-shaped aperture. This wheel features two moon discs which take it in turn to reveal themselves to the wearer.
There is no escaping that the dial shows much information, consistent with all perpetual calendars, however, everything proves highly intelligible and the watch’s appearance, in my opinion, proves highly attractive.
As stated earlier, the Vacheron Constantin Overseas perpetual calendar ultra-thin measures 41.5mm and, coupled with its slim profile, should suit most potential wearers.
The watch features a highly polished crenellated bezel. This design element dates back to 1996 and the inaugural Overseas. The design has subtly evolved over the years but remains at the heart of the model’s DNA. The bezel sits atop a circular-brushed, round ledge which in turn sits upon the straight-brushed upper case surface. The bezel’s flank and the caseband are highly polished and incorporate pushpiece correctors for the calendar functions. The Swiss marque has expended much time and energy on the smallest of details and it clearly shows.
Where the upper case surface and the caseband meet, there is a highly polished bevelled edge. This is also repeated where the case meets the strap. Whenever a watch brand chooses to blend different case treatments, it requires more time to execute which, by default, incurs additional cost.
Occasionally, a watch brand may supply an additional strap. The Vacheron Constantin Overseas perpetual calendar ultra-thin is supplied on an 18-carat pink gold bracelet and comes with two additional blue straps, one rubber and one leather. Exchanging the bracelet for a strap and vice-versa is a simple task courtesy of the brand’s user-friendly interchangeable strap/bracelet system which obviates the need for tools.
The Calibre 1120 QP/1 is visible via the exhibition caseback. It is automatic and features a 22-carat oscillating weight embellished with the Overseas logo. The watch bears the Hallmark of Geneva (the Poinçon de Genève), denoting it conforms to the stringent criteria stipulated by the certification body.
With a simple calendar watch, the wearer has to manually advance the date if the previous month has fewer than 31 days. An annual calendar can differentiate between those months containing 30 and 31 days, advancing the date accordingly. However, an annual calendar is unable to cope with February, meaning every year, on the 1st March, the wearer has to manually adjust the date.
A perpetual calendar employs a series of cams, positioned beneath the dial, in order to display the correct date, irrespective of whether a month contains 28, 29, 30 or 31 days. Indeed, this complication is even able to make allowance for leap years. Assuming the watch is kept wound, it will only require adjustment in 2100 which is not a leap year, despite being divisible by four.
The verso side of the movement (back), hidden beneath the dial, is adorned with perlage (sometimes termed circular graining). The levers and cams are straight grained with polished bevels and the screws are flat polished and chamfered. Yet, despite all this peerless finishing, none of this will ever be seen by the wearer. This perfectly demonstrates the punctilious approach adopted by the brand.
When examining the recto view of the movement (front) via the aforementioned exhibition caseback, the view is dominated by the gold oscillating weight. However, beyond this weight additional refined finishing can be found. The Maison has decorated the mainplate, again with perlage. The bridges are embellished with Côtes de Genève motif and engraved golden text. The screws and jewel sinks are highly polished. Various wheels feature a sunray motif. The sliding stud holder is mirror-polished. Chamfered edges abound.
The Calibre 1120 QP/1 is equipped with a free-sprung balance. Unlike a simple balance with a regulator, the hairspring on a free-sprung balance remains fixed. The balance wheel is fitted with masselottes. These C-shaped weights are rotated clockwise or counter-clockwise, altering the balance’s moment of inertia and consequently making the watch run faster or slower.
With a free-sprung balance, the hairspring breathes more concentrically, aiding precision. It is more time consuming to regulate a free-sprung balance but the benefits justify the effort. There are several other benefits of using a free-sprung balance but in the interests of brevity, I will leave these for another day.
Another illustration of the Swiss marque’s meticulous approach to watchmaking can be seen with the sliding stud cap. When the balance wheel oscillates to and fro, its angle of rotation, or range of motion, resembles an arc. This range is termed amplitude and is expressed in degrees (°). The clockwise swing and counter-clockwise swing of the balance should match, if they don’t match this is termed a ‘beat error’.
When a beat error is detected, it usually requires the watchmaker to remove the hairspring from the collet, which is affixed to the balance staff, and adjust it accordingly. The sliding stud holder obviates the need to separate the hairspring from the collet as the stud holder can be adjusted to address the problem. From the watchmaker’s perspective, this makes life much easier. Furthermore, it is small details such as that will undoubtedly delight purists.
The dial of the Vacheron Constantin Overseas perpetual calendar ultra-thin expresses much meaning yet seems to employ few words. Somehow, there is a restrained dialogue with the wearer, where information is imparted efficiently, free of distractions.
It is not difficult to interpret the various dial indications and yet the dial is not sparse or lacking in detail. Indeed, quite the contrary, close inspection reveals many subtle details, none of which inhibit ease of read-off.
The blue hue of the dial sits in concert with the rich tones of the case and bracelet. Close examination of these latter elements reveals an incredible blend of circular brush, straight brush and highly polished surfaces. Numerous bevelled edges on the case and bracelet demonstrate the brand’s fastidious attention to the minutiae.
In terms of the movement, Vacheron Constantin has transcended the necessary, embellishing surfaces and parts that will never see the light of day except when the model is occasionally serviced. In other areas of life, the bean-counters would strip away such expense, eager to shave a few dollars off the production costs. Thankfully, the Genevan Maison does not subscribe to such penny-pinching behaviour.
The Calibre 1120 QP/1 measures just 4.05mm in depth and finished to an exalted standard, yet it is packed with complexity and an array of horological refinements. Indeed, this watch, including its sublime movement, is a paragon of excellence, residing on the highest planes of haute horlogerie. This leads me to ask ‘how does Vacheron Constantin pack so much into such a small space?’
- Model: Vacheron Constantin Overseas perpetual calendar ultra-thin
- Reference: 4300V/120R-B509
- Case: 18-carat 5N pink gold; diameter 41.5 mm; height 8.1mm; water resistance 5ATM (50m); sapphire crystal to the front and exhibition caseback.
- Functions: Hour; minutes; moon phases; perpetual calendar
- Movement: Calibre 1120 QP/1; automatic movement; frequency 19,800 vph (2.75Hz); 36 jewels; power reserve = approximately 40 hours; 276 components
- Bracelet: 18-carat pink gold bracelet paired with an 18-carat pink gold triple-blade folding clasp with pushpieces and comfort adjustment. The watch is also supplied with two additional straps, one in blue alligator leather and another in blue rubber.
- Price: £85,500 (RRP as at 17.7.2020)