Vacheron Constantin Patrimony perpetual calendar ultra-thin
The Vacheron Constantin Patrimony perpetual calendar ultra-thin, with its bewitching blue dial, is housed in an elegantly slender case, measuring just 8.9mm in height. Despite its notable svelteness, this exemplar of haute horlogerie contains a myriad of parts and houses much technical complexity.
Whilst thumbing the pristine pages of my new 2020 diary, I rediscovered a page with its date accented with bright pink hues. A couple of weeks ago, I had used a brightly coloured Stabilo Boss highlighter to underline ‘Monday 6th January 2020’. By this date, every Christmas cake and Belgian chocolate currently in my possession should have been devoured. Indeed, I have vowed to banish all calorific temptations from my home by the aforementioned date.
Like many men of my age, I am keen to avoid the risks of early-onset diabetes, heart disease or stroke. My goal for 2020 is to rediscover my waist and view my feet from above. However, as any gym-dodger will be able to attest, the term ‘thin’ or, worse still, ‘ultra-thin’ often means making some form of sacrifice.
In the world of horology, a slim waist invariably necessitates simplicity. Complicated watches endowed with numerous indications often exhibit a notable girth.
Vacheron Constantin, the ‘world’s oldest watch Manufacture in continuous production’ (1755) has a rich history of making both ultra-thin and complicated watches. On this occasion, the Vacheron Constantin Patrimony perpetual calendar ultra-thin combines a high complication with a svelte torso.
The perpetual calendar
The date indication found on a simple calendar watch requires adjustment when the preceding month contains fewer than 31 days.
An annual calendar has the mechanical intellect to differentiate between those months with 30 and 31 days, adjusting the date display accordingly. The date requires adjustment only once per annum on the 1st of March.
However, the pièce de résistance is the perpetual calendar. This complication makes allowance for February’s unusually short length of 28 days and even compensates for leap years (29 days). Assuming the watch is kept wound, the date only requires adjustment in 2100, 2200 and 2300.
This year, Vacheron Constantin has celebrated its blue period, releasing an array of blue-toned models. The Vacheron Constantin Patrimony perpetual calendar ultra-thin with its Prussian-blue dial brims with refinement. Fine lines emanate from the fulcrum of the dial, enriching the horological vista with a sunburst motif.
Golden, faceted baton-shaped hour and minute hands express the time in clear, yet hushed tones. The slender hands prove elegant and understated. However, whilst the hands sidestep vulgar flamboyance, they remain eminently legible and simple to understand.
Applied indexes hug the periphery of the dial. They are presented in gleaming pink gold and, depending on their status, are presented in rectangular or triangular form. The minuterie is marked with golden pearls, enunciating each passing movement perfectly.
Three snailed subdials occupy the upper region of the dial. A date display is located at 3 o’clock, a day indication is positioned at 9 o’clock and a month display sits below noon. This latter display also incorporates a leap year indication. The combination of crisp white numerals and text, together with golden hands and snailed subdials, provides a graceful mien and impressive readability.
At the base of the dial, a crescent-shaped aperture reveals a highly textured depiction of the moon, waxing and waning, orchestrating the motion of the tides. The absence of stars, bestows an uncluttered display, granting ease of read-off.
Measuring 41mm in diameter, with a case height of 8.9mm, the Vacheron Constantin Patrimony perpetual calendar ultra-thin neatly hugs the wrist and is able to easily nuzzle beneath a stylish shirt cuff. Those wannabe wearer’s seeking hockey puck dimensions should look elsewhere. Understated elegance is the order of the day.
The case of the Patrimony perpetual calendar ultra-thin is formed of highly polished 18-carat 5N pink gold. However, while this surface finish is usually considered more conspicuous than satin-brushed surfaces and flanks, the watch remains tastefully restrained.
The lugs gently taper downwards and the caseband incorporates gently arcing contours. It would have been cheaper and easier if Vacheron Constantin had incorporated straight case flanks, but the Genevan Maison does not countenance such miserly and elementary conduct. The caseband features four correctors, two located on each side of the case. The correctors are used to adjust the calendar functions and the moon phase indication, while the crown is used for setting the hour and minutes and winding the watch. Vacheron Constantin supply the watch with a suitable correction stylus.
An exhibition caseback provides sight of the self-winding Calibre 1120 QP movement. The watch is fitted with a dark blue alligator leather strap, featuring an alligator inner shell and is paired with an 18-carat 5N pink gold folding clasp.
As previously mentioned, the Vacheron Constantin Patrimony perpetual calendar ultra-thin is equipped with the self-winding Calibre 1120 QP movement. Measuring just 4.05mm in height, the Calibre 1120 QP has a svelte profile, contributing to the overall slenderness of the watch. However, while it may eschew girth, the watch upholds the Maison’s legendary reputation for quality and refinement.
The movement is equipped with a variable inertia balance. This is far superior to the ubiquitous raquette-equipped balance as it is less prone to positional influence. Moreover, when a watch is fitted with a raquette, the hairspring sits between two curb pins which can nip the hairspring and, by default, impair isochronism.
The rim of the balance wheel is fitted with C-shaped masselottes which are rotated clockwise or counter-clockwise in order to influence the moment of inertia and by default the rate. In addition, the Calibre 1120 QP features a mobile stud holder. This proves especially useful when a trained watchmaker needs to reposition the complete balance in order to alter the relative position of the impulse pin in relation to the banking pins. In itself, this would be of little importance to a non-expert, but it does show how Vacheron Constantin imbues its watches with an inordinate quotient of virtue.
Incidentally, the reason for repositioning the complete balance is usually to correct a ‘beat error’. This is where there is a significant difference in the clockwise and counterclockwise swing of the balance wheel.
Image – note protective film affixed to the caseback
Beyond said functional attributes, Vacheron Constantin has expended much time considering the aesthetic appearance of components. The Patrimony perpetual calendar ultra-thin is certified by the Poinçon de Genève. This independent accreditation body states what type of components and finishes are acceptable and those which are not (see my review of the Vacheron Constantin Historiques Triple Calendrier 1942 for more details on the Geneva Seal). Fulfilling the onerous requirements of the Poinçon de Genève incurs many additional hours of work, however, the resultant quality is palpable.
The oscillating mass is openworked, incorporates the brand’s Maltese cross emblem and features a 22-carat gold weight affixed to its outer edge. Both the oscillating mass and bridges are adorned with Côtes de Genève. Jewels and screws nestle within gleaming sinks. The transmission and ratchet wheels are embellished with a sunray-brush and the mainplate features perlage. Every element is distilled to the highest order.
The frequency of the balance is 19,800 VpH (2.75Hz) and the movement contains 276 components, including 36 jewels. The Calibre 1120 QP will run autonomously for approximately 40 hours.
The dial of the Vacheron Constantin Patrimony perpetual calendar ultra-thin is beautifully proportioned. The three subdials and the moonphase indication optimally fill the horological landscape presented. Every element has room to breathe and impart information with extraordinary lucidity. No element looks like it is out of position, squashed or anything other than harmoniously placed.
With its judiciously styled dial, much information is imparted in a simple to digest form. Furthermore, beyond such practical considerations as readability, is the matter of visual allure. The becoming blue dial is incredibly attractive and wonderfully coalesces with the pink gold hands and indexes. Each element of the dial is beautifully considered.
The dial and the pink gold case coexist happily. They do not shout loudly at passersby but exhibit decorum at all times. The Calibre 1120 QP encompasses flawless finishing and several technical attributes. Its brilliance is validated with the award of the Poinçon de Genève. There is no question the Vacheron Constantin Patrimony perpetual calendar ultra-thin is an exemplar of haute horlogerie. Its excellence is manifest.
A perpetual calendar employs a series of snail-shaped cams which compute the time and predict the future. Ordinarily, this mechanical intellect leads to a flabby torso, however, the Genevan Maison has developed and manufactured a movement which encompasses much within a comparatively small space. Indeed, Vacheron Constantin has given me hope, demonstrating you can enjoy a trim torso without the need for sacrifice.
- Model: Vacheron Constantin Patrimony perpetual calendar ultra-thin
- Reference: 43175/000R-B519
- Case: 18-carat 5N pink gold; diameter 41mm; height 8.9mm; water resistance 3ATM (30 metres); sapphire crystals to front and back
- Functions: Hours; minutes; perpetual calendar; moon-phase indication
- Movement: Calibre 1120 QP; automatic movement; frequency 19,800 VpH (2.75 Hz); 36 jewels; power reserve 40 hours (approximately).
- Strap: A dark blue alligator leather strap featuring an ‘alligator inner shell’ and paired with a 18-carat 5N pink gold folding clasp
- Price: £68,600 (RRP as at 29.12.2019)