From the depths of tradition shines the classic beauty of the new Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle tourbillon chronograph: A review

From the depths of tradition shines the classic beauty of the new Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle tourbillon chronograph: A review

Vacheron Constantin has revealed this year’s novelties. What started off as a fling between a woman and watch with the recently introduced Égérie collection has now blossomed into a full-fledged romance with the Maison releasing a plethora of new watches. And in the new Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle tourbillon chronograph, Haute Horlogerie meets sports to create an exceptionally technical masterpiece.

A product of the brand’s Grandes Complications workshops, the new watch is a first for the Maison where it masterly combines the charm of a sporty monopusher chronograph with the beauty of a classic tourbillon.

Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle tourbillon chronograph
Traditionnelle Tourbillon Chronograph | Courtesy ©Vacheron Constantin. All rights reserved.

Out of the 22 watch heavyweights currently in VC’s tourbillon roster, I believe the new Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle tourbillon chronograph has got to be my second favourite.

The one that takes top spot is the re-vamped in 2012 Malte Tourbillon ref. 30130/000R-B289 which as far as I know is the only Hallmark of Geneva certified tonneau-shaped tourbillon. 

In this Watches & Wonders 2020 release, a silvered opaline dial is beautifully paired against the pink gold case reminding that the tourbillon at 12’o clock is the crowning jewel leading the march of time.

The Context

Personally, the Traditionnelle collection is one of the brand’s most emblematic range. Over the years it has come to be known for its stepped round or ‘Etagé’ case and lugs, fine bezels, fluted case-backs, the railway-type minute track, and dauphine-type hours and minutes hands. The new Traditionnelle tourbillon chronograph doesn’t disappoint coming in pre-loaded with the collection’s DNA, but in addition, adds a tourbillon and chronograph to the mix. 

The Swap 

What’s more interesting about this mix is that while the tourbillon is meant to represent the classic and chronograph the modern, VC has smartly executed their behaviour in the reverse pattern; the chronograph harps back at the past while the tourbillon looks towards the future. 

Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle tourbillon chronograph
Traditionnelle Tourbillon Chronograph | Courtesy ©Vacheron Constantin. All rights reserved.

The monopusher chronograph has been inspired by the brand’s original pocket chronographs which made use of only one pusher, often housed in the crown, that handled, and still does in this case, the start, stop and reset functions. 

On the other hand, since the tourbillon is the key defining feature of the dial, Vacheron Constantin has made a few adjustments compared to their previous tourbillons so as to provide that extra flair to it. 

Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle tourbillon chronograph
Traditionnelle Tourbillon Chronograph | Courtesy ©Vacheron Constantin. All rights reserved.

What makes the tourbillon visually more modern is that the movement drives the tourbillon carriage by the pinion of the intermediate wheel of the running seconds display instead of the conventional fourth wheel. This modification helps in providing a wide opening onto the upper plate, thereby presenting a better view of the ballet.

The Specifications of reference 5100T/000R-B623

The heart used — Calibre 3200 — is a Hallmark of Geneva certified manual-winding mechanical movement that has been developed and manufactured by Vacheron Constantin. The 32.8mm (or 14¼ lignes) x 6.7mm movement comprises of 292 components, 39 jewels, and beats at the low frequency of 2.5Hz (18’000 A/h) offering a decent 65-hour power reserve.

It is cased inside a 42.5mm diameter and 11.7mm thick 18K 5N pink gold case that displays the movement on the reverse through a transparent sapphire crystal caseback.

Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle tourbillon chronograph
Traditionnelle Tourbillon Chronograph | Courtesy ©Vacheron Constantin. All rights reserved.

The movement besides being elegantly decorated like all VC movements, is also quite impressive in its execution of the chronograph.

The monopusher chronograph mechanism features a lateral clutch combined with a column wheel. It is set into motion from the winding crown that features a dynamic activation system known as ‘all-or-nothing’ which prevents the chronograph mechanism from engaging when insufficient pressure is exerted on the pusher. The use of the above ensures that the mechanism is prevented from excessive wear-tear and potential stuttering of the chronograph hand when activated.

The Dial

The watch face shows the traditional functions of central hours and minutes, tourbillon carriage and small seconds at 12’o clock, a 45-minute chronograph counter at 3’o clock, a power-reserve indicator at 6’o clock, and a peripheral tachymeter scale. 

The applied 18K 5N pink gold “Geneva baton” hour markers complement the gold dauphine-type hands and the Maltese Cross logo at 9’o clock. The railway-type minute track and the tachymeter scale have been included side by side and can be a bit messy to read especially against a relatively clean silvered opaline dial. 

Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle tourbillon chronograph
Traditionnelle Tourbillon Chronograph | Courtesy ©Vacheron Constantin. All rights reserved.

This is going into Breguet territory but the use of blued hands, especially in the counters and the chronograph hand would have introduced a great deal of further legibility to the dial. I am not saying it’s not legible enough, in-fact considering the incorporation of various functions on the dial VC has done an exceptional job in keeping it restrained, yet extra legibility never hurt anyone. 

Watch Ya Gonna Do About It

Architecturally, form supports function. 

The Form

On a macro level, the fluted crown with the Vacheron Constantin Maltese Cross on the tip of the crown integrates well with the overall case design. Completing the elegant look of the watch as a whole is the dark brown Mississippiensis alligator leather strap with saddle-finish & large square scales that comes on a polished half Maltese cross-shaped 18K 5N pink gold folding clasp.

Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle tourbillon chronograph
Traditionnelle Tourbillon Chronograph | Courtesy ©Vacheron Constantin. All rights reserved.

On a micro level, the dial is fairly balanced, with the brand including some detail at all the four cardinal points of it, 12, 3, 6, and 9, with a tourbillon, chronograph sub-dial, power-reserve counter and branding respectively. 

Furthermore, the sub-dials help introduce textural and surface interplay to the watch face.

They are both sunken from the main surface of the dial breaking up the dial depth-wise. They both feature concentric circles that break the monotony of the plain opaline dial. And, the 45-minute counter has a golden ring circling it on the outside, thereby differentiating it from the counter at 6’o clock. 

Last but not the least, both the counters and the tourbillon cage are different sizes. That said, the Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle tourbillon chronograph does a remarkable job in visually binding the tourbillon and the 45-minute counter by incorporating peripheral seconds/minutes track respectively. 

Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle tourbillon chronograph
Traditionnelle Tourbillon Chronograph | Courtesy ©Vacheron Constantin. All rights reserved.

The Function 

To bring these forms to life, the watch features the above-mentioned calibre 3200 that was first introduced 5 years ago on the Manufacture’s 260th anniversary. While no point in going over the specs again here, it’s worth mentioning that the slow frequency of 2.5 Hz makes steady beating of the tourbillon visually easy to follow. For those who live life in the fast lane, this slow beating might in-fact be just the breather you need to relax once in a while. Through the round porthole at the top of the watch you can now sit back and gaze lovingly at what makes this gem tick.

Like VC watches have come to be known for, the tourbillon carriage is inspired by the Maltese cross. As one would expect from a timepiece such as this, the movement is also mesmerisingly decorated with chamfering, circular-graining and Côtes de Genève. 

Vacheron Constantin’s Traditionnelle collection has been the hallmark of the Maison’s Haute Horlogerie traditions since the 18th century. The Maison has come a long way since its first wristwatch tourbillon — reference 30050 — was introduced back in the 1990s. The new Traditionnelle tourbillon chronograph is a true testament. In fact, it goes one step further and manages to blend differing complications to create an exceptionally technical masterpiece.

The new Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle tourbillon chronograph costs 180’000 € / 197’000 USD and for more information on this watch and other Vacheron Constantin watches, head to their website here.