The two new Vacheron Constantin Fiftysix complete calendar and self-winding in sepia-brown honour the past and embrace the present: A Review
The first watch we covered from this year’s latest Watches & Wonders releases was the whirlwind beauty, the new Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle tourbillon chronograph that married the worlds of Haute Horlogerie with sports. Coming next, the second (and third) on our list of detailed articles following the launch of the Watches & Wonders website are the new Vacheron Constantin Fiftysix complete calendar and Fiftysix® self-winding watches in sepia brown-toned dial with matching calfskin strap.
Out of the 12 Fiftysix® collection models currently in VC’s catalogue, this new sepia brown watch has got to be our favourite. I would even go on to say that this particular complete calendar is perhaps the best looking watch with that specific complication of recent times. And that blue of the moonphase on the brown dial surrounded by the pink gold case is truly magic for your wrist.
As a side note, I am aware of the snobbery and hatred when it came to the release of the first version back in 2018. For those who think these watches are below them, or in steel are too cheap, or look like a JLC watch, well I guess this review is not for them.
In terms of the Cartier ‘borrowed’ movement used in the time/date only version, please see my notes in the review under ‘Specifications’ section below.
In my humble opinion it’s a good marketing strategy for the brand to start catering to new, younger collectors and no offence, as far as I know, JLC doesn’t own the patents to a sector dial. And as for the abruptly placed date window aperture at 3’o clock, I think it adds a sense of casualness and quirkiness to the dial face which I personally welcome.
Vacheron Constantin breathed life in the Fiftysix® collection recently in 2018.
It was launched at London’s legendary Abbey Road Studios in the company of one of its talents, Benjamin Clementine. Designed for the modern man, and introduced at a relatively ‘entry level’ price for new collectors or up-and-coming Fine Watchmaking connoisseurs, this retro-contemporary addition — especially the steel versions —to the Maison’s lineup is definitely a hot contender for watches that can be worn on an everyday basis.
One year later in 2019, the Maison introduced a new colour, petrol blue to the mix.
Now in a hat-trick moment for the third year in a row, VC has yet another colour variation, and as we have said earlier, their best yet.
The Fiftysix® collection has been inspired by the iconic reference 6073 launched in 1956 as VC’s first water-resistant automatic watch, and managed to introduce a contemporary appeal to an otherwise retro charm.
Traditionally known for simply adorning the time and date complication on the dials, this retro-modern collection is also marked for its unique case where each lug represents a part of the Maltese Cross, a sector dial, alternating Arabic numerals and baton hour-markers, a crown recessed into its case, and the use of an open-worked pink gold oscillating weight that can be admired through the display case-back.
Fiftysix® self-winding, reference 4600E/000R-B576
The heart used — Calibre 1326 — is a self-winding mechanical movement that is based on the Cartier caliber 1904-PS MC developed in 2010 but manufactured by the Maison. There is a fair amount of hatred for this movement online among watch enthusiasts and while the official press release doesn’t say so, the dedicated page for this movement on the VC website states that it is in-fact a Hallmark of Geneva certified movement. It may not be entirely developed by VC in-house, but I honestly don’t see anything wrong with it, especially at the entry-level (considering) price-points of these watches.
The 26.2.mm (or 11¼ lignes) x 4.3mm movement comprises of 142 components, 25 jewels, and beats at the frequency of 4Hz (28’800 A/h) offering an okay 48-hour power reserve.
It is cased inside a 40mm diameter and 9.6mm thick 18K 5N pink gold case that displays the movement — with Côtes de Genève, circular graining and snailing finishings — can be admired through the transparent sapphire crystal caseback — on the reverse through a transparent sapphire crystal caseback.
The watch face shows the traditional functions of central hours, minutes, seconds and date at 3’o clock.
The beautiful sepia brown-toned dial is a thing of beauty. Featuring an opaline centre, a sunburst hour track chapter ring and snailed (concentric circled) peripheral minutes track, it’s extremely legible and functionally on point. The alternating 18K 5N pink gold Arabic numerals and hour-markers (with the latter highlighted by a blue luminescent material) contrast well against the lighter dial colour and compliment the pencil-style baton-type gold hour and minutes hands that are also infilled with a blue luminescent material.
Fiftysix® complete calendar, reference 4000E/000R-B065
The heart used — Calibre 2460 QCL/1 — is a self-winding, Hallmark of Geneva certified movement that is developed and manufactured by Vacheron Constantin.
The 29mm (or 12¾ lignes) x 5.4mm movement comprises of 308 components, 27 jewels, and beats at the frequency of 4Hz (28’800 A/h) offering a 40-hour power reserve.
It is cased inside a 40mm diameter and 11.6mm thick 18K 5N pink gold case that displays the movement on the reverse through a transparent sapphire crystal caseback where the traditional Côtes de Genève finishes swept over by a Maltese cross shaped open-worked 22 carats pink gold oscillating weight are up for your undivided attention.
The watch face shows the traditional functions of central hours, minutes, seconds, a peripheral hand-type date, two apertures for day of the week and month below the branding at 12’o clock, and a precision moon phase at 6’o clock that requires no adjustment for 122 years.
In terms of the finishings on the dial, they are the same as the version above. The only major visual difference is the moon phase. The execution of it is spot-on stunning. The 18 carats 5N pink gold moon disc stands out majestically against the blue of the display, and it is this blue that adds an eccentric sense of colour burst to the dial. The choice of keeping the moon disc in gold is praiseworthy as it matches the rest of the colouring of the watch and feels very well integrated.
Watch Ya Gonna Do About It
Both the new Vacheron Constantin Fiftysix complete calendar and self-winding in sepia-brown dial are fitted for the first time by a brown calfskin leather strap — with calfskin lining and beige stitching on a polished half Maltese cross-shaped 18K 5N pink gold pin buckle — that not only takes the classic vibe a notch down and introduces a more retro-chic charm but also adds to these beauties more of a regular wear charm. If and when VC decides to launch these in steel variants — like the 2018/19 models — I would say given their appeal and dimensions, they would definitely be hot contenders for a daily wearable watch.
From a distance the first thing that catches your eyes is the new colour segue and the interplay of textures it offers.
The sector-type dial is executed very well — again I am aware people might scream JLC, JLC; well, it’s a traditional watch, not a MB&F, what do you expect, similarities are bound to creep up — with the presence of three tones as described above under the dials sub-heading.
My only gripe with the design is, and I even as I write this I am risking turning this watch into an A. Lange & Söhne watch, is that while the moonphase has a gold frame around it, the day and month apertures do not. In my opinion they would have looked nicer and more blended in with the dial, but I can also see how then the watch ends up being a Jaeger-LeCoultre meets A. Lange & Söhne, which in retrospect is not such as bad idea if I come to think of it.
Anyway, these three surfaces on the sector dial ensure that the light dances with a different rhythm with each turn of the wrist. Add to this the quirky chapter ring that is punctuated by alternating Arabic numerals and baton-type hour-markers, and you have a winner of a dial.
From the side of the case, the Fiftysix® collection’s distinctive style of adopting a crown recessed into the case can be noticed. This harps back to the original’s look (1950s models) and is a great added touch that reflects how well the Maison has stayed true to the roots.
On a more closer inspection the next aspect that stands out is the use of box-type crystal that covers the dial face. This is another element that harps on the link between the past and the present VC is trying to achieve with this. The distinctive shape of the sapphire box-type crystal — historically made from Plexiglas or mineral glass — can be seen rising well above the bezel.
Overall, even though this is not really a new watch design release — and features the sad-face-dial layout, so two windows on top as eyes and the moonphase as a sad mouth — the colour segue is amazing and should offer the collectors with a different choice when it comes to buying a Vacheron Constantin watch. For my money, if I had a spare 30 grand, I would definitely be interested in the complete calendar version.
Vacheron Constantin’s Fiftysix® collection may have been polarising but I think they are the new heroes of tomorrow. Still embodying the echoes of the Maison’s Haute Horlogerie traditions since the 18th century, the new Vacheron Constantin Fiftysix complete calendar and self-winding in sepia-brown are understated but sexy, retro but cool.
The new Vacheron Constantin Fiftysix self-winding costs 16’800 € / 18’700 USD while the Fiftysix complete calendar costs 30’300 € / 33’700 USD and for more information on these and other Vacheron Constantin watches, head to their website here.