Hands-on Review Of The Vacheron Constantin Fiftysix® Complete Calendar: Vintage And Modern Meet To Create An Understated Powerhouse
Editor’s note: This review of Vacheron Constantin Fiftysix® Complete Calendar is part of our ‘W.R.A.T.H’ series, or ‘What’s Really Available Today Here’ watch photo reviews. It is a new series where we go hands-on with watches that can at least at the time of photographing be bought! For our other reviews of the latest novelties, please head here. For our in-depth deep dives, please head to our dedicated review section here. Today’s watch is brought with the grateful assistance of J Farren-Price Sydney
The Watch: The 2019 Vacheron Constantin Fiftysix® Complete Calendar Petrol Blue ref. 4000E/000A-B548 retailing for $35’600 AUD
Available At: J Farren-Price Sydney, 80 Castlereagh St, Sydney (02 9231 3299)
Those who would like to include a complete calendar with a moonphase complication timepiece in their collection that showcases their knowledge of fine matchmaking rather than taking the oft-beaten track
Our In-person Impression
The Fiftysix® collection is 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.
My gut reaction on first holding the Vacheron Constantin Fiftysix® Complete Calendar was how light it was, followed by how elegant it looked, and then followed by the admiration for the shade of petrol blue colour that acts as the perfect canvas for the beautifully symmetric timepiece.
The Vacheron Constantin Fiftysix® Complete Calendar Petrol Blue is an understated powerhouse of charm and elegance brought about by just the right mix of vintage and modern. Its proportions, both of the case and of the various dial elements, make it so much more wrist-friendly than what the images online let on
Will You Like It
It is one of those watches that really need to be held, and tried on the wrist to fully be appreciated. The shade of blue is not the usual one that is so often present in the watch industry; think of it this way: a majority of cars come in a silver/grey colour body, but once in a while a shade of silver is released that while being silver manages to stand out amongst other cars even under busy traffic conditions.
The shade of blue used on the dial of the Vacheron Constantin Fiftysix® Complete Calendar is of such calibre – it’s got the rare quality of standing out amongst a sea of other blue coloured watches.
Measuring 40mm in diameter with only 11.6mm in thickness, it sits perfectly on my nearly 16cm wrist. 39mm is usually the sweet spot for me in terms of perfect case diameter, but the only ~48mm lug-to-lug spacing and way the watch wears — with its polished case, the rather unique interhorn design, and the sector dial — I can see this watch being a choice for a range of wrist sizes, both slimmer and broader than mine.
Besides the proportions, the lightweight body, the Mississippiensis alligator dark blue strap’s comfortable feel and the understand dial appeal add a certain amount of daily wearability to the timepiece as well. Before I had put it on my wrist, this was something I would personally have worn only on special occasions.
But strapped on, its presence would be hardly noticed by you on your wrist but would appear exceptional to the world around you. It’s a great looking timepiece that is both dressy and slightly sporty. Given it can with ease go from the broadloom to the ballroom, it is an exceptional timepiece from a ‘Holy Trinity’ brand that for its retail price of $35’600 AUD seems somewhat of a bargain.
Do We Like It
The Fiftysix® collection has been inspired by the iconic reference 6073 launched in 1956 as VC’s first water-resistant automatic watch, and has managed to introduce a contemporary appeal to an otherwise retro design language.
Vacheron Constantin breathed life in the Fiftysix® collection a few years ago 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 to be worn on an everyday basis. One year later in 2019, the Maison introduced this new colour, petrol blue to the mix.
The Vacheron Constantin Fiftysix® Complete Calendar Petrol Blue is a timepiece that honours the past while embracing the present. This is the predecessor to last year’s Fiftysix® complete calendar and Fiftysix® self-winding in sepia brown-toned dial with matching calfskin strap models launched at the Watches & Wonders. And personally, I prefer the petrol blue versions, simply because there is a more versatile look to them. When it comes to watches in my own collection, and if I were buying this for myself, I would appreciate that it can be worn with both a suit or with blue jeans/white t-shirt.
I remember when I previewed the 2020 releases, I said the 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’. And while I stand by most of that description, I feel like once I have looked at the petrol blue versions in person, this hierarchy has changed.
This is what usually happens when you handle a watch in person compared to looking at pictures online. The sepia brown watch is pretty stellar, but based on my own personal tastes and lifestyle, the petrol blue version is definitely the winner.
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 stainless steel case that displays the movement on the reverse through a transparent sapphire crystal caseback where the perlage on the base plate, bridges with polished chamfers, and the traditional Côtes de Genève finish swept over by a Maltese cross-shaped open-worked 22 carats pink gold oscillating weight is up for your undivided attention.
The sector-type dial’s execution has to be the star here; it is executed exceptionally well — albeit it’s a bit reminiscent of certain JLC designs — with the presence of three textural tones.
From a distance you marvel at the geometry and symmetry of the watch face that shows the traditional functions of central hours, minutes, seconds, a peripheral hand-type date, two apertures for the 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.
But up-close, you begin to notice the different finishings that make this dial to be 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 white gold Arabic numerals and hour-markers (with the latter highlighted by luminescent material) contrast well against the blue dial colour and compliment the pencil-style or baton-type gold hour and minutes hands that are also infilled with luminescent material.
The moon phase execution is also praiseworthy (even though I am not a fan of the watch industry’s use of a ‘sad-face’ moonphase counter indicator design). The 18K white gold moon disc stands out majestically against the blue of the display. The choice of keeping the moon disc framing (in silver colour) is praiseworthy as it matches the rest of the colouring of the watch and feels very well integrated.
My only gripe with the design is that while the moonphase has a silver coloured 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 if they had the same window framing, but at this point that’s just nitpicking. Other than that I feel that the Vacheron Constantin Fiftysix® Complete Calendar Petrol Blue is truly one of the gems produced by the Swiss watching industry.
The above mentioned 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.
Moving beyond the dial appreciation, from the side on 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 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. The distinctive shape of the sapphire box-type crystal — historically made from Plexiglas or mineral glass — can be seen rising well above the bezel.
Vacheron Constantin’s Fiftysix® collection in my opinion is one of the best offerings as a whole of the entire Richemont Group (and yes, I know Richemont includes the likes of JLC, ALS and Cartier). And the ref. 4000E/000A-B548, despite being a calendar watch, it’s somewhat of a crown jewel in this price segment with its rather simple, highly legible, and mesmerising dial.
Embodying the echoes of the Maison’s Haute Horlogerie traditions since the 18th century, the Vacheron Constantin Fiftysix® Complete Calendar Petrol Blue is truly an understated powerhouse.
To find out more about the Vacheron Constantin Fiftysix® Complete Calendar Petrol Blue and other VC timepieces, please head to the VC website here or visit their authorised retailer J Farren-Price at 80 Castlereagh St, Sydney (02 9231 3299). To explore the J Farren-Price website, please head here. All images unless otherwise stated are ©WatchYaGonnaDoAboutIt.