Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle tourbillon retrograde date openface
Watches and Wonders

Poetry in Retrograde: Vacheron Constantin Jumps Back to the Future at Watches & Wonders 2023 with Three New Pieces

At this year’s Watches & Wonders, Vacheron Constantin is centering its Patrimony, Overseas, and Traditionnelle collections around an off-kilter complication.

By Rhonda Riche

At events like Watches & Wonders, members of brands’ heritage departments can draw as big a crowd as CEOs and brand ambassadors. They love their jobs and know how to put a maison’s history into a modern context. And few brands have as rich of a history as Vacheron Constantin.

This year Vacheron Constantin is showcasing its past and present versatility with three new editions featuring retrograde date displays.

Simple, chic, and elegant, Vacheron’s take on this feature draws from their archives; however, unlike many retrogrades, which tend to end up looking like a Jetsons-era fantasy, these new models are neither retro nor retro-futurist.

Overseas Retrograde Moonphase Date

Although Vacheron Constantin represents the pinnacle of horological excellence, the magnificent new Overseas Retrograde Moonphase Date represents the first time the maison has employed a retrograde date function in the Overseas collection.

While there is no denying that this new Overseas is a super complicated timepiece (the high-precision in-house calibre 2460 R31L/2 also powers a moonphase that only needs correcting once every 122 years), its technical complexity is nicely balanced with its sport-chic styling.

Aesthetically satisfying, the new Overseas Retrograde Moonphase Date has all of the brand’s signatures – the Maltese cross, the fluted crown, and the mix of highly polished and satin surfaces of the 41mm stainless steel case – so that it projects pure luxury. But the translucent blue lacquered dial and well-lumed 18K white gold hands and indices give off a more carefree and casual vibe.

It’s always nice to see a house like Vacheron Constantin reinventing itself with pieces like this. It’s a timepiece that will delight a new audience without upsetting the old guard.

And did we mention the retrograde?

Patrimony Retrograde Day-Date in Platinum

Retrogrades are having a bit of a moment right now. For example, Louis Vuitton, Seiko, and Bulgari presented timepieces with the jump-back feature in the past few years.

One of the most appealing things about the retrograde complication is that it makes you look at time in a different way. Instead of turning hands moving around a central point or being read left to right on a digital watch, we have to engage our synapses differently. Moreover, retrograde displays allow us to look at a timepiece in a new light.

That is why this type of display is well suited to the essentialism of the Patrimony collection. The brand calls its approach to retrograde design “the art of equilibrium.” And the Patrimony Retrograde Day-Date announced earlier today is the perfect embodiment of this elegant philosophy.

A little more complex than the Overseas Retrograde Moonphase Date, the new Patrimony Day-Date has a retrograde display for both the day and the date. And according to Vacheron Constantin, this configuration represents sobriety, harmony, and elegance (which is also symbolized by the juxtaposition of the 42.5mm 950 platinum case and salmon-colored dial).

While the brand was born in 1755, the “less is more” philosophy of the Bauhaus movement had a significant influence on the brand. The Patrimony Retrograde Day-Date reflects this principle, recalling the similar (albeit different) motifs of the Art Deco movement of the 1920s and 1930s when the brand first formed some of its most recognizable design signatures. And the contrast of precious metal (very Art Deco) and high-flying complications with the minimalist aesthetic (basically the definition of Bauhaus) is a trick only Vacheron Constantin could pull off.

The new watch also respects the other codes of the Patrimony collection, such as having an applied rose gold Maltese Cross at 12 o’clock. The two retrograde indicator hands (day and date) have been blued, while the hour and minute hands are 18-karat white gold. Also, in a nod to another important era in the brand’s history, the silhouette is subtly curved for a more reflective case.

The Patrimony Retrograde Day-Date is animated by the in-house automatic Calibre 2460 R31R7/3, which beats at 28,800 beats per hour. The gold rotor features guilloché decoration and offers 40 hours of power reserve. And practically every decorative detail – from the perlage to the Côtes de Genève finishing – is done by hand.

Traditionnelle Tourbillon Retrograde Date Openface

You could say that Vacheron Constantin’s tradition is change. So, it is little surprise that the last of the brand’s retrograde upgrades exemplifies how to respect the past while embracing contemporary codes. Meet the Traditionnelle Tourbillon Retrograde Date Openface, the first retrograde watch made for the modern Traditionnelle collection.

If you’ve ever studied music, at some point, a veteran musician probably passed on this piece of advice: “You have to master the scales before you can improvise.” Vacheron Constantin’s centuries of savoir-faire gives it the ability to soar.

Take, for example, the new Traditionnelle’s automatic Calibre 2162 R31 movement: This mechanism drives both the tourbillon and the jump-back date display. And the grace notes are provided by the openworked dial. Vacheron Constantin describes it as sophisticated and avant-garde – a symphony of technique and artistry.

Final Thoughts

If we had to choose a favorite from this trio of retrogrades, we’d have to go with the Patrimony Retrograde Day-Date, but they are all amazing achievements.

Pricing is not available at press time. For more information, visit Vacheron Constantin’s website.

(Photography by Pierre Vogel)

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