Vacheron Constantin continues to delve into its massive capabilities in Métiers d’art with a new Traditionelle Tourbillon with a sculpture of the Phoenix and Dragon on the dial.
Press Release information with commentary in italics.
New: Vacheron Constantin Traditionelle Tourbillon Phoenix and Dragon
- Fine watchmaking and artistic crafts unite in a timepiece available in three dial colours, each in a numbered 16-piece limited edition.
- Phoenix and dragon come to life in the form of sculpted 18K 5N pink gold appliques standing out against a hand-guillochédial.
- The 41 mm case is adorned with intaglio engraved cloud-shaped volutes dotted across the bezel and lugs
We do not need to emphasize on Vacheron Constantin’s abilities in the Métiers d’art. The maison is one of the few houses who have managed to pull off all the traditional artsanal works in their watches with much aplomb and wizardry. Witness the various releases from them in the past. From the spectacular recently released Tribute to Civilisations pieces, to the enamel works by Anita Porchet. Each piece is exceptional.
And this new series based on the equally exceptional Fifty-Six Tourbillon is no different. The novelty uses the same Caliber 2160 as the Fifty-Six, but with the artistry of the sculpture of the traditional Chinese legend of the Dragon and Phoenix.
Two points of note here. VC is launching a Dragon watch ahead of the Year of the Dragon, which only begins in 10 Feb 2024. The next zodiac in the Chinese calendar begining Jan 2023 is the Rabbit. Typically watch brands release watches depicting animal themes for the year symbolised by the animal. And as noted the Dragon is not expected for more than 12 months. And we are fully expecting VC to release a Year of the Rabbit for the next lunar year cycle soon.
So this release is part of the Watches & Wonders Shanghai 2022 Edition, and needs to be seen in the light that this is an expression by VC of a supreme art form to depict the perfect embodiment of balance between strength and grace. Supporting this is that the phoenix is not in the list of animals in the Chinese zodiac. However, the legend of the perfect harmony derived from the pairing of the phoenix with the dragon is a depiction of perfection. Especially when viewed a balance viz a viz a male/female or yin/yang. But what is curious is also that VC makes reference to the Phoenix and Dragon, while traditional Chinese literature normally refers to the pairing as Dragon and Phoenix.
Also perhaps slightly unusual is that the release is available in three dial options, each limited to 16 pieces. This is noted because 18 is a number of significance to the Chinese numerology, while 16 has no typical relevance on its own, and only becomes noteworthy when combined with say 8 to form 168 (pinyin: yī liù bā; Cantonese Yale: yāt luhk baat) sounds like “一路发” (pinyin: yī lù fā; Cantonese Yale: yāt louh faat) meaning “fortune all the way”.
The Chinese legend of the Phoenix and the Dragon is graphically enacted on the dial of this new limited edition Traditionnelle Tourbillon watch. At the heart of a finely engraved 18K 5N pink gold case, the legendary creatures take shape in the form of sculpted appliques on a hand-guilloché dial. The tourbillon is that of the ultra-thin Calibre 2160, an in-house movement equipped with a peripheral rotor.
Forming the perfect couple and embodying the balance between strength and grace, the Phoenix and the Dragon have been intimately bound up with Chinese culture for centuries. Given their status as supernatural harbingers of peace and symbolic of blissful relations between husband and wife, any sightings of one or both through the ages were considered to herald a glorious period of peace and prosperity of the people and the country as a whole. This is reflected in the Chinese saying: “When the dragon soars and the phoenix dances, the people will enjoy happiness for years, bringing peace and tranquillity to all under heaven.”
Although the details of their morphology vary from period to period, dragons are invariably composite creatures to symbolise the unity of power, featuring various body parts derived from snakes, alligators, lizards, carp, eagles and tigers. Inhabiting palaces beneath the oceans, dragons had the power to regulate the water essential for corps, ending droughts and stopping floods. Another supernatural ‘spirit’, the Phoenix – king of birds whose finery is inspired by the peacock, pheasant, parrot, duck, rock and crane – embodies the five essential virtues of benevolence, righteousness, prosperity, sincerity and wisdom.
Highly revered and much-loved, these fabled creatures have thus been subject of some of the most beautiful representations in Chinese mythology, where they are often seen dancing around a magic pearl, signifying harmony. As these legendary animals were considered auspicious, contemplating them could only be beneficial, while awaiting times of peace and prosperity. Images of the dragon and the phoenix appear on ceremonial jade ornaments and have been carved, painted or sewn into objects for everyday use – an artisanal custom that has been passed down through the ages.
Heavenly choreography, engraving and guilloché work
Vacheron Constantin honours these legendary creatures by giving free rein to its design workshop and its artisans to represent them. The Traditionnelle tourbillon watch illustrates the dance of Phoenix and Dragon around the pearl, a distinctive cultural symbol of China. The finishing of the latter indeed evolved during the production process: the pearl was initially to be polished and the flames sandblasted, whereas in fact the opposite was done manually due to its extreme thinness (3/10 of a mm). This change served to endow the model with genuine radiance thanks to these animals. The two fabulous creatures are represented in the form of 18K 5N pink gold appliques that are stamped and then hand-finished using the pounced ornament technique that involves modelling with a scorper and then smoothing the reliefs with a file. Together, the fine details and precise operations used to represent the plumage of the phoenix with a rooster’s head symbolising the Chinese empress; and the undulating body of the scale-covered dragon emblematic of the emperor, orchestrate a heavenly choreography. Thanks to the mobile tourbillon carriage shaped like Vacheron Constantin’s Maltese cross emblem, the entire scene comes to life, with the regulator serving as a support for one of the dragon’s legs, while the beating of the phoenix’s wings appears to set the tempo.
Depending on the galvanic treatment applied to the hand-guilloché dial, it adopts a black, deep blue or silver-toned hue, giving impressive depth to this mythological scene.
On the bezel and lugs, the sky is symbolised by a succession of volutes, carved in bas-relief. This technique consists of removing material to highlight the contours of the sculpture. After drawing the motifs with a tracing point, the engraver works the decoration with a scorper, like a chasing operation that is ever-more refined as the tool becomes sharper. Volumes take shape, thanks to a delicate alternation of matt and glossy finishes.
Operating at rate of 18,000 vibrations per hour (2.5 Hz) and positioned at 6 o’clock, the tourbillon – whose carriage bears the small seconds indication by means of a blackened screw – enlivens this ‘carnival of the animals’. It can also be admired through the sapphire caseback without being concealed by the oscillating weight. The movement construction incorporates a peripheral rotor winding the barrel to ensure a comfortable 80-hour power reserve. The choice of the peripheral rotor also contributes to the slenderness of Calibre 2160 which, despite the presence of the tourbillon, is barely 5.65 mm thick.
This ultra-thin movement with its 188 components has made it possible to offer an 18K pink gold case with a total thickness of 11.21 mm and a 41 mm diameter that is suitable for all wrists. The finishing of Calibre 2160 offers the same high level of quality as the embellishment of the dial. The bar of the tourbillon carriage is entirely hand-bevelled, as are the movement components. The mainplate is circular-grained on the dial side, while the bridges are adorned with Côtes de Genève on the back. Paired with a black, deep blue or brown alligator leather strap, depending on the model, secured a folding clasp and available in a limited boutique edition of 16 timepieces for each dial colour, this watch embodies a perfect symbiosis of artistic crafts and fine watchmaking.
To honour the Chinese legend of the Phoenix and the Dragon, Vacheron Constantin presents three numbered limited-edition Traditionelle Tourbillon watches. The two fabulous animals are depicted in a traditional manner, beautifully choreographed in their dance around the pearl. Legendary creatures from Chinese mythology, the Phoenix and the Dragon symbolise strength and grace: a perfect complementarity that procures peace and happiness. On the dial of the three models, the Phoenix and the Dragon come to life in the form of pink gold appliques sculpted on a hand-guilloché dial. The galvanic dial treatment in black, deep blue and silver tones distinguishes the three versions of the model, each issued in a 16-piece limited edition. The 41 mm-diameter case in 750/1000 5N pink gold is engraved with cloud-like volutes on the bezel and lugs, which form a bas-relief motif on the case middle. In-house self-winding Calibre 2160 with tourbillon was chosen to enliven this mythological scene. Measuring just 5.65 mm thick thanks to its peripheral rotor ensuring an 80-hour power reserve, this ultra-thin movement with 188 components has made it possible to offer an elegant case with a sapphire back providing a view of the finishing details.
Developed and manufactured by Vacheron Constantin
Mechanical, self-winding, peripheral rotor
31 mm (13½’’’) diameter, 5.65 mm thick
Approximately 80 hours of power reserve
2.5 Hz (18,000 vibrations per hour)
Hallmark of Geneva certified timepiece
Hours, minutes, small seconds on tourbillon carriage (coloured screw)
18K 5N pink gold
41 mm diameter, 11.21 mm thick
Hand-engraved bezel and lug sides
Transparent sapphire crystal caseback
Water-resistance tested at a pressure of 3 bar (approx. 30 meters)
18K gold hand-guilloché, silver-toned / deep blue / black galvanic treatmen
Hand-engraved 18K pink gold applied phoenix and dragon
Brown/deep blue/black Mississippiensis alligator leather strap with alligator leather inner shell, hand-stitched, saddle-finish, large square scales
18K 5N pink gold folding clasp
Polished half Maltese cross-shaped
Limited Editions of 16 individually numbered timepieces.
Only available in Vacheron Constantin Boutiques.