Vacheron Constantin Traditionelle Complete Calendar
Vacheron Constantin isn’t the world’s oldest watch manufacturer with a continuous history for no reason. It’s because they are great at what they do. And nothing else in the brand’s catalogue is a better representation of its identity than the Traditionelle collection. The Traditionelle is the canvas upon which Vacheron Constantin expresses Genevan haute horlogerie traditions inherited from the 18th century. In 2018, the brand added a new timepiece to the Traditionelle family that was received with critical acclaim. The watch in question has a clean design, is practical, and is compliant with everything that the Traditionelle line stands for. Of course, we’re talking about the Traditionelle Complete Calendar.
The Case, Dial, and Hands
In spite of its name, the Traditionelle Complete Calendar has a case that is modern in size: 41.00 mm in diameter and 10.72 mm in height. While it is still by no means large, the case proportions certainly cater to contemporary tastes. In terms of finish, the case is entirely polished for a refined look, with a fluted rim at the back. The bezel is slender, thus giving the dial more real estate to shine on the watch. On the flanks are recessed pushers for quick calendar adjustments, as well as the usual crown at 3 o’clock that bears the Maltese cross logo of the brand.
While the case is undoubtedly well-built and beautifully finished, it is the dial that truly steals the limelight. Balance is the name of the game, as inboard of the railway-style minute track are the day and month aperture displays just above the 9 and 3 o’clock indices, as well as the bosom-style moon phase display at 6 o’clock. Balancing the three displays out is the company marquee and logo at 12 o’clock. The date is thoughtfully left out of the dial center and, instead, displayed radially along the outside perimeter of the minute track. This makes the dial appear cleaner than it should, because the centre – where our gaze is often fixed unto – remains uncluttered and retains its cruciform balance.
Arguably the most attractive element on the dial is the moon phase display. Reminiscent of A. Lange & Söhne’s moon phase displays, the blue of the moon phase disc in the Traditionelle Complete calendar is electric, while the moon itself is polished to a remarkable sheen. It certainly adds a much needed hit of colour and poetry to an otherwise clinical dial. And in true Vacheron Constantin fashion, the display isn’t just beautiful, but also backed by some serious watchmaking, as the mechanism is so precise that it only requires correction once every 122 years (in theory).
Every hand on the Traditionelle Complete Calendar is central. The hours and minutes are indicated by dauphine hands while the seconds are indicated by a long, elegant lancet hand. These time-telling hands are gilded, while the final, crescent-tipped date hand, is blackened. This is intended to separate time-telling functions from non-time-telling functions and prevent operator confusion.
Driving the Traditionelle Complete Calendar is the 308-part, 27-jewel Calibre 2460 QCL/1. The self-winding movement has a power reserve of approximately 40 hours and operates at a modern 4 Hz beat rate. The very same calibre is currently also being used in the brand’s FiftySix Complete Calendar model.
Stamped with the Hallmark of Geneva, the Calibre 2460 QCL/1 has been certified, in part, to bear a superlative level of finishing. Indeed, a look through the sapphire crystal reveals even Geneva waves across the bridges, black polished screw heads, tight perlage on the base plate, circular grained wheels, and of course, the 22-carat gold rotor with concentric hobnail pattern. Overall, the movement is not only technically solid, but also aesthetically pleasing. If we could change one thing about the calibre, it would perhaps be to pare down the rotor so that less of the movement is blocked from view.
The Competitive Landscape
Complete calendar watches are fairly uncommon in the market today. While by no means rare, it certainly is less ubiquitous than the perpetual calendar, which is curious, because it is a much more complicated mechanism that is more complicated to assemble. Perchance this is due to the complete calendar complication straddling the middle ground of calendar complications. On one hand, while it (usually) costs less than a perpetual calendar, it is just as fussy to set and it doesn’t even distinguish between months and leap years. And on the other hand, while it delivers more information than the date indicator, the date indicator is much less fussy to set, typically costs less, and actually delivers the most important information at a glance: the date. All that said, the complete calendar is still a charming complication loved by many in the watch community. It is great for those who like a busier dial, and chances are, if you’re a watch enthusiast, you wouldn’t really mind correcting the calendar indications if need be. And to be fair, they are decent value for money. What makes the Traditionelle Complete Calendar so well-liked by the watch cognoscenti is that Vacheron Constantin has managed to give it a clean design while upholding an impeccable level of finissage. At about SGD56,000 or CHF40,700, the watch is also reasonably priced for what it offers. The burning question now is, how does it compare to its competitors in the market?
Well, the first candidate we have here isn’t really a competitor to the brand, but rather a competitor to the Traditionelle Complete Calendar itself. We just had to mention the Vacheron Constantin FiftySix Complete Calendar because it basically is the Traditionelle Complete Calendar, but in a different packaging. Though not a sports watch, the FiftySix is a less dressy timepiece than the Traditionelle, therefore making it easier to dress down with. Also, unlike the Traditionelle Complete Calendar, the FiftySix Complete Calendar is available in both precious metal and stainless steel. The watch is priced at SGD49,700 in pink gold, and SGD31,800 in stainless steel. In a sense, the FiftySix Complete Calendar does offer better value for money than it’s Traditionelle twin.
One alternative from without Vacheron Constantin that bears mentioning is the brand new Blancpain Villeret Quantième Complet Blue Dial. On the ‘dressiness’ scale, the watch sits between the Traditionelle and the FiftySix. Its dial layout is similar to that of the FiftySix Complete Calendar with the exception that the radial date display is inboard of the hour markers. On the Villeret Quantième Complet are Blancpain’s design icons, such as the serpentine hand for the date, smiling moon phase, and the brand’s patented under-lug correctors, which allow for tool-free adjustment of all calendar indications. It goes without saying that the watch is a looker, but objectively speaking it is a small step down below the Vacheron Constantins in terms of finishing. That’s okay though, because it is priced at CHF24,000, or about 40% less than the Traditionelle Complete Calendar. There is also a version of the watch that comes with an elegant red gold mille mailles bracelet, for CHF42,000.
The Traditionelle Complete Calendar is a watch that you just can’t hate – it is a crowd-pleaser. Its simple, balanced design, coupled with expert high finishing is a recipe for success. It may not offer anything novel in terms of watchmaking, but it does offer the brand’s clientele more options and the rest of us, eye candy.