Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers Minute Repeater Tourbillon Sky Chart – A Celestial Note
Vacheron Constantin’s Les Cabinotiers department has been making headlines in recent years. Opened in 2006, the people in this department were responsible for masterpieces such as the Ref. 57260, the most complicated watch ever made, and the Celestia Astronomical Grand Complication, one of the most complicated wristwatches ever made. Such is the manufacturer’s devotion to the tradition of bespoke and one-of-a-kind watches, as a service to clients. Late last year, Vacheron Constantin unveiled a host of Les Cabinotiers pieces under the theme of ‘La Musique du Temps’ (French for ‘The Music of Time’). As you may have guessed, these watches have all to do with chiming complications.
Out of the dozen or so pieces that were presented, one stood out as the most poetic and breathtaking to us. We’re talking about a minute repeater, tourbillon, and a sky chart – all in one watch. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Without further ado, we bring you the low-down and our thoughts on none other than the Les Cabinotiers Minute Repeater Tourbillon Sky Chart – A Celestial Note.
The Case, Dial, and Hands
The case of the Les Cabinotiers Minute Repeater Tourbillon Sky Chart – A Celestial Note is rendered in 18K 5N pink gold. It is fairly large at 45 mm in diameter and 15.1 mm in height, though, this should come to no surprise given the monstrous complexity of the movement within. The overall design of the case is simple with a polished finish for elegance. On the left flank of the case is the minute repeater slide, while on the right, there is the winding crown at 3 o’clock decorated with the Maltese cross, and a pusher at 4 o’clock to adjust the sky chart.
The no-nonsense design of the case allows the spectacular dial of the watch to truly stand out. Rendered in a calming blue hue, the dial is treated with a textural, hand-guilloched sunray-finish emanating from the centre. A large aperture at 6 o’clock reveals the icing on the cake: the tourbillon. Vacheron Constantin’s Maltese cross tourbillon cage is often referenced as the most gorgeous in the industry, and it’s not difficult to see why. A closer inspection reveals that it is not only immaculately black-polished, but also teeming with sharp outward AND inward angles, two of the most difficult types of anglage to execute. In addition, the bridge that secures the tourbillon is rounded and also mirror polished – yet another finishing feat. Other than time, there are no functional displays on the dial. The minute and hours are indicated by a pair of dauphine hands while the seconds are indicated by a rounded stick hand attached to the tourbillon regulator.
While having the triumvirate of a minute repeater, a tourbillon, and a guilloched dial in a single watch is the very definition of an ultra-high end piece, Vacheron Constantin was far from done. Flip the case over and you would greeted by a host of astronomical indications. The first and most obvious one is the sky chart. Displayed on a concave dial to accentuate the depth effect, it offers a striking view of the Milky Way and the constellations. Governed by a concern for accuracy, this celestial table performs a complete rotation in 23 hours and 56 minutes corresponding to the sidereal time which is displayed on the periphery, accompanied by the indication of the day, month and cardinal points. An ellipse drawn on the sapphire crystal highlights the exact position of the constellations at the moment the watch is viewed.
Driving the Les Cabinotiers Minute Repeater Tourbillon Sky Chart – A Celestial Note is the 413-part, 38-jewel Calibre 2755 TMRCC. The Calibre 2755 TMRCC is derived from none other than the original Calibre 2755, used also in the Traditionelle Minute Repeater Tourbillon and the Traditionelle Grandes Complications (with a perpetual calendar module). The manual winding movement has a power reserve of 58 hours and operates at a stately 2.5 Hz, consistent with the frequency of traditional watches.
Perhaps the most revered aspect about the Calibre 2755 TMRCC is the minute repeater. It is equipped with a perfectly silent centripetal flywheel strike governor – no whirring whatsoever could be heard. This is key in ensuring that the superior musicality and clarity of the minute repeater chimes stay untarnished. Vacheron Constantin have even gone a step further to have the sound print of the minute repeater produced, recorded, and certified by the legendary Abbey Road Studios.
Unsurprisingly, the Calibre 2755 TMRCC is finished to superlative levels, in accordance to standards set by the Hallmark of Geneva. While there is no sapphire crystal case back for the movement to be seen, we can trust Vacheron Constantin to have applied the finest of touches onto all 413 components of the movement. The usual suspects include Geneva waves across the bridges; polished bevels with rounded, outward, and inward angles; mirror polishing on screw heads and hammers; circular graining on the wheels; and tight perlage across the main plate.
The Competitive Landscape
The Les Cabinotiers Minute Repeater Tourbillon Sky Chart – A Celestial Note is a unique piece in the sense that it has a one-of-a-kind aesthetics and a one-of-a-kind movement, produced specifically for one client, and never to be made in its exact form ever again. But if you peel the layers, you can see that the watch is a derivative of past Vacheron Constantin endeavours. And that’s fine. After all, history’s greatest achievements are all built upon previous works. The Les Cabinotiers Minute Repeater Tourbillon Sky Chart – A Celestial Note starts with the base Calibre 2755 (which by itself is a magnum opus) and finishes with a special dial and a splendid sky chart at the back. It does without any unnecessary complexity and only has onboard displays that make it one of the most poetic watches ever made. Due to its bespoke nature, the price tag remains undisclosed, but if it were made for retail, expect something around the million dollar mark.
Strip away the sky chart from the Les Cabinotiers Minute Repeater Tourbillon Sky Chart – A Celestial Note and you get the Traditionelle Minute Repeater Tourbillon from 2017. The case back is fitted, instead, with the more conventional sapphire crystal, allowing the Calibre 2755 TMR to be appreciated by the owner. The other technical complications in the watch are identical – the same market-leading minute repeater, and the same magniglorious tourbillon. The watch in platinum was priced at SGD837,100 in 2017.
Now what if we went the other way and piled on the complexity? You’d end up with something along the lines of the Maître Cabinotiers Traditionelle C.2755. In addition to the minute repeater, tourbillon, and sky chart, the watch also features displays for the perpetual calendar, equation of time, sunrise and sunset, age and phases of the moon, seasons and zodiac signs, and the solstice and equinox. The Maître Cabinotiers Traditionelle C.2755 is also more ornately decorated, with the case sides engraved in relief with lions. Of course, the watch – a piece unique – has long been sold, and while the price remains undisclosed, it is believed to be north of CHF2,000,000 at the time of sales.
The Les Cabinotiers Minute Repeater Tourbillon Sky Chart – A Celestial Note is, by any measure, a remarkable timepiece – one that belongs in the pantheon of horology. It may not be close to the most complicated piece the manufacture has ever created but it sure is exceedingly poetic (and still very complicated). It is a sight for sore eyes, and ears. The Calibre 2755 is widely known by the watch cognoscenti to be one of the most musical minute repeater movements in the industry. Combine that with two of the most visually pleasing displays known to man – the tourbillon and the sky chart – and you have a watch that truly pierces the soul.