In the same way that the Overseas is Vacheron Constantin’s flagship sports line, the ‘Chronograph’ is the flagship model of the Overseas collection. Since its introduction in 1996, the Overseas has always been about sporty elegance. Now already in its third generation, no other Overseas model captures this spirit as well as the Chronograph. The combination of an elegantly crafted and finished sports watch and a complication heavily tied to racing has long proven to be a winning formula. It is perhaps unsurprising, then, that there are about half a dozen variants of the Overseas Chronograph in the current catalogue, including pink gold models, steel models, and even a limited edition “Everest” model.
Overseas Chronograph with “Panda” Dial
Most recently, Vacheron Constantin had announced the release of the Overseas Chronograph with a “panda” dial. The “panda” on the dial refers to the colour scheme where the counters on a chronograph wristwatch is rendered black (or another dark colour) against a white or silver-toned dial. This is not to be confused with the Overseas Chronograph with “reverse panda” dial, which sports the exact reverse colour scheme and has been around since 2018. Yes, it’s just a dial change, but sometimes a dial change can make a world of difference. Dare we say, this could be the coolest Overseas Chronograph yet. Here, we bring you the details and our honest thoughts on Vacheron Constantin’s latest chronograph sports watch.
The Case, Dial, and Hands
There are no changes to the design of the case of Vacheron Constantin’s newest Overseas Chronograph. Rendered in stainless steel, the case still measures a sporty 42.5 mm x 13.7 mm. Its barrel shaped case and Maltese cross-inspired bezel remains a distinguishing feature of the iconic sports line. The current crop of Overseas wristwatches come with a strap quick-release system for quick and toolless swapping of straps. The Overseas Chronograph with “panda” dial comes with a stainless steel bracelet with Maltese cross-shaped links, as well as interchangeable calfskin leather and rubber straps.
The real novelty of Vacheron Constantin’s latest debutant is in the dial. The “panda” aesthetic principle dates back to the motorsports-dedicated timepieces of the 1960s. In addition to its graphic dynamics, the light-dark contrast ensures enhanced visibility and highlights the indications provided by the chronograph function. This association with motorsports and the fact that the design is simply easy on the eyes makes it hardly a surprise that the “panda” dial is beloved by the watch community. The Overseas Chronograph with “panda” dial is fitted with a silver sunburst dial along with three black sub-dials at the 9, 6, and 3 o’clock positions. Hours and minutes are indicated centrally while the running seconds is displayed via the 9 o’clock sub-dial. The rest of the hands are dedicated to the chronograph complication, with the seconds displayed centrally, and the 30-minute and 12-hour counters at the 3 and 6 o’clock positions, respectively. These counters are beautifully snailed to provide a contrast in texture to the satin-finished dial. A date display – sandwiched between the 4 and 5 o’clock hour markers – offers added practicality, while lume-coating on the hands and hour markers bring added visibility under low-light conditions.
Driving the new Overseas Chronograph is the same 263-part, 54-jewel Calibre 5200 used in preceding Overseas Chronograph variants. The movement – exclusive to the Overseas Chronograph model – has 52 hours of power reserve when fully wound and operates at a modern 4 Hz frequency. The vertical clutch, column wheel chronograph movement is self-winding and fitted with a 22k gold oscillating weight adorned with a wind rose.
Compared to its horizontal clutch contemporaries, the Calibre 5200 is not as evocative in its architecture. However, it shows no inadequacies in finissage, as evidenced by the Hallmark of Geneva that it bears. Our favourite part of the movement has to be the column wheel with black polished Maltese cross. The rest of the Calibre 5200 is just as attractive, featuring polished bevels and Geneva waves on the bridges, mirror polished screw heads, and circular graining on wheels, among other things.
The Competitive Landscape
The chronograph is one of, if not the most competitive segment of the luxury watch market. The Overseas Chronograph stands out by virtue of its history, iconic design and fine craftsmanship. Vacheron Constantin’s just going through the different permutations of case material and dial designs right now with the model, but the “panda” dial feels more than just another option. It feels like it is the option. The good news is that the watch is not a limited edition model and is fairly priced at CHF32,700. The bad news is that it still costs a pretty penny; alas, such is the price of excellence.
No talk about “panda” dials is truly complete without mentioning that stainless steel Rolex Daytona that broke the market. Arguably the most popular “panda” dial chronograph wristwatch from the past decade, the Ref. 116500LN traded for well-above its retail price soon after it was introduced. The watch features a black Cerachrom bezel, a white dial and snailed counters in black. Much like its Overseas counterpart, legibility is top notch and thanks to screw-down pushers, the watch is a-okay for a swim. The Ref. 116500LN is virtually perma-unavailable in boutiques, so take its retail price as merely a guide to what it really costs.
For something a little off the beaten path, look no further than the Piaget Polo Chronograph with “panda” dial. The watch features a silver dial with stripes rendered by guilloche and two blue counters in a bi-compax format. Though production is limited to 888 pieces, it is almost certainly the most accessible watch out of the three here, especially at a competitive price of SGD23,100 (2021).
It’s not groundbreaking stuff, but there’s plenty to love about the Overseas Chronograph with “panda” dial. The design is a classic and serves the practical purpose of improving legibility. This, coupled with the fact that the Overseas Chronograph is one of the most finely crafted chronograph sports watch in the market, makes it tremendously desirable. With the Overseas collection thriving more than ever, expect to see more interesting variations in the coming years.