‘Tis the year for the retrograde display here at Vacheron Constantin. The grand dame of watchmaking has released no fewer than three models with the mechanism at Watches & Wonders 2023. The first model is the Traditionnelle Tourbillon Retrograde Date Openface, the most complicated of the lot. The next one is the Patrimony Retrograde Day-Date with double retrograde displays and a salmon dial. The third and final novelty with retrograde display unsurprisingly comes from the Overseas collection, Vacheron Constantin’s hottest seller in recent years.
Vacheron Constantin Overseas Moon Phase Retrograde Date
Vacheron Constantin’s resident sports watch finally receives one of the brand’s most iconic displays: the retrograde date. Let’s address the elephant in the room: it’s not a particularly “sporty” complication, so you don’t usually see it on a sports watch. But sports watches these days aren’t just about the utility (if at all), it’s also about versatility for daily wear. The new Overseas Moon Phase Retrograde Date certainly is more a case of the latter than the former. Here, we bring you the details and our honest thoughts Vacheron Constantin’s latest Overseas wristwatch.
The Case, Dial, and Hands
The case of the new Overseas Moon Phase Retrograde Date measures 41 mm x 10.48 mm – pretty much what you’d expect. Rendered in stainless steel, its overall design remains unchanged to the rest of the collection: a tonneau shaped case with Maltese-cross inspired bezel. Overseas watches come with either 15 or 5 bar water resistance; the Moon Phase Retrograde Date belong in the latter category – you wouldn’t want to go swimming with this one. That said, you can still wear the watch on the beach as it is at least splash-resistant. And speaking of the beach, with the Overseas’ convenient strap change system, you can easily swap the default steel bracelet for the blue rubber strap that comes with the watch. There is also a third blue leather strap that you can switch to for splash-free occasions.
The dial is where the Moon Phase Retrograde Date truly sets itself apart from the rest of the collection. On it is a display that is familiar but never before seen on an Overseas timepiece: the retrograde date. The retrograde date is more typically found on dressier Vacheron Constantin watches, namely the Patrimony. In fact, the new Overseas draws inspiration specifically from the Patrimony Moon Phase Retrograde Date, sharing the same movement and identical dial displays. In addition to the retrograde date complication, the Overseas Moon Phase Retrograde Date also has – you guessed it – a moon phase display at 6 o’clock. Set against the backdrop of the collection’s popular blue lacquered dial, the 18K white gold hour and minute hands as well as hour indices stand out especially with their Super LumiNova coating. The retrograde date hand, however, is executed in blue. It therefore appears more discreet on the dial and nearly invisible at certain angles.
Driving the Overseas Moon Phase Retrograde Date is the 27-jewel, 275-part Calibre 2460 R31L/2. The movement is based on the original Calibre 2460 R31L/1 that powers the Patrimony Moon Phase Retrograde Date. From a functional perspective, the two movements are virtually identical: self-winding, modern 4 Hz frequency, 40 hours of power reserve, and of course, the same complications. They even share the same number of jewels and parts. Where they do differ is in size, where the Calibre 2460 R31L/2, measuring 30.6 mm x 4.7 mm, is larger. It also has a 22k gold winding mass that is different in appearance, featuring the Overseas’ signature compass rose design.
Stamped with the Hallmark of Geneva, the Calibre 2460 R31L/2 is finished to exacting standards. The usual fare can be seen through the sapphire crystal case back: linear Geneva waves on the top surface of the bridges, beveled and polished edges, gold-filled engraving, perlage on the base plate, circular graining on the wheels and polished screw heads, among other things. The mechanisms for the retrograde date and moon phase indicators are tucked underneath the dial and are therefore not visible through the case back.
The Competitive Landscape
There is plenty of competition in the sports watch segment of the luxury watch market. Everyone and their mom have been churning them out in recent years to capitalise on hysterical demand, even manufacturers that aren’t typically associated with sporty watches. Now that the market is starting to cool off, we see who the real ones and the pretenders are. It goes without saying that Vacheron Constantin are as real as it gets, being one of the forefathers of the luxury sports watch genre. But after so many years of production, things can get predictable. There will always be a struggle to create something fresh. Vacheron Constantin have genuinely done a good job keeping the Overseas relevant every year and this year is no exception. A retrograde date display on a sports watch? Who does that? There is nothing inherently wrong with it obviously, but it is very unorthodox, even more so than the perpetual calendar on a sports watch. An old-timey complication in a modern sports watch – the contrast is not enough to be jarring but just enough to keep things interesting. It helps that the moon phase retrograde date combination is a Vacheron Constantin signature and therefore also makes sense as an option in the Overseas collection. With the choice of display and lack of water resistance, the brand has clearly intended for the Overseas Moon Phase Retrograde Date to be worn casually and not for utility. Such is the evolution of the luxury sports watch.
The Overseas Moon Phase Retrograde Date is only available in stainless steel at the moment and is priced at SGD 63,500 inclusive of GST. Availability is from June 1, 2023 onwards.
The most direct alternative to the Overseas Moon Phase Retrograde Date has to be its preppier cousin, the Patrimony Moon Phase Retrograde Date. It’s basically the same watch but with a dressy case and alligator leather strap. The irony is that the Patrimony is actually larger in terms of case diameter compared to the Overseas and not much thinner either. It does, however, have a much more classical dial design and score points for legibility over the Overseas. Available in pink or white gold, the watch is priced at around CHF45,000. A special, 50-piece limited edition of the model was also created for the Collection Excellence Platine back in 2020, but they would have all been accounted for by now.
Another timepiece that celebrates the retrograde date function that mustn’t be overlooked is the Breguet Tradition Quantième Rétrograde 7597. It’s not a sports watch like the Overseas, but then again the Overseas Moon Phase Retrograde Date itself is trying hard not to be one either. Like in the Overseas, the angle in which the retrograde date hand in the Breguet 7597 operates is nearly 180 degrees. The difference, however, is that in the Breguet 7597, it sweeps the bottom half of the dial rather than the top half. The hand is blued and – because it originates from beneath dial-level – has periscope-like bends to allow it to point to the date track that’s been installed at dial-level. In a nutshell, the Breguet 7597 timepiece is an eclectic mix of classic and modern design cues done right. Retailing at around the EUR40,000 mark, it is priced similarly to Vacheron Constantin’s Patrimony Moon Phase Retrograde Date.
Vacheron Constantin’s signature complication in its resident sports watch – it’s about as inevitable as death and taxes. With its lack of water resistance and unsporty complications, the Overseas Moon Phase Retrograde Date is more of a casual “daily beater” (albeit one that you really shouldn’t beat around) than a utility piece. Nevertheless, the watch – in all its blue lacquer-dialed, immaculately-finished glory – is exceeding charming. It works for any occasion so long as no large bodies of water is involved.