The watchmaking capabilities of a watch manufacturer is easily gauged by its products. The tourbillon wristwatch is by far the flashiest way to show it; the minute repeater, the most poetic. But perhaps the most underrated, under-appreciated manifestation of horological ingenuity is movement thinness. As early as the 1930s, Vacheron Constantin distinguished itself with ultra-thin pocket watches, then in the 1950s with wristwatches that were among the thinnest of their generation. In 2016, the brand released its thinnest sports watch model ever: the Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin. Significantly thinner than the base time/date Overseas and magnitudes more complicated, the model received the skeleton treatment in 2020 and subsequently landed the Calendar and Astronomy Watch prize at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG).
Vacheron Constantin Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Skeleton in Pink Gold with Blue Dial
For 2022, Vacheron Constantin has introduced a new variant of the Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Skeleton. Rendered in pink gold like the original reference that won the GPHG prize, this new iteration comes with a blue dial – or whatever’s left after skeletonisation. Yes, it’s “just” a dial colour change, but the effect it has on the piece is anything but meagre. Here, we bring you the details and our honest thoughts on the latest Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Skeleton to join the Vacheron Constantin stable.
The Case, Dial, and Hands
At 41.5 mm diameter and a slender 8.1 mm thickness, the case of the new Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Skeleton remains unchanged in proportions. Just like the award-winning variant, this one is also rendered in 18K 5N pink gold. And like all iconic sports watches, the case features distinguishing design elements such as its tonneau shape and Maltese cross bezel. Every surface of the case is either mirror polished or satin-finished, with one highlighting the other. Matching the case and dial are a full pink gold bracelet with links resembling Maltese half-crosses, a blue calf leather strap with white stitches, and a blue rubber strap. Thanks to the proprietary quick-release system for the straps, going from bar to beach with the Overseas is easier than ever.
But as impeccable as the case and bracelets are, it is the dial – or lack thereof – that steals the limelight. The Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Skeleton is fitted with a sapphire crystal dial that allows for unimpeded viewing of the openworked movement behind it. As is always the case with open dials, legibility is negatively affected – but being able to savour the beautifully skeletonised movement every time you look at your wrist makes it all worth it. What’s new in this new reference compared to its predecessor is the colour of the display rings and flange. Now rendered in blue, the Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Skeleton is more striking than ever. The combination of blue and pink gold has always been stunning and bold, and it’s nice to see Vacheron Constantin embracing it once again, this time on one of the Overseas collection’s most avant-garde models.
Driving the Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Skeleton is the 36-jewel, 276-part Calibre 1120 QPSQ/1. It is the same movement found in the regular Overseas Perpetual Calendar model, except skeletonised. It has a short power reserve of approximately 40 hours when fully wound and operates at a stately 2.75 Hz frequency – telltale signs of the age of the decades-old base Calibre 1120. Measuring only 4.05 mm of thickness, the Calibre 1120 QPSQ/1 is delightfully thin and the reason why an 8.1 mm overall thickness is even possible.
In spite of the age of the base movement, the Calibre 1120 QPSQ/1 is decorated and hand-finished to an incredibly high level, worthy of the Geneva Seal. Peering through the sapphire crystal case back reveals all. The bridges, main plate and oscillating weight have been given a contemporary anthracite grey tone via NAC electrolytic treatment. Every component with material to spare is pared down without compromising structural integrity. This includes the rotor, bridges, balance cock, and wheels. The result is a movement that is remarkably see-through – a treat for the gearheads among us. Every edge and additional edge created from the openworking process is chamfered and polished.
The Competitive Landscape
Perpetual calendar wristwatches: once a rarity but now fairly commonplace. How is a perpetual calendar timepiece to stand out in the market these days? Well, one way would be to do what Vacheron Constantin has done with the Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Skeleton. You just don’t come across many ultra-thin perpetual calendar sports watches these days with high finishing and an openworked movement. Its aesthetics might not be for everyone, but it’s still hard to take your eyes off it. The Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Skeleton with blue dial is a regular production piece with a price tag of EUR130,000.
If the open dial, skeleton variation is too much for you, then look no further than the standard Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin. It is literally the same watch except you get a full dial and an untrimmed movement. One important difference is that this reference doesn’t come with a full gold bracelet the way its skeletonised sibling does. The lack of a gold bracelet and openworking means that the Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin is also significantly less expensive – EUR33,500 less expensive to be exact. That amount saved could easily net you a second Overseas timepiece in steel. Ultimately, it is up to the buyer to decide if the admittedly superb skeletonisation work and gold bracelet is worth the equivalent of a steel Overseas Chronograph.
On the other hand, if you are into the exposed movement look, something along the lines of the MB&F Legacy Machine Perpetual would be right up your alley. Thanks to the lack of a traditional dial, the movement is revealed in its full glory, accentuated by its three dimensional construction. The level of detail that has gone into movement finissage is heroic, and quite frankly, is at a higher level than the Overseas. Measuring 17.5 mm in height, the Legacy Machine Perpetual is more than twice thicker than the Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Skeleton; but lets be honest, this isn’t a watch you’d be wearing with a tuxedo. The watch was priced at CHF148,000 in 2018 for the titanium version (shown in the photograph) and only 50 pieces were ever made.
An all-new timepiece it might not be, but the Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Skeleton with blue dial does enough to warrant excitement. Its contemporary aesthetics and the inclusion of a full gold bracelet will deter some while enticing others. One thing nobody will disagree on is the exceptional quality of craftsmanship that has gone into every component, from movement to the bracelet.