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Review: Vacheron Constantin FiftySix Day-Date

by Frank Chuo on February 14, 2018

Vacheron Constantin FiftySix Day-Date

This year, Vacheron Constantin has unveiled an entirely new collection called the FiftySix at the Salon de la International Haute Horlogerie (SIHH). The collection is inspired by the vintage Ref. 6073 which was first presented in the year 1956 (hence FiftySix). The watch is distinguished by its shape and notably its lugs, each representing a branch of the Maltese Cross, the brand’s emblem. It is also one of the first watches from the manufacture to be equipped with a self-winding movement, which all three models in the new FiftySix collection also come with. Perhaps the most practical model in the collection is the FiftySix Day-Date, with the most useful displays for everyday use.

The case, dial and hands

Like the rest of the watches in the collection, the FiftySix Day-Date comes in a 40 mm case in either stainless steel or 18 k rose gold. The most distinct design element of the case is the lugs which resemble the branches of the Maltese Cross. While they are not quite as pronounced as those found on the Ref. 6073, they give the Day-Date a rather unique look. The lugs in the Ref. 6073 have very clear start and end points while in the Day-Date, they flow seamlessly into the thick flanks of the watch. This gives the Day-Date a chunky, sporty profile which some purists may lament. Another bridge between the past and the present can be seen in the old-school box-type crystal rising well above the bezel. Historically in plexiglass or mineral glass, the crystal is now in sapphire which is far more scratch-resistant while also preserving the retro-contemporary look of the FiftySix Day-Date.

 

The lugs on the FiftySix Day-Date resemble the four branches of the Maltese Cross emblem.

 

Lugs and crystal aside, one other part of the FiftySix Day-Date causes it to stand out from the rest of Vacheron Constantin’s timepieces: the dial. The sector-type dial of the FiftySix Day-Date features two subtly different tones and finishes for the inner and outer dial. This enables some interesting light play, giving the watch an extra touch of depth and personality. The outer dial is punctuated by alternating Arabic numerals and baton-style hour markers, both of which are applied. The two concentrically guilloched sub-dials at 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock display the day and the date, respectively. The power reserve indicator is located just off the 6 o’clock position. These indicators are simple enough but the way they are laid out might take some getting used to. We can imagine some collectors not appreciating the slightly off-centre power reserve indicator, and while the two sub-dials are balanced, the way they (along with the power reserve hand) cut through the bold inner minute track grates the senses. Others, though, may consider the layout ‘vintage-inspired’, endearing and charming. Indicating the time are two lume-coated pencil hands for the minutes and hours, and a sweeping lancet hand for the seconds.

 

The sector-type dial of the FiftySix Day-Date differentiates it from other timepieces offered by Vacheron Constantin. The outer and inner dials are adorned with different finishes – sunburst and opaline, respectively.

The movement

The FiftySix Day-Date houses the 264-part, 27-jewel, in-house manufactured Calibre 2475 SC/2. Operating at a contemporary 28,800 vph beat rate, the self-winding movement has approximately 40 hours of autonomy when fully wound. The 22 k gold oscillating weight visible through the sapphire crystal case back is fitted with a ceramic ball bearing rotation system that requires no lubrication, thus ensuring the movement’s longevity. From a finishing standpoint, the Calibre 2475 SC/2 is exemplary for an ‘entry level’ timepiece. Stamped with the Hallmark of Geneva, the movement is conceived from top-tier craftsmanship and meticulously adorned with hand-applied decorative finishes. The usual suspects can be seen through the case back: the highly-textured Geneva waves, the polished chamfers on the edges of bridges, the tight and even perlage and the black-polished screw heads. The oscillating weight is a work of art in its own right. Adorned with the Maltese Cross emblem, it showcases a triumvirate of surface finishing: sandblasting, straight graining, and mirror polishing. Its skeletonisation is tastefully executed and attractive, and ensures maximum visibility of the movement behind it.

 

The Calibre 2475 SC/2 is stamped with the Hallmark of Geneva and stars a skeletonised oscillating weight with three different surface finishes.

The competitive landscape

The FiftySix Day-Date is one of the most affordable timepieces in the Vacheron Constantin catalogue, surpassed only by the FiftySix Self-Winding and the Quai de l’Île (2016 release). At a relatively attainable USD17,400 or SGD25,400 for the steel variant and USD32,500 or SGD47,500 for the rose gold variant, one can’t help but feel that the brand is trying to reach out to its younger clientele who generally are the most passionate but lack the mammoth finances necessary to attain mid- to high-level pieces. For those who are fortunate enough to be able to spend more, there are equally tantalising alternatives in the market to the FiftySix Day-Date.

 

The FiftySix Day-Date is designed and priced to attract a broad clientele.

 

The A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1 Daymatic is perhaps the automatic pick for connoisseurs of fine watchmaking. The Daymatic features an outsize date display, a retrograde day indicator and the iconic Lange 1 dial layout. While the watch does cost more at SGD57,200, it comes with superior movement finishing compared to the FiftySix Day-Date (which is saying something considering the Calbre 2475 SC/2 bears the Hallmark of Geneva). The big date and retrograde day displays are considered more technically sophisticated as well. The Lange 1 Daymatic, however, does not have a power reserve function. Considering all that, is the Lange worth saving an extra SGD10,000 (when gold versions of both watches are compared) for? That is a question that can only be answered upon reflection of one’s personal preferences and values.

 

The Lange 1 Daymatic dial was designed to be a mirror image of the standard Lange 1.

 

For those wishing to take a more familiar path, look no further from the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Day-Date. The Day-Date is arguably the most recognisable, most well-known timepiece with a day and date indicator. This of course has all to do with the Rolex branding and presence. That’s not a bad thing, because while it is aggressively marketed, it is still a watch packed with feats of engineering. The variant photographed below is the flagship Rolex Day-Date 40 in platinum. Released in 2015, it does away with the iconic fluted bezel and comes with a full platinum President bracelet. The platinum Rolex Day-Date 40 will wear heavier than almost any other watch in the market, yet its price is heavier still, at over SGD84,000.

 

The Rolex Day-Date, also known as the “President’s Watch”.

Final thoughts

The FiftySix Day-Date is a well-priced timepiece with quality that befits a high-end manufacturer like Vacheron Constantin. It might not be as gorgeous as the new Métiers d’Art Les Aérostiers or as transcendent as the new Traditionelle Tourbillon, but it helps bring on-board a broader spread of clients and pays the bills.

 

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8 Comments
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  • daviddroog
    February 16, 2018 at 11:03 pm

    Mr, Chong, thank you for confirming what I had thought.

    Call me old-fashioned but the word ‘review’ still reminds me of the old Chronos or Armbanduhren Magazin, in which a watch was properly described, tried, measured and tested. The above is hardly more than a bit of a rehash of the press release with an opinion here and there. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s hardly a review. Thanks.

  • Alexis
    February 15, 2018 at 9:20 pm

    Sorry, I mixed up this caliber with the one for the three-hand date version of which caliber there are two different pictures – one taken of the watch at SIHH and the other one supplied on VC’s website. Still, two different versions… how best to confuse a potential customer…

  • Alexis
    February 15, 2018 at 3:59 pm

    Exactly!

    This FiftySix collection unfortunately opens up another sad chapter in the long history since the 1950s of Vacheron Constantin loosing step compared to its biggest competitor in Geneva (Patek Philippe). Instead of closing the gap against PP, VC is widening it with this collection in my personal view.

    Communication-wise, the launch of this collection is also a disaster. By now I have already seen three different pictures of the movement in this particular model, leaving me wondering what the movement will look like in the end. In this article I now see the THIRD version – now with Geneva seal – and I hope this is now the actual movement. This creates a lot of confusion and speculation, in this case not in VC’s favor as people were commenting on earlier pictures about corners having been cut in relation to movement finishing and the absence of the Geneva seal.

    Unfortunately, after this new collection the article “The Decay of the Angel” by Carlos Perez on TimeZone (2002) is more relevant than ever!

  • Kunal Khemka
    February 15, 2018 at 1:53 pm

    Frank, thanks for this detailed analysis of the new FiftySix. My thoughts are as follows:

    – I feel this range was conceived in a hurry. It is supposed to be entry level, but other than the stainless steel self winding time-date version with Richemont movement, all the others in this range are not exactly inexpensive – at least judging by the prices on the VC website.

    – Who is the selfwinding time-date version competing with? In stainless steel at that price ($17100), Rolex to me is a far more attractive option. Maybe even some Omega and Cartier. In the rose gold version ($28400), it defeats its very purpose – it has competition from within VC. Why on earth would anyone spend this amount of money on this piece with an outsourced movement, when you could have – for example – the following three amazing VC’s – Traditionelle in rose gold with in-house superb calibre 4400 ($29800);
    – Historiques Triple Calendar with – again – calibre 4400 ($28600), and a Gorgeous watch; and last but not least;
    – Overseas – with gorgeous calibre 5100 – ($30800). Even the stainless steel QDL is more appealing with calibre 5100 at ($23200).

    – Was it really necessary to place a Richemont movement when the goal few years ago was 100% Geneva Seal? Charlie Torres mentioned this in a Watchtime interview in 2007. They could have used the automatic calibre 5100 with a non-gold rotor (Tungsten, like they use on the stainless steel QDL) and perhaps still maintain the same or similar price? And that date-window is an eye-sore.

    – Also, does VC really need another Calendar? It already has the gorgeous Harmony and (new) Traditionelle Calendar; and the Historiques 1942 and 1948 Calendar.

    – To me, the 56 Day-Date does not look so appealing. I prefer the Calendar. But still, maybe it is time for VC to look at its entire range and trim its collection a bit. VC’s core DNA is the Patrimony and Traditionelle. And with so many new collections and models, it risks losing its identity. Maybe it is spreading itself too wide.

    – I do not think VC needed the 56. They already have models which can be “marketed” to the newer-younger customers. But unfortunately, Swiss Watch Advertising is honestly terrible, and that is the reason the customer-base does not increase for some brands. It is not always the watches themselves. At least with VC I believe this to be true. VC advertisements in magazines needs a complete Revamp. No young aspiring customer is going to even bother to fall for it.

    – I love VC, and it is my favourite brand; but I wish the new top-management would think analytically and rationally before releasing new collections and watches.

  • daviddroog
    February 14, 2018 at 11:37 pm

    May we please know how many time was actually spent with the watch for this ‘review’?

    • February 15, 2018 at 4:31 pm

      For watches we have hands-on during the shows, we typically spend only a short time with the watches as the pieces are only available for tens of minutes at a time, and we do have a lot of ground to cover. This is not a long term review, but rather an impressions hands-on. Hope this helps.

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