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.
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 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 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 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.
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 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.