We have been unashamedly impressed with Vacheron Constantin‘s offerings this 2015. From their magnificent Harmony series, to the impressive watches revealed at Hong Kong’s Watches & Wonders. We have on hand, the Vacheron Constantin Historiques Cornes de Vache 1955, a new tribute watch revealed in Hong Kong.
Cornes de Vache literally translates from French to Cow’s Horn. Curious why? It refers to the very special lugs which are used in the case design. Resembling a cow’s horn, it was originally offered by Vacheron Constantin in 1955 as the Ref 6087. Only 36 were made: 26 in yellow gold, 8 in pink gold, and 2 in platinum. We understand that the platinum examples did not feature corne de vache lugs for some reason. The movement was the Caliber 492, which is a VC derivative of the Valjoux 23. The Ref 6087 was also interesting as it was one of the first watches which were water resistant with a screw down case.
In a Christie’s auction, Lot 233 in Sale 2858, one example of the VC Ref. 6087 realized US$40,000 against an estimate of between US$20,000-30,000. Sale 2858 was held in New York on 11 June 2014.
Vacheron Constantin Historiques Cornes de Vache 1955
Enter the modern Cornes de Vache 1955, now part of the Historiques collection. The case retains the iconic cornes de vache lugs, but enlarged from 35mm to 38.5mm. The movement is also updated, and now features the VC Caliber 1142, which is the Caliber 1141 with Geneva Seal. The Caliber 1141 itself a VC modified derivative of the Lemania 2310.
During our hands-on session, we found the watch to be extremely attractive. The rather sedate dial is monochromatic, but lifted by the sparkle of the polished appliqué markers. A tachymeter scale in a beautiful pastel blue adorns the outer ring, and the chronograph seconds hand in blued steel contrasts with the rest of the face of the timepiece.
The unusual teardrop shaped lugs – the cornes de vache, gives the watch a distinguished and charismatic look.
But the overall proportions are done delightfully correct, making a very harmonious whole. The sub-dials are laid out evenly spaced out, and the dial seems just right. Combined with the round case, round chronograph pushers, the new Historique Cornes de Vache retains the charm and vintage feel of the original, and captivates the Deployant team who were present at the hands-on session.
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Vacheron Constantin Caliber 1142
As described, the movement is the rather magnificent VC Caliber 1142. Though a derivative of the Lemania 2310, it is produced by VC, as Lemania (now part of Manufacture Breguet) does not sell ebauches any more. VC, and other Richemont companies continue to have IP rights to manufacture Lemania movements as these were purchased by Roger Dubuis. Both VC and RD are companies within the Richemont stables.
Technically, the 1142 runs at a higher beat rate of 21,600 bph vs 18,000 bph of the 2310. VC also redesigned some of the levers, though we thought this added to the aesthetics of the movement, making for a more svelte and slender looking chronograph works, it is perhaps not a technical improvement.
Movement finish is top drawer and when viewed under light and a strong loupe, the movement gleams and is magnificent. Of note the stylistic use of a Malteze Cross, VC’s iconic logo, on the column wheel caps the beautifully designed and executed movement.
On the wrist, the watch feels decidedly quite substantial, no doubt due to the platinum case, but it also sits very well, and is very elegant and discrete under the suited cuff of a bespoke shirt.
We are obviously taken away by the beauty of the watch. As mentioned, the proportions are all correct. The VC Historique Cornes de Vache 1955 retains the old world charm, with a modern chronograph constructed and executed in a vintage style.
It begs comparison to the other great chronographs of our day. We will not draw comparison to the Patek Philippe 5730, as that uses a column wheel system operating on a modern vertical clutch. Thoroughly modern with no nod to the vintage.
Perhaps the Lange Datograph, seen in the photograph below is one possible comparison. It too is a modern chronograph with reflections of the vintage. It too features a column wheel, and a lateral friction clutch. Interesting comparison.
Needless to say, we love both. But which one is better? We do not offer any suggestions, but leave you to contemplate the side by side photograph of the movements of both below.
The other obvious comparison is to VC’s own Harmony Single Button Chronograph. Both retail at S$105.600, give or take a couple hundred bucks. One offers a single button chronograph in a gold cushion case, and the other a traditional chronograph in a round platinum case with fancy lugs. A case of six of one and half a dozen of the other. Tough choices.
Vacheron Constantin Historiques Cornes de Vache 1955 Specifications
Produced for a limited time only in platinum. No current offering is made in other case metals.
Diameter (mm): 38.50
Thickness (mm): 10.9
Material of the case: platinum 950
Water-resistance (bar): 3 Informations
Watch strap material: alligator Mississippiensis
Watch strap color: dark blue
Type of buckle: Ardillon buckle
Buckle material: platinum 950
Specificity: Screwed-down pushpiece
Thickness (mm): 5.57
Diameter (mm): 27.50 (12”’)
Number of parts: 164
Number of jewels: 21
Frequency: 3 Hz ( 21,600 v.p.h )
Power-reserve (hours): 48 approx.
Indication: minutes, column-wheel chronograph with 30-minute counter, hours, small seconds at 9 o’clock
Certification: Hallmark of Geneva