This is the entry level Vacheron Constantin in the current catalog. The new VC Quai de I’Île in stainless steel. But affordable or entry level is relative. The VC Quai l’Île Steel is about a third the price of her gold brethren who share the collection name of Quai l’Île, but is not inexpensive by most measures. Is it worth the ransom? We investigate to find out.
The Quai de l’Île Collection was first launched in 2008, amidst great fanfare. The collection offered the client to mix and match elements of the watch to personalize it. The Quai de l’Île is the location of Vacheron Constantin’s historic headquarters since the 19th century, and the idea was to use the collection to reaffirm the philosophy of establishing a personal relationship with clients. The collector is able to select from several models, a host of dials from semi-transparent dials to multi-layer 3D styled dials, some offering a peek on the movement under the dial. The movements all bear the Poinçon de Genève. Interesting concept, but one which we find confusing. We loved the ability to personalize, but feel the options too bewildering.
Perhaps VC have also realized this, and the collection was trimmed. From the current VC catalog, we only see: a Date Self Winding (Ref. 86050, 2 models: one in pink gold and another in titanium/pink gold), a Day-Date and Power Reserve (Ref. 85050, 1 model in pink gold) and a Retrograde Annual Calendar (Ref. 86040, 1 model in pink gold). All movements still bear the Poinçon de Genève. And now two additional models in stainless steel. Totally new. With new movements, now the Caliber 5100 (a variant is used in the new Overseas Automatic Date 4500V).
Vacheron Constantin Quai de l’Île Ref. 4500S
The case, dial and hands
The case design remains the same as the older Quai de l’Île series. The case is somewhat a bit more dressy than most sports watches, and a bit more sporty than most dress watches. Kind of like a middle ground. The design follows the VC aesthetics of using a round bezel, a cushion shaped case in a tonneau shaped case side band. This is what VC calls the “shape in shape” concept. We find the flow of the lines to be quite pleasing to the eye. And the alternating polished and satin-brushed finishes enhances the elegant, yet tough look. As does the split level lugs, which reminds us of a certain muscular stature.
As the case is in stainless steel, it is sturdy and perhaps tougher than the precious metal versions. And at 41mm diameter, is quite amenable.
The dial of the new stainless steel Quai de l’Île model is a multi-level construction affair. The resultant visual is quite three dimensional, as with some of the old models.
Two versions are available. A silver-toned and a black opaline. The dial is in three distinct parts. The hour markers and Arabic numerals are made of a white luminescent material, and set on a raised outer ring. The placement of the traditional aperture style date is replaced by a two level date indication. The date numerals are printed on a transparent mineral glass disc, which appear to be at the same level as the inner edge of the ring. Beneath this glass, an indicator points to the correct date. This accentuates the three dimensional feeling when looking at the dial.
The hands are in 18k gold and filled with luninescent material, and the watch is delivered with a butterfly style deployant buckle and a spare strap in rubber.
The movement: C.5100/1
The movement is the C.5100/1.
This as not quite a new movement, but a variant has been used in the Oversea Automatic Date (Ref 4500V). The Oversea movement is designated C.5100, but sports a beautifully designed and executed 18ct gold rotor, which we waxed lyrical over in our review of the Overseas World Time, whose rotor is made in the same manner (though the World Time is powered by the C.2460 WT). The 5100/1 used in the 4500S, is exactly the same movement, but uses a tungsten rotor. The dull, grey look of the tungsten rotor looks quite a lot less glamorous. However, using a tungsten rotor is keeping in line with the Quai de l’Ile series, as the other two Ref. 86050 using the C.2460 QH, also uses a tungsten rotor.
The C.5100 beats at 28,800 bph, and is designed to run over a 60 hour power reserve. The movement runs on twin barrels. The plates and bridges are well finished. With anglage, polishing, perlage and Côtes de Genève. And the movement meets the Poinçon de Genève requirements. According to VC, this hand finishing to meet the Poinçon requires 40% longer production time compared to a non-certified movement.
As the entry level to Vacheron Constantin’s haute horogerie world, the Quai de l’Ile 4500S in steel is priced at S$ 23,200 incl GST.
Perhaps a good starting point is to compare the 4500S to its cousin the Vacheron Constantin Quai de l’Île Date Self Winding Ref. 86050 (€ 42,900.00, approximately S$66,000 in pink gold. The titanium/pink gold is about 15% less). The principal difference is in the case material and the movement. The 86050 is available in pink gold or titanium with pink gold. The 86050 uses the Caliber 2460 QH, a variant of the one used in the Oversea World Time. The premium is about 300%. Quite a large premium for a gold case. And as the 5100 is a newer movement than the 2460, it is arguably better. From this reasoning vantage, the 4500S seems a reasonable buy.
Another comparison might be to the Patek Philippe Ref 5167 (€ 17,810.00 converts to approximately S$27,600 in steel, rubber strap, deployant buckle), the Aquanaut in steel. It has an automatic movement, the Caliber 324 S C, and provides the same features – center seconds hand and a date. The Aquanaut is housed in a 40mm diameter stainless steel case with highly polished and satin-brushed finished areas and a slightly rounded octagonal shape. Which is better? Six of one, half dozen of the other. But the Patek is more expensive by 20%, though one can argue that usually Patek asking prices can be mitigated during resale later as they tend to fetch higher prices in the secondary market.
All in, we liked the Vacheron Constantin Quai de l’Ile 4500S. The case design is rather appealing, as the design of the dial and its layout. The movement is nice as well, though we might have wished for a more glitzy rotor. Overall, it is a good package, and a reasonable entry point to Vacheron Constantin.
Vacheron Constantin Quai de l’Ile Technical Specifications
4500S/000A-B195 – silver-toned dial
4500S/000A-B196 – black dial
Hallmark of Geneva certified timepieces
Developed and manufactured by Vacheron Constantin
30.60 mm (13’’’ ¼) diameter, 4.70 mm thick
Approximately 60 hours of power reserve
4 Hz (28’800 vibrations/hour)
Indications Hours and minutes
Case Stainless steel
41 mm diameter, 11.75 mm thick
Transparent sapphire crystal caseback
Water-resistance tested at a pressure of 3 bar (approx. 30 meters)
Dial Silver-toned/black opaline
Mineral glass disc with date indication
Arabic numerals and indexes crafted in white luminescent material
18K gold hour & minute hands and date highlighted with white luminescent material
Strap Brown Mississippiensis alligator leather, black alsavel lining, hand-stitched, large square scales
Delivered with a second strap in black rubber
Clasp Stainless steel triple-blade folding clasp with push-pieces
Polished half Maltese cross-shaped