Amongst a myriad of stunning showpieces and inspiring grand complications, such as the A. Lange & Söhne Tourbograph Perpetual “Pour le Mérite” and the Greubel Forsey Grande Sonnerie, stands the Vacheron Constantin Traditionelle Minute Repeater Tourbillon, a watch that hasn’t received as much attention from the media since its announcement in September 2016. This is not so much because the watch isn’t technically impressive; it remains one of the most complicated pieces unveiled at SIHH 2017, featuring a minute repeater and a tourbillon. Rather, it is testimony to the understated, elegant design of the timepiece.
Oh, and also because it’s not made of cheese.
The Vacheron Constantin Traditionelle Minute Repeater Tourbillon
In this review, we explore the nitty-gritty details that make the Traditionelle Minute Repeater Tourbillon (reference 6500T) and why it has piqued our interest.
The case, dial, hands
The Traditionelle Minute Repeater Tourbillon comes in a contemporarily-sized case at 44 mm in diameter and 12.20 mm thick. The case is handsomely polished on the top and on the flanks, and is brushed at the bottom for a contrasting look. At 3 o’clock is the crown with the emblematic Maltese Cross logo on top, and at 9 o’clock, a traditional repeater slide to activate the minute repeater function. Currently, there are three variants of the reference 6500T on offer: platinum case/silver dial, platinum case/dark grey dial, and pink gold case/silver dial. Irrespective of colour, the dials are decorated with a mesmerising engine-turned guilloche motif, a treatment reserved for watches sold exclusively in the brand’s boutiques.
Also noteworthy is the slightly off-centred minute track, baton hour indices and dauphine hands – this design gives the dial an infinitely more interesting appearance than if everything was simply dead-centred. An aperture at 6 o’clock displays the tourbillon in its full glory.
The brand’s signature Maltese Cross tourbillon cage is arguably the best looking in the business. Immaculately black polished throughout with plenty of tedious interior angle bevelling, this is a tourbillon cage that is as beautiful as it is difficult to finish. The tourbillon bridge that spans across the aperture is also black polished and expertly rounded, further highlighting Vacheron Constantin’s meticulous dedication towards fine finishing and craftsmanship.
The movement powering the Traditionelle Minute Repeater Tourbillon is the in-house developed and manufactured Calibre 2755 TMR (TMR for Tourbillon Minute Repeater).
Enthusiasts familiar with the brand’s catalogue will realise that this movement is actually a simplified version of the pre-existing Calibre 2755 QP which powers the Traditionelle Calibre 2755. Functionally, the difference between the two timepieces is the perpetual calendar – the Traditionelle Calibre 2755 is a minute repeater, tourbillon and perpetual calendar watch while the Traditionelle Minute Repeater Tourbillon simply lacks the calendar function. The removal of the perpetual calendar mechanism from the Calibre 2755 QP has resulted in a thinner movement for the new Traditionelle (from 7.90 mm to 6.10 mm thick), and this is also reflected in its reduced case thickness (from 13.54 mm in the Traditionelle Calibre 2755 to 12.20 mm in the Traditionelle Minute Repeater Tourbillon).
The Calibre 2755 TMR is a 471-part, 40-jeweled, manually-wound movement with a very traditional 18,000 vibrations per hour beat rate and a 58-hour power reserve. A good portion of the striking mechanism can be viewed from the case back including the governor, hammers, and gongs. Also visible from the back are the power reserve indicator and the hollowed bridge that supports the tourbillon. Every inch of the movement is finished to the standards of the Hallmark of Geneva; the hammers, screw heads and bevelled edges of the bridges are polished to a mirror shine, the top of the bridges are decorated with linear Côtes de Genève while the baseplate features tight and even perlage all throughout.
Visual splendour and aural pleasure
The Traditionelle Minute Repeater Tourbillon is a feast for the senses, especially for the eyes and the ears. The guilloche dial, be it in classic silver or contemporary grey (the author’s preference), is beautifully executed and showcases the manufacturer’s knack for watchmaking artistry. While the tourbillon is ubiquitous in today’s watch scene, it still bedazzles even the most hardened of watch enthusiasts. And no one does it quite like Vacheron Constantin who have managed to incorporate the brand’s Maltese Cross logo into the tourbillon cage – a nightmare to finish with all the sharp angles but the result is a tourbillon most beautiful.
Heavenly sounds can be heard upon actuation of the repeater slide, and this is no exaggeration. The chimes from the Traditionelle Minute Repeater Tourbillon that we scrutinised at the Salon were some of the best sounding in the world of haute horlogerie. (Editor: it lacks little when compared to the Deployant Reference standard: the VC Patrimony Ultra Thin Minute Repeater reviewed in detail here.)Each individual strike of the gong can be heard very clearly and with respectable volume. This is impressive given that the case was made of platinum, a dense metal that is often thought to be sub-optimal as a case material for minute repeater watches due to its tendency to impede sound transmission.
While not as loud as minute repeaters from sister company Jaeger-LeCoultre, the Traditionelle Minute Repeater Tourbillon is superior in musicality. Each note resonates beautifully and the pitch is pleasing to the ear. The tempo of the chimes is between that of the newly unveiled Ulysse Nardin North Sea Minute Repeater (too rushed) and the Patek Philippe Sky Moon Tourbillon (very stately): steady, but the author prefers if the repeater had a slightly slower tempo so that each note can be savoured for longer. The governor (which controls the tempo) used in the watch is relatively quiet, and as such, the chimes remain largely unadulterated by any buzzing from the device.
The Traditionelle Minute Repeater Tourbillon might not have been the brightest star of SIHH 2017 or even the darling amongst the Vacheron Constantin novelties, but it deserves high praise for simply being a near-perfect timepiece. Sometimes, less is more, and this is one of those times. The watch may be a pared down version of another but where it loses in complexity, it gains in design purity. Its simple yet interesting guilloche dial, along with its imposing tourbillon and impressive minute repeater gives us a glimpse of Vacheron Constantin’s watchmaking prowess – and a reminder of why the oldest continuously operating watch manufacturer in the world remains one of the most revered in the industry.
The Traditionelle Minute Repeater Tourbillon is priced at S$ 837,100 and S$ 751,700 (both inclusive GST) for the platinum and pink gold variants, respectively.