In 1977, Vacheron Constantin was late to a historical party, being the last of the Swiss watchmaking ‘Holy Trinity’ to debut a luxury sports watch. The 222 (designed by Jorg Hysek) was then Vacheron Constantin’s answer to Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak (1972 by Gerald Genta) and Patek Philippe’s Nautilus (1976 also by Gerald Genta). It wasn’t until the mid-1990s that the first Overseas came to being.
Vacheron Constantin Overseas 4500V
Since then, the Overseas has been engaged in an eternal battle against the Royal Oak and the Nautilus. Well, to be honest, it wasn’t quite a battle; up until the start of 2016, it was more of an eternal game of ‘catch-me-if-you-can’ whether or not we care to admit. The Overseas line had been perennially overshadowed by its two biggest rivals and was screaming for a game-changing update. At the turn of 2016, on the 20th anniversary of the Overseas, it happened. The entire Overseas collection was refreshed, much to the fanfare of Vacheron Constantin enthusiasts, and the changes were anything but trivial. This review will focus on the quintessential time/date-only model, the new Vacheron Constantin Overseas 4500V.
Case, dial, bracelet, straps
The Overseas 4500V comes in three versions: stainless steel/silver dial, stainless steel/blue dial, stainless steel/brown dial and 18k pink gold/silver dial. The 2016 edition is reminiscent of the previous generation Overseas but comes with noticeable aesthetic and design improvements. The 4500V has an air of elegance and class to it – something that was lacking in its predecessor – and this is mostly due to its re-designed dial.
The old Overseas featured chunky Arabic numerals and hour markers, a look that many felt was out-dated and too rugged. In the 4500V, these lamentations have been addressed as it has now dispensed with the Arabic numerals to make way for slim hour markers instead. Coupled with the now thinner pencil-styled hours/minutes hands, these changes have given the new Overseas a more refined look. Naturally, the hands and hour makers are all lume-painted, offering legibility in low- or no-light conditions. Of the dial options, the silver dial is the most classic of the trio, while the brown dial is perhaps the warmest and most casual. This writer, however, strongly prefers the blue lacquered dial for its unmatched richness and resplendence. Also worth mentioning is that the date window has now been moved from the 4:30 position in the old model to the more traditional 3 o’clock position.
As in the two previous generations of the Overseas, the 4500V also comes with the signature half-Maltese Cross bezel, albeit now in bolder fashion. The case has received a slight re-design as the new 4500V is (negligibly) smaller at 41 mm (down from the 42 mm of its predecessor) and is now more tonneau in shape than before.
Perhaps the most exciting change to grace the new Overseas line is the new quick-release system for the straps and bracelets. Just by pulling on a tab on the case back, the bracelet, leather strap or rubber strap can easily be released and interchanged without the use of a tool or a trip to the watchmaker. The best part is, all three bracelet/strap options are included with the watch, with the exception of the pink gold model where the watch comes with a leather and rubber strap but not a bracelet.
Note, there is also a new easy-removal system for the deployant buckle of the straps. The bracelet can also be micro-adjusted on the fly via a novel mechanism; all it takes is a firm push towards, or tug away from the deployant buckle to shorten or lengthen the bracelet, respectively. As you would expect from a manufacturer of the highest pedigree, Vacheron Constantin finishes the exterior of the watch to an impeccable level, with mainly brushed surfaces (except for the bezel which is entirely mirror-polished) contrasted by bevelled and polished edges across the bracelet links and case.
Vacheron Constantin finally introduces a modern, in-house movement for the Overseas. For a watch manufacturer of Vacheron Constantin’s stature and prestige, this was long overdue – but it is, as they say, better late than never. The 172-part Calibre 5100, developed and manufactured by Vacheron Constantin, has a power reserve of 60 hours and beats at a modern 28,800 semi-oscillations per hour. It is an automatic movement with a 22k gold winding rotor that is styled fittingly to look like a compass.
Another big step forward that the new Overseas took was earning the coveted Hallmark of Geneva. As such, one can expect the construction and finishing of the Calibre 5100 to be of the highest standard. The watch has an admirable 150 m water resistance rating which surpasses that of the Nautilus and the Royal Oak. In addition, the watch boasts anti-magnetic protection of up to 25,000 A/m thanks to the inclusion of a soft iron casing ring.
The Vacheron Constantin Overseas has never looked THIS enticing before. Design preference notwithstanding, the timepiece is at the very least on par with the Royal Oak or the Nautilus as a luxury sports watch. The Overseas 4500V is for the collector who’s looking for haute horlogerie with the versatility to go anywhere: the boardroom, the pub, underwater, or a music studio full of high-powered electronic equipment. It is also the ideal timepiece for the bloke who just wants one watch, as it is as good as three thanks to the bracelet/straps options and the quick-release system. With these new and exciting changes introduced to the line, I genuinely believe the Overseas has finally distinguished itself sufficiently from its rivals and reasserted its position as one of the finest lines of sports watches in the world.
The watch retails at S$30,800 for the stainless steel model, inclusive of the three different strap options.