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Review with Watchscapes: Vacheron Constantin Traditionelle Tourbillon Chronograph

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We get hands-on with the new Vacheron Constantin Traditionelle Tourbillon Chronograph, introduced in Watches & Wonders Digital Edition in earlier this year. The watch is already in the boutiques and available for sale.

Vacheron Constantin Traditionelle Tourbillon Chronograph

In this novelty, Vacheron Constantin unites two coveted technical complications under the Traditionelle banner: the monopusher chronograph, and the tourbillon. Driving the Traditionelle Tourbillon Chronograph is the 292-part Calibre 3200, first seen on the Harmony series. This is an in-house movement, one of the first chronographs to be produced by VC who had previously depended on movements supplied from Lemania.

Retail price for the SGD 319,000 inclusive of GST.

The case, dial and hands

The case is the classic Traditionelle case. Round, with sloped bezel, and horns which are soldered directly to the case middle. We think this round case will be more popular, commercially, than the cushion shape of the Harmony which the movement debuted in. The case back is screwed on, with sapphire glass on both sides of the case. The case surface is highly polished and distortion free, done in typical VC excellent style.

The dial is has a matte, grained finish and is very clearly marked as well. With large stick like appliqué for the hour markers, and a printed railway track for the tachometer markings, and an inner track for the minutes. A very large aperture, whose diameter is almost the radius of the dial opens to showcase the magnificent tourbillon.

As is the norm for VC tourbillons, the one here is absolutely superb. The aesthetics of the Malteze Cross logo on the carriage is superlative. The finishing on the bridge and the cage is excellent. Especially impressive is the rounded, tapered bridge with a flat mirror polished surface holding the gold chaton for the tourbillon pinion. As well as the brilliantly executed multiple inward and outward angles which are very well anglaged and then polished to a mirror finish. Add to this the spectacle of the carriage spinning and the balance wheel within making its own oscillation – and it is easy to just sit and stare at the watch for long periods. Mesmerized.

The rest of the dial is classically laid out, and sparingly so for a chronograph. At 6 o’clock is a power reserve indicator, and at 3 o’clock is the 45 minute totalizer for the chronograph.  The Vachroon Constantin logo and text proclaiming providence provides visual balance to the dial at 9 o’clock. The hour and minutes hands are in a matching rose gold in Dauphine style. And the chronograph hand is a slim needle in blued steel ending with a triangular shaped paddle for a conterweight providing visual balance as well. The power reserve hand is a very slim needle, and being very small and light, requires just a small extension to provide counterweight, as is the slightly larger minute totalizer hands. The crown is nice and large, in a corrugated edge, and is topped with the polished coaxial monopusher.

The overall effect of the dial is one which is very classical, and incredibly attractive. This is certainly a dial which will win beauty contests and launch thousands of ships (so to speak). The crocodial strap chosen with the review sample is smooth, matte finish which have a glisten in the light. And a rose gold deployant buckle accompanies the watch.

The movement: VC Caliber 3200

The movement is visible through the sapphire crystal on the back. And looks rather lovely. This is not a new movement, as VC has used the C.3200 in Harmony Tourbillon Chronograph in celebration of the Manufacture’s 260th anniversary. Nevertheless, the implementation of the Calibre 3200 in a more traditional round case of the Traditionelle Chronograph Tourbillon is a sensible move, as the cushion-shaped case of the Harmony Tourbillon Chronograph remains an acquired taste for most.

The design of the c.3200 is based on the 1928 model, with modern reinterpretations.

There are several noteworthy points of this timepiece. First, instead of having a 30-minute counter, Vacheron Constantin chose to include a 45-minute counter on this piece itself. Next, it also features the same “friction” technique found on the Harmony Ultra-Thin Grande Complication Chronograph. It also employs two hammers, instead of the a single hammer traditionally, for the start/ stop/ reset function which will improve the precision and operational capability of the timepiece. In addition, there is an all-or-nothing activation system which prevents the chronograph mechanism from engaging when insufficient pressure is exerted onto the pusher.

The chronograph works.

Finally, the tourbillon carriage is set into motion by an intermediate wheel of the running seconds display. This configuration enables an extremely broad opening onto the upper plate, thus affording a greater view of the tourbillon.

From our examination of the piece on hand, the movement finish is judged to be typical of VC standards, with all the haute horlogerie elements executed well. There are definitely no complaints in this department, although, in all honesty, we would have loved to see an even higher level of finishing commensurate with the price tag.

Activation of the chronograph is a pleasure. The amount of force needed to start/stop/reset is light but positive, and equal for each action.

Competitive landscape

The combination of a tourbillon and a chronograph is rather rare. We didn’t think it was so, until we did the legwork to research the competion. But in this year’s crop, both VC and AP have released models featuring this dynamic complication duo. At an asking retail price of SGD 319,000 / EUR 180,000 / USD 197,000, the VC is hardly inexpensive, but at such elevated levels, it is perhaps par for the course, being significantly less expensive than the only direct competition from AP .

Audemars Piguet has several offerings with both a chronograph coupled with a tourbillon. Two come to mind. The Royal Oak Tourbillon Chronograph in a limited edition of 100 pieces only, split evenly between the colours of grey, blue, green, or gold. The watch is priced at CHF 290,000 and the Code 11.59 Self Winding Flying Tourbillon Chronograph, a 50 piece limited edition is priced at CHF 240,000, with the added complication of the flying tourbillon. Neither offer a monopusher, though this is sometimes seen as a highly sought after feature perceived as more complicated by some, it neither more or less complicated than a regular chronograph.

A. Lange & Söhne offers the Datograph Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon, which at EUR 285,000 in white gold with a salmon dial (a  platinum version commanding EUR 295,000) comes in at about EUR 100,000 more expensive, but it features a perpetual calendar to add even more complexity to the watch.

Concluding thoughts

The Vacheron Constantin Traditionelle Tourbillon Chronograph is certainly a statement piece from the grande old dame. VC has pulled all the stops, and have achieved a very beautiful watch. The caliber 3200 is a proven movement, having cut its teeth with the Harmony Tourbillon Chronograph in 2015 with the announcement of the limited edition platinum collection. The movement continued the following year in a rose gold boutique only edition for USD 245,000, but now discontinued.

Photo Notes

Photographed at the VC Boutique in MBS, Singapore. Hasselblad H3D-39 with HC4/120 and HC2.8/80 with H26 and H52 extension tubes. Two light setup with Canon EX580II and Profoto Compact 600 with Zoom Reflector.

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