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Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Contemporaine Ultra-Thin Calibre 1731: review and the tale of the short lived crown of thinnest minute repeater

by Peter Chong on February 15, 2014

The VC Patrimony Comtemporaine Minute Repeater, measuring a mere 8.09mm thick held the crown for the thinnest minute repeater from Sep 2013 to Jan 2014. Introduced in Watches & Wonders in Hong Kong, this slim, hand wound repeater was surpassed by the Jaeger LeCoultre Hybris Mechanica 11, by a tiny sliver of just 0.19mm.

The Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Contemporaine Ultra-Thin Calibre 1731. Elegance defined.

The Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Contemporaine Ultra-Thin Calibre 1731. Elegance and simplicity defined.

Such are the perils of the high stake game of the ultra thin category of watches. The JLC Hybris Mechanica 11 was covered briefly in our article on Most Impressive Watches of SIHH 2014, is even the more interesting as it sports a flying tourbillon as well as an automatic peripheral winding system. But with its introduction in SIHH, does it take away any from the beauty and elegance of the VC? We seek to find out.

VC Patrimony Contemporaine's beautifully laid out movement, visible through the sapphire glass caseback. Interesting to note that other than the balance cock, the movement uses the more stable bridges anchored by two or more screws. This is important to provide structural support, especially for an ultra thin movement.

VC Patrimony Contemporaine’s beautifully laid out movement, visible through the sapphire glass caseback. Interesting to note that other than the balance cock and the cock holding the canon pinion and third wheel pinions, the movement uses the more stable bridges anchored by two or more screws. This is important to provide structural support, especially for an ultra thin movement.

VC has had a rich history of striking watches, and building on the Caliber 1755, introduced in 1992, the new Calibre 1731, named after the birth year of Jean-Marc Vacheron, is all new. And  took four years to develop.

The movement is exceptionally thin, measuring only 3.90mm in height. However, we note that this is slightly thicker than the 1755 (3.28mm) it replaces. In comparison, the JLC Hybris Mechanica 11 movement, Caliber 362 measures some 4.8mm high. But JLC manages to squeeze this thicker movement in a case slimmer than VC’s. More on the JLC when DEPLOYANT gets a hands on in Le Sentier pre-Basel 2014.

The new Caliber 1731 is equipped with a 65-hour power reserve and unique silent flying-strike governor which ensures a quiet background for the strikes to be clearly heard. The governor is responsible for keeping the steady cadence of the strikes.

VC has always make beautiful watches. Perhaps we are a bit swayed by the often breathtaking beauty of their pieces, and the Patrimony Comtemporaine is no different. The proportions are so elegant. The case is well proportioned, and measures some 41mm diameter, and coupled with the 8.09mm thickness, makes a suitably elegant and discrete watch. Dial layout is an exercise in simplicity.

Detail of the movement showing the cock holding the canon and third pinions. Note the beautiful jewels where both pinions are set in. And the magnificent anglage details on the cock and adjacent bridges.

Detail of the movement showing the cock holding the canon and third pinions. Note the beautiful jewels where both pinions are set in. And the magnificent anglage details on the cock and adjacent bridges.

The movement is quite beautifully laid out, aesthetically the bridges are very pleasant to the eye, with nice flowing lines. We feel, though, a little too much liberty is taken in simplifying the bridges by slightly smoothening the sharp inward and outward points on the bridges. It would be more magnificent if these sharp inflections are kept as they are traditional Gevena style. The finishing, however is quite exemplary.

Detail showing balance cock. Note also the traditional use of counter sunk dicovertures where the screws securing the cock and adjacent bridge sit in. As is typical and dictated by tradition, these counter sunk chamfers are polished.

Detail showing balance cock. Note also the traditional use of counter sunk chamfers where the screws securing the cock and adjacent bridge sit in. As is typical and dictated by tradition, these counter sunk chamfers are polished.

The hammers are also beautifully made and masterfully finished:

The repeater's hammers. Masterful finish of the hammers and bridge. Also note the sharp edges of the hammer striking point, and the inward pointing edge where the bridge curves around the regulator. Beautifully executed.

The repeater’s hammers. Masterful finish of the hammers and bridge. Also note the sharp edges of the hammer striking point, and the rounded inward points  where the bridge curves around the strike governor.

How does it sound? In a word, magnificent. This is typical of VC repeaters. The strikes are clean, clear. The tone is well articulated. The regulator buzz light, and unobstrusive. The decay of each strike is nice, long and reverberates nicely throughout the slim case.

Overall, this is a magnificent minute repeater. Well designed, well executed. Excellent sound. Does it matter that it is no longer the thinnest minute repeater in production? Not in our view. What do you think?

 

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