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Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle “L’empreinte Du Dragon”: Watches and Wonders 2014

by Chester Lau on November 6, 2014

 

The “L’empreiente du Dragon” is like a renaissance man. It is Plato, Galileo, Kant and Newton combined. It is someone who knows everything except nothing.

Any complication that you can think of, save those of striking works, it possesses. Any empty spot on the watch, it decorates. With the “L’empreiente du Dragon”, Vacheron Constantin shouts at the world of horology that it is not only a master of technicalities, but also an artist at heart. Its unparalleled ability to conquer both the engineering complexities and aesthetic intricacies of watchmaking, is testimony of its indisputable status in the horological trinity.

 

L’empreiente du Dragon by Vacheron Constantin. At a glance, the ultra complicated nature of the watch is evident. But what is more revealing is the delicate beauty of the finishing and the mastery of aesthetics which make this a landmark watch.

 

The “L’empreiente du Dragon”, from the brand’s “Métiers d’Art” series, was released in Watches and Wonders 2014 in Hong Kong. It is a unique piece and was sold on the day of its release. Being called the dragon, the watch is an embodiment of auspiciousness and power, especially for the Asian market. The dragon in the Chinese culture has long been a symbol of status and authority. It is the symbol of the Emperor and royalty, representative of their imperial wealth and power.

 

The movement, Vacheron Constantin C.2253 is magnificent. Traditional finnisage details are executed to perfection.
The entire movement is mesmerising to gaze on. The movement also bears the Geneve seal, though in these days, largely a marketing tool, is carried with aplomb, as the movement is truly magnificent.
Note the design of the bridges. In particular, the sharp edges on the bridge holding the mainspring with the cutout to reveal the canon wheel. Also the cutouts on the tourbillon bridge. The polished inward angles are particularly difficult to finish and done properly, and this VC screams of total class. These sharp points can only be made by hand, and finished traditionally requiring much time in the hands of a skilled watchmaker.

 

The “L’empreiente du Dragon” houses the Vacheron Caliber 2253. The 2253 is a masterpiece in every way. It contains 457 parts, and functions like an astronomical watch. It has a tourbillon, perpetual calender, equation of time, sunrise, sunset and power reserve indicator. It is manual winding at 2.5 Hz (18,000 vph). The movement is sized at 32mm diameter (13 lignes) x 9.6mm thick.

 

The Maltese Cross, a Vacheron Constantin symbol of style and prestige.

The Maltese Cross, a Vacheron Constantin symbol of style and prestige. The tourbillon is in traditional Vacheron style.
Artfully designed, aestetically exciting, and perfectly finished with black polishing. Note the tapered conical tourbillon bridge. This is also executed in black polish, a high gloss finish which looks black in certain angles because of the way it reflects light, like a mirror. This execution is the highest level of finishing difficulty.

Each of its many functions are serious complications on its own, but Vacheron Constantin has put all of these together into just one watch. Special mention goes to its incorporation of a 14 day power reserve, through the use of 4 main springs to power the tourbillon.

 

Cal 2253, with an iconic 14 day power reserve indicator which looks like it's floating above the movement

Detail of the movement, showing the magnificently finished, iconic 14 day power reserve indicator subdial seems to be floating above the rest of the movement.
Note the anglaged and polished edges of this subdial.

The equation of time is another  complication on its own. This complication has huge historical significance and is reminiscent of mankind’s quest to understand the world beyond the universe. The equation of time complication measures the difference between true solar time and civil time (mean solar time). There are two reasons for this time difference. Firstly, the earth makes an elliptical orbit around the Sun, secondly, its axis is not entirely perpendicular to the plane of the equator. It tilts at varying degrees on different days throughout the year. Therefore the interval of time between two “noons” when the Sun is at its highest point is never the same day on day.

More than just technical complications, the “L’empreiente du Dragon” is a work of art. The dragon scales that line the 18k pink gold case were engraved by one of the most experienced master engravers working today. Vacheron makes careful selection of this master engraver who was also a “Meilleur Ouvrier de France” winner in 2011. This award is specially reserved for the top craftsmen in France.

Intricately hand engraved Dragon scales.

Intricately hand engraved Dragon scales.

The case engraving takes almost 70 hours of dedicated workmanship. The scales are each cut to a depth of 4/10ths of a millimeter and are completely hand engraved. The patterns require great skill and artisanship from the craftsman since he carves directly on a virginal case, without any laser tracing or alignment markings.

No doubt given the size and unique looks of this timepiece, many may find that it looks bling and dodgy. But do bear in mind that it is still the only one of its kind made by Vacheron Constantin, probably highly collectible and may just appear in auctions in the good future.

We are clearly impressed with this piece unique offering from Vacheron Constantin. Tell us what you think.

 

Captions and additional finishing remarks by Peter Chong.

 

 

 

 

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