Versatile Luxury: a primer on the Vacheron Constantin Overseas Collection

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Successfully competing in ‘Luxury Sports Timepieces’ as a category is a desire for many watch brands today. For Vacheron Constantin, its family of Luxury Sports Timepieces is called ‘Overseas,’ and it is vital to their their storied history and collection. Here is our insider take at the collection.

It was initially conceived as the “222” in the 1970’s during the Quartz Crisis, which had threatened the entire Swiss watch industry. During this time period, Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe launched the Royal Oak (1972) and Nautilus (1976), both designed by Gerald Genta.

Designed by Jorg Hysek, one of the most reputed watch designers, the 222 was launched by Vacheron Constantin in 1977 to celebrate its 222nd anniversary. The 222 was produced in limited numbers before being discontinued in the mid-1980’s. However, it inspired the Overseas first series, launched almost a decade later in 1996.

An early advert on the VC 222. Photo source: Vacheron Constantin.

Vacheron Constantin Overseas

Vacheron Constantin’s Vincent Kaufmann and external designer Dino Modolo oversaw its design of the Overseas in the first rendition with Vincent continuing to lead the design of the second and third series.

Overseas First and Second Series

The first series was produced from 1996 to 2004.

The First Generation Overseas.

The second series, more modern than the first, was launched in 2004 and produced until 2016. Both the first and second series relied on ebauches from either Jaeger-LeCoultre or F. Piguet (now Manufacture Blancpain). These calibers were finished to the Maison’s extremely high standards and did not bear the Poinçon de Genève.

Advertising image of the VC Overseas Second Generation Dual Time. Photo from VC.

Overseas Third Series, launched SIHH 2016

As watch consumers’ tastes changed, demand for an Overseas range with in-house movements bearing the Geneva Seal and visible via a transparent case back were being heard. Vacheron Constantin responded by launching the Overseas third series during SIHH 2016 in Geneva.

SIHH 2016 Coverage of the new Overseas models

The Asia Launch event in Kyoto and Tokyo

Steve McCurry exhibition on the photographs he created on his Overseas trips. Photograph from Launch Event in Tokyo, 2016.

The initial launch included the following models:
a) Overseas Self Winding, featuring automatic calibre 5100.
b) Overseas Self Winding for ladies debuting automatic calibre 5300.
c) Overseas Chronograph debuting automatic calibre 5200 (an in-house column wheel chronograph movement).
d) Overseas Ultra-Thin featuring legendary automatic calibre 1120/1.
e) Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin featuring legendary automatic calibre 1120 QP/1.

The VC Overseas Chronograph 5200.

Newer models and variations to existing ones debuted later, such as:
f) Overseas World Time featuring automatic calibre 2460 WT/1.
g) Overseas Dual Time debuting automatic calibre 5110 DT.
h) Overseas Tourbillon featuring automatic calibre 2160 with peripheral rotor.
i) Overseas Quartz for ladies debuting quartz calibre 1207.
j) Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Skeleton featuring automatic calibre 1120 QPSQ (an open-worked version of calibre 1120 QP/1). (This timepiece recently won the Calendar and Astronomy category at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Geneva 2020 (GPHG) on November 12, 2020.)
k) Overseas Self Winding featuring automatic calibre 5100 in pink-gold – including the bracelet – with blue-dial.

Vacheron Constantin Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-thin Skeleton Ref. 4300V/120R-B547

Except for the Ladies Quartz, the Overseas third series was conceived with the new Geneva Seal criteria, which means they apply to the entire watch and not just the movement, as was historically the case. These automatic calibers’ beautiful 22K gold rotor is designed as a wind-rose, a symbol of travel. A superb strap-change system via an ingenious mechanism (without the need of any strap changing tools) further highlighted the Overseas travel theme.

The models in stainless-steel come with a stainless-steel bracelet in addition to a leather and rubber strap; while gold versions come with a leather and rubber strap, and gold bracelet – depending on the specific model.

VC Overseas Perpetual Calendar in pink gold, with crocodile strap.

The pink-gold bracelet of the newly introduced Overseas Self Winding in pink-gold with blue-dial will be available as an option for the earlier Self Winding in pink-gold with silver-dial, where it was not available earlier. I am speculating, but it is possible that the Overseas Chronograph and Dual Time will be launched as full pink-gold versions, with their respective gold bracelets available as options for the earlier pink-gold with silver-dial versions.

Dial colours for the men’s watches include Blue, Silver, Black, Brown, and Grey (the latter two now discontinued). For ladies they include Blue, Silver, Black, Brown (now discontinued) and Beige-Pink.

Vacheron Constantin Overseas World Time, shown here in a brown dial.

The third-series Overseas range is one of the ‘Hidden Jewels’ among the luxury sports timepiece category. They offer an abundance of horological value and joy such as the following:

Watchmaking with a Soul

Vacheron Constantin has always personified Beautiful Warm Watchmaking with a Soul. This has been present in their creations since 1755 until today, and this DNA transmits into the Overseas. And as a mainstream watch brand, they are one of the very few renowned for their beautiful movement finishing across their entire range. And the movements of the Overseas are no exception to this.

Versatility

The ingenious strap-change system makes the Overseas among the most Versatile family of luxury sports timepieces in the world. One can dress ‘up’ or ‘down’ as one pleases, depending on one’s situation and mood.

Recently, famous photographer and expert mountaineer – Cory Richards – wore a one-off Overseas Dual Time Prototype on his ascent of Mt. Everest in 2019. He and his friend – Esteban Mena – were attempting a daring new route to the summit without supplemental oxygen. Unable to reach the summit due to poor weather conditions, his Overseas Dual Time nevertheless proved to be an asset in a most dangerous of situations, especially at extremely high altitude! This timepiece, as worn by Cory set another record; it sold for USD 106,250 at Phillips Game Changers Auction in New York on 10 December 2019!

Timelessness

The Overseas transcends age and time. Depending on the specific model, it could well be your first introduction to Vacheron Constantin, or your 5th or 10th watch. The perfect Graduation present at 22; 40th Birthday present; and a fitting Retirement Gift at 65. A timeless luxury sports timepiece for any age or occasion.

Rarity and Prestige

Vacheron Constantin is the oldest continuous watchmaker in existence (currently 265 years old). It is also part of the Holy Trinity, comprising Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet.

The brand’s annual production is approximately 25,000, quite small for a mainstream watch brand. All this makes the Overseas among the rarest and most prestigious family of luxury sports timepieces in the world. And a valuable addition to any respectable timepiece collection.

Essential further reading:

Vacheron Constantin Website: www.vacheron-constantin.com .

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2 Comments

  1. Thanks Kunal, did not know that generations 1 and 2 were not on in-house movements. The new generation is absolutely stunning.

    • Michal, thanks for your post. The first and second gen were based on JLC and F. Piguet ebauches. And then finished to VC’s extremely high standards. I remember visiting VC in 2009; the OS movements and the VC in-house movements were made on the same ‘line’ by the same watchmakers. But the VC third-gen with in-house movements was much needed. I am definitely eyeing one at some point. Lets see.

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