At first glance, FiftySix may seem like a completely arbitrary name for a collection of Vacheron Constantin watches. There appears to be no real connection between any milestones of the brand and the year 1956. A closer look however, reveals that the Vacheron Constantin reference 6073, the timepiece that inspired the FiftySix collection was launched in that year.
A Change of Pace
A brand like Vacheron Constantin, one of the so-called ‘trifecta’ of fine watchmakers (Audemars Piguet, Patek Philipe and Vacheron Constantin) hardly aligns itself to the idea of an ‘entry-level’ or ‘accessible’ timepiece. It comes as a surprise then, that this is exactly what the new FiftySix collection, unveiled at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) in January this year purports to be!
With a view to attracting a newer, younger and wider clientele, 263 year old watchmaking maison Vacheron Constantin has created a collection of 3 watches aimed at bringing the concept of haute horlogerie to every watch enthusiast.
Inspired by the brand’s own reference 6073, a classic dress watch from the 1950’s, and one of the first Vacheron watches to be powered by a self-winding movement, the FiftySix collection includes a simple time and date model, a day-date model with a power reserve indicator and a more complex triple or complete calendar model with a moonphase indicator. All three watches in the FiftySix collection are available in either stainless steel or 18K 5N pink gold.
It is not immediately apparent while looking at the watches in the FiftySix collection as to how they have been inspired by the 1956 reference 6073, but the subtle tribute to the brand’s iconic logo – the Maltese Cross stands out. The shape of the Maltese cross itself is inspired by the shape of a component found in early mechanical movements, and the shape is reflected by the case of the watches in the FiftySix collection.
All 3 models in the collection have a 40mm round case, which makes them easy-to-wear watches even on an everyday basis. The most distinctive feature is the shape of the lugs, meant to represent the 4 branches of the Maltese Cross, and the watches are powered by self-winding mechanical movements which are beautifully decorated and visible through the sapphire crystal casebacks of all the timepieces.
Another throwback to the 1950’s comes in the form of the raised box-type crystal on the dial which rises above the bezel. While the original reference 6073 and other similar watches from that era used plexi-glass or mineral glass, the FiftySix collection uses newer scratch resistant sapphire crystal.
The similarities between the watches of the FiftySix collection, and the connections with the 1956 reference 6073 don’t end there. Here is a closer look at all 3 vintage inspired models from Vacheron’s new collection.
The first watch in the new FiftySix collection is a modest 3-hand automatic timepiece with a date window, powered by a self-winding movement caliber 1326 produced by Richemont Group owned Manufacture Horlogere Val Fleurier, finished, assembled and regulated in-house by Vacheron Constantin. The FiftySix Self-Winding has a power reserve of 48 hours when fully wound.
While this movement does not hold the prestigious ‘Hallmark of Geneva’ classification, it is exquisitely decorated with Geneva stripes and different finishings. The movement features a 22-carat gold open-worked Maltese cross-shaped oscillating weight, which is a characteristic of all the watches in the new FiftySix collection.
Positioned as the ‘entry-level’ model of the maison’s new collection, the FiftySix self-winding is available in steel and 18K 5N pink gold. The steel model of this classically simple timepiece comes with a surprisingly accessible price-tag for a Vacheron Constantin watch and is likely to become a so-called ‘starter’ watch for a whole new generation of luxury watch aficionados.
The 40mm, vintage inspired round case houses a two-tone dial with alternating applied Arabic numerals and baton hour markers in gold, coated with a luminescent material for increased legibility. Three hands indicate the hours, minutes and seconds, and the date window is traditionally situated at 3 o’clock.
The dial has a railway-minute track on the outer edge near the bezel and also includes a second minute-ring closer to the center of the dial. While there may not be any apparent functional value to the two minute rings, they do serve to add to the vintage aesthetic of the FiftySix Self-Winding.
The two-tone dial is grey in the steel version and silver-coloured in the pink gold version of the watch, and the dual-toned effect on the inner and outer dial is achieved through the use of different finishing techniques. This effect creates the illusion of depth on the dial, adding to the overall sophistication and elegance of the timepiece.
The steel FiftySix Self-Winding has a grey alligator leather strap with a steel buckle and the pink gold model has a dark brown alligator strap fastened by a pink gold buckle to match the case.
FIFTYSIX DAY-DATE WITH POWER RESERVE INDICATOR
Next up in the FiftySix collection is the slightly more complex FiftySix Day-Date with a power reserve indicator. The self-winding movement calibre 2475 SC/2 is developed and produced entirely in-house by Vacheron Constantin and bears the Hallmark of Geneva stamp of quality. The movement also features the 22-carat gold Maltese Cross oscillating weight that is a signature of the collection.
The FiftySix Day-Date also has a 40mm round dial like the simple Self-Winding watch and the same unique lugs inspired by the shape of the Maltese Cross. The dual-toned dial includes a day of the week display in a sub-dial at 9 o’clock and a date sub-dial at 3 o’clock. The power reserve indicator is situated at 6 o’clock on the dial and the watch has a power reserve of approximately 40-hours when fully wound.
As with the FiftySix Self-Winding, the Day-Date has two minute rings, one at the outer edge near the bezel, and one towards the center of the dial. The day and date sub-dials on the FiftySix Day-Date are placed in a manner that punctuates the inner minute ring, which to some, might prejudice the aesthetic value of the timepiece.
Central, sword-shaped hands with a luminescent coating indicate the hours, minutes and seconds, and both the steel and pink gold models of the FiftySix Day-Date have alternating Arabic numerals and baton indexes to show the hours.
The straps for the Day-Date are the same as the Self-Winding, with a grey alligator strap for the steel model and a dark brown alligator strap for the pink gold model.
FIFTYSIX COMPLETE CALENDAR WITH MOONPHASE
Amongst the horological complications most appreciated by true connoisseurs, the Complete Calendar with Moonphase variant of the FiftySix collection is the veritable jewel in its crown.
Powered by an entirely in-house developed and manufactured self-winding calibre 2460 QCL/1 movement with a power reserve of approximately 40-hours, this timepiece bridges the gap between ‘entry-level luxury’ and the very finest in haute horlogerie.
Like the other models in the FiftySix collection, the movement of the FiftySix Complete Calendar with Precision Moonphase includes the 22-carat gold Maltese Cross oscillating weight. The precision and accuracy of the movement ensures that the moonphase function of the timepiece requires adjustment only once in 122 years. Most standard moonphase complications need to be adjusted once in 3 years.
The collection’s characteristic dual-faced dial in grey or silver, depending on the model has two windows at 12 o’clock to display the day of the week and the month. The outer minute-track of the FiftySix Complete Calendar is replaced in this timepiece with a date-ring and the date in shown by a fourth blue-coloured gold hand.
Three sword-shaped hands indicate the hours, minutes and seconds, and the moonphase indicator is located at 6 o’clock on the dial. The disc of the moonphase indicator shows a deep-blue night sky embellished with 18K gold moons.
The steel FiftySix Complete Calendar has the same grey alligator strap as the steel versions of the Self-Winding and Day-Date models and the pink gold version has a dark brown alligator strap. The final timepiece in Vacheron Constantin’s new collection continues to embody the vintage-inspired and understated, subtle sophistication of the entire FiftySix line.
The idea of an ‘entry-level’ watch from a stalwart of fine watchmaking like Vacheron Constantin may leave some old-school devotees of the maison questioning the brand’s decision. Design and values, however, must keep up with changes in time, and the idea of opening-up the world of haute horlogerie to a new, upwardly-mobile generation of watch connoisseurs and future watch collectors will undoubtedly have some merit in the long run.
For now, we are interested to see just how the FiftySix collection holds its own against similar ‘starter’ watches from other brands, and whether price alone will be the deciding factor in the line’s success!