Vacheron Constantin presents its first ever steel Tourbillon in a limited series
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of its historical Geneva boutique, Vacheron Constantin presents a tourbillon in a steel watch case for the very first time, issued in a limited series of just 10 and available exclusively in Geneva.
A steel Tourbillon with exceptional finishing, belonging to the emblematic malte collection
The conception and construction of a tourbillon movement are always a daunting technical challenge. Invented in 1795 for pocket-watches, the tourbillon provided a clever solution to the detrimental effects of gravity on any mechanism, but one that was extremely difficult to implement. This device consists of a mobile carriage housing the movement’s regulating organs – meaning the balance, its spring and the escapement. By constantly revolving, the tourbillon subjects the regulating organs to a regular 360° rotation, thereby cancelling out the deleterious long-term effects of gravity on the regulating system, and thus on the accuracy of the movement.
The Malte steel tourbillon by Vacheron Constantin, bearing the name most symbolic of the venerable Manufacture, powerfully asserts the symbiosis between contemporary design and technical horology.
In addition to its attractive tonneau shape, the movement has been treated to exceptional finishing of a kind that would be impossible to perform mechanically on the thin bars or bridges known as “barrettes”. Known as rounding off, it consists in filing the ends of the arms in order to give then a semi-cylindrical cone shape, while meticulously preserving the central part and the heels and thereby ensuring perfect regularity. To finalise this operation, Vacheron Constantin craftsmen rub it down and polish it using stones, buffs, wooden pegs and finishing paste in order to achieve a perfectly polished rounding off. No less than eleven hours of work are required for this work on the bars in order to comply with the finishing criteria established by the Manufacture.
Calibre 17909 in a stainless steel case
With its “côtes de Genève” motif, meticulous hand chamfering on the edges of the bridges and individually engraved series number, Calibre 1790 – a movement entirely developed and manufactured in-house by Vacheron Constantin – confirms its exceptional nature. In addition to its tourbillon regulator, this hand-wound movement also drives an indication of the over 40-hour power display, as well as a pointer-type date display.
Proudly exhibiting the signature characteristics of the Malte line by Vacheron Constantin, including stepped lugs and fan-shaped hands, the tonneau-shaped stainless steel case reinforces the distinctive and sophisticated character of an extremely technical model presented in an understated and decidedly unostentatious manner.
A secret mark on the dial
Featuring a “secret mark” concealed at noon in the minute circle as a reminder of the Geneva boutique’s 1906-2006 anniversary date, the opaline black nickel dial with its two pink gold hands is finely hand-guilloché on the outer zone with subtle vertical lines contributing to an elegant and extremely refined appearance. Applied pink gold hour-markers set the finishing touch to the harmonious overall effect.
The case is water-resistant to 30 metres and topped by a cambered sapphire crystal protecting the dial, while a transparent sapphire crystal exhibition back secured by screws enables one to admire the exquisitely finished movement in action.
The watch is teamed with a hand-sewn strap in black alligator mississipiensis leather, complete with a steel folding clasp matching the case.
Few other examples of steel models by Vacheron Constantin
What factors may lead a prestigious watch brand to use any other than precious materials in producing its timepieces?
The shortage of precious metals during World War II forced Vacheron Constantin to examine the use of steel. During this period, the Manufacture produced a limited number of complicated models such as chronographs in steel cases. The task was much harder at that time, since the quality of the steel was far inferior to that now available and called for specific expertise. Moreover, the very fact that Grandes Complications models were generally crafted in gold implied that such operations were far rarer and thus less well mastered.
Today, although steel is not a precious metal, it may be considered a full-fledged noble metal in watchmaking and is endowed with valuable properties such as its currently much sought-after white colour, along with its longevity and stainless nature. This actually means that the rare examples of steel Grandes Complications watches by Vacheron Constantin become much-coveted items precisely because of their rarity.
Take the case of the Only Watch 05 Malte Tourbillon watch by Vacheron Constantin, a one-of-a-kind steel model representing an absolute rarity in the history of Vacheron Constantin production and created specifically for the occasion, which went under the hammer at 120,000 euros (corresponding to the price of the Tourbillon platinum watch in its skeletonised version!) at the charity auction organised by Antiquorum in Monaco.
1790, tourbillon, mechanical hand-wound
|Movement dimensions||dimensions 12’’’ x 12’’’½ (corresponding to 27.37mm x 29.30mm)|
|Indications||Hours, minutes, seconds, power reserve, pointer-type 31-day display|
|Frequency||18,000 vibrations per hour|
|Power reserve||Over 40 hours|
|Water resistance||30 metres|
|Dial||Opaline black nickel, sunray-brushed centre
Vertical hand-guilloché outer zone
Vertical hand-guilloché counter zone
|Strap||Hand-sewn black alligator mississipiensis|
|Clasp||Steel folding clasp matching the case|