No one can deny it: Vacheron Constantin's Overseas collection is enjoying growing success and the waiting lists for the various models are getting longer and longer. There are several reasons for this phenomenon. First of all, there is a very specific market context. The rising interest in versatile, practical watches with styles derived from the models created in the 1970s by famous designers such as Gérald Genta or Jorg Hysek has led to a shift in demand from collectors who are tired of waiting forever for pieces such as the Nautilus or Royal Oak. And then there is the reason that seems to me to be the most important: the inherent qualities of the latest Overseas collection that was launched during the SIHH 2016.
This latest iteration of the Overseas collection took its first steps with three references, the three-hand-date model, the chronograph model and the small model, which introduced a new family of in-house movements (calibres 5100, 5200 and 5300) that comply with the criteria of the Geneva Seal. Very quickly, the Overseas collection powered by these newly designed movements was completed by the Worldtimer and Dual Time models, whose vocation as travel watches perfectly suited its style and atmosphere. Beyond the manufacture movements and the wide range of complications, the Overseas collection also benefits from its design, which is certainly more consensual than that of the previous generation, but which offers enough character to preserve its charm, singularity and interest. But the master stroke on the part of Vacheron Constantin was the introduction of the quick-change strap system thanks to a very clever design. In a few seconds, the leather or rubber strap is replaced by a steel bracelet. To do this, simply clip each end of the bracelet to the case. Removing the strap is also very easy.
I am lucky enough to own an Overseas Dual Time and this is a real advantage. Depending on the circumstances, I can choose the most suitable strap which transforms the look and purpose of the watch in no time. It is so practical that the absence of such a system is now felt when I consider other watches from the competition. I am thinking in particular of the Nautilus or the Odysseus from Lange & Söhne, Audemars Piguet is starting to evolve on the subject with the Royal Oak Offshore but the Royal Oak is still not equipped with such a functionality.
I mentioned earlier the market and the growing desire of customers to wear more practical and versatile watches. This phenomenon is largely linked to the evolution of our lifestyles and in particular the way we work. These changes also affect the top of the watchmaking pyramid. Long considered as a complication reserved solely for classic dress watches, the tourbillon is increasingly being used in more sporty or casual watches. This phenomenon is not new, let's remember the Easy Diver by Roger Dubuis which, in a way, initiated this trend. In any case, the Overseas Tourbillon in steel that was presented in 2019 and is a perfect example of a contemporary haute horlogerie watch in line with the aspirations of the clientele.
For me, this watch is a great success for a very simple reason: the additional complication takes full advantage of the accomplished aesthetics of the Overseas collection. I would even say that it tends to improve it because of the thinness of the case, whose thickness (10.39mm) is lower than that of the three hands-date model (11mm). The key to this success lies in the architecture of the 2160 automatic movement with peripheral rotor. Thanks to its optimised design, its thickness is only 5.65mm, which is an excellent performance for an automatic tourbillon calibre with a power reserve of 80 hours (at a frequency of 2.5hz).
An alchemy is created. Thanks to the high diameter (42.5mm) / thickness ratio, the watch offers fluid and slender lines that give it elegance. However, at no time does it appear flat. This is due to the work on the steel case which highlights the shape of the bezel and brings touches of relief.
This is also where the tourbillon plays an important role. Despite the watch's slenderness, the tourbillon contributes to this effect of relief and depth. Its observation allows to clearly distinguish 3 levels. First of all, the bridge whose size does not exceed the width of the opening. This is clearly an asset for me from an aesthetic point of view, not being an absolute fan of tourbillon bridges that are too present and visually telling. Then, the cage inspired by the Maltese Cross whose shape is a real signature of Vacheron Constantin. Finally, the regulating organ that takes advantage of the low frequency. The combination of the slow oscillations of the balance wheel and the revolution of the tourbillon cage is a real treat for the eyes.
The blue dial, with its beautiful light reflections (a constant in the collection) is thus animated in a spectacular way without falling into rococo style effects. The absence of any date display is moreover excellent news. In fact, the whole exudes refinement and mastery. The dynamics brought by the tourbillon are thus effectively integrated in the casual and versatile style of the watch and at no time did I regret the opening in the dial. The finishing is worthy of what is expected from a manufacture of the level of Vacheron Constantin with a particular care given to the tourbillon cage. I also like the very discreet solution of displaying the seconds thanks to a blue dot on the cage. It is much more subtle and distinguished than putting a hand on a tourbillon that makes a complete turn in one minute.
The 2160 movement also offers a very nice show. More than the quality of the finishing, it is its architecture that hits the spot. The peripheral rotor allows to fully enjoy every detail of the movement. The back of the tourbillon cage is very open in order to underline the depth on the dial side. The shapes of the bridges are pleasant but I would have liked a little more ambition at this level with more pronounced angles. The whole is very neat and the contrast between the gold mass and the other elements is part of the aesthetic assets. Finally, as previously mentioned, the performances are excellent with the long power reserve and the automatic winding as highlights. Not surprisingly, the movement is adorned with the Poinçon de Genève.
The Overseas Tourbillon logically benefits from the quick strap change system. To tell the truth, the contrary would have been a real disappointment. The watch comes with a metal strap, a rubber strap and an alligator strap. The fact that you can change straps without tools and in a matter of seconds with a watch of this level is proof that the watch market has evolved. Imagine such a possibility with a tourbillon watch twenty years ago. Brands understand that nowadays such a timepiece must be able to be worn in all circumstances and the Overseas Tourbillon is a good answer to this challenge. The water-resistance is not in itself spectacular (50 metres) but sufficient for certain activities. Vacheron Constantin has obviously privileged the thinness of the case to the detriment of a higher level of water-resistance like that of the three-hand date model (150 metres). Anyway, wearing this watch is a real pleasure. Elegant, versatile, stylish, it really gives the feeling of being able to enjoy the superb show offered by the tourbillon cage without question. The watch is designed to match multiple activities and it does this brilliantly.
The Overseas Tourbillon is in my opinion one of the most beautiful watches produced by Vacheron Constantin in recent years. It combines the strengths of the Overseas collection with those of the calibre 2160, and demonstrates the collection's ability to feature a variety of complications, which is excellent news for the Manufacture given the strong market trends.
The Overseas Tourbillon in steel is sold at a price of 126,000 euros including tax. In itself, this price may seem high for a simple tourbillon in a steel case. But the quality of the execution and the attractiveness of the Overseas collection justify it. In any case, the strong demand for this model tends to prove it.
Finally, it should be noted that a pink gold version of the Overseas Tourbillon was unveiled this year at the Geneva edition of Watches & Wonders.
+ the charm of the tourbillon
+ the performance of the calibre 2160
+ the quick change system of the strap
- the shapes of the bridges of the calibre 2160 lack ambition
- the water-resistance is less than that of the three hands date model