Vacheron Constantin’s Harmony Collection: Poetry In Chronographic Motion
By now it’s hardly a secret that the biggest brand anniversary celebration in 2015 belongs to Vacheron Constantin. The Geneva-based marque celebrates with the ultra-interesting Harmony collection of chronographs introduced at the 2015 SIHH as well as what is anticipated to be the world’s most complicated timepiece, which is set to be unveiled in September on the very day of the brand’s founding 260 years ago.
Quill & Pad revealed an element of the upcoming timepiece just a few weeks ago. You can learn some interesting things about it by reading Vacheron Constantin Reveals Elements of ‘Most Complicated Watch In The World’ For 260th Anniversary.
Harmony is one of the most important collections that the 260-year-old brand has launched in recent years, and the reasons for this are clear: five of the these seven Harmony models are in-house chronographs, while the design of all seven was inspired by one of the brand’s first wristwatches from 1928.
In fact, each of these seven masterpieces is encased in a cushion-shaped case that is at once vintage and contemporary. It’s an exemplary design feat because if just one element had been “off,” the watches would have looked hopelessly old-fashioned.
As it is, the felicitous design managed to set the line apart from every other chronograph, surprising and delighting both male and female clients.
Perhaps the only fly in the ointment is that these watches are limited editions in precious metal cases for the anniversary year so are likely to be in demand; the upside of that is that those clients lucky enough to be able to purchase one can look forward to them never going out of style.
A first for Vacheron Constantin
Vacheron Constantin’s watchmakers and engineers began working on the new chronograph movements in 2008. They had a clear idea that the movements needed to be designed according to the classic rules of movement architecture while still being able to take full advantage of modern technology and materials.
One single chronograph button – a monopusher – was also part of the design brief as the brand felt it was a more elegant solution. It was also something that Vacheron Constantin had not offered in close to a century.
Thus, the new chronograph movements – Calibers 3500, 3300, and 3200 – all boast both a traditional column wheel for controlling the chronograph and a vertical clutch containing a brand-new “friction component,” designed to do away with the extra jump that some chronograph hands exhibit when activated.
Both this friction component and the chronograph wheel have been manufactured using LIGA-grown nickel-phosphorus, a completely smooth “new” material that is “grown” in galvanic manner and needs little or no lubrication when used in a watch movement. LIGA nickel-phosphorus is also very advantageous due to the extreme precision with which movement designers can use geometry – of real advantage when it comes to play between gears (or trying to make less thereof).
These three movements also contain an all-or-nothing system, meaning that once the chronograph pusher is pressed, regardless of the pressure put on the button, the gears engage and the chronograph mechanism starts, stops, or resets as desired. In more traditional designs, the chronograph mechanism may engage but not activate if there is not enough pressure on the buttons.
With Calibers 3500, 3200 and 3300, it is impossible for the gears and cams to engage and not start, something that seriously improves durability and reliability. All of the frequencies of these masterpieces have been reduced to an almost vintage 18,000 vph (2.5 Hz) to allow an enjoyable view of the balances at work.
The most complicated of this new lot is the Harmony Ultra-Thin Grande Complication Chronograph powered by automatic Caliber 3500, which comprises 459 individual components, one of which is the peripheral winding rotor created to help keep the watch’s height svelte; limited to just 10 pieces, it is housed in a 42 mm platinum case.
Aside from the hours and minutes, the Grande Complication Chronograph also contains a split-seconds chrono controlled by just one single button. Adding even more functionality, its clean, clear dial is outfitted with a tachometer scale for measuring speeds.
It really goes without saying that at Vacheron Constantin – where movement decoration is one of the most important elements – the finishing is exquisite, and so it is here. Added to the “usual” movement decoration is an unusual example of fleurisanne-style engraving on the peripheral rotor that helps keep the watch so slim. This arabesque-style pattern was inspired in this instance by the engraving found on the balance cock of the movement powering the oldest pocket watch the brand is in possession of: it was signed by Jean-Marc Constantin in 1755.
For much more on this incredible timepiece, please read Vacheron Constantin Harmony Ultra-Thin Grande Complication Chronograph: Conquering Childhood Fears.
Quick Facts Harmony Ultra-Thin Grande Complication Chronograph
Case: 42 x 52 x 8.4 mm, platinum
Movement: automatic Caliber 3500 with peripheral rotor and 51 hours of power reserve; Seal of Geneva
Functions: hours, minutes; split-seconds monopusher chronograph, tachometer, power reserve indication
Limitation: 10 pieces
Then there is the Harmony Tourbillon Chronograph limited to just 26 pieces. It combines the monopusher chronograph with a one-minute “whirlwind” escapement within manually wound Caliber 3200 – and is fully visible at the 12 o’clock position.
Housed in a 42 mm platinum case – it is somewhat thicker than the Harmony Ultra-Thin Grande Complication Chronograph because of the tourbillon’s height – when the watch is turned over, the owner has the pleasure of looking through the sapphire crystal case back to see the special anniversary engraving right on the movement’s most visible bridge. This engraving is included in all of the Vacheron Constantin anniversary pieces. The fleurisanne-style engraving described above is found here on a visible bridge.
Quick Facts Harmony Tourbillon Chronograph
Case: 42 x 52 x 12.81 mm, platinum
Movement: manually wound Caliber 3200 with one-minute tourbillon, 65-hour power reserve and Seal of Geneva
Functions: hours, minutes; chronograph
Limitation: 26 pieces
The Harmony Chronograph is limited to 260 pieces. Housed in a 42 mm pink gold case, its manually wound Caliber 3300 contains a monopusher chronograph, the result of whose timings is shown on an unusual 45-minute counter at the 3 o’clock position on the dial. Additionally, this very clearly designed dial boasts a red pulsometer scale, which can be used to take one’s pulse.
Quick Facts Harmony Chronograph
Case: 42 x 52 x 12.81 mm, pink gold
Movement: manually wound Caliber 3300 with one-minute tourbillon and Seal of Geneva
Functions: hours, minutes; monopusher chronograph, pulsometer
Limitation: 260 pieces
For the slightly more delicate female wrist, Vacheron Constantin offers the more petite Harmony Chronograph Small Model in a 37 mm pink gold case. Its manually wound Caliber 1142 features a chronograph with a 30-minute counter, while its case is decorated with 84 round-cut diamonds (approx 1.2 ct). It, too, is limited to 260 pieces.
Its movement is based on a classic, highly modified Nouvelle Lémania Caliber 2310. It beats slightly faster than both the Lémania and its siblings at 3 Hz (rather than 2.5 Hz).
Quick Facts Harmony Chronograph Small Model
Case: 37 x 46.6 x 11.74 mm, pink gold, 84 round-cut diamonds (approx 1.2 ct)
Movement: manually wound Caliber 1142 with Seal of Geneva
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; chronograph
Limitation: 260 pieces
Also included in the Harmony collection, but without chronograph, are two automatic Harmony Dual Time models: one is for men and comes in 40 mm white gold and red gold cases with silver opaline dials indicating a second time zone and whether it’s day or night.
There is also a new one for women called the Dual Time Small Model, which is housed in a 37 x 46.6 x 11.18 mm white gold case embellished with 88 round-cut diamonds (1.2 ct) on the bezel. It is limited to 500 pieces.
Quick Facts Harmony Dual Time
Case: 40 x 49.3 x 11.43 mm, white or red gold
Movement: automatic Caliber 2460DT, Seal of Geneva
Functions: hours, minutes; chronograph
Limitation: 625 pieces