2 New Vacheron Constantin FiftySix Models With Vintage-Vibe Sepia Brown Dial For 2020
At the 2018 SIHH (now Watches & Wonders), Vacheron Constantin, the world’s oldest continuously operating watch manufacture, surprised observers by introducing a whole new line to its staid permanent collection: the new FiftySix collection aimed to appeal to a younger clientele with a retro-contemporary style in line with current vintage-themed trends in the watch industry.
The FiftySix was generally greeted with positive comments at launch, and the blue-dialed version the following year even more so. It’s not that the FiftySix is so wildly different from the brand’s traditional lines such as the Traditionnelle and the Overseas, but it was new, and new at a traditional manufacturer like Vacheron Constantin merits contemplation.
Adding even more (to my eye, gorgeous) colored dials to the collection has been a genius move, ensuring that there is a lot to choose from and a lot to love.
Vacheron Constantin FiftySix in sepia brown
“In terms of product, we really have to be very faithful with our heritage and how our watches look,” creative and heritage director Christian Selmoni explained to me as we talked over Zoom about Vacheron Constantin’s 2020 releases.
The original FiftySix collection with silver dials contained three models: Self-Winding, Complete Calendar, and Day-Date. These new brown-toned watches are only coming out with two of the models – Self-Winding and Complete Calendar – and only in 5N red gold cases. There will be no stainless steel versions as of right now.
But why brown, I asked Selmoni, who is a wealth of information? “Last year, we launched the blue animations of the FiftySix and worked quite a lot with our dial maker to create a very special blue, a kind of blue gray, a very unique color,” he explained.
“We wanted to once again come with extensions for the FiftySix line, so we decided to work again in the same way – our designers working with the dial maker to produce a very unique brown. We decided to name it sepia brown, and this is not just the basic, say, nickel-brown color. It’s actually much more sophisticated and made in the best possible way to go with the rose gold color of the case.”
This warm brown does go really well with the red gold of the cases and it is fully in the vintage spirit of this line.
Vacheron Constantin FiftySix Complete Calendar
The most complicated of these two new watches is the FiftySix Complete Calendar. As Martin Green explained in Vintage Eberhard & Co. Les Quantièmes: A Complete Calendar At A (Relatively) Affordable Price, this is a calendar style that has fallen out of vogue over the last two decades.
For one to have reappeared right here within a contemporary collection also reinforces the vintage idea of the new line. And for it to remain here throughout three variations means that it has been quite popular, perhaps due to its moon phase, which is an evergreen winner in the watch world.
The term “complete calendar” simply means a normal – not perpetual and not annual – calendar with displays that go over and above the date, “complete” referring to a comprehensive range of displays. Here we have the date, weekday, month, and moon phase. Pretty complete, I’d say.
The complete calendar also boasts a precision moon phase indication, which will only be off by one full day every 122 years (should it remain wound for that long). A standard moon phase indication needs correcting once every three years if it remains wound for that long.
The sector-type dial is dominated by the moon phase with its 18-karat gold moons against a deep blue night sky, which stretches across the bottom third of the dial and is balanced out by the rectangular windows for the day and month across from it.
Vacheron Constantin FiftySix Self-Winding
Disregard the unromantic name of the FiftySix Self-Winding for a moment and you will discover it is right in line with both Vacheron Constantin’s past and the desired current trend for vintage styling with contemporary details. It is undoubtedly a strong member of the FiftySix team with its clean, attractive visuals and now with its stylish sepia-brown dial.
This watch marks the entry level for Vacheron Constantin, inviting the prospect of new consumers and enthusiasts with its somewhat lower price tag than the rest of the brand’s collection.
But, of course, the ability for such a watch from this legendary maker to become entry level comes at a small price.
I am all for the intelligent way that Vacheron Constantin generally plans the use of its movements. The approach of conscientiously using and re-using reliable classics makes a lot of sense to me, and their fine finishing in line with the strict rules of the Geneva Seal that the brand then applies makes them beautiful and desirable beyond reason in addition to superbly functional.
The base movement here is one that was used for the first time in a Vacheron Constantin watch: automatic Caliber 1326 is produced by parent company Richemont’s ValFleurier technical center and it is based on the architecture of the Cartier 1904 movement. Cartier, a sibling brand to Vacheron Constantin, is likewise owned by Richemont.
It is finished, assembled, and regulated by Vacheron Constantin’s own watchmakers. And it does not have the Seal of Geneva.
Cartier Caliber MC 1904 was introduced in 2010 and forms the base of several Richemont brands’ movements – including Piaget Caliber 1110P and a very wide variety of Cartier calibers. It was strategically designed from the get-go to be very flexibly used this way. For me this movement fits into the philosophy of the house of Vacheron Constantin, which has used and re-used its many technical classics as needed.
However, when you take into consideration that this particular individual timepiece represents a gateway to the brand and not the end station, it is worth asking whether any of that is really important.
What is important is that after ten years of being utilized in countless watches, and now two in the Vacheron Constantin lineup, this movement is surely out of its teething stage and on to the mature reliability it needs.
All in all, this is a very round addition to the Vacheron Constantin arsenal of timepieces, one that has done a great job of introducing the legendary brand to a new generation of watch buyers and enthusiasts.
Vacheron Constantin FiftySix vintage inspiration
The origin of the FiftySix’s design is old: it is a reinterpretation of sorts of Reference 6073, which the Geneva-based brand launched in – you guessed it – 1956.
The 1950s was a particularly creative era of design within Vacheron Constantin, thanks in part to the prominent contrast between dial classicism and bold case design. Reference 6073 combined the traditional with the innovative in a particularly appealing way.
Another classic element of 1950s Vacheron Constantin was the round case, however bold or not bold they may have been at the time. These cases were designed to stand out. And this particular case was unusual in that it is water resistant with a multi-layer case back.
Reference 6073 was also one of the first Vacheron Constantin watches to be powered by an automatic movement: Caliber 1019/1.
The FiftySix line is endowed with several characteristics visible in Reference 6073 (and Vacheron Constantin watches of the 1950s altogether), including the Maltese cross, the brand’s symbol. It is found on the FiftySix’s dial and rotor – but also lightly echoed in the shape of the lugs.
Another bridge between the past and the present is the box-style sapphire crystal, a harmonious nod to the Plexiglas or mineral glass crystals of yore. Modern technology now allows for this attractive element to be manufactured in virtually scratchproof sapphire crystal.
Finally, the FiftySix collection’s case diverges some from its real-metal inspiration as its designers opted to recess the crown a bit, making it less obvious design-wise and certainly less prone to poking the wrist.
Despite all the changes, the new red gold iterations of the FiftySix with sepia brown dials remain gorgeous reminders of Vacheron Constantin’s ability to pay homage to its past while looking forward to its future.
For more information, please visit www.vacheron-constantin.com/en/watches/fiftysix/fiftysix-complete-calendar.
Quick Facts Vacheron Constantin FiftySix Self-Winding
Case: 40 x 9.6 mm, red gold
Movement: automatic Caliber 1326 (base produced by Richemont ValFleurier and based on the architecture of the Cartier 1904), power reserve 48 hours, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date
Price: $18,700/€16,800, only available through Vacheron Constantin boutiques
Quick Facts Vacheron Constantin FiftySix Complete Calendar
Case: 40 x 11.6 mm, red gold
Movement: automatic Caliber 2460 QCL/1, power reserve 40 hours; Geneva Seal, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date, weekday, month, moon phase
Price: $33,700/€30,300, only available through Vacheron Constantin boutiques