In A Royal Oak And Nautilus World, Why I Love The Vacheron Constantin Overseas Deep Stream Chronograph
Ask and ye shall receive, dear readers! Well, within reason.
Quill & Pad reader and frequent commenter Greg has been after me for a while to put together a piece on my Vacheron Constantin Overseas Deep Stream Chronograph, most recently in response to my article on three “keepers” from my collection that don’t get a lot of wrist time.
I didn’t include the Deep Stream on that list as it is a quite frequent wearer for me, but now its time in the spotlight has come.
While I suppose this qualifies as a “Why I Bought It” narrative, its purchase was long enough ago – almost a decade now – that it seemed more appropriate to meld the purchase story with the reasons why I’ve kept this watch, and why it’s been on my wrist perhaps more than any other over that time.
In the beginning
Once upon a time, I found out about a brand called Vacheron Constantin through the kind offices of a local dealer. As a Jaeger-LeCoultre fanatic, I had tended to dismiss many of Vacheron Constantin’s offerings as dressed-up Jaegers at a higher price point. But there was one area in which Vacheron Constantin stood apart: skeletonization.
I saved up my money, sold off a couple of pieces including my Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Art Deco, and plunked down my cash for a Vacheron Constantin Malte Squelette.
A few years later, I happened upon the second watch you see in the photo above: the second-generation Vacheron Overseas Dual Time in glorious yellow gold, aka “the Bling Special.” DrMrsG still can’t comprehend what drew me to it, but I can tell you why I bought it:
- The familiar arrangement of time, second time zone, date, and power reserve on the dial told me that the underlying movement was based on Caliber 929 from Jaeger-LeCoultre, which powered my favorite watch at the time, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Géographique.
- The Maltese Cross motif of the bezel, and especially the bracelet, seemed quintessentially “VC” to me as well as being tremendously pleasing to the eye; and the bracelet itself was a pleasure to wear on the wrist.
- Despite its obvious bling factor, it is very much a true sports watch in concept, and both its dimensions and its heft made it a great weekend wearer and a substantial departure from my usual dress watches.
That last point may help to explain why at the time (and since then) I’ve been drawn to watches like the Overseas (and more recently, the A .Lange & Söhne Odysseus) in preference to the Gérald Genta-styled pieces that, at least to my eye, occupy the dressier end of the sport-dress continuum.
So, when DrMrsG gave the gold Overseas the stink eye one last time and I sold it to a happy new owner, it seemed only natural to replace it with a more subdued representative of the Overseas line.
A new Vacheron Constantin Overseas comes home
But which one? At the time, the steel Overseas versions came with embossed white or black dials, and then there was the question of whether to select time-only, dual time, or chronograph.
I wasn’t totally convinced by any of the black- or white-dialed variants, but in the end Vacheron Constantin came to the rescue with the Deep Stream series in a steel case with blasted titanium bezel and accents and a soleil-brushed anthracite-colored dial.
I’d already owned a Dual Time Overseas, but to my eye the Chronograph layout looked better in the Deep Stream’s monochromatic scheme and I appreciated the presence of the big date, so my choice was made.
In the photo above, you can pick out the surprising variety in surface finishes, from the bright splashes in the crevices of the bracelet, the crown and pushers, and the rings surrounding the subdials to the brushed case and bracelet, grainy texture of the bezel, dark-finished hands, and finally, to the light-catching radial brushing of the dial itself.
The way that these different finishes catch different light is one of the most attractive attributes of this piece for me. Take a look at the side-by-side shots above, taken with the watch and camera in exactly the same position but with the direction of the flash altered.
Is it a dark case with a lighter bezel or a shiny case with a dark bezel? Happily for owners of this watch, the answer is both.
Back of the Vacheron Constantin Overseas Deep Stream Chronograph
For me, the most interesting aspect of the rear of the Deep Stream is the continuation of the Maltese Cross bracelet and its termination in a neat set of links that form the outer surface of the hidden clasp and display their own etched cross motif.
Once you open the clasp (or as in my case, remove the small screws, push out the linking pin, and remove one end of the bracelet from the case), the solid case back comes into view, its bulged profile further enhancing the sense of robustness of this watch in addition to providing space below for the soft iron inner anti-magnetic case back.
I actually removed the case back once, a few years ago, when I was giving the watch a thorough external cleaning. But I lacked the courage to go further and remove the screws holding down the inner case back to get a peek at Caliber 1137, which in turn is based on the Frédéric Piguet/Blancpain Caliber 1185 vertical-clutch column-wheel chronograph movement.
Had I done so, I probably would have been impressed based on available photos of the movement, but for now I’ll continue to resist the temptation to get out my screwdriver again.
The 1185 and its variants have been widely used over the years, and opinions on it vary. But for my money the pusher feel is smooth and progressive, and the vertical clutch yields a smooth startup to the swing of the chrono second hand that is always satisfying.
As long as I’m not able to see the movement anyway, I’m perfectly happy with a pleasant tactile experience and consistent mechanical functioning, and the anti-magnetic capability provided by the Faraday cage inside the case back is a nice side benefit.
One more look at the enclosed back before we move on allows us to check out the hallmark of the earlier-generation Overseas watches: the Italian three-masted ship Amerigo Vespucci. Vacheron Constantin’s website and literature, as well as online reviews of the time, all wax poetic about how this particular ship evokes the romance of travel and the spirit of the seven seas, but for the life of me I can’t seem to find any explanation of why an Italian ship is on a Swiss watch.
And what is it about the landlocked Swiss and the romance of the seas, anyway?
Vacheron Constantin Overseas Deep Stream Chronograph on the wrist
As you can imagine, I wouldn’t wear this piece as much as I do if it weren’t comfortable and attractive on the wrist!
Comfort is helped, and boredom forestalled, by the availability of three different strap options. The Deep Stream was originally delivered with grey crocodile and black rubber straps with a two-sided Maltese Cross deployant clasp, and I quickly took up the option to add the full steel bracelet that I wear most of the time.
Changing straps requires a quick screwdriver operation, so it’s not as simple as the quick-release system incorporated into today’s Overseas models. But with a metal pin passing through both lugs and metal pieces embedded into each end of the straps, you’re never worried about the security of the strap on the watch.
The pleasant paradox about this piece is that it’s an all-grey design that seems to catch the light in a variety of ways that much more colorful pieces find tough to match.
And while the hands are ruthenium-toned, a quick turn of the wrist is always sufficient to bring them into view. The luminous treatment of the hour and minute hands ensures that they are easily read in both light and dark conditions.
As far as the Vacheron Constantin Overseas vs. Patek Philippe Nautilus vs. Audemars Piguet Royal Oak battle goes, I can certainly understand that each has its fans. For all of the reasons set out above, though, I’m more than happy with my choice of the Deep Stream.
And I will confess that I took a bit of satisfaction from Audemars Piguet’s 2012 introduction of the Lionel Messi limited edition Royal Oak in steel with tantalum bezel that bore a certain strong resemblance to my watch. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, I suppose!
This watch has been a reliable daily wearer for me for a long time, and despite taking a bunch of knocks looks surprisingly fresh, even under the harsh scrutiny of the macro lens.
If I had to make a complaint or two, I’d confess that I’m of two minds about the words “Automatic” and “Antimagnetic” printed inside of the running seconds subdial, although I do like a bit of clutter on a watch dial, especially with chronographs.
And the cool-looking Maltese Cross bezel and Amerigo Vespucci relief case back do come at a cost: it doesn’t take long for dust, dirt, and assorted wrist cheese to build up in all of those corners and crevices. The good news is that a minute or two spent once in a while with a soft toothbrush and gently running water (and tightly screwed down crown and pushers) does wonders to make the watch look fresh once again.
Is the Vacheron Constantin Overseas Deep Stream Chronograph right for you?
This one has been a long-term keeper for me – and I find that I prefer it to the newer series of Overseas that was launched in 2016.
You might consider starting to prowl the pre-owned market for one of these if:
- The “Deep Stream” aesthetic with its touch of mystery really catches your eye.
- You are looking for a “holy trinity” dressy sports watch that won’t break the bank, and that will even cost less than a secondary-market ceramic Rolex Daytona.
- You are confident in your own tastes and don’t feel that you “have to” own a Royal Oak or Nautilus.
On the other hand, different options might make more sense for you if:
- The changes made between this generation of Overseas and the current one, including quick-change straps and luminous blue dials, really speak to you.
- You prefer a visible movement and/or a recently developed in-house one in your chronographs.
- You’re not seeing the nuances in the appearance of this watch in changing light that I am.
- You see this as more of a tool watch and you feel that there are comparable pieces out there that are available at lower prices.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.
Quick Facts Vacheron Constantin Overseas Chronograph Ref. 49150/000W-9501
Case: 42 x 12.45mm, stainless steel with titanium bezel and trim and brushed and polished case body; sapphire crystal on front and solid case back with relief detailing; screw-down crown and pusher guards; 150 m water resistance
Dial: soleil pattern-brushed anthracite-colored dial; grooved subdials with bright surrounds; printed numerals and logo and applied indices; blackened hands; luminous detailing on main hands and hour markers
Movement: automatic Caliber 1137 (based on Frédéric Piguet/Blancpain Caliber 1185); 40-hour power reserve; 21,600 vph/3 Hz frequency; column wheel chronograph with vertical clutch
Functions: hours, minutes, subsidiary seconds; two-window big date; 30-minute and 12-hour continuous chronograph
Strap: grey crocodile and black rubber straps with two-sided deployant (standard); steel Maltese Cross pattern full bracelet (optional)
Price: early 2021 online asking prices (pre-owned) $15,000 to $20,000 (without optional steel bracelet)
Production years: 2009 – 2016