Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Split-Seconds Chronograph Ultra-Thin: Restrained Glamour And Understated Excellence
by Martin Green
Some watches are so perfect there isn’t a thing you want to be changed about them. And this can come as a surprise as they might not completely align with your usual preferences.
For me, this was the case with the Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Split-Seconds Chronograph Ultra-Thin Collection Excellence Platine. Its official name, which I think is decidedly too long, aside, it is a watch that immediately captured my heart because of its visual appeal and continued to keep it because of its beautiful mechanical heart.
Falling in love with the Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Split-Seconds Chronograph Ultra-Thin Collection Excellence Platine
A case diameter of 42.5 mm is, in my opinion, too large for a classically inclined dress watch. However, that diameter is needed to house its Caliber 3500 movement, which is a large 37.66 mm in diameter.
The size of this movement might come as a surprise as the subdials for the running seconds and chronograph minute counter are placed relatively far from the periphery. Usually this signifies a smaller caliber, which the 3500 at heart is because its total diameter includes its peripheral rotor.
This results in a beautiful view from the back, but from the front it looks equally exceptional. The reason is that Vacheron Constantin has made the most of the space available.
With the subdials pushed a bit more to the center there is room for both full hour markers and a tachymeter scale. This helps provide the watch with a clean yet complete look.
The power reserve indication at 6 o’clock also plays an integral part in the design as it visually prevents the lower part of the dial from looking empty. This is important as it balances out the Vacheron Constantin logo at 12 o’clock and takes some focus away from the snug positioning of the subdials. Aside from all that, it is also a very useful complication that I personally always enjoy seeing on a watch.
When it comes to chronographs, especially the split-second type, I like a lot of pushers. Some brands prefer three pushers, which looks a bit busy but has the added advantage of providing the option to reset the split-second second hand so that it can catch up with the first.
Will you ever have an occasion where this is needed? Of course not, but that is part of the fun. Other split-second chronographs only have a single button, preferably integrated into the crown., which provides a very clean look.
The Traditionnelle Split-Seconds Chronograph Ultra-Thin Collection Excellence Platine is equipped with two pushers, one in the crown and one placed above it. While I think that just a pusher in the crown would have made this watch perfect, the additional one doesn’t bother me as much as I thought it would.
Vacheron Constantin kept this pusher relatively modest, and the fact that it is rectangularly shaped also helps make it palatable. Its purpose is solely to operate the split-second hand, allowing it to stop and measure the intermediate time, while another push has it catching up again with the still-running chronograph.
A big fan of the back: Vacheron Constantin Caliber 3500
Where the front of the Traditionnelle Split-Seconds Chronograph Ultra-Thin Collection Excellence Platine is still somewhat restrained for such a complex watch, the back is the polar opposite.
Caliber 3500 was developed by Vacheron Constantin in 2015 in celebration of the brand’s 260th anniversary. This is what a horological party should look like: 473 parts squeezed into a space 37.66 mm in diameter and only 5.2 mm in height.
This allows the watch itself to be only 10.72 mm in height, which does a lot for its visual appeal and wearing comfort. It also sets it apart as the horological delicacy that it is, as thinness is one of the most difficult achievements to obtain, especially for a complicated watch.
The peripheral oscillating weight Vacheron Constantin fitted the movement with plays a role in achieving this and allows for an unobstructed view of the movement. As this is a classic split-second chronograph caliber, we can see two column wheels and a lateral clutch mechanism as well as stunning hand-finish on each and every component.
Even after spending more than two decades in the watch industry, I still hold my breath ever so slightly when I admire a movement like this. To me, it is very hard to beat the beauty and intricate details of an integrated split-seconds chronograph movement, and even among those Vacheron Constantin is right at the top.
The power of platinum
My favorite case metal is platinum. I like its heft and its understatement, but most of all its slightly mysterious hue.
Platinum lacks the harshness of stainless steel and won’t change color over time as white gold tends to do. Platinum just is.
Vacheron Constantin shares a love for this precious metal with me as evidenced in 2006 when the brand launched the first watch in its Excellence Platine collection, which is nothing short of an ode to this unique metal. Watches in this collection feature case, crown, bezel, dial, and folding clasp made of the noble material. Even the thread used to stitch the alligator leather strap is a combination of platinum and silk.
Vacheron Constantin doesn’t advertise the precious nature of these watches with wild engravings or anything of the sort, but a simple platinum mark (“PT 950”) discretely stamped on the dial. That is all connoisseurs need to know.
The platinum of the Traditionnelle Split-Seconds Chronograph Ultra-Thin Collection Excellence Platine sets the stage but is not the star. The movement is too good, too stunning, and benefits from being a whole lot less modest. Fortunately, the movement is also more of a private pleasure for the owner to admire when he or she takes off the watch.
On the wrist, the platinum cannot help but being the star as its restrained glamour is wholly in tune with Vacheron Constantin’s understated excellence. Like that ultra-thin movement, understated excellence is one of the most challenging things to achieve in watchmaking.
Vacheron Constantin makes it look easy with this watch, though. That is also why I consider this a perfect creation even though – or perhaps because – it does not completely align with my personal preferences.
For more information, please visit www.vacheron-constantin.com/en/watches/traditionnelle/traditionnelle-split-seconds-chronograph-ultra-thin-collection-excellence-platine.
Quick Facts Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Split-Seconds Chronograph Ultra-Thin
Case: 42.5 x 10.72 mm, platinum
Movement: automatic Caliber 3500 with 22-karat gold peripheral rotor and split-seconds chronograph with dual column wheels, 3 Hz/21,600 vph frequency, 48-hour power reserve, Geneva Seal
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; power reserve indicator, monopusher split-seconds chronograph
Limitation: 15 pieces