Vacheron Constantin Historiques 222: I Never Thought I’d Want This Watch So Badly
There are times in life when you get an itch that you keep wanting to scratch and it becomes an obsession. When I was in my teens, I could not get over the desire for a dirt bike or motorcycle of some kind (even though my mother would not be happy). I spent years looking at bikes in magazines and the early internet fantasizing about what I wanted, even going to custom bike shows and visiting dealerships to drool over models I could never afford. This all resulted in a wall covered in posters and a list of dream bikes.
Luckily my dad was on my side and when I was 16 he helped me get my first motorcycle, the very popular Kawasaki Ninja 250. I absolutely loved it. I rode it everywhere, even places I probably shouldn’t have, and in ways I definitely shouldn’t have, managing to make it to my twenties with nothing but close calls and eventually even a respect for the speed limit. I spent an entire winter rebuilding and customizing it in my basement, taking a slightly dorky starter bike and making it into something that, if you squinted hard enough, sort of looked like something more impressive.
That success story paved the way for a new itch every couple years, be it electronics, tools, travel, a profession (so far the most successful itch I ever scratched), through to a relatively small itch spent reading up on men’s accessories, which strangely bloomed into a hobby in watchmaking and now an entirely different vocation I do in my spare time. That itch has spawned numerous itches over the years, the most recent being the desire to finally seek out a legit steel sports watch. Ironically that itch also has the interesting side effect of wanting what is now the most popular category in watches.
This leads to two opposing realities. First, all the iconic sports watches, which were already expensive but obtainable with diligence and careful saving (for those not in the top tax brackets), are now hyperinflated on the secondary market and pretty much inaccessible through retail. Second, that popularity also means that the more accessible brands are tossing their hats in the ring and coming out with oodles of incredible offerings at realistic prices, some even under $1,000. The options are now plentiful, and it’s opened my eyes to new shapes, forms, and even vintage styles that I might have overlooked until I became obsessed with this category.
As a result, that one itch has spawned yet another itch thanks to Vacheron Constantin. I developed an eye for the more vintage 1970s aesthetics as I learned about other pieces from the decade that were responses to the new genre of sports watches. That decade is chock full of interesting options, and the styling is much more subtle and subdued than some that came later in the ’80s, ’90s, and 2000s.
This primed me to be in the right frame of mind for Watches and Wonders 2022 as Vacheron Constantin released a brand-new, nearly identical re-issue of the 1977 model that was simply called the 222. Today it exists as the Vacheron Constantin Historiques 222 and it is my newest itch (that I may never be able to scratch).
Vacheron Constantin Historiques 222
You may have already seen a problem with the progression of my desires for a steel sports watch to the Historiques 222; it’s not a steel sports watch at all, it’s all bold in gold. That is because the original 222 was sold in three variations: steel, two-tone (steel and gold), and yellow gold. The modern edition focuses for now on the gold version, and it was the right choice.
Relaunching a vintage steel sports watch in a precious metal could be seen as a bit of a back door into the space since Vacheron Constantin already has the Overseas collection, a long-standing luxury steel sports watch that first launched in 1996. This way the Historiques 222 doesn’t step on any toes just yet, finding its own footing if this Historiques collection is intended to grow that way that the Historiques American 1921 has. The new piece is a faithful re-edition of the original but with an updated movement (because 45 years of movement engineering is an improvement), small tweaks to the bracelet construction, applied markers, and some design details.
What stands out above all is the very classic design that feels at home both in 1977 and thanks to the resurgence in luxury sports watch designs in 2022 as well. The case with integrated bracelet is excellently considered thanks to the watch’s original designer, then 24-year-old Jorg Hysek, so the Historiques 222 is a subtle watch on the wrist. Okay, considering that it is a bright 3N yellow gold it isn’t extremely subtle, but it does stay right in line with the tendency of Vacheron Constantin to play more toward restraint than brashness.
It still displays hours, minutes, and the date, but thanks to the updated movement, which is slightly smaller in diameter, the date window has moved a bit inboard. It has become more legible thanks to the bit of space the numerals have around them in the date window; previously, the date numerals were almost squished into the window with no consideration for spacing.
The lighter dial color also provides more contrast between the black numerals and the color-matched date wheel, a small but significant visual improvement when the name of the game is always contrast for monochromatic watches like this. The markers and hands also have applied Super-LumiNova, unlike the original, which brings the watch more in line with the idea of a luxury sports watch instead of being just a sporty dress watch.
Since the Historiques 222 is descended from a steel sports watch and was an early inspiration for the Overseas, it might seem that launching the first new model in 37 years would lean heavily on the “sports” aspect of the watch, but that isn’t what is driving this model. No, design and aesthetic are clearly the motivating factor for deciding to lead with a yellow gold edition.
First, yellow gold hasn’t been a popular metal in at least a couple decades, if not longer, but since the late 2010s the vintage appeal of yellow gold has brought the metal back into the limelight. The brand could have released the same watch in 4N pink gold or 5N red gold to mesh with more modern tendencies, but that changes the style of the watch and takes it out of its 1970s context.
The original 222 was also in yellow gold and so the modern version doesn’t stray from the original aesthetic, helping it stand out among other luxury sport watches currently on the market. That and the fact that most luxury sport watches are first and foremost steel. Since that is likely to follow down the line, it’s an obvious next step: leading with a splash is the way to get people to stand up and take notice. I usually prefer the deeper color of a 5N red gold, if I even like the gold version of a watch at all, but somehow this watch hits the exact right spot for my design sensibilities at this point.
Since lusting after a variety of luxury sports watches has broadened my tastes, this watch landed in my lap(top) at just the right time. The bracelet, thin and pliable with diamond-shaped lozenge links, is in my top three favorite bracelets on the market right now, and the case details keep this watch a sleeper (again, not considering the bold yellow gold). Since it is only 37 mm like the original and a slim 7.95 mm in height (an extra 0.95 mm thicker than the original), the size keeps it from being a beacon on the wrist. It can hide easily under a shirt sleeve or cuff.
Small details, big impact
The bezel is textured with wide flutes providing the main visual features and distinguishing the Historiques 222 with its own unique design, the bezel being something other luxury sports watches have used as a main design feature. It’s subtle considering the overall design, but it does stand out. However, there is one feature that I find is the cherry on top, the chef’s kiss for the Historiques 222: the tiny Maltese cross embedded into the surface of the case where the body meets the bracelet.
This feature is arguably rather minor, yet it has instantly become my favorite part of the timepiece: leaving it out might have caused this watch to lose most of its flair. That might be an overstatement (the bracelet is amazing and the proportions seem perfect) but that small, recessed cross is like the beauty mark that helped make Cindy Crawford famous: it’s so integral to the style that if it were gone the impact would lose something special.
It isn’t necessary by any means, but after having seen it on the Historiques 222, I can’t imagine the watch without it. I really think that small detail sets it apart as a truly luxurious sports watch, whether it is this version in yellow gold or a future piece in steel, titanium, or a different gold. The recessed cross also has changed what I consider within design possibilities; it surprised me so much that it could be the core of why I love this watch.
Using a new movement and being able to see it with a modern sapphire crystal case back was an obvious update, and improving the construction of the pins in the bracelet to make it even better is always appreciated. But keeping most of the features and design the same so that it is a very faithful interpretation, including the tiny cross, was the best decision Vacheron Constantin made for the Historiques 222.
The future for the new model isn’t fully known yet, but this first version is becoming a permanent member of the collection and is non-limited, though it will of course be limited by production. It’s also only going to be sold in boutiques so the waiting list, I’m sure, will be a long one. But if the response is good and Vacheron Constantin sees a niche within its collection that the Historiques 222 can fill, I’m sure we will see a future piece in stainless steel, white gold, two-tone, and perhaps even titanium if the material is deemed worthy.
The piece stands poised to be one of the most sought-after new watches and could give Vacheron Constantin not one but two popular integrated bracelet sports watches, moving the traditional Geneva manufacture to the head of the line when it comes to the steel sports watch game.
The Overseas is already a great collection, but it could be bolstered by an old friend to support the genre within Vacheron Constantin. My next goal is to get my hands on this piece since I was sadly unable to attend Watches and Wonders 2022, and based on the vociferous response that may be a difficult task indeed. But by the looks of this watch, it’ll be worth the hunt to try and scratch that itch, even if just for a few minutes.
While I hunt, let’s break it down!
- Wowza Factor * 9.91 How simple a watch to provide such a surprise wowza!
- Late Night Lust Appeal * 99.1» 971.839m/s2 This lust has been building since before I was born so it’s unsurprising that it’s so strong!
- M.G.R. * 56.4 The purpose of the watch is more about the style, but the movement is a very solid modern automatic movement that meets the standards for the Geneva Seal!
- Added-Functionitis * Minor The piece has a date function, a useful feature that I appreciate even if people often wish for watches without them. With that addition you can seek out some children’s strength Gotta-HAVE-That cream while enjoying the ’70s throwback style!
- Ouch Outline * 10.7 Falling off your shoe’s sole! When hiking, or sometimes simply walking, you can step just perfectly to allow your foot to twist and fall off your shoe, twisting your ankle and risking a serious injury. The best-case scenario is a sore ankle and embarrassment, but I’d risk the more serious outcome if I was able to rock the Historiques 222 while trekking!
- Mermaid Moment * Look at that tiny little Maltese cross! It isn’t even a wonder why I fell head over heels for this watch, that tiny detail captured my heart on first sight!
- Awesome Total * 855.33 Start with the caliber number (2455) and divide by the gold alloy number (3), and then add the diameter of the case (37) to land on a retrotastical awesome total!
For more information, please visit www.vacheron-constantin.com/ww/en/collections/historiques/4200.
Quick Facts Vacheron Constantin Historiques 222
Case: 37 x 7.95 mm, 3N yellow gold
Movement: automatic Caliber 2455/2, 40-hour power reserve, 28,800 vph/4Hz frequency
Functions: hours, minutes; date
Limitation: limited production, available only in Vacheron Constantin boutiques
Price: CHF 63,500 / €67,500
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