From the early days of watchmaking, watchmakers have been intrigued by special displays used in the construction of mechanical watch movements. These displays serve the purpose of separating the functions shown on the dial from the watch’s going train. Complications like jumping and retrograde displays have been of particular interest as they offer novel ways to depict the passage of time, both technically and artistically.
Vacheron Constantin has a rich history in this regard, dating back to the 19th century when the Maison started crafting pocket watches featuring jumping indications. In the 20th century, they expanded their repertoire to include watches with retrograde displays. These display complications have since become a distinctive hallmark of Vacheron Constantin, known for their technical prowess and aesthetic appeal.
Some of these high watchmaking pieces from the Maison will be showcased at the Vacheron Constantin ION Orchard boutique in Singapore from September 1st to September 30th. The collection features highly unique, richly storied timepieces from Vacheron Constantin’s own archives, and is a must-see for lovers of watchmaking history and ultra-rare timepieces with special displays.
Here are some of the most compelling highlights from the showcase:
Round pocket chronograph and stopwatch, Ref. Inv. 11091 – 1914
The split-seconds chronograph is certainly one of the most sophisticated mechanical developments in terms of its design and the sophistication of its settings. In 1914, Vacheron Constantin incorporated it into this yellow gold “Lépine” type pocket stopwatch. Its sleek and beautifully balanced white enamel dial features a 30-minute counter at 12 o’clock and a small seconds hand at 6 o’clock.
“Arms in the air” two-tone yellow and white gold pocket watch, bi-retrograde display, Ref. Inv. 11274 – 1930
This two-tone, bi-retrograde pocket watch illustrates the aesthetic liberty afforded by special displays. It features an eagle whose wings indicate – on demand and at the touch of a 10 o’clock pusher – the hours and minutes on two graduated segments appearing on either side of the satin-finished silver dial. As the hours pass, the engraved and enameled gold eagle adopts various postures, reminiscent of the automatons in vogue at the time.
“Arms in the air” three-tone yellow, white, pink gold pocket watch, bi-retrograde display, Ref. Inv. 10667 – 1960
This three-tone, bi-retrograde pocket watch made in 1960 features a couple playing a game inspiring badminton, each arms indicates – on demand and at the touch of a 10 o’clock pusher – the hours and minutes on two graduated segments appearing on either side of the satin-finished silver dial.
“Mercator” wristwatch with map of Europe, Asia & Africa, Ref. Inv. 12130 – 1996
Created to mark the 400th anniversary of the death of the father of cartography, Gérard Mercator, this 18K yellow gold wristwatch is distinguished not only by the refinement of its hand-engraved dial representing Mercator’s map of Europe, Asia and Africa, but also by the originality of its retrograde display. The compass-shaped hands respectively indicate the retrograde hours and minutes on two sectors placed on the lower part of the dial.
Saltarello yellow gold wristwatch, jumping hour display and retrograde minutes (Ref. Inv. 11000) – 1998
The cushion-shaped Saltarello model is a response to an aesthetic quest for a “classic with a twist” approach, within which elegance is expressed in a quirky and original way. This yellow gold piece features a sunburst silver-toned dial with an Arabic numeral minute track. The movement of the hand is accentuated by a hand guilloché dial spreading out from the hand to the rest of the dial. This self-winding model is a superbly designed watch with its terraced lugs, its gentle cushion-shaped case, its transparent case back revealing the openwork and the subtle decoration of the oscillating weight, as well as its guilloche dial.
Wristwatch, Platinum, black dial, automatic winding (Ref. Inv. 11500) – 2000
This model launched for the 245th anniversary of our Maison, is equipped with a self-winding movement, displaying a 31-day calendar with retrograde hands and a circular day of the week indicator. With the advent of the new millennium and the apogee of the mechanical watch, watchmaking daring translated into greater freedom for the dials. Vacheron Constantin’s retrograde displays became part of the current collections. The first example appeared with this wristwatch showing the days of the week at 6 o’clock and a retrograde calendar on a semi-open dial in the case of the second model.
Platinum “Saint-Gervais” tourbillon wristwatch with perpetual calendar and power-reserve display (Ref. Inv. 11475) – 2005
While the celebration of its quarter-millennium was an opportunity for Vacheron Constantin to pay tribute to its past, it also served to highlight its capacity for technical innovation, as perfectly embodied in the Saint-Gervais model. This timepiece with its hand-guilloché platinum dial served to advance the complex field of the power reserve. Endowed with 250 hours of autonomy guaranteed by four barrels coupled with a tourbillon regulator and a perpetual calendar mechanism, the Saint-Gervais model set a new milestone in the world of Grand Complication watches.
Métiers d’art Savoirs Enluminés Caper, 18K white gold, 22K gilt dial, automatic winding (Ref. Inv. 11947) – 2015
Métiers d’art Savoirs Enluminés is an exceptional 60-pieces limited series that highlights watchmaking expertise, notably due to the original hour display on its ultra-thin self-winding calibre 1120 AT, as well as great mastery of the decorative arts. This model, “Caper”, devoted to the Earth, presents a midnight blue goat with a piercing gaze, and endowed with exceptionally sound judgement. It features traditional decorative techniques: the art of Grand Feu enamel reminiscent of illumination, engraving as a nod to calligraphy, along with a delicate phase of shadowing and gold texturization in order to create the effect of gold leaf.