Originally unveiled in 2005, the“Tour de l’Ile” is a limited edition of 7, crafted in 18-carat pink gold (5N), all individually numbered and each featuring a unique hand-guilloché motif on the back dial, thereby guaranteeing its authenticity and its uniqueness. It is one of the most complicated mechanical wrist watches ever made.
Of all the wristwatches imagined and produced by Vacheron Constantin to celebrate its 250th anniversary, the Tour de l’Ile is a study in superlatives. Calling this a “Grande Complication” model is a dramatic understatement: it is fact the world’s most complex watch ever made, with its original combination of 16 complications that can be read off on a double-face display. Its design-engineers have developed a calibre smoothly integrating a series of grand horological complications and astronomical indications in order to make it a genuine wristwatch that is perfectly suited to and comfortable on the wrist.
Authentic mastery of the highest levels of watchmaking complications, while remaining the exclusive preserve of a limited number of brands, has nonetheless witnessed a spectacular burst of inflation over the past years and might thus tend to become trivialised. Vacheron Constantin is contributing to reasserting a balance in this extremely specific field. The loftiest spheres of horological complexity, combined with a demonstration of the skills so closely entwined with it, may only be reached by a small and elite circle. The Tour de l’Ile establishes a reference in this subtle area, exploring uncharted territory in technical Haute Horlogerie and auguring well for the exceptional potential of the brand.
It took the Vacheron Constantin design-engineers and the watchmakers over 10,000 hours of research and development to create this sheer masterpiece of horological technique, named in reference to one of the historical sites of the venerable firm, located next to the current Maison Vacheron Constantin on the Quai de l’Ile. An additional statistic provides an instant glimpse of the density of this exceptional calibre: no less than 834 parts are housed within a case measuring 47 mm in diameter.
This accomplishment is further enhanced by the fact that this extremely complex movement has been granted the Poinçon de Genève quality hallmark. This accomplishment is further enhanced by the fact that this extremely complex movement, for which a patent has been filed to protect its double-face display module, has been granted the Poinçon de Genève quality hallmark.
The gold case with its hand-soldered lugs, which maintains beautiful and harmonious proportions despite its substantial content, is now distinguished by a symmetrical double protuberance on either side of the bezel. Rather than choosing the usual solution of a sliding bolt integrated within the case middle and which is used to action the minute repeater mechanism on request, Vacheron Constantin has resolutely chosen the path of innovation: the double projection in the shape of catches on the watch bezel enables optimal winding of the mechanism by spreading the force between the thumb and the forefinger, considerably facilitating the operation.
The tone is thus set, and it soon becomes apparent that the engineers re-examined all elements from start to finish in order to innovate each time it appeared desirable, or to confirm the choices of their predecessors in cases where these options naturally prevailed, even under their critical contemporary scrutiny.
Attentive observation of the hand-guilloché silvered yellow gold dial enables one to identify an impressive array of complications, starting with the sovereign finesse and graceful elegance of the 60-second tourbillon that stands out at 6 o’clock, while the moon phase appears in a blue sky carrying a hand-engraved gold moon. To its right, a smaller subdial with a small blued hand indicates the torque of the striking-mechanism, meaning the state of winding of the minute repeater mechanism.
In addition to the hour and minute hands running over a slightly off-centred minute circle, the main dial on the front side features a power-reserve display in a segment at 9 o’clock, along with the applied and hand-engraved Poinçon de Genève quality hallmark. At this stage of observation, 6 complications are easily apparent on a balanced dial ensuring perfect legibility of the information provided, as well as perfectly mastered aesthetics.
The back is a fine match for the front, thanks to a wealth of fascinating, subtle and surprising information that is arranged in an aesthetically pleasing manner. On the upper part, the dials of the perpetual calendar, arranged in a triangle, display the days of the week, the months and the date from left to right.
A small aperture at 1 o’clock signals the leap years. In the dial centre, a blued hand sweeps over a small segment dedicated to the equation of time, meaning the observable running difference between mean or real time and that displayed on clocks and divided for practical purposes into equal sections. Two other astronomical indications are shown by hands moving over two segments at 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock: sunrise and sunset times. Calculations have been made for the latitude and longitude of Geneva.
One then reaches the climax of this guided tour, moving towards the peak of perfection with an extremely precise sky chart: that of the Northern hemisphere such as one rarely sees it, except if one happens to be looking up from the bottom of a very deep chasm, or from an astronomical observatory in which the telescopes share that same virtue. This complication thus depicts the starlit sky in real time, meaning as you might also see it in broad daylight.
This miniature horological marvel, which went down in the history of the wristwatch and of watchmaking in general, was produced in a strictly limited edition of just 7. Each of the watches was personalised with a unique and exclusive guilloché motif on the back dial, for each of the seven owners of this truly extraordinary masterpiece summing up 250 years of Vacheron Constantin history.
Calibre 2750 – 834 parts – Over 10,000 hours of R&D
Energy: mechanical, hand-winding
Regulating organs: Breguet overcoil balance-spring, balance with screws
Frequency: 2.5Hz (18,000 vph)
Power reserve: 58 hours
Jewelling: 39 jewels
Winding stem :2 positions
Adjustment of the second time zone and moon phase: Using 2 push-pieces housed in the case
Adjustment of the perpetual calendar: Using 2 push-pieces housed in the case
Adjustment of the sidereal disc: Using the crown and a lockable push-button
Caging diameter: 35.40mm
Total diameter: 36.0mm
Total thickness: 11.25mm
Indications & functions
Hours and minutes
Seconds at 6 o’clock
Repetition of the quarters and minutes on request
Power reserve indication
Second time zone
Phases of the moon
Age of the moon
Torque of the striking mechanism
Perpetual calendar (day, date, month and leap years)
Perpetual equation of time
Material: 18-carat 750 pink gold
Diameter and thickness: 47mm, 17.8mm
Inter-horn width: 23mm at the strap attachment
Shape and construction: Round, 3 parts. Bezel fitted with 2 catches used to activate the striking mechanism by rotating to the right. Sky chart correction system by rotating the crown
Case-back: Secured by a snap-in system
Crystals: Sapphire, glare-proofed on the inner face, mounted on a joint
Finishing: Polished case, fine knurling on the bezel and case-back soldered lugs
Water resistance: dust-resistant
Dial material: 18-carat silvered gold
Description of front dial: Light silvered finishing, hand-guilloché “250th anniversary” motif
Description of back dial: Light silvered finishing, unique individual hand-guilloché motif, 3 appliques in rhodium-plated 18-carat gold
Hands and subdials
Hours and minutes hands in 18-carat pink gold, fan-shaped, inspired by a 1926 vintage model
Seconds hand in 18-carat pink gold, baton-shaped, on tourbillon carriage
Subdials in n blued steel, dagger-shaped.
Strap : Hand-sewn alligator leather with a silky satin finish
Buckle: Pin buckle, 18-carat pink gold (5N)