Vacheron Constantin has created a unique Les Cabinotiers timepiece endowed with a minute repeater equipped with a centripetal flying strike regulator and a split-seconds monopusher chronograph.
Equipped with the new manual-winding in-house Calibre 2757, this unique Les Cabinotiers Minute Repeater Tourbillon Split-Seconds Monopusher Chronograph is in keeping with the grand tradition of Vacheron Constantin’s complicated watches.
The construction of this calibre, which consists of integrating an additional split-seconds chronograph mechanism into a basic minute repeater movement, represents a technical feat. The combination of these functions with a tourbillon has rarely been seen in the world of pocket watches, is almost non-existent in the world of wristwatches, and represents a first for Vacheron Constantin in a wristwatch.
This timepiece is also distinguished by a concern for the purity of the dial and the legibility of its chronograph functions. The tourbillon is visible only through the case back, while the off-centre display of the time and chronograph indications highlights the two central chronograph hands. The presence of a minute repeater is revealed by the slide-piece positioned on the left-hand side of the watch.
As early as 1819, Vacheron Constantin produced a pocket watch with independent deadbeat seconds and quarter repeater, at the time one of the first of its kind, which is now kept in the private collection of the Maison.
The deadbeat seconds mechanism, which allows the central second hand to advance in one-second jumps, played an important role in the measurement of short times. By making this mechanism independent by means of an additional gear train, watchmakers developed what is considered the ancestor of the chronograph towards the end of the 18th century. With such a device, it is now possible to stop the seconds hand without affecting the time indications.
The split-seconds chronograph was first introduced with a single-hand system in 1831, followed by the two-hand configuration in 1838. Vacheron Constantin quickly integrated these developments into the pocket chronographs of the time, as confirmed by an 1889 split-seconds timepiece dispatched to Buenos Aires for a horse racing enthusiast.
Vacheron Constantin’s watchmakers have developed the 698-component manual-winding Calibre 2757. Such a large number of parts denote a rare degree of horological complexity. Even in the world of grand complications, calibres are often of simpler design and made with far fewer components.
Given this intensely technical nature, Vacheron Constantin’s watchmakers have nonetheless risen to the challenge of elegance by successfully arranging the complications of this timepiece within a remarkably slender movement measuring barely 10.4 mm thick and 33.3 mm in diameter.
Calibre 2757, operating at a rate of 18,000 vibrations per hour (2.5 Hz) and endowed with an approximately 60-hour power reserve, enables short time measurement with 1/5th of a second precision appearing on the graduated minute-track. The unusual configuration of the dark grey dial has been designed to ensure optimum visibility of the split-seconds chronograph.
The hours and minutes are displayed on an offset subdial, leaving room for the 30-minute chronograph counter prominently placed at 2 o’clock. The layout is complemented by small seconds at 6 o’clock, indicating that the watch is in operation, thereby leaving plenty of space for the two central chronograph hands.
The very construction of the movement, particularly in terms of its chronographic functions, is based on the imperative of performance. In the watchmaking world, where many great inventions belong to the past, innovation often consists in optimising the operation of a calibre.
This approach begins with the development of the movement and continues with the use of new materials. This same approach is reflected in Calibre 2757, whose additional split-seconds chronograph plate has been specially designed to ensure efficiency thanks to the in-depth arrangement of its components.
This optimisation of volumes, despite the thinness of the calibre, is also accompanied by new materials. Some of the wheels in the going train have been made of titanium or electroformed in nickel- phosphorus with a toothing profile specific to Vacheron Constantin, the goal being to ensure better gear penetration so as to avoid any jerking of the seconds hand. Silicon, an ultra-light material that requires no lubrication, is also used for one of the split-seconds levers and its insulator.
These savings in component weight and friction thus reduce the loss of energy amplitude from the barrel, thereby maintaining a comfortable power reserve of up to 50 hours with the chronograph activated.
For short-time measurements, a function demanding extreme regularity in terms of precision, Vacheron Constantin watchmakers have opted for a construction with two column wheels: the first devoted to the chronograph and the other to the split-seconds mechanism. This chronograph is thus controlled by a single pusher at 2 o’clock for the basic functions (start/stop/reset) and by the one at 4 o’clock for the split-seconds (stop/reset).
Pressing the latter stops the seconds hand on an intermediate time while the first hand continues running. Pressing it again enables the split-seconds hand to join the first seconds hand in counting off time. Two scales further enhance the technical nature of this timepiece.
The tachymeter scale, screen-printed in white on a 1,000-metre base, enables the average speed in km/h to be calculated over the first minute of timekeeping; the telemeter scale in red is used to calculate distances of up to 20 km according to the speed of sound (340 metres/second).
The chronograph functions are complemented by a minute repeater, activated by the lever on the left-hand side of the case. An essential complication for musical watches, the minute repeater has been part of Vacheron Constantin’s watchmaking vocabulary for more than two centuries, sounding the hours, quarters and minutes on demand.
The first known mention of a Vacheron Constantin chiming watch in the production records dates back to 1806, with a gold quarter-repeater pocket watch. Since that date, chiming and repeater watches have been part of the Maison’s heritage that has continued to grow over the decades.
Calibre 2757 is the direct heir to this tradition, benefiting from the technical developments perfected within the Manufacture. These include an ingenious centripetal flying strike regulator.
In a minute repeater watch, this mechanism regulates the duration of the musical sequence so that the notes can be heard distinctly and harmoniously. This system is distinguished by its two weights whose very special shape has been optimised to act as a brake by means of centripetal force acting on the governor’s rotating shaft, thereby evening out the energy released by the barrel and regulated by the tourbillon. This original device is also perfectly silent. Visible exclusively through the caseback, the tourbillon is distinguished by a carriage whose shape is inspired by the Maison’s Maltese cross emblem. Held by a delicately hand-chamfered bridge, this regulator carriage performs one complete rotation per minute.
Presented in a 45 mm-diameter 750/1000 5N pink gold case with an exhibition back and on an alligator leather strap with gold folding clasp, this watch represents a technical feat as well as epitomising extraordinary mastery in the field of watchmaking finishing.
A signature feature of Vacheron Constantin watches is that each component is finely decorated with hand-made finishes before being assembled, even when destined to remain hidden. These surfaces that is alternately bevelled, polished, satin-finished, frosted, circular-grained or engraved and beadblasted create a play of light that brings out all the magic of Vacheron Constantin’s calibres and contributes to the brand’s intrinsic anatomy of beauty.
The assembly, setting into operation and casing-up of this Les Cabinotiers Minute repeater split-seconds monopusher chronograph movement thus represents only one third of the time devoted to the watch, as opposed to two thirds devoted to the calibre finishing.
The contrast between the bridges and maintaining plate with Vacheron Constantin’s signature black coating and the “metallic” moving parts already acts as a revelation of this kinetic art, which takes shape thanks to the meticulous attention lavished on details.
On the dial side, the skeletonised bridges, with their hand-chamfered and straight-grained flanks feature a circular satin finish. The wheels, with their chamfered arms, are burnished and polished, a complex operation that requires special tools for the titanium wheels.
On the caseback side of the movement, the watchmaker in charge of the timepiece – who carries out all the assembly and finishing operations right the way through to timing and casing-up in the manner of 18th century cabinotiers – has created an original decoration, in keeping with this remarkable timepiece.
The blackened bridges featured a hollowed-out surface that has been sandblasted to a very fine grain by hand, topped by a mirror-polished sink. This magnificent execution, which plays on the reflections of light between the matt and the shiny, brings out the “musical” components of the movement. The strike governor is notably engraved with the initials J.M.C. in tribute to Jean-Marc Vacheron and features a bar whose delicate rounding off involves 12 hours of meticulous hand craftsmanship. The Tourbillon Bridge is engraved with Vacheron Constantin’s Maltese cross emblem.
The single-piece watch Les Cabinotiers Minute Repeater Tourbillon Split-Seconds Monopusher Chronograph features a concern for impeccable finishing and meticulous decoration of all watch components, even those that remain invisible, vividly illustrating Vacheron Constantin’s theme for 2022:”The Anatomy of Beauty®”.
Model: Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers Minute Repeater Tourbillon Split-Seconds Monopusher Chronograph
Developed and manufactured by Vacheron Constantin
33.30 mm diameter, 10.40 mm thick
Approximately 60 hours of power reserve
2.5Hz (18,000 vibrations/hour)
Poinçon de Genève
Off-centred/Offset hours and minutes
18K 5N pink gold
45 mm diameter, 16.4 mm thick
Dark grey dial
Hours, minutes and seconds hands: 18K 5N pink gold, polished
Chronograph and split-seconds chronograph hands: gold-toned aluminium, matt
Black Mississippiensis alligator leather, hand-stitched, saddle-finish, large square scales
Buckle 18K 5N pink gold folding clasp, Half Maltese cross-shaped
Les Cabinotiers box
Single-piece edition “Les Cabinotiers”, “Pièce unique”, “AC” hallmark engraved on caseback