Patrimony Contemporaine ultra-thin calibre 1731 © Vacheron Constantin Replica Watches
The tourbillon and the minute repeater vie for the envied status of most beautiful horological complication and Vacheron Constantin brings both to the 2014 SIHH. First the Patrimony Calibre 1731 minute repeater with ultra-thin movement. It benefits from the expertise which the Maison has acquired over two hundred years. Indeed, Vacheron Constantin produced its very first repeater watch in 1812.
Every Fine Fake Watches company, or just about, has a minute repeater in its catalogue, and while the benefit of a long and rich heritage of striking Rolex Replica watches is by no means an obligation, it does help, particularly when claiming legitimacy in the field. For Vacheron Constantin, the presentation of its new Calibre 1731, in reference to the year of Jean-Marc Vacheron’s birth, is precisely the occasion to call attention to this extraordinary past. A private exhibition at the company’s historic headquarters on Quai de l’Ile in Geneva together with the publication of a magnificent illustrated book* bear witness to this.
In perfect harmony
For more than two centuries, Vacheron Constantin has mastered the art of the minute repeater, now adapted to modern-day wristwatches even if the finality of such a complication is no longer the same. In the days of pocket watches it served to indicate time in the dark. Today it is viewed more as a technical feat, an exercise in style. The discerning ear will question whether the chimes should sound clear or low, and whether the hammer blows should be audible to the wearer alone or perceptible for their immediate entourage. A personal pleasure or a pleasure shared? Impossible to say… to each his obsession.
The ambition of the Patrimony Calibre 1731, one can say, is not to deliver the most powerful sound but rather to achieve an overall harmony between low-pitched and high-pitched notes, as the Manufacture explains. Achieving this balance is a delicate task, for this is the thinnest hand-wound, minute-repeater movement ever made, measuring 3.9mm high for a total of 265 parts. But the heart of the matter is elsewhere. What prevails is how the master-watchmakers at Vacheron Constantin have proceeded.
The first point of interest is that they chose to use “old school” methods, with full respect for classical horological mechanics and using nothing but traditional materials. They have concentrated their efforts on the actual functioning of the complication and in particular the flying strike governor, or regulator, which steadies the speed at which the hammers strike the gongs. Whereas the majority of striking mechanisms opt for a regulator which makes use of centrifugal force, Vacheron Constantin has chosen to use centripetal force. Meaning? Who better than the Manufacture itself to explain.
“This device comprises two inertia-blocks or weights designed to act as a brake on the rotating shaft of the governor and thus evening out the energy supplied by the barrel spring. To achieve this, it makes use of two opposing centrifugal and centripetal forces. When the governor spins, the centrifugal force pivots one end of the weights outwards so that the other end presses on the shaft so as to stabilise the rotation speed and thus ensure a steady cadence.” Those who are unversed in micromechanics may be none the wiser. Another noteworthy point is that the mechanism produces virtually no extraneous noise. Even with the Fake Watches pressed firmly to the ear, the soft whirring in the background that is characteristic of a minute repeater cannot be heard. As for the gongs, which are round and made from steel, they are connected to the case, which is in rose gold, by means of a specially designed screw, again to ensure a clear sound. Lastly, because there are no gaskets, elements such as the sapphire crystal, bezel and case back have been screwed metal against metal to prevent humidity or dust from seeping in.
A sylphidine line
Still on the subject of the movement’s architecture, the designers of this Calibre 1731 have done more than brilliantly master the technical implications, in particular the constraints imposed by the extreme thinness of the parts. They have produced a work of art. This is evident in the decorations and finish which are, needless to say, worthy of a Fine Watchmaker, but equally so in the design and configuration of the bridges, springs, racks, stars and other components. There is not a single straight edge in this astonishing “engine”; just a succession of curves, flowing lines and arabesques. A rare sight to behold.
Such mechanical harmony is echoed in the case and dial, rendered with proverbial finesse and simplicity. Vacheron Constantin has nonetheless introduced a subtle element of surprise to the dial by offsetting the small seconds at 8 o’clock. The rest is in keeping. The repeater slide, positioned on the left of the case middle, is irreproachably discreet and blends elegantly into the curve of the slender case which measures 8.4mm high for a diameter of 41mm. Assuredly a fine piece of work.