Ahead of SIHH 2018, we get a glimpse of a new complication on the Overseas
The Vacheron Constantin Overseas is, literally as well as practically, a pretty good choice for a traveller – especially if you’re the “turn left when you enter the plane” kind of chap. Even in its basic form, the steel case – which combines a certain sturdiness with quite modest actual dimensions – and swappable bracelet or straps lend the watch a luxurious “go-anywhere” vibe.
Halfway through 2016 Vacheron Constantin added a set of worldtimers to the collection, further reinforcing this jet-set idea. And now it has filled out the range with a Dual Time model, which like the World Timer is available in blue and white dial variants. No brown this time.
The watch uses a fourth, arrow-tipped central hand to display the hours in your second timezone of choice – moving away from the previous format which used a six o’clock subdial to show hours and minutes for the second timezone. On the white dial version it’s picked out in red; on the blue one the arrow tip is filled with luminova. At nine o’clock is an AM/PM indicator and at six is a radial date indicator, which bites right though the minute track and leaves just enough room for the “Swiss Made” at the base of the dial.
The second timezone hour hand is adjusted by the crown at the second position, which explains the use of a screw-down pusher at four o’clock to adjust the date (it being much more complicated to run everything from the crown, which would need a third adjustment position). The screw-down lock is a bit on the big and chunky side – on the plus side it’ll prevent you knocking the date forward by accident and having to press it a further 30ish times to get it back.
Movement-wise, this is a new in-house calibre for Vacheron Constantin. Well, to be precise, it’s an in-house module on the existing 5100 calibre, which takes the Dual Time to 12.8mm thick compared with 11mm for the automatic. The watch is still equipped with 60 hours of power and is water resistant to 150m.
My personal take is: making such a feature of the AM/PM indicator is a real question of taste – you might love it, you might think that a discreet circular window with a blue/white disc behind it would do the job just as well and balance out the dial. But there’s no right or wrong answer.
It was really a bit of a surprise to learn this watch didn’t exist until now – given the Overseas’ globetrotting credentials – but even more unexpected is just how little competition there is out there. When you talk about the Overseas, the other two watches which are always hovering just out of sight are the Royal Oak and the Nautilus. Both have the edge on the Overseas in sheer icon status, but in this particular niche maybe the Vacheron is ahead. The Royal Oak Dual Time is a little bit of an oddity these days – originally launched all the way back in 1990, it was discontinued in 2015 but lives on as a boutique-only edition. The everlasting appeal of the Royal Oak notwithstanding, it is looking every one of its 27 years. Fun fact: the calibre 2329 running it also used to power the Vacheron Constantin Overseas Dual Time, hence the identical dial layout.
Over to Patek Philippe then. The Nautilus Travel Time Chronograph (ref. 5990/1A) is faring a bit better than the Royal Oak – the local/home display is much loved and despite bearing a fair amount of information, the dial has balance (achieved by not having a running seconds hand). It’s a lot more expensive than the Overseas, though (£40,800 for the 5990 compared to £23,100 for the Overseas (or £38,800 in gold)), down in part to being a more complicated watch.
If you want a high-end dual time watch to rival the Overseas, you’re struggling. There are good dual timers out there, like the Girard-Perregaux 1966 Dual Time, or the A. Lange & Sohne Saxonia Dual Time, but they’re very much more formal in style. Chopard’s LUC GMT One is pretty great, although we’re dropping into a price bracket where too often the answer is simply “Rolex”. The Overseas is breathing slightly more rarified air – Geneva Seal finishing, for one thing – and in any case, most people don’t set out to shop by complication alone.
The real question is will the Dual Time tempt Overseas buyers into something more complicated than the standard automatic but less expensive than the chronograph? On this evidence I’d say it stands a good chance.
This article was first published on Salon QP
Looking back at a quarter of a century of Audemars Piguet's iconic timepiece.