Amazing Vermeer Inspired Vacheron Constantin Grand Sonnerie Carriage

Sep 27, 2021,18:27 PM

I've been bursting at the seams, keeping this under a lid.  But the embargo has finally been lifted! 

Vacheron Constantin has produced a one-of-a-kind "carriage clock" sized piece for a special client through their "Les Cabinotiers" program (a custom and bespoke program for timepieces) where they've created a Grand Sonnerie with five gongs and hammers (making it a Carillon), a beautiful engraved case, and a special enamel painting that recreates the Dutch masterpiece by Vermeer, the "Girl With A Pearl Earring." 

The engraving is amazing. 

What an incredible movement...

The Enamel Painting
Reinterpreted by Anita Porchet, Vermeer's masterpiece from 1665, "Girl With A Pearl Earring," is recreated on a 98mm diameter surface using the enamel painting technique.  It took Porchet SEVEN MONTHS to create the work!  Imagine Miss Porchet working one day to create a series of yellow shades for the girl's turban, and not finishing that day, and the next day she has to re-create those dozen shades of yellow (since the prior day's set of colors have dried out) for the girl's turban again before she can start working again.  The domed shape of the case and the size also presents additional difficulties, as it means certain details are extremely visible. 

See the Maltese Cross Symbol up top?  How about the smaller one on the repeater rack around 2 o'clock
The Movement
A Masterpiece in its own regard, this is a huge, five gong and hammer Carillon, that plays the Westminster Chime!  It also features an engraved balance cock, something you don't always see in French Swiss movements.  I adore the fact that they retained the same engraving font and the 18,000 vph slow beat movement details.  Vacheron Constantin does do these things right sometimes!  Here are the stats on the movement...  It's HUGE, but keep in mind, THIS IS NOT A POCKET WATCH!  It's a Carriage Clock!  Do note, the Grand Sonnerie only has a power reserve of 16 hours.  Hopefully one doesn't forget to turn it off to silent mode appropriately, as it's not a good thing for a Sonnerie to run out of power in the middle of its strikings. 

Reference 9910C/000J-B413

Developed and crafted by Vacheron Constantin
Mechanical manual winding
71 mm (31 ½’’’) diameter, 17.05 mm thick
Movement power reserve: approximately 80h
Strikework power reserve (Grande Sonnerie mode): approximately 16 hours
2.5 Hz (18,000 vibrations/hour)
806 components
58 jewels
Hallmark of Geneva certified timepiece

Hours, minutes, small seconds

Tourbillon, minute repeater, Westminster carillon

It's a Tourbillon with a 18,000 vph beat (I like slower beats on tourbillons); the clock features 5 gongs (anything more than two gongs makes it a Carillon); and look at that amazingly engraved balance cock and lots of sharp internal angles. 

The Case

The case is beautifully engraved by an in-house craftsman.  The high relief style engraving requires some super delicate polishing work, overpolishing distorts the master image.  Also, darkness and shadows have to be created as well, but how do you make that out of a lustrous material such as gold?  The engraver has to make tiny lines in order to matte the material to give the perception of shadow or darkness to give a higher relief and add dimension to the piece.  Below are the numerical facts of the case...

18K 3N yellow gold, engraved with acanthus leaves on the case sides and with tulips and “pearl” decor on the bezel and the caseback

Bow sculpted with two lion heads
Officer-type cover, Grand Feu miniature enamelling depicting Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring painting, hand made by Anita Porchet
98 mm diameter, 32.60 mm thick

Other Details

There are so many details about this watch that one cannot fathom the amount of complexity that goes into this watch.  For instance, the hands were originally thought to be made of gold but this was too heavy, as the minute hand is 35 mm long!  The inertia and mass of the hand was so great in gold that any shock would mean the hands would fall off the central pivot point (just like clapping your hands vigorously isn't great for the hands of our wristwatches).  So the hands had to be made thinner and of a lighter material and are actually not made of solid gold.  The little rich stories about every detail of the watch is so amazing - the ones that have been translated to the press are the more understandable (not to mention funnier) stories.  Lastly, this piece took a total of seven years to go from concept to product - the project first started in 2013.  The client remains anonymous, but was generous and kind enough to allow Vacheron Constantin to share and publicize this watch.  Who knows, the client may be a member among us on WatchProSite...  

Watch below was made for Gilded Age American Industrialist, James Ward Packard.  Vacheron Constantin has a long history of making watches for Royalty and special collectors. 

My Thoughts

My unsolicited opinion is that this is a fantastic and elegant piece.  It's a bit large, but again, this is a carriage clock, not a pocket watch.  The movement finishing, the authenticity (even the movement is designed to look like a movement from 200 years ago with a slow vph), the enamel painting, and the incredible case are all just wonderful!  It's got everything I'd want; a Grand Sonnerie, an enamel painting (our enamel expert and moderator GLau would insist on this), a beautifully engraved case, and a clean and elegant dial.  Just an incredible piece for a lucky collector - a PATRON of great horological art.  If the collector PATRON does happen to be a member on WatchProSite, maybe he/she will let us have a glimpse one day in a future WristScan post!  That's the only thing that could make this piece even better for me!  Many thanks to Vacheron Constantin and this esteemed patron with tremendous taste (and seven years patience) for creating an amazing work of art!  Seven years! 

All photos courtesy of Vacheron Constantin Corporate.  Thank you for reading!  What are your thoughts? 

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Comments: view entire thread


The stuff dreams are made of.

 By: Gwai : September 27th, 2021-19:34
Had just read the article on watchonista before finding yours - thank you! Cheers Marc

Thank you! For reading.

 By: patrick_y : October 1st, 2021-17:28
There's a lot of information floating about the piece.

Agreed! Very "hot!"

 By: patrick_y : September 27th, 2021-22:05


 By: Jurry : September 27th, 2021-20:42
I have no other words for it; speechless

Clearly a masterpiece…

 By: myles721 : September 27th, 2021-21:35
I think as the owner he or she might want or need to send their butler or Major domo to VC’s winding school…..😉

Agreed! Don't forget to wind the Grand Sonnerie Mechanism TWICE A DAY!

 By: patrick_y : September 27th, 2021-22:13
And turn it to "Silent Mode" if nobody is going to hear it! Butler Jeeves has to remember to wind it twice a day since it only has 16 hours of operation.

Thanks for sharing this spectacular Vacheron, Patrick -- as a lover of each and all rare handcrafts, these are precisely the type of watches that I'm fond of...where horology meets art in such a beautiful and masterful way!

 By: FabR : September 27th, 2021-23:17
Sincere congrats to the owner, especially on his/her exquisite taste! This watch has virtually everything I admire in this subject: created by a brand which made the history of the discipline, and executed by some true leaders in the rare handcrafts that ... 

Seven years.....

 By: nacelle : September 28th, 2021-01:47
Truly remarkable

There was a brief article about Anita Porchet and this watch in the Financial Times last Saturday.

 By: chippyfly : September 28th, 2021-13:55
She is apparently freelance and does amazing watch enamelling for other watchmakers. Beautiful clock.

It would be interesting to know the reason

 By: Tick Talk : September 28th, 2021-16:43
behind the size of this clock? Hopefully a grand desk stand or other display platform was included. The seven years to design and construct includes shared development with the Ref 57260 and its similar architecture with carillon. According to an intervie... 

Good question...

 By: patrick_y : October 1st, 2021-17:25
I don't really know the answer!

My Heart Skipped A Beat!

 By: enjoythemusic : September 28th, 2021-18:55
First, a most humble thanks to the passionate enthusiast who commissioned this beautifully bespoke timepiece. The 'proper' gong selection was well-chosen imho, and various 'small' details further showcase the handcrafted majesty of magnificent timepiece. ... 

It's 5 hammers on 5 gongs!

 By: DTL : September 29th, 2021-10:25 with a true Westminster sonnerie, the exact melody of the Big Ben is struck "en passant" wherein, importantly, quarter notes are struck first before hour notes are in "grande" mode. Thank you for covering this monumental watch, the Mona Lisa of our ... 

Oops! FIVE! Not FOUR! What was I thinking? Good catch!

 By: patrick_y : October 1st, 2021-06:56
Indeed, a masterpiece!

Seeing these photos is already a feast to my eyes.

 By: TomKxx : October 2nd, 2021-02:15
I wish I would be able to see them live someday.

And hear it live someday!

 By: patrick_y : October 2nd, 2021-02:49

When I saw the video of this piece, I had to pick my jaw off the floor. Just magnificent in every way and I commend the patron who commissioned such an extraordinary piece...

 By: holdemchamp1225 : October 4th, 2021-15:04
I was in Paris this past Saturday and was given truly special treatment at the VC boutique who I would like to thank each and every time. Mahesh got to join me and we were given a chance to see the 2 new Everest Overseas models along with some INCREDIBLE ... 

Wait, it wasn't you who commissioned it? (just kidding)

 By: patrick_y : October 4th, 2021-17:59
This is definitely one very charming timepiece!

Totally agree Patrick and I wish it was me who commissioned this amazing pocket watch.

 By: holdemchamp1225 : October 4th, 2021-20:25
Really though, seeing the Unique Pieces from the Cabinotier collection was truly amazing and aspirational. They are truly at the peak of artistic expression combined with haute horlogerie. The only problem is the price of entry starts at mid 6 figures and...