Patrick_y writes a review on the Vacheron Constantin Traditionelle Tourbillon 6000T and why he chooses it as his favorite watch of the 2018 SIHH.
I speculate: if there was a watch that could keep Thierry Stern or Francois-Henry Bennahmias from sleeping, the Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Tourbillon might be one of them. The combination of a top-quality tourbillion from a top-tier brand like Vacheron Constantin and a peripheral rotor that never blocks the fully transparent tourbillion, is an indication of the difficult requirements that top management must have required when they commissioned the Vacheron Constantin team to design such a timepiece. As Mr. Stern puts his head down on the pillow, he’s wondering how his neighbors at Vacheron Constantin could design such a beautiful piece and sell it at such a reasonable price. The rose gold variant lists at $118,000 USD! That’s less than half the price of Vacheron Constantin’s 14-Day Manual Wind Traditionelle Tourbillon that retails for more than $240,000! Has the price war for among top complications started?
The platinum version is limited to only 25 pieces worldwide. The stitching on the strap is actually thread infused with platinum! The dial is also made of the Metal of Kings.
THE BIRTH OF THE PERIPHERAL ROTOR CONCEPT
The Vacheron Constantin design team was approached with a vision. Technical feasibility nor convenience wasn’t taken into consideration; it was determined that they would make an automatic winding tourbillion – that tourbillion had to be seen from the dial side all the way to the sapphire case back without any obstructions – not even a temporary obstruction from the winding rotor. Aesthetics were paramount. This watch would pay such reverence to the tourbillion that not even the winding rotor could cast a shadow on it.
It’s not feasible to achieve this vision with the current parts Vacheron Constantin had, so the technology was created so the vision could be a reality… Most other watches take various components of reality to build a vision; and thus they’re either manually would tourbillions or they have automatic winding rotors that block the full transparency of the tourbillion thereby harming the aesthetics. IT’S RARE TO START VISION FIRST, FEASIBILITY SECOND; when most companies traditionally piece modular parts that are already within the company and then adapt the modules to make a new timepiece.
The solution was a new from the ground up movement paired with the discreet peripheral rotor. It gives the movement a beautiful look, and nothing covers up (nor adds height, the movement is 5.65mm thin) to the movement. It also makes the movement larger in diameter (31mm diameter or 13.5 lines), allowing for a bold new case design with generous (but still classic and elegant) proportions. The 2160 caliber is now the new benchmark for automatic tourbillon timepieces.
Notice how transparent the tourbillon is. Also notice the bridge bar is slightly curved, making it much more difficult to polish than a flat bar by several hours. The tourbillon cage is another polishing nightmare, so many different flat plane surfaces, many hard to reach, need to be polished by hand. Whoever suggested the Maltese Cross as a tourbillon cage definitely didn't make any friends in the finishing department. And considering much of this watch is finished by the single watchmaker who makes this watch, no friends were likely made in the high-complication assembly room either.
THE TOURBILLON; THE CONCEPT, THE CAGE, ET AL
The tourbillon complication has been diluted over the years; admittedly I had horo-fatigue among tourbillions over the past decade. Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Master Tourbillon was what started ruining it for me; it was a tad big, more than a tad thick, the movement finishing was so industrial, and that automatic winding rotor and the date blocked the elegance of the tourbillon itself. Then Chanel ruined it further by making a J12 tourbillon (manufacturing was contracted out to another company of course, but nevertheless a Chanel Tourbillon exists) and that just didn’t sit right with me. Tourbillons were losing their place in the world of horology; tourbillons were no longer special.
At that point, it’d take the most beautiful Haldimann tourbillon to turn me on; and it wasn’t fully transparent (you can’t see it from dial to case back).
I got excited when I saw the A. Lange & Soehne 1815 Tourbillon. Was this my new blue pill? After further examination, I found the bridge on the dial was too big and out of proportion, the transparency of the tourbillon was very good but the tourbillon had too fast of a beat (21,600 vph) and looked busy and violent, the 39.5mm diameter was too small and the 11.1mm case was too thick. I actually preferred the normal 40mm 1815 and the fantasy-like regulator dialed Richard Lange Tourbillon Pour Le Merite. The hunt resumed…
The Breguet Tourbillon Messidor was nice, right speed (18,000 vph), but too delicate and dressy, it wasn’t to be a daily watch in my lifestyle. The Breguet Tourbillon Extra Thin 5377 was too dressy and the cold modern looking tourbillon bridge clashed with the warm classic guilloche dial, a bad paradox; plus the 4 Hz speed looked violent, cold, and modern – but the engravings on the back were really nice. The La Tradition Tourbillon was actually really cool, but the crystal looked like a bubble, and at nearly 16 mm thick!!! (What were they thinking???) it couldn’t fit under my French-cuffed shirt sleeves.
I explored other options, I went to other famous watch houses too, even independents… I just gave up.
I hadn’t really worn a tourbillon watch in years until I tried on the Vacheron Constantin Traditionelle Tourbillon at SIHH 2018. I was surprised I liked it so much. Wow. Big generous case 41mm in diameter, not too thick, at 10.21mm it might seem thick, but the case has a nice small profiled recess at the bottom, which makes the look more proportional (Lange’s design team should take note of this – they’ve done something similar to the Datograph, but they made the recess so substantial that the big heavy watch actually has less surface area in contact with the wrist necessitating the wearer to wear it more tightly strapped and thus less comfortably) and doesn’t reduce wearing comfort.
My eyes were drawn to the extra large (approximately 13mm) tourbillon cage done in Vacheron Constantin’s Maltese Cross logo. Imagine, all of those extra facets and angles that have to be hand polished with little metal files, fine diamond sandpaper, and little sticks of pear wood. A Maltese Cross tourbillon cage definitely wasn’t chosen for its convenience. Looking further at the balance wheel itself, I noticed something, it was big, I like big balance wheels because they have greater inertia…
Notice the seconds is indicated by the blued screw on the tourbillon cage. This one didn't seem to be blued, this one seemed to be black mirror polished (even more time consuming a process than bluing a screw). What an ingenious way to show the seconds! The second doesn't hack. The hour and minute hands have a combination of polished and sandblasted surfaces.
(technical explanation: the balance wheel itself has greater inertia making it less likely to be shocked when the watch is bumped or exposed to gravitational forces, generally larger balance wheels have lower Hz, while smaller balance wheels have higher Hz, smaller balance wheels are more susceptible to shocks but the higher Hz allows the watch to recover accuracy faster as the shock is averaged out more quickly due to the higher Hz, higher Hz watches may consume more power and need longer mainsprings and may require more maintenance due to part wear and lubricant wear, bigger balance wheels may need more torque and sometimes thicker mainsprings, it is generally harder to produce watches with big balance wheels and low Hz due to higher regulation requirements to maintain accuracy)
…the balance wheel was also turning at a slower and more pleasing rate, it was a 2.5 Hz 18,000 vph tourbillon (faster beating tourbillion usually have smaller diameter balance wheels and thus they can look violent, a slower beating one is more aesthetically desirable and historically accurate)! Dial, hands, railroad track size, indices size, logo size, bezel width, lug length, etc. all were pleasingly proportionate. Astounding. Perfection? I found my blue pill.
Another special touch, the tourbillon cage has a single blued screw or black mirror polished screw to indicate the seconds on the watch. Details complete the piece.
LIVING WITH THE TRADITIONELLE TOURBILLON
I currently work in the tech industry in Silicon Valley of the San Francisco Bay Area. Despite having some of the highest salaries in the world Silicon Valley is a place where luxury is eschewed. CEOs of major tech companies sometimes come to the office in jeans or shorts wearing a t-shirt and a hoodie. But wearing a beautiful Vacheron Constantin timepiece isn’t out of place even in overly casual Silicon Valley.
Moderator Patrick_y's very casual jeans and shirt at a Silicon Valley tech company. The versatility of the Traditionelle is great for casual to formal workplaces.
At the office, the watch fits comfortably in the shirt sleeves of my fitted shirts. On the weekend, the Traditionelle Tourbillon looks great with short sleeve polo shirts. I didn’t attend any black tie events, but the Traditionelle Tourbillon fits under the French cuffed shirts I have, and it's definitely appropriate at a black tie event too!
Setting the watch reveals no flaws, the crown is very precise and engages perfectly, the minute hand isn’t jumpy in the setting process. One shouldn’t go backwards in time since that’s generally really bad for any non-hacking tourbillon movement. There’s no date mechanism, so it’s best to just go forward for any setting. When you push the crown back in, the minute hand doesn’t jump and allows for very precise adjustment. Since the second doesn’t hack (the seconds are indicated by the blued screw or black mirror polished screw on the tourbillon cage itself) you aren’t able to set the time down to the seconds exactly. I didn’t conduct any precise time keeping tests and I don’t own a Witschi timing device, but I am happy to report that the watch seemed to be extremely accurate. Vacheron Constantin won several observatory accuracy tests that catapulted the brand’s accuracy and reliability; while I didn’t do any timekeeping tests on this watch, I found no reason to doubt this Tourbillon lives up to very high accuracy standards.
Watch, wallet, phone, belt-buckle, pen, and keys; the standard daily accessories of many men. But not just any watch... It's a tourbillon! Notice the clasp of the watch.
The watch is comfortable, the standard deployant clasp works incredibly well and is beautifully made and easy to operate; I don’t normally like clasps as much as this one! The wide strap on the watch makes it extremely comfortable to wear, spreading its weight across a wider surface. Sometimes watches can be too big with straps too thin, making the sides of the strap chafe into your wrist (ever notice a 46.2mm IWC Big Pilot is much more uncomfortable compared to a 47mm Panerai? The discomfort is due to IWC’s thin strap, Panerai has a wide strap distributing the weight more evenly across a wider surface).
The Vacheron Constantin Traditionelle Tourbillon is a strong offering from a top level brand; it’s quite perfect, and even reasonably priced considering it’s a tourbillon. Its generous proportions makes it one of the most attractive and usable watches from this year's 2018 SIHH and is my favorite piece from this year's SIHH! I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m even having a difficult time thinking of a single weakness or negative. I can’t even really complain on the price, it’s a great value at $118,000 USD for the gorgeous rose gold version compared to other tourbillons from other brands and even some manual wind tourbillons within Vacheron Constantin. The slow beat and large balance wheel (both very important to me) is proportionally and aesthetically perfect and historically accurate. It’s even got an 80 hour power reserve, so if you put it down after you finish the workday on Friday, the time will still be running when you start your workday on Monday (a common problem I encounter with watches with only 48 hour power reserves). The design is well proportioned, and it’s not even thick. The seconds don’t hack, probably the only flaw, a tiny minor flaw, and typical of almost all Swiss tourbillons. There’s a gorgeous platinum version of which there are only 25 pieces worldwide, those will likely sell out soon, if not already! Ahh, I found my imperfection, if I want the exquisite (and exclusive) platinum version it might be already sold out! That’s a big potential problem! Thankfully the rose gold version is fantastic already. Happy hunting! And thanks for reading! This one is truly not one to miss, so I'd advise you to go see it at your local Vacheron Constantin dealer as they're arriving now. It's truly a great piece that can be enjoyed daily!