Vacheron Constantin Celebrates 260 Years With an Exciting, New 'Harmony' Line of Watches
When it comes to wristwatches, history is serious business. Vacheron Constantin was founded in 1755, making it the oldest continuously operating watch manufacturer in the world. It weathered the fall of European monarchies, a pair of world wars, and the watch industry's so-called "Quartz Crisis" of the 1970s and 80s—and the brand's current custodians aren't going to let you forget it. To celebrate the company's 260th anniversary this year, Vacheron Constantin has unveiled the "Harmony" collection, a group of cushion-shaped watches ranging from a simple dual-time number to a monster chronograph that sets a new world record.
The particulars of this line of watches vary, but the new cushion case shape is the Harmony line's signature. Designing a balanced cushion case is a delicate matter; if it's too round, it can look like a square watch that had a little too much fondue for dinner, but if it's too angular it appears rough and unfinished. The Harmony case really nails this balancing act, particularly with the short curved lugs and the proportion of the dial opening to the bezel width. At 42 millimeters across, the men's chronographs are a little large for my tastes, but the 40mm men's dual time and 37mm women's watches felt great on the wrist.
There is a total of eight watches in the collection: a monopusher split-seconds chronograph, a monopusher chronograph with a tourbillon, a monopusher chronograph with a pulsometric scale, a chronograph for women, and a trio of dual-time watches. I'll give you a second to take that all in. The four new movements used across the range are designed and manufactured entirely in-house and it took Vacheron seven years to develop them. The final watches all bear the Geneva Hallmark, meaning they meet rigorous quality and finishing standards, in addition to being made in the Canton of Geneva. These watches aren't messing around.
My favorite of the bunch is actually the simplest of the chronographs, the straightforward monopusher ($75,300, limited to 260 pieces). The pulsometer scale around the edge of the dial was used by doctors to measure patients' heart rates and is a favorite among vintage collectors. Sure, the other complications might be more technically ambitious, but this is the one I want on my wrist right now. It's elegant, simple, and allows you to enjoy the new case shape and traditional dial layout without any distractions.
The platinum Harmony Ultra-Thin Grande Complication split-seconds chronograph ($369,200, limited to 10 pieces) is the most ambitious of the collection. It's powered by the calibre 3500 movement, which, at only 5.2mm thick, is the thinnest automatic split-seconds chronograph on the planet. Sure, that's shaving things pretty fine, but it's still an impressive feat. Watches such as this are usually manually wound so you can admire the mechanics through the caseback (an automatic watch's winding rotor usually covers the movement) but the calibre 3500 uses a peripheral rotor to keep the view clear while providing the convenience of automatic winding. Incredible movement aside, the watch is elegant, well-appointed, and looks a lot like the 1920s chronographs that inspired its creation.
While the Harmony Tourbillon Chronograph ($314,600, limited to 26 pieces) is technically wonderful, it fails to achieve the same aesthetic cohesiveness of the other Harmony watches. The large tourbillon carriage is meant to add wow factor but instead just looks oversized, and the 45-minute counter overlaps with the tourbillon aperture in a way that misses the wabi sabi mark. If you like tourbillons, you're probably drooling over the Harmony Tourbillon Chronograph already, but for me this watch is the least exciting of the bunch.
The women's chronograph ($71,200, limited to 260 pieces) is not a monopusher, using the more traditional two-button layout. While it doesn't have an entirely new movement inside, the caliber 1142 is an enhanced version of an existing Vacheron movement that now has the Geneva Hallmark certification and a slightly faster 3 Hz balance wheel. The 37mm size is perfect for this case shape, and my only gripe is that there isn't a version without diamonds that I could wear myself.
Rounding out the collection are the three dual-time Harmonies, two for men ($43,800, limited to 625 pieces each in rose and white gold) and one for women ($50,600, limited to 500 pieces). These are the simplest of the Harmony watches, but they are extremely practical and a nice alternative if you're not a chronograph person. Again, women don't get an option without a diamond bezel, which is a bit of a shame, though the diamond model might be the most competitively priced watch here.
Overall, the Harmony collection is an impressive effort from Vacheron Constantin and it will be exciting to watch the range grow in non-limited editions over the coming years. Developing three monopusher chronograph movements, one with split-seconds and one with a tourbillon, plus a dual-time movement, all while creating an entirely new case shape and accompanying design codes is a serious anniversary gambit. And, tourbillon aside, there is a real freshness and cohesion to the Harmony watches that makes them stand out in a sea of ultra-conservative dress watches.
Stephen Pulvirent is in Geneva at SIHH, and will be posting dispatches on the watch world all week.