Here’s your chance to discover and learn everything about the manufacture’s sports watches past and present
As much as we all know (and love) Vacheron Constantin for its unassailably elegant gent’s complications, the Genevan manufacture was also highly distinguished in the field of sports watches. Here’s a little known factoid: Its chronometers and timekeepers were firm favourites among scientists, explorers and athletes during the early 20th century.
This fascinating chapter in its history formed the backdrop of one of its strongest modern day icons, the Vacheron Constantin Overseas. And as the manufacture’s Marina Bay Sands boutique celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, Vacheron Constantin took the opportunity to stage an exhibition devoted to some of its most fabled sports watches.
Until 24 August, the Maison’s Marina Bay Sands boutique will be exhibiting a specially curated selection of timepieces from its heritage museum in Geneva.
Named The Origin of Vacheron Constantin Sports Elegance in Watchmaking, it aims to introduce us to the manufacture’s roots in the production of precision instruments as well as sports watches. In today’s context, Vacheron Constantin’s sports icon is undoubtedly the Overseas.
So if you’re a fan, then here’s your best chance to learn all about it, see the historical models, and find out exactly how Vacheron Constantin created the Overseas.
Vacheron Constantin’s foray into sports timekeepers began as early as in 1904. Within its archives exists an early aviator watch worn strapped to the thigh. As the watch was sold to an American customer, style and heritage director, Christian Selmoni, believes that it might be somehow connected to the Wright brothers.
Throughout the early to mid-20th century, as pocket watches transitioned to wristwatches, Vacheron Constantin consistently made chronographs. One of the most memorable references is the legendary Ref. 6087 nicknamed ‘Cornes de Vache’.
But the very first bona fide sports watch by Vacheron Constantin was known as the Ref. 6782. It was described by auctioneer extraordinaire Aurel Bacs as possibly “the very first sports watch above all prestige brands.” Fitted with a rotating bezel, this piece shows a marked shift towards functionality rather than pure aesthetics.
As it progressed into the ’70s, a decade dominated by the advent of the luxury sports watch, Vacheron Constantin was perfectly poised to get into the game. This period was also when the earliest roots of the Overseas watch began to take form.
Most people recognise the Vacheron Constantin Ref. 222 as the predecessor of the Overseas. They are not wrong, but other watches have influenced the collection too. A couple years prior, the manufacture had produced another sports model known as Royal Chronometer Ref. 2215. With its octagonal case and rectangular dial with rounded corners, not to mention the integrated bracelet, Ref. 2215 embraced the prevailing trends of the time.
Ref. 222 was every bit a Vacheron Constantin elegant timepiece. But because the late ’70s were particularly trying times for the mechanical watch industry, just about 500 examples of the steel ‘Jumbo’ Ref. 222 were produced in total.
Thus when the mechanical watch industry bounced back in the ’90s, Vacheron Constantin also revived its steel sports watch and the Overseas was officially born. This reference is known today as the Overseas I.
Birth of the Overseas
During the mid-2000s, Vacheron Constantin fine-tuned the Overseas once again. Says Selmoni, “The original design of the Overseas is from 1996. The second generation was launched eight years later. A more radical design, Overseas II was larger – 42mm versus 37mm – and the biggest change was the bracelet: from a classic three-row bracelet, it evolved in a visually spectacular expression with design codes inspired by the Maltese cross.”
Overseas II was an upsized variation of the previous model for sure, but as the collection entered the tumultuous 2010s, it recognised a need for more refined aesthetics and elegant proportions.
Always keenly tuned to the design sensibilities of the times, Vacheron Constnatin quickly responded with the latest facelifted Overseas III in 2016. Selmoni elaborates, “The Overseas III is an evolution of the Overseas II in a subtle way. It integrates a hint of ’70s vintage, notably in the dials. The overall design shows subtlety and sophistication – in comparison with the previous generation, more sporty and outward-looking.”
Which brings us to the new collection and its star piece, the eye-wateringly gorgeous Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Skeleton. This is the latest Overseas model and it dutifully upholds the three key values of all Vacheron Constantin sports timepieces: sophistication, refinement, and balance.
See all of these pieces and more at The Origin of Vacheron Constantin Sports Elegance in Watchmaking exhibition, happening at its Marina Bay Sands boutique until 24 August 2020, 11.30am to 8.00pm, daily.
2 Bayfront Avenue
B2M-238, Marina Bay Sands