Unveiled at SIHH 2014, Vacheron Constantin has proudly unveiled the Malte open-worked tourbillon – or tourbillon openworked as they prefer to call it. Either way, it’s a highly demanding complication made none easier by the open worked and tonneau shaped calibre. The Malte tourbillon was entirely developed and crafted within the Manufacture itself, and bears the prestigious Hallmark of Geneva, generally regarded as the highest benchmark in Fine Watchmaking.
Part of the increasingly mighty Richemont Group, the Vacheron Constantin Malte tourbillon Openworked is just one of a clutch of high-end watches Vacheron Contantin have produced for this year and which will be on show at the invitation only SIHH 2014. It’s enough to make you wonder if anyone ever gets any sleep at Vacheron Constantin. Of one thing there is no doubt. Backed by large groups such as Richemont, the likes of Vacheron can command the extensive research and development and the skillful artisans and watchmakers needed to pull off the seemingly impossible.
History records that in 1755 the very first watch created by the company founder, Jean-Marc Vacheron in 1755 featured an open-worked and engraved balance-cock. This early achievement set the foundation for this type of highly skilled work noted for the finesse and transparency of the calibre. This type of craftsmanship reached its zenith in between the years 1920 to 1990.
A large number of open-worked calibres for pocket-watches and wristwatches were created, from the simplest to the most complex. This year Vacheron Constantin took on the daunting challenge of open working the tourbillon, respected as one of the most difficult complications to master.
The tonneau-shaped calibre, crafted entirely in-house, requires complete mastery of mechanical horology. Stage two is to openwork the structure to make the architecture intricate and delicate while at the same time giving the piece substance and structure creating an interplay of striking light and shadow effects. It’s the ultimate challenge, but Vacheron Constantin achieved it with the Calibre 2790 SQ.
From concept through to modelling and then crafting of the calibre took a team of artisans and watchmakers over 500 hours of striving to achieve the perfect balance of precision and lightness of touch. When the watch is viewed form certain angles the light and shadow give the movement added depth and create a magical three dimensional effect.
The theory behind achieving the play of light and shadow from various angles is as old as the creation of structures themselves. The light and the position of the sun is something builders and architects consider carefully every time a major new project is undertaken. To create the same effect within the much smaller confines of a watch face, Vacheron Constantin drew up their own architectural blueprint based on the shape of a triangle.
Work of this kind involves not metres, feet, inches or even centimetres, but tenths of millimetres. The artisans of the Manufacture, with meticulous strokes, created tiny triangles composed of recurrent straight lines to create the breathtaking three-dimensional effect of the finished timepiece, this also involved hand-drawing and chamfering the 246 parts of the calibre.
Calibre 2790 SQ is framed by a tonneau-shaped platinum case. The movement powers a date display and a power-reserve indication. The lens, as with the case-back is made of sapphire, while the dial is rimmed by a slate-grey ring that incorporates elegant metallic hour-markers.
The minute circle is painted and the date, power-reserve and seconds indicators are engraved and inked. The tourbillon carriage located at 6 o’clock spins above the Maltese Cross which is the company’s famous hallmark, and the small seconds hand sweeps above it.
If you were to want to buy yourself a Vacheron Constantin Malte tourbillon Openworked you can expect your wallet to be as light and airy as the watch after doing so, as conservatively, the asking price is over $200,000.