The 2009 Vacheron Constantin Overseas Gray is offered in a masculine, yet compact 42 mm steel case and looks like a great competitor to the huge Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore. Available both as a sporty three-hander (ref. 47040000W-9500) and a gorgeous chronograph (ref. 49150000W-9501,) the collection may seem -ahem- a bit expensive in this time of global financial meltdown, but for those having the means to buy one of them, it may be one of the best gifts they can make to the people they love most authentically: themselves.
In a couple of months Vacheron Constantin, the brand that shares its title of the Greatest Swiss manufacture of all times with such living legends as Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe, will start selling a new edition of its sporty Overseas range.
The model will be sold both as a chronograph, as well as a simpler three-hander. Both versions will be equipped with magnetically shielded in-house automatic movements.
First presented in its current form five years ago in 2004, the Overseas was initially available in gold and steel. Now the choice of materials also includes titanium. That is why it is called the Overseas Gray.
Well, to be frank, the presence of the light-weight material is limited only to the bezel — the rest of the Overseas Gray body is made of stainless steel, which is brushed to achieve that grayish look.
The dial is also made of some gray-colored metal. Together with a lot lighter hour, minute and second hands, as well as the “3”, “6”, “9” and “12” numerals made of polished white gold and covered with SuperLuminova, the choice of materials, provides for a high-contrast highly-legible layout.
The look is great, even the Overseas Gray Automatic Chronograph doesn’t look too busy with details and you can tell how much time has passed without putting too much strain on your eyes.
As to the overall look, the collection feels a little bit dull, even compared to a lot less expensive IWC Big Ingenieur Chronograph model.
Even the elaborated titanium bezel, which is actually (please, correct me if I am wrong here) a stylized Maltese cross, doesn’t save the situation. I guess the case is just too big compared to the bezel and the dial itself.
Like a pink Bentley with chromed wheels, it screams “Look at me, you, punks! I’m so rich I can even buy this monstrosity just to piss you off!” Or something like that.
As for the mechanisms, the three-hander is animated by the good old VC caliber 1226 automatic movement. Based on an even older Caliber 889 made by Jaeger-LeCoultre, the mechanism features bullet-proof reliability and is also impressively accurate for a mechanical movement.
The chronograph version also features a high level of pedigree although it, too, is not an in-house caliber. It is based on Frederic Piguet 1185: a column-wheel chronograph mechanism that beats at a frequency of 21,600 vph, is built on 37 jewels, and animating a whole plethora of expensive chronographs offered by such esteemed brands as Blancpain (as Caliber 68F5 & Caliber F185,) and Audemars Piguet (as Caliber AP 2385.) It, too, offers tons of reliability although its power reserve of just 42 hours can be considered inadequate by some customers.
All in all, it’s a great collection that, while overpriced, has a good chance of keeping its resale value well thanks for the Vacheron Constantin’s reputation of a brand that sells a product that not only looks well but also offers impeccable quality and timeless design: unlike many timepieces in this price range, it will probably not look odd, even in fifty years.
Build Quality: 5/5
Overall Legibility: 5/5
Nighttime Legibility: 5/5
Value for Money: 5/5
Overall Rating: 5/5
Photos: Vacheron Constantin
Vacheron Constantin Overseas Gray specification
Price range: $20,000 (MSRP, ref. 49150000W-9501) / $13,000 (MSRP, ref. 47040000W-9500)
Movement: VC caliber 1226 (base JLC caliber 889) for the Automatic and VC caliber 1137 (base Frederic Piguet 1185) for the Chronograph watch, magnetically shielded, Swiss Made
Functions & Complications: Hours, minutes, seconds, chronograph, date
Power reserve: 38 hours (cal. 1226) / 42 hours (cal. FP 1185)
Case: Steel, titanium bezel
Size: 42.00 mm
Case height: 9.75 mm
Dial: A darker shade of gray
Water resistance: 150 meter
Strap: Mouse gray alligator leather strap and a black rubber band
Crystal: Sapphire, antireflective
Back: Solid, engraved