At the next SIHH 2010 exhibition in Geneva, Vacheron Constantin will present a pair of vintage-styled ultra-thin automatics both in the round (Historique 1955, ref. 33155/000R-9588) and square (Historique 1968, ref. 43043/000R-9592) cases. Judging by its timeless exterior that will stay relevant until that bitter day when mankind finally ditches the concept of a wristwatch altogether, the Historique 1968 is going to be a real hit.
While the Historique 1955 is animated by a Caliber VC 1003 with the manual-winding system, this one is powered by a vintage Caliber VC 1120 ultra-thin self-winding movement. Measuring 28 mm in diameter and 2.45 mm in height, this mechanism was introduced after Vacheron Constantin became one of the crown jewels of the Richemont group (a holding company that also controls such brands as A. Lange & Sohne, Jaeger-LeCoultre, and Panerai) and is therefore not produced on the brand’s production facilities, but is sourced from another member of the group.
The mechanism is a decorated version of the original JLC caliber 920 that was first presented back in 1967 and later became available to Vacheron Constantin, Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe are often considered to be one of (if not the) best automatic ultra-thin movements of the time. Even now this gorgeous mechanism puts to shame some modern contenders that can’t produce anything more inspiring than a version of the decades-old ETA 775x family of automatic chronograph calibers.
So, it is no wonder why vintage wristwatches featuring this exquisite caliber are still frantically sought-after by enthusiasts who happen to combine particularly thick wallets with really good taste. I have an impression that being powered by this new edition of the mechanism, the Historique 1968 has a good chance of becoming a huge success among collectors a couple of decades later: even though the watch is not offered as a limited-edition model, the relatively high price will naturally limit the production carefully preserving not only their resale value but also, um, overall collectability if you don’t mind the expression.
It must be noted that the JLC Caliber 920 in its redecorated or slightly modified forms is still used by the members of the Big Three, even in their mainstream “ultra-thin” models.
We have already seen it posing as AP Caliber 2120 inside the gorgeous Audemars Piguet Jules Audemars Extra Thin and the eclectic Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Equation of Time (there it had an add-on module extending its functionality to a chronograph and equation of time calculator,) as well as rebadged as Vacheron Caliber 1120 in different models from Vacheron Constantin.
The Caliber 920’s only problem, as some authors put it, is that it was the thinnest only when it came to its “pure” two-handed form. As soon as you start adding even the simplest modules expanding its functionality to a three-hander with date, for example, it immediately loses the competition to “natural-born” three-handers for obvious reasons: when a mechanism is designed from scratch to feature more functions, there are a lot more opportunities for an engineer to make the object smaller.
Well, that’s actually not that bad.
The Vacheron Constantin Historique 1968 will be sold in a square 35.2 mm x 32.5 mm (without lugs and crown) case made of 4N 18-karat yellow gold. Being only 5 mm thick, this elegant piece of luxury will look great on your hand if you prefer an expensive business suit to a white polo shirt.
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 Historique 1968 (43043/000R-9592) specification
Price range: $30,000 (ref. 33155/000R-9588) / $40,000 (ref. 43043/000R-9592)
Movement: Caliber VC 1120, ultra-thin, automatic, 28mm x 2.45 mm, 36 jewels, Swiss Made
Functions: Hours, minutes
Power reserve: 40 hours
Case: Yellow gold
Shape: Square (ref. 43043/000R-9592) / Round (ref. 33155/000R-9588)
Size: 35.20 mm x 35.20 mm
Case height: 5.00 mm
Hands: Yellow gold
Water resistance: 30 meters
Strap: Black hand-stitched, saddle-finished, square-shape scales alligator leather with 18ct yellow gold buckle with half-Maltese cross