At the SIHH 2011, Vacheron Constantin has presented its new hit: the highly-customizable Quai de l’Ile Retrograde Annual Calendar (ref. 86040/000R-I0P29). Sporting a unique modular case design, the Quai de l’Ile not only allows you to build a real Frankenstein of a timekeeper combining all sorts of materials and textures but also makes it easier to always keep the piece in a mint condition simply by replacing scratched or dinged parts while servicing it.
The original Quai de I’Ile was introduced in 2008 and produced a stunning effect on both the industry and the general public. No company has ever offered a watch that was protected better than a 500 Euro banknote, customizable like a Rolls Royce, and used production techniques coming directly from the microelectronics business.
The 2008 Quai de I’Ile was available only as a Day-Date Self Winding and Day-Date with Power Reserve versions, so, for this year, Vacheron Constantin also adds a new, even more sophisticated model: a Retrograde Annual Calendar.
Powered by the new Vacheron Constantin Calibre 2460 QRA, which is made of whole 326 components, it offers an “annual calendar” complication that must be corrected once a year and a retrograde day of month indicator. The movement’s balance wheel is beating at a rate of 28,800 vph and its mainspring barrel offers a power reserve of around 40 hours.
As a great number of latest movements from major watchmakers, the 2460 QRA offers an extreme accuracy of its moon phase complication that demands manual correction only once per 122 years.
The moon phase indicator is combined with a small seconds subdial that overlaps with a month display.
To make the device even more fascinating to look at, the month display was transferred a couple degrees clockwise from a usual position at 6 o’clock. Perhaps, VC’s designers also wanted to provide a visual balance for the oversized retrograde date indicator at the 3 o’clock.
The new Quai de l’Ile has also grown slightly larger. While the original model was introduced in a 41 mm case, which consisted of seven major parts (lateral flanks, lugs, inter-lug pieces, and a support plate,) the new version is offered in an even more imposing 43 mm body that retains the same architecture.
So far, the Swiss Manufacture offers only three versions of the case: one in pink gold, one in white gold and a version that combines the two materials. Frankly speaking, I hoped that there would also be a version in black high-gloss ceramic, but so far no such luck.
Of course, Vacheron Constantin will also offer a personalization program that will allow prospective clients to customize the case choosing between two colors of gold for each of the seven components of the case, the crown, and the bezel. In theory, there may be 700 unique combinations of the parts if you include different versions of the dial.
Speaking of which, I should also add that, judging by the pictures, with the new version, Vacheron Constantin has finally ditched the idea of protecting each dial with secure printing techniques. Though those were making it hard to counterfeit the watch, they also made it a real pain to look at.
The new model still features counter-counterfeiting measures, but now the security printing is done in invisible ink, which is ahem visible only in the UV range.
There is still no info on pricing, but expect the new Vacheron Constantin Quai de l’Ile Retrograde Annual Calendar to have a base price of at least €50,000. And personalization program will probably make the invoice look even more intimidating.
Build Quality: 5/5
Overall Legibility: 4/5
Nighttime Legibility: 3/5
Value for Money: 5/5
Overall Rating: 5/5
Photos: Vacheron Constantin
Vacheron Constantin Quai de l’Ile Retrograde Annual Calendar (ref. 86040/000R-I0P29) specification
Price: $65,000 (MSRP)
Movement: Caliber 2460 QRA, automatic, 28,800 vph, 326 parts, in-house, Swiss Made
Functions: Hour, minutes, small seconds, moonphase, retrograde date indicator
Power reserve: 40 hours
Case: White gold or Rose gold or a combination of the two
Bezel shape: Round
Size: 43.00 mm
Case height: 13.50 mm
Dial: Different colors
Water resistance: 30 meters
Strap: Black or Brown alligator leather / Black or Brown rubber with folding clasp in white or rose gold