A huge thank you to watchvault.com.au @the_watch_vault for lending me this watch to make this review possible. The most trusted destination for pre-owned watches and accessories, please make sure to visit the website!
If you’ve found your way to this article, chances are you are quite familiar with the ‘holy trinity’ of watchmaking. While Patek… is well, Patek and AP go from success to success with their Royal Oak, Vacheron has yet to hit mainstream pop culture in the same way that the afformentioned manufactures have in recent times. Turns out, this is a great thing if you are in the market for a watch of the highest order and do not want to entertain absurd waiting lists or criminally high secondary market prices. Having only enjoyed high horology from behind the glass window of a boutique, what’s it like to wear a simpler offering from one of the world’s oldest watchmakers still operating today?
Full disclosure, not until I saw @the_watch_vault sporting this piece did I realise Vacheron produced such a watch. When I think VC, the overseas and historiques Cornes De Vache collections come to mind and boy, was I pleasantly surprised when this popped up on my instagram feed.
What we have here is a 38mm case constructed of 18K pink gold, a case thickness of 8mm, manual wind calibre 4400AS complete with Geneva seal and an alligator strap secured by a maltese cross inspired buckle.
Strapping on the traditionelle, the proportions are perfect. 38mm is the sweet spot for my 6.5 inch wrist with the 8mm of thickness being slim enough to slide under a shirt cuff but substantial enough to depart from the delicate feel of ultra thin pieces. Downward turned lugs (at a distance of 46mm from top to bottom) paired with the dimensions mentioned above means this feels no less than a dream on the wrist.
At first glance, the traditionelle greets you with a sublte lustre of its silver dial, complemented by case matching pink gold hour markers and hands. The indices are of a high polish finish, where the dauphine style hour and minute hands are adorn a combination of high polish and frosting. An applied maltese cross is present at 12, with the maison’s title printed below. A small seconds register is located at 6 o’clock, with circular guilloche finishes found in the inner sector, while the outer sector is treated to a metallic silver with the outer track printed in black to denote seconds elapsed.
I outline all this is not to bore you, but to highlight what makes this time only watch abundant with detail. It is easy to dismiss a dress watch as restrained or minimalistic, but this is not the case with the traditionelle. Every attribute, from the applied finishes to the precision of print on the dial is completed to a standard I have not experienced on the wrist. Each hour marker is polished to perfection, in every light the gleam of pink gold resonates against its silver dial. The hour hands with the frost and polished finishes gives contrast to the indices for legibility while providing some extra pizzazz for you to enjoy. The railroad minutes track, small seconds and Vacheron Constantin branding are all printed to such crisp and tight tolerances. The guilloche within the small seconds register is so fine you could easily miss it and the small seconds hand is polished without a blemish. I’d like to think I have seen some beautifully crafted watches in this hobby, but wearing a piece of this standard really allows you to undersand the difference from a great watch, to something made by the highest echelon of watchmakers. Under a loupe or via macro, it really becomes apparent no corners have been cut, no time has been spared. This is a work of art, expertise and effort. I mean, even the curved spring bars are pink gold! All this, even before we’ve taken the time to turn the watch over to admire the movement.
The 4400 calibre is certified by the Hallmark of Geneva. A serious accreditation assigned to movements that surpass stringent standards submitted to an independent beaureau operated by the state of Geneva, which basically means this is one tasty calibre. Its Geneva stripes are finely finished, always dancing in the light. Polished, chamfered edges are executed without imperfection and the large mainspring barrel (containing 65 hours of power reserve) features a flawless sunburst pattern. Every part, every component has been paid the upmost attention to express Vacheron’s pursuit of watchmaking perfection. The Geneva seal and VC branding are relieved into mainplate, complimenting the golden balance and gear train wheels. The 4400, with its traditional decorative techniques and impeccable execution is just as enjoyable to wind as it is to look at. The large power reserve lets you experience the winding mechanism for just that much longer, gliding through your fingers as you tension the mainspring. As a bonus, the calibre offers a fantastic view of the swiss lever escapement. A real treat for a watch nerd, being able to watch the balance wheel locking and unlocking the escape wheel via the pallet fork without an impeded view.
While the traditionelle is a bona fide gold watch, this particular piece manages to fly under the radar and not attract any unwanted attention. To the wider audience, this watch seems like any other and for that reason, I found mysef revelling in the fact that nobody else knows just what I have
on my wrist. Through its subtle and surprisingly versatile nature, I found myself matching this watch with jeans, t-shirts, casual wear, along with its intended purposes of business and formal wear. It could be down to just how smitten I am with this piece, but it never seemed out of place no matter what attire I found myself in. And hell, if you own a VC you would be well within your right to wear it whenever you damn well please.
This watch, to me, is just about perfect. I love the fact it is made by one of the holy trinity of watchmakers, but is just far enough removed from pop culture and secondary market flippers. It’s the perfect watch enthusiast secret, if you know… you know. While there is the Calatrava, the Jules Audemar, (and the Saxonia from A.L. & Sohne), I can’t help but favour the traditionelle. Vacheron have their own brand identity, their own design language and this watch exemplifies the best of what the maison has to offer. Over 250 years of watchmaking expertise trickling into a time only, gold, manual wind dress watch. But, this is a review of sorts and I will try to remain objective for those considering investing in such a timepiece.
If you intend to wear this watch semi-frequently, expect the alligator strap to wear relatively quickly as it is quite thin in its construction to complement the case dimensions. Either pick up an extra strap upon purchase or explore the online marketplace. (Shoutout to @grahlleather, the perfect alternative for the OEM alligator).
Secondly, pricing on the traditionelle is quite prohibitive to a range of enthusiasts. Looking in the neighbourhood of $30k AUD from a boutique, it really is hard for many to gain entry to a timepiece of this standard. While the secondary market is a viable alternative, you may still be looking at an outlay upwards of $16K AUD, which is not chump change. Vacheron Constantin is a top tier watchmaker and are well within their rights to ask for such a sum, placing it among the company of their competitors. Further, the idea of true luxury means it shouldn’t be obtainable to the masses, not everyone should be able to just go and buy a high horology piece, as it would detract from the purchasing and ownership experience. At the cost of exclusivity, it means lots of watch die hards will never have the chance to own or enjoy such an ideal execution of watchmaking for themselves. So, I’ll let you decide where you sit on the subject of pricing not only for this watch but the entire segment. What I will confidently say regarding value, is that the traditionelle delivers it in spades. Should you so have the means to purchase a watch of this sum, there are far
worse ways to spend it than a Geneva sealed, perceivebly flawlessly executed dress watch from one of the best manufacturers not only of today, but for the last two and a half centuries.
I have always appreciated watches of this tier as the elite intersection of artisty and engineering through timekeeping, yet I never deeply yearned to own a timepiece of this
magnitude, until now. Wearing this watch brought back that feeling of when you received/purchased your first nice watch, which felt like an introduction into a new world and so does wearing this Vacheron. While a timepiece such as this may be a long (LONG) way away for me, I am privledged to have spent a week with a something so special. Handing the traditionelle back to its rightful owner was not easy, but I am glad it is in the hands of one the most generous and knowledgeable people in the watch community! Thanks again to Dane @the_watch_vault watchvault.com.au for trusting me to look after this watch, absoloutely spectacular.