Vacheron Constantin’s FiftySix collection pays a certain tribute to an age gone by, the Fifties. It finds this connection to the past within the round cases that hold the three timepieces currently being offered. The FiftySix of Vacheron Constantin represents a newer entry point, a simpler tribute (possibly to a simpler age, although I no longer believe any age was simpler.) But most of all, it shows what Vacheron Constantin can do when they take their generations of expertise and focus them on a line that concentrates on the basics. My love for the brand is born out of their specialty pieces, but you know you’ve got a keeper when they look good even in the classics.
The line’s initial offering of just three watches does manage to cover quite a bit of range of complexity. It starts with an automatic self-winding watch, then gives a self-winding watch with day date and power reserve, and finally offers a full calendar with moon phase.
All that being said, the new line is definitely nice to look at, and a worthwhile addition to the simpler offerings that seem to be the order of the day for 2018’s horological industry. The round-case watches may be simpler (mostly) but the Vacheron stamp is upon them all, and Vacheron never yet made a watch that wasn’t worthy of the brand. That Maltese Cross has been borne on some heartbreakingly beautiful pieces, and not all of those were complicated or complex.
So let’s take in the sights, and see what life was like in FiftySix.
There are a number of elements from the 1950’s timepieces that Vacheron Constantin deliberately selected for inclusion into the FiftySix line. These touches naturally constitute a link to the past models, but it’s worth pointing out that the brand really did find things to admire from this inspirational period. The 1950 watch that served as the inspiration for this collection was the 6073, and it had some bold strokes going on in its favor.
The most noticeable to my eye is the sector dial. This is the use of a two-tone finish on the watch face. The chapter ring uses Arabic numerals alternating with baton-type hour markers, and the use of two tones gives a subtlety to the piece that is evident in the play of light along the curves and boundaries.
Of course, purists of the brand will not take long to recognize the Maltese Cross, Vacheron Constantin’s adopted symbol from time immemorial. Naturally this is present in the 2018 watches as well as being evident back in the 6073 in the actual 1950s, But then, the Maltese Cross is something we’ve seen on Vacheron Constantin watches all down through those ages, so it doesn’t exactly scream “mid-century.”
One distinctive feature back then was that the 6073 was self-winding. Of course, there again you have the ubiquity of the complication (if you even still think of it as a complication) that makes you sort of blind to the obvious. It’s an automatic watch, just like the one from the 50s! But, you know, they’re ALL automatic watches these days, or at least, I’m venturing that since 1956 we’ve seen enough automatic watches that we don’t exactly stand up in shock.
A more telling detail might be the use of the box-type crystal on the watch face. The crystal rises up noticeably above the bezel, giving the new collection a distinctive look and feel. The crystal of the 1950s was Plexiglas, or even mineral glass, but these days we put out faith in sapphire crystal, and so too does the FiftySix collection.
Perhaps the most distinctive element will be of particular notice to those long-term Vacheron Constantin lovers: for the first time, the brand is offering a classic collection in both gold and in stainless steel. The stainless steel versions will use white gold appliques and hands. It’s a touch no doubt meant to accommodate the times (so to speak) but those of us who know and love Vacheron Constantin will be well aware that their skills will be well utilized and executed, no matter the material at hand. The Maltese Cross will bear no less, fear not.