“I don’t like cricket – I love it!” Why the new Vulcain Cricket is one of the best vintage re-issues to dateBorna Bošnjak
As the first mechanical alarm wristwatch and a watch that graced the wrists of presidents since 1953 – the Vulcain Cricket was always a great vintage proposition (read an overview of the Cricket and its history here). For 2022, however, Vulcain is releasing two model lines across two sizes that will continue the Cricket’s legacy, comprising of the Vulcain Cricket Classic and Cricket Tradition. The man responsible for this rebirth, Frenchman Guillaume Laidet, is also responsible for the revival of Nivada Grenchen and, more recently, Excelsior Park, after spending time working at Zenith, Girard-Perregaux and Jaeger-LeCoultre. I got to spend an extended amount of time with four of these gems, and my views – which you can read below – align with those forcefully expressed in 10cc’s Dreadlock Holiday at around the one-minute mark.
The new Vulcain Crickets are presented with two dial variations. The first is the Cricket Tradition, with its applied Arabic numerals and indices surrounding the dial. The limited edition salmon variant above has a subtle pink-bronze sheen, matched by the applied indices. The blued seconds and alarm hands contrast against the dial well, with sharp dauphine hands completing the handset that elegantly curves as it approaches the underside of the crystal. The Cricket Tradition also simplifies the printed alarm and minute tracks, forgoing numeric minute indication and using 10, 30 and 50 numerals to mark alarm times. Due to box-domed curvature of the crystal, however, these indications can be difficult to see at some angles.
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The other dial configuration, which Vulcain refers to as the Classic, is a faithful reproduction of the LBJ dial, found in some of the earliest Crickets, as seen in this beautiful example from Eric Wind. The name, of course, refers to Lyndon B. Johnson, 36th president of the United States.
The LBJ-dialled Classic has an entirely printed dial, with a ring containing lume-filled numerals and a trapezoid in place of the 12 o’clock index. The larger numerals and bold printing greatly help this Cricket’s legibility, despite the addition of a printed minute track and an even more complicated alarm track.
To go along with the lumed numerals, the Cricket Classic has broad alpha hands filled with lume that mirror the gentle curvature found on the dauphine hands of the Tradition. Though very well proportioned, I wish one of the models played around with the dial tones to pay homage to radium-inflicted patina commonly found on models from the 1960s.
The new Cricket is available in both 36mm and 39mm sizes, which is bound to satisfy lovers of vintage regardless of their wrist proportions. For reference, Crickets of old measured in at 34mm, though by virtue of their statuesque lugs, guaranteed plentiful wrist presence. The case profile is more refined in the new one, with thinner, twisting lugs that sharply curve downwards at their ends.
A 36mm watch with modern internals and gorgeous vintage styling is a godsend if you’re like myself – small-wristed and big on nostalgia. At 13.1mm in height, it’s tall considering the compact 36mm by 44mm proportions, though it must be noted that almost 3mm of the 13-odd is due to the sapphire crystal. A satisfying click of the 2 o’clock pushers engages the alarm keyless works, before another, equally satisfying click 0f the main crown confirms the alarm time. The crown is oversized to aid winding, which is done in both directions in the Cricket, due to its dual barrels – more on that later.
The 39mm case, put simply, offers more Cricket. The wearability improves as thickness stays at 13.1mm, though now significantly better distributed across the larger diameter. Just like the smaller variant, it’s fully polished, though Vulcain notes a satin-finished bezel and caseback on the production models, which will differ from the prototypes pictured above. The strap options will be more plentiful as well, as the lug width goes from 18mm on the smaller model to 20mm on the 39mm size.
Speaking of straps, the Crickets will be paired with either a leather or alligator leather strap and pin buckle, with a folding buckle as an option.
Finally, onto what makes the Cricket, a Cricket. Powered by a Vulcain Manufacture V-10 Calibre composed of 165 components, it features dual barrels – one with a 42-hour power reserve for timekeeping, and the other for the alarm, which rings for up to 20 seconds when fully wound. Another Vulcain development is the Exactomatic system, patented in 1946. Vulcain notes its purpose is to “equalise the friction on the balance wheel axis in all positions by modifying the Incabloc endstones”, in essence providing greater accuracy and regularity when worn due to the improved shock protection system. Interestingly, it’s a low-beat movement, ticking at 18,000 vibrations per hour, or 5 ticks per second. It’s well-decorated too, as it should be considering the Cricket’s price point, with nickel-plated surfaces, heat-blued screws and skeletonised ratchet wheels.
The most essential part of the Cricket, however, is the mechanical alarm. With a hammer striking a pin just above the balance wheel, it emanates a cricket-like sound. For a more detailed breakdown and some technical drawings, you can visit Vulcain’s website. Though, if you ask me, it sounds more like a cicada.
The Cricket has always been an if-you-know-you-know piece, especially considering vintage options. The new 36mm and 39mm variants are a return to form when compared to their 42mm predecessor, and it’s no secret that I really enjoyed my time with them. The cases, albeit taller than most pieces of this size, hug the wrist well, and the buzzing never failed to make me smile. The sticking point for many, including myself, will be the CHF 3,600 and CHF 3,900 price tag. Equivalent to about $5,400 AUD, it’s a steep entry point, and I can see it alienating some looking for a value proposition, which this isn’t. What it is, however, is a wonderful, modernised piece of history, and one that I can recommend to those looking for something out of leftfield wholeheartedly.
As for the Vulcain brand, it is seemingly in safe hands. Guillaume Laidet has proven experience in following up the initial hype that revived models create, as he already has plans for two new watches in the Vulcain line-up, with ambitions of reviving the likes of Universal Genève as well.
Vulcain Cricket Classic and Tradition pricing and availability:
Price: CHF 3,600 (36mm) and CHF 3,900 (39mm)
|36mm x 13.1mm x 44mm
39mm x 13.1mm x 47.8mm
|Box-domed sapphire crystal with AR coating
|Salmon, khaki, eggshell and black variants
|Louisiana alligator or leather with pin buckle, folding buckle optional
|Vulcain Cricket Manufacture V-10 calibre, dual barrel, mechanical alarm, manually-wound with 42-hour PR
|CHF 3,600 (36mm)
CHF 3,900 (39mm)