The Platonic ideal of a tourbillon watch: the Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Tourbillon in platinumJamie Weiss
These days, it seems tourbillons are more common than ever – a byproduct of the rise of computer-aided design. You can even find Chinese tourbillon movements for less than $1,000. Tourbillon watches have never been more accessible, and arguably, never been in more demand, even though tourbillons themselves have also never been more irrelevant to the maintenance of accurate timekeeping…
But mechanical watches are anachronisms anyway. Part of the reason we like tourbillons is because they’re a potent demonstration of craftsmanship, and remind us of watchmaking’s long and illustrious history. And if we’re talking about the history of watchmaking, then we’ve got to talk about Vacheron Constantin, one of the world’s oldest and most foundational watchmakers who’s been making tourbillons for just about as long as they’ve existed.
This brings us to the Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Tourbillon: an elegant and restrained timepiece that pays homage to the brand’s long history of tourbillon watches and gives the tourbillion the respect it deserves.
Before we dive into talking about this watch’s glorious dial, let’s talk about its case first. Vacheron Constantin describes the Traditionnelle collection as being the “supreme expression of the most demanding Geneva haute horlogerie traditions inherited from the 18th century”. The watches in the Traditionelle collection typically feature restrained case designs that are intended to simply frame and not distract from the impressive watchmaking going on within.
That’s not to say Tradtionelle cases are unimpressive, though: as my colleague Borna has adroitly penned, Vacheron Constantin’s Traditionnelle collection is only traditional in its inspiration, rather than execution, despite what its name might suggest. The Traditionnelle Tourbillon we’re looking at here features a 41mm platinum case with stepped lugs, a thin bezel and a fluted caseback, all of which are polished to a mirror shine. While the dial and movement are the headline acts here, the Traditionelle Tourbillon’s case is by no means a sideshow. With the whole watch weighing in at 127 grams, too, this case is hard to ignore.
The Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Tourbillon in platinum features a sunray-brushed green dial, adorned by a traditional railway minute track, baton indices and Dauphine hands. This combination of green and platinum is utterly sumptuous – much has been said about how green is the it-colour in watches right now, but this is a standout example. This model has been around for a few years now, but this new addition to the range is easily the most stunning metal and colour combination it has appeared in, in my opinion at least.
At 6 o’clock, the Traditionnelle Tourbillon’s namesake complication takes pride of place, taking up plenty of dial real estate. The carriage of the tourbillon is shaped like Vacheron Constantin’s Maltese Cross logo – a classy touch – with a blackened screw on one of the cross points allowing the tourbillon to be used as a small seconds indicator. The tourbillon carriage is suspended by a conical, semi-cylindrical suspension bar, which takes a whopping 12 hours to polish by hand alone.
The Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Tourbillon isn’t just pretty from the dial side, either. Its calibre 2160/1 self-winding in-house movement can be admired in all its glory through an exhibition caseback. Additionally, it features a 22-carat gold peripheral automatic rotor, which is visually impressive in its own right but also allows you to admire the movement unobstructed.
Like many of Vacheron Constantin’s in-house movements, the calibre 2160/1 features the prized Poinçon de Genève or Geneva Seal, one of the highest accreditations in mechanical watchmaking. To receive the Geneva Seal, the movement must be made in the City or Canton of Geneva, and must meet a stringent collection of standards mostly concerned with the finishing and decoration of the watch movement. Fittingly, the Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Tourbillon’s calibre 2160/1 is beautifully finished, with a completely perlaged mainplate, anglaged bridges covered in elegant Côtes de Genève, chamfered screws and polished holes.
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The calibre 2160/1 also boasts an impressive 80-hour power reserve – but despite all this, it’s rather thin, measuring up at only 5.65mm thick. It beats at 3Hz and features 30 jewels.
The Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Tourbillon in platinum comes mounted on a green alligator leather strap to match its dial, which features a butterfly clasp with a Maltese cross-shaped pin buckle. Like the watch’s case, it’s a tasteful and luxurious affair, but it’s not the main event.
In many ways, I think the Traditionnelle Tourbillon epitomises why Vacheron Constantin is such a compelling watchmaker. Many modern tourbillon watches are either extremely gaudy or extremely restrained – repressed, even, with some not even exposing their tourbillons. On an intellectual level, I can kind of understand why you’d make a tourbillon watch where the tourbillon isn’t visible (it’s a purist, old-school touch and the epitome of a flex)… But let’s be honest with ourselves. If you’ve got a tourbillon in your watch, you want to show it off.
On the other hand, tourbillons are sometimes too overt; there are plenty of high-end watches that have tourbillons that don’t need them. They’re used as a gaudy flourish. I think the Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Tourbillon strikes a happy medium, however. Yes, it has a somewhat subdued design, but it’s not austere by any means, particularly thanks to that lovely green sunburst dial. The tourbillon is big and impressive, but it’s not gratuitous. The Traditionnelle Tourbillon is the Platonic ideal of a tourbillon watch: luxurious, technically impressive yet grounded, almost, in its unwavering respect for horological purity.
Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Tourbillon Platinum pricing & availability
The Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Tourbillon in platinum is available now for inquiries. Price: upon request.
|41mm (D) x 10.4mm (T)
|Sapphire front and back
|Green alligator leather, 950 platinum folding clasp
|2160/1, in-house, peripheral rotor, Poinçon de Genève
|Hours, minutes, tourbillon
|Available now for inquiries