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In the early 1950s, at the height of its prestige, the ancient house of Vacheron Constantin was the last word in watchmaking refinement. Even more than Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet, Vacheron Constantin was the name that defined the aspirations of a bygone generation of watch connoisseurs.
Thanks to a new generation of luxury watches like this Vacheron Constantin Patrimony 81180, the legend returns, and the good old days are now.
In the golden age of Vacheron, this is the kind of watch that would have graced opulent dinner parties on the fantail grille of the Queen Mary during an ocean passage. Today, this 40mm Patrimony wears like a modern watch with timeless style.
While the golden age Vacherons were tiny affairs, a 40mm case in 18-karat white gold takes contemporary tastes into account. Neither large nor small, it is the perfect size for a watch that should project confidence and taste without trying too hard. A silver dial with matching white gold hands and indexes increases the perceived size of the watch without actually swelling its girth.
Speaking of girth, this is a seriously thin watch. Thin watchmaking is the hallmark of the very finest houses in Swiss horology, and the Patrimony 81180 measures a wafer-like 6.8mm thick. Its supple folded alligator strap is delicate in equal measure, and it complements the slim case in superb fashion.
With respect to movement design, this modern Patrimony leaves its vintage forebears hopelessly outclassed. While finely finished and delicately presented, the Vacheron calibers of the 20th century were based on outsourced engineering from true manufactures such as Jaeger-Lecoultre. In this Patrimony, Vacheron's caliber 1400 is the star of the show.
The Cal. 1400 was the first Vacheron in-house movement, and it packs a Cadillac finish to match. This Geneva Seal caliber is polished, grained, perlaged, and timed to meet the exacting aesthetic and chronometric standards of the Geneva criteria. On a movement like this, even individual screws take at least one hour to finish by hand. At only 2.55mm thick, this is an ultra-thin caliber in the classical tradition.
This Vacheron Constantin Patrimony 81180 is a throwback to the glory days of VC but packs the size, sophistication, and manufacture movement worthy of a 21st century dress watch. It is available from thewatchbox.com with a full factory set. Every box, manual, document of provenance, and accessory that would be obtained at the Vacheron Constantin boutique is present and correct.
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Video and content by Tim Mosso.