It is a rare opportunity to be allowed to witness unique masterpieces of highest order in the world of haute horlogerie from Vacheron Constantin’s specialized workshop. Atelier Cabinotiers was created in 2006 as an attempt to revive the practices of 18th century watchmaking. At that time, it was common for important customers to order their timepieces straight from the cabinotiers, the watch industry master craftsmen.
Usually these unique masterpieces were hidden from the public view, clouded by privacy and confidentiality, but still there are some examples that permit us to catch a glimpse of this amazing world of highest craftsmanship and art. It is known that King Fouad of Egypt and his son King Farouk, two avid watch connoisseurs were enthusiastic collectors of unique Vacheron Constantin’s models. There is a story of Prince Farouk’s visit to Geneva in 1937, when adolescent prince expressed his wish to visit the Manufacture Vacheron Constantin. After showing his impressive horological knowledge, the Prince confessed having taken apart numerous watches to see how they work. When he came to an official visit to Geneva, municipal authorities took the opportunity to present Prince with one of a kind Vacheron Constantin watch. It was an ultimate in complications at that time, with 13 hands – the usual minutes, seconds and hours hands, a chronograph sweep-seconds hand, a 30-minute counter hand, a split-seconds hand. Vacheron Constantin also found space to add the four hands of the Perpetual Calendar (with leap-year indication), as well as the pointers for the alarm and for the movement power-reserve indicator and the mechanism power-reserve. Furthermore, it featured a minute repeater and a moon-phase display, and its movement contained 820 parts including 55 jewels.
In modern world of watchmaking, this exclusive tradition was somewhat disregarded in favor of limited editions, but in 2006 Vacheron Constantin, in response to growing demand of their
mega rich esteemed customers, opened Atelier Cabinotiers, the only manufacturer to offer such high-end service. There is no collections, no limited editions at the Atelier. You merely express your desire and if it’s deemed worthy of Vacheron Constantin’s spirit (by the ethical committee, no less) your wish just might get true.
These two extraordinary timepieces are the latest examples of this proud tradition which were revealed to the public.
As we all know, the time is relative. But to some men, it is more relative then to you and me, it is a philosophy. Thus the name of this really unique timepiece, and I mean unique, not just as being-one-and-only-model-in-the-world, but distinctive in a way it tells time. On its 24 hour dial, there is just one hand which relives you of those troublesome and pesky minutes! But, in just case you would like to know if you’re gonna miss your favourite TV show (Game of Thrones, for example) with simple on-off slide you can enable Philosophia’s minute repeater which will then chime in higher or lower notes to reveal the exact time!
Of course, that is not the end of exclusive features of this fascinating watch. The owner, not just being a person with exceptional hearing, but also an astronomy lover, asked for a customized precision moon phase and on the case back the power reserve indicator bears a small plaque engraved with the entangled constellations Ursa Major and Ursa Minor.
The attention to detail is evident in the movement. Each of the 522 components is carefully decorated, even in the parts that would never be seen by anyone but the watchmaker that takes it apart for maintenance.
Naturally, recently delivered Philosophia timepiece was presented in equally unique presentation box, along with all the accessories and related documents.
Perhaps it would be too banal to presume just by its name who the owner of this watch is, but the recent president of one world power springs to mind
Well, let’s leave these speculations to some other time and focus on this watch. Vacheron Constantin informs us this is one of the most complicated watches on the planet, and it just might be true. It is even more complicated than the (in)famous Tour de l’Ile model which marked 250 years anniversary of the Manufacture in 2005. Its price was 1.5 million dollars and there was only 7 watches produced. Bear in mind this price as a reference of how much Vladimir cost…
The hand-wound mechanical movement of Vladimir watch drives mind boggling 17 complications. Development of this outstanding movement which took 4 years, and all of its 891 components are hand-finished or hand-decorated. It is a lengthy list of complications which begins with 60-second tourbillon at 6 o’clock, while next to it at 3 o’clock appears the moon phase on a blue sky with a precision moon in gold. To its right, a smaller counter with a small blued hand indicates the striking mechanism torque, i.e., whether the minute repeater mechanism is engaged. The hour and minute hands travel around the slightly off-center minute markers, and the front side of the main dial also provides a second time zone with day/night indicator at 11 o’clock. The power reserve indicator is placed at the 9 o’clock, enhanced by a 52-week indicator. That makes 7 complications on the front dial alone.
On the back, on the upper portion we have, the perpetual calendar dials which are arranged in a triangle, displaying the days of the week, month and date. The leap-year cycle is shown on a small window at 1 o’clock and in the center of the dial, a blued hand sweeps over a small sector devoted to the equation of time, the changeable difference evident between true (solar) time and the time marked by clocks, which for convenience is divided into equal intervals. The other two bits of astronomical information are displayed by hands covering two sectors at 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock: the time of sunrise and sunset. The last complication is a precision sky chart of the northern hemisphere. Phew!
Oh wait, that is not the end of exceptional traits of this extraordinary timepiece. Its 18k pink gold 47 mm case is engraved with the signs of Chinese zodiac in bas-relief. While it might not look like some extremely hard task, it took 6 months to finish this amazing engraving.
Overall, there were more than 20 experts and craftsmen involved in production of this truly amazing watch.