We knew it was coming, and at SIHH 2016 it finally arrived. Vacheron Constantin (VC) has refreshed its Overseas Chronograph by adding fresh looks and, more importantly, an in-house movement. The previous calibre 1137 movement has been relegated to the history books, and in its place sits the new calibre 5200.
Vacheron introduced the current sporty Overseas family back in 2004, and although VC is mainly known for its more classically styled timepieces, the collection hit a chord with younger customers the world over. In recent times however, the Overseas Chronograph – though still a handsome and desirable watch – was showing signs of its age. The reason? In recent times, the industry and buyers have been paying more attention to movements – with the former, brands at different levels have been introducing in-house movements, and with the latter, knowledgeable buyers have been insisting on in-house movements, particularly at this lofty level.
Of the Holy Trinity Swiss watchmakers – Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin – only one offered an automatic in-house movement in its equivalent sporty watch – Patek Philippe with its Nautilus 5980 chronograph. Both Audemars Piguet and Vacheron Constantin have relied on modified versions of the reputed F. Piguet 1185. With the self-winding calibre 5200 in its new Overseas Chronograph, Vacheron has closed the gap with Patek and left Audemars Piguet in its wake.
The new automatic calibre 5200 is the result of five years of development. It is a modern high-end movement featuring twin barrels, a column wheel system to start, stop and reset the chronograph, and there’s a vertical clutch that enables the chronograph hand to start smoothly (less advanced movements tend to display hand ‘jump’ when the chronograph is engaged). The movement draws power from a yellow-gold rotor, and the brand says the movement is good for a little over 50-hours of power reserve. You can even see the movement this time around, thanks to a sapphire crystal caseback. It’s about time!
Like its predecessor, the new Overseas Chronograph (ref. 5500V) is resistant to magnetic fields. However, unlike brands such as Omega which have used anti-magnetic components to build their movements, Vacheron relies on a soft iron casing ring to protect the movement’s 263 components. There are pros and cons to each approach but there’s nothing wrong with Vacheron’s approach, in fact, you could say that it is the traditional way of dealing with magnetic fields.
Overseas Chronograph can be had with either a silver-toned or blue dial featuring sunburst, snailed and velvety finishes. Case options are stainless steel or 18K pink-gold at launch and in case you’re wondering about size, Vacheron has grown the case slightly to 42.5mm – just 0.5mm bigger than the older reference. The case measures 13.7mm thick, which while not thin will slide under most shirt cuffs with ease, and to ensure the 150m of water resistance, the timepiece features a screw-down crown and screw-lock pushers.
With the stainless steel reference (with steel bracelet), you get an additional rubber and leather strap, both of which are delivered with an interchangeable stainless steel folding clasp. The steel bracelet sports the same half Maltese cross-shaped polished and satin-brushed link design. Opting for the pink-gold Overseas Chronograph, you get two straps in total – one leather and one rubber, and both are provided with a pink-gold folding clasp.
In pictures, the new watch looks similar to the previous model, though one notable difference is the position of the date indicator. Vacheron moved it from the 12 o’clock position (on the current model) to between the four and five o’clock positions. We aren’t too crazy about this position, we reckon it spoils the look and symmetry of the dial, and incidentally, this is the same position that Audemars Piguet has the date window on its current Royal Oak Chronograph.
One feature that we definitely like is the new easy-fit system for attaching and removing bracelets and straps. Bracelets and straps designed for the new Overseas Chronograph include a small metal tab on their underside (on the side that attaches to the case), and by pressing this tab, the bracelet or strap is unlocked and can be pulled free. What this means is you can now very quickly, and very easily, swap bracelets and straps without messing about with spring-bar tools, and thus avoid ‘oopsie’ situations that result in a scratch on your watch’s case.
On the flip side, we wonder how much this will affect footfall to Vacheron’s tastefully appointed boutiques as before, those with unsteady hands (us included), would prefer to visit boutiques to have trained professionals swap out bracelets and straps.
The Overseas Chronograph in steel is expected to carry a retail price of approximately US $29,000, while the rose-gold version will be dearer at about $49,000.
Below is an image gallery of the various case, dial and strap options that Vacheron Constantin is offering with its new Overseas Chronograph.
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