Casting my mind back to the halcyon days of 2019, the start of the year felt like the first day of term and the watch industry would be looking forward to SIHH in Geneva to really light the blue touch paper.
Vacheron Constantin was always a star of SIHH and would routinely unveil an extraordinary timepiece that demonstrated all of its artisan, engineering and horological skills.
SIHH has become Watches and Wonders Geneva, and it has moved to the end of March, but Vacheron Constantin appears to have stuck with its pre-covid schedule by releasing a staggeringly complex unique piece this month.
Les Cabinotiers Grande Complication Bacchus is a double-sided wristwatch with 16 complications including astronomical and calendar-related displays, a minute repeater and a tourbillon.
The 47mm watch comes in an ornately decorated 18ct gold case housing Vacheron Constantin’s Calibre 2755 GC16 movement.
Bacchus, the Greco-Roman god of wine and good times, gives his name to the piece unique because the case decoration is made up of vine leaves interspersed with bunches of grapes made from rubies.
An engraver and gemsetter took a combined 300 hours to complete the case.
Calibre 2755 GC16
To create the movement of this highly complicated watch, Vacheron Constantin’s watchmakers used its 2005 Tour de l’Île (a double-faced timepiece made to celebrate the brand’s 250th anniversary) as a starting point.
Calendar and astronomical functions feature on both faces of the watch.
On the front, where the tourbillon sits at 6 o’clock, the perpetual calendar indications are displayed on three counters showing date, day and month and a leap year cycle that keeps the watch on time until 2100.
There is also an indicator showing the torque of the minute repeater mechanism between 1 and 2 o’clock and a normal power reserve display.
A minute repeater chimes the hours, quarters and minutes on demand.
To avoid unnecessary noise as well as wear and tear on the mechanism, the striking of the gongs is equipped with an ingenious centripetal flying strike regulator. This perfectly silent device regulates the duration of the musical sequences so as to obtain clear, distinct and regular sounds.
Most of the astronomical information is displayed on the reverse side, and is said to be a tribute to Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), regarded as one of the founders of modern astronomy for having discovered the laws of planetary motion.
Leaving the complex description to VC’s press release writers, they explain the science bit: “As the Earth’s path around the Sun is not circular but elliptical, and since the Earth’s axis is inclined at 24° to the plane of its orbit, the time between two zenith passages of the Sun is not the same throughout the year. This difference between the (true) solar day and the (average) 24-hour civil day ranges from -16 to +14 minutes depending on the time of year and coincides only four times a year. Called the equation of time, or time correction in astronomical language, this differential is displayed by a dedicated pointer, while sunrise and sunset times – adjusted according to a reference city – appear at the bottom of the dial”.
The back of the watch has a rotating disc depicting the night sky with its constellations observable from the Northern hemisphere.
Les Cabinotiers Grande Complication Bacchus
Front side complications and indicators: Hours, minutes, small second at 6 o’clock on tourbillon carriage – Minute repeater – Tourbillon – Perpetual calendar (date, day of the week, month, leap year) – Power reserve indication – Equation of time – Sunrise time – Sunset time – Alarm torque indication
Back side complications and indicators: Sky chart – Age and phases of the moon – Sidereal hours and minutes – Seasons, zodiac signs