Vacheron Constantin has gone big on retrograde displays this year, with no fewer than three novelties featuring this charming technical complication. If anyone knows retrograde displays, it’s the grand dame of watchmaking. It is thought that the earliest Vacheron Constantin wristwatch with a retrograde hand was from 1940, the ‘Don Pancho’, which achieved the second highest bid ever at a 2019 Philips auction for a wristwatch from the Maison. Today, the complication is synonymous with the brand and the collection that features it most prevalently is the Patrimony, Vacheron Constantin’s dressiest range of watches.
Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Retrograde Day-Date in Platinum
Of the two models in the current Patrimony collection showcasing the technical complication, it is the Patrimony Retrograde Day-Date that features more than one retrograde hand – one for the day, one for the date. Up until last year, there have only been three variations of the model, either in white or pink gold, with white or blue dial. This year, it seems the manufacturer has gone out of its way to introduce a blockbuster variant of the model. In line with recent trends, the brand has released the Patrimony Retrograde Day-Date in platinum with salmon dial. The watch is the first Patrimony timepiece to be equipped with a salmon dial, although this definitely is not a first foray for the brand. Salmon dials paired with white metal casing have been a thing at Vacheron Constantin for many decades, going as far back as the 1940s. Here, we bring you the details and our honest thoughts on this latest and certainly most exciting addition to the Patrimony collection.
The Case, Dial, and Hands
The case of the new Patrimony Retrograde Day-Date is rendered in 950 platinum. While the watch is thin at 9.7 mm in height, it has an assertive presence thanks to its modern 42.5 mm case diameter. The design of the case is typical of the Patrimony collection – the epitome of elegance. Its defining characteristics include its polished finish, slim profile and slimmer bezel that accentuates the dial.
Not that the salmon dial needs any assistance in standing out. The alliance between platinum and salmon is part of Vacheron Constantin’s history. The most recent example of this holy matrimony is the Traditionnelle Perpetual Calendar Chronograph, first presented just over a year ago. There is also the Ref. 47101, a classic chronograph, and the Ref. 49005, another perpetual calendar chronograph, both from the 1990s. In the new Patrimony Retrograde Day-Date, the salmon dial is given a sunburst finish that emanates from the cannon pinion. It is ever so subtly convex in shape with a minute track composed of diamond-polished white gold ‘pearls’. The rest of the time-telling elements – namely the applied hour markers and the hour and minute hands – are also crafted in white gold. Meanwhile, the complications are indicated by flame-blued steel hands with openworked arrowheads. Occupying the top half of the dial and spanning from 9 to 3 o’clock is the retrograde date display. Only the odd dates are printed here (while the even ones are represented by dots) to reduce clutter. The second retrograde display is for the day and it dwells in the bottom half of the dial, arcing from 8 to 4 o’clock. All the days of the week are written in full except for Thursday where it is shortened to ‘THU’ because the cannon pinion is in the way. Overall, the dial is clean (for a bi-retrograde display watch anyway) and the colour combination of silver, blue and salmon is supremely charming.
Driving the Patrimony Retrograde Day-Date is the same 276-part, 27-jewel Calibre 2460 R31R7/3 used in preceding iterations of the model. The self-winding movement has a power reserve of 40 hours and operates at a modern 4 Hz frequency. Its functions include the hours, minutes, retrograde day and retrograde date.
Hallmark of Geneva-certified and subject to the exacting in-house standards of the manufacture, the Calibre 2460 R31R7/3 is immaculately finished and worthy of haute horlogerie. It is fitted with a 22k gold openworked oscillating weight with a design inspired by the Maltese cross emblem. The bridges are adorned with Geneva waves on the top surface, with their edges beveled and polished by hand. Meanwhile, the mainplate and wheels are circular-grained, adding to the myriad of surface textures visible through the sapphire crystal case back.
The Competitive Landscape
The Patrimony Retrograde Day-Date has always stood out by virtue of its bi-retrograde display. It’s not rare to find a high-end timepiece with a retrograde display or day-date functionality, but one with retrograde day and date? That’s something you don’t see nearly as much. Now fitted with a salmon dial, the Patrimony Retrograde Day-Date is only going to garner more interest – and deservedly so. Salmon dial stocks have recently been on the up and up, but credit goes to Vacheron Constantin too for the spot-on design of the dial, from the sunburst finishing to the use of heat-blued hands for the retrograde displays. While the watch isn’t a limited edition model, it is available only in the brand’s boutiques. Price is available upon request, but expect it to go for around EUR70,000 with the platinum premium taken into account.
One fantastic alternative to the Patrimony Retrograde Day-Date is the A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1 Daymatic. Much like the former, the Lange 1 Daymatic is self-winding, and has a date and day function. The differences between the two watches are just as obvious. The Lange 1 has a contemporary asymmetric dial design as opposed to the Patrimony’s classical dress watch design. The Daymatic only has a retrograde day display; the date is displayed with numeral discs. At the end of the day both the Patrimony and Lange 1 are finished to a similar level, perhaps with the Lange 1 a little ahead.
Of the three day-date wristwatches presented here, the Blancpain Villeret Grande Date Jour Retrograde in stainless steel is arguably the most classical and certainly the least prohibitive in price. Much like the Lange 1 Daymatic, the self-winding Blancpain features retrograde day and grande date (not retrograde) displays. It is the most understated timepiece of the three, with an opaline white dial and stainless steel case. The movement, while not quite as decadent as the Lange or Vacheron Constantin, is still attractive. The only thing more attractive is its pricing, at only USD13,900 for the stainless steel variant back in 2018.
The Patrimony Retrograde Day-Date may not be mechanically novel but Vacheron Constantin has certainly gone on the charm offensive with this latest release. Salmon dials are not something you see often from Vacheron Constantin even though it is adored by connoisseurs and has been part of the history of the manufacturer for many decades. The combination of a platinum case and salmon dial introduces a new layer of opulence that will not be outdone easily by future variations of the model. Commercially, if there ever was a time to release a salmon-dialed model, this would be it – when salmon is in season and trendy.