Vacheron Constantin Traditionelle 38mm
This piece is co-written with a guest contributor, Nick Granville. Photography by Nick Granville.
Watch reviewed is part of a private collection.
The traditional dress watch is, perhaps, one of the more under-appreciated watch categories today. Finding something that is contemporary, simple, and elegant, while showcasing traditional Swiss watchmaking in a pure form, can prove to be somewhat difficult. Many current models feature smaller movements in larger cases, often precluding the possibility of a sapphire caseback.
Vacheron Constantin is, no doubt, one of the best-regarded manufactures, boasting a rich history stretching over 260 years. The Traditionelle collection embodies their concept of contemporary expression of the grand Geneva watchmaking tradition, adorned with superlative finishing, paying tribute to the manufacture’s technical and aesthetic expertise.
Inside the neat display box, which thoughtfully includes a well-designed leather travel case, sits the watch. At 38mm, it’s on the slightly smaller side of most modern watches. The Traditionelle's face is clean and simple, and somehow manages to pull off the feat of appearing crisp and modern, but utterly traditional at the same time. There are many interesting details. The dial glows gently in silvery opaline white. It is surrounded by a pure white ring with black railroad track indices, and circumferentially brushed silver on the perimeter. The solid gold dauphine hands are exceedingly well polished on one face, and frosted on the other, meaning they almost always look interesting irrespective of the incident light. The small seconds display is recessed with an anglage perimeter. It is gently snailed and repeats the circumferentially brushed silver/white motif of the main dial.
The Traditionelle is about 8mm thick - thinnish but not super thin. The lugs feature a wrist hugging, sculpted Deco look and, predictably, the crown bears VC's Maltese Cross. Under the hood is Vacheron's Cal 4400, finished to the exacting standards of the Geneva Seal. Introduced in 2009 with the launch of the VC Historiques American, the 21 jewel 28,800vph Cal 4400 is 28.6mm in diameter and 2.8mm thick with a useful 65 hour power reserve. The Vacheron Cal 4400 is hand finished to exacting standards in a quintessentially traditional Swiss manner. The anglage is beautifully executed and polished.
Interesting details are in abundance, such as the attractive off-centre starburst finish of the winding wheel and black polished gear adjacent, and the Geneva Seal at the top left of the movement. Black polish and more anglage is found around the balance wheel, studs and mount. Looking carefully, one could just about see the polished pallet fork, with its own tiny bevel of anglage. Every screwhead is polished, and every screw recess is chamfered and similarly gleams. The ends of pins are perfectly rounded and polished.
Third party pics confirm this finish quality extends to normally invisible parts of the movement (which is rare in this industry), including the keyless works and dial side plate. Remarkable, for what is in effect Vacheron Constantin's entry-level watch.
The problem with it is…
Something consistent with most Vacheron Constantin pieces, and perhaps the most glaring problem, is the price. At $30,000 AUD, the space of premium classic 3-hand dress pieces has expanded considerably over the last decade. No longer are its competitors limited to the Patek Calatrava and the Breguet Classique, but it now must compete with smaller makers like FP Journe’s excellent Chronometre Bleu and Souverain, Lang & Heyne’s Frederich III, A Lange & Soehne’s 1815 and Saxonia, amongst others. Even titans like Rolex are now becoming more serious about quality dress pieces, in the form the Cellini. That is not to say the Vacheron Constantin Traditionelle is not worth the price it commands.
The ever-growing competition highlights Vacheron Constantin’s greatest strength (or its biggest weakness, depending on your personal tastes). The design and execution largely revolve around very traditional Vallee de Joux values, stylings, and finishes. With watches becoming more experimental with shapes, sizes, materials and colours, the Traditionelle sort of blends into the background.
Other than that, not too much is wrong with the Traditionelle. Ultimately, the Traditionelle fulfills what it sets out to do, and does it well.
Would we own one?
Probably no. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but given that sort of budget I would always end up with an alternative piece. Personally, the two-hand variant of this piece better fits the role of dress watch. Nevertheless, it’s still a fantastic piece.
If no consideration is paid to the price, yes. The size suits my small wrists nicely, and the classic design of the watch fits my personal preferences perfectly. It is excellently made, from design to proportions to quality of finish. The price, though, could be a little more competitive, given the plethora of choices available on the market today.
Yes. For this style of watch - simple, elegant, traditionally Swiss, this is a great choice. If I had to choose to own a modern Calatrava or this, the Vacheron Constantin Traditionelle would be my choice.