SIHH 2010: Ultra Slim Vacheron Constantin Historiques 1955 and Historiques 1968
by Kyle Stults on November 04, 2009
Pinit

My favorite time of year – previews of the new watches coming in 2010!  The first event of the new year is SIHH, formally known as the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, and it is held in January.  Prior to the event, each manufacturer in attendance usually releases a preview of one or two of the many new watches that it has been working on and plans to release in 2010.  I’ll be highlighting most of the previews here on First In Watches, but for the official event most of the action will be on the Perpetuelle.com Forums (which by the way have been redesigned and upgraded…and will be unveiled before the end of this year).

So let’s get on with today’s preview, shall we?  This one – actually two – hot off the press from Vacheron Constantin – for SIHH 2010 Vacheron Constantin will be introducing two new extra slim models in the Historiques collection: 1955 (round case) and 1968 (square case).  There are not many details yet, but what I do know is this:  the Historiques 1955 will house a manual wind caliber 1003 (now a 100% inhouse movement, and in 100% yellow gold), and the 1968 will have a VC automatic caliber 1120.    Both models are in 4N gold which I understand has an interesting tone to it somwhere between yellow and rose gold.  Also, the Historiques 1955 has a 36mm case and the Historiques 1968 is 35.2mm x 35.2mm (not including lugs) – as we have already seen from Panerai, and now Vacheron Constantin, this may be the year of the smaller watch (but I’ll be writing more on that later)!

Here’s a look at the pics VC released thus far.  Below the pics is a nice historical summary of Vacheron Constantin’s long history of innovations and leadership in thin/ultra slim watch category.

Historique Ultra-fine 1968” (left) and the Historique Ultra-fine 1955” (right)

Historiques_Ultra_minus_fine_1955_et_1968

Historique Ultra-fine 1955”, currently the world’s thinnest watch measuring just 4.10 mm thick

inspired by one of the three historical models introduced in 1955 – reference 4961

Historiques_Ultra_minus_fine_1955_Face

Look at this beautiful profile!

Historiques_Ultra_minus_fine_1955_Profil(1)

The redesigned Caliber 1003:  1.64 mm thickness – still a market slimness record – and its 21.10 mm diameter remain unchanged in tribute to the original movement. Bridges and mainplate are now crafted from 18-carat gold – 117 parts – and a 30-hour+ power reserve, despite its tiny size!

And this will be viewable through the sapphire crystal exhibition caseback!

Calibre_1003_profil

And here’s the 1968:

vc_1968_lg

Here is the nice history on Vacheron’s ultra-thin watch heritage (as provided by VC):

Extreme slenderness is traditionally not considered as a horological complication, in that it does not itself contribute an additional watch function in the same way as a date or a chronograph. It would nonetheless be entirely legitimate to describe it as such, due to its highly complex nature that often pushes micromechanical boundaries to the limit. Although many try their hand in this field, few are successful.

While the first ultra-thin Vacheron Constantin calibres were produced in the 19th century, the manufacturer became most prolific in this speciality during the 20th century, which is generally considered as the ultra-thin “golden age”. It was indeed in the early 20th century that wristwatches began to gain popularity, and weight and thickness thus became crucial factors in ensuring the wearer comfort of such models.

The Vacheron Constantin heritage comprises extraordinary ultra-thin creations and a succession of slimness records.

Right from the start of the 19th century, the Vacheron Constantin archives (including a letter written by Jacques-Barthélémi Vacheron to a certain Mr. Girod in Paris, dated May 18th 1912) feature references to thin watches. Another letter dated January 28th 1829 and written by Jacques-Barthélémi Vacheron to François Constantin also mentions the production of “a few thin pieces”.

Vacheron Constantin’s historical records for 1911 also include three 8,9 and 10-ligne calibres, each measuring 2.82 mm thick. The remainder of the century witnessed an impressive number of ultra-thin calibres, representing impressive horological feats and becoming ever slimmer over the years: 2.25 mm in 1917, 1.88 in 1924. Some were used to create such extraordinary models as a rock crystal watch presented in 1926 and equipped with a 2.63 mm red gold movement.

In 1931, Vacheron Constantin set a new world pocket-watch record with a mechanical movement measuring 17 lignes 5/12 in diameter and less than 1 mm thick – exactly 0.94 mm to be precise !

Ultra-thin movements continued to inspire the Geneva-based manufacturer, leading it in 1981 to present the “Structura” collection, which set a highly original stage for one of these movements by reversing it and fitting the hands on the bridge side, thereby enabling connoisseurs to admire the full complexity of its structure.

In 1992, Vacheron Constantin confirmed that its expertise in the field of extreme slenderness also extends to Grand Complication movements by presenting the thinnest minute repeater wristwatch movement to date, measuring 3.28 mm and earning the Geneva-based manufacturer set another record.

Nor was Vacheron Constantin lagging behind when it came to self-winding movements. From 1945 onwards, it began developing ultra-thin self-winding  movements such as the 477 9/12 which was to be the first of an entire generation : the 498 in 1951, the 499 and the 1019 in 1953, followed by the 1071 in 1958.