3.9mm thin minute repeating caliber…
Named for the birth year of its founder Jean-Marc Vacheron, the new Vacheron Constantin Calibre 1731 measures only 3.90 mm and bears the prestigious Geneva Seal. It sits in the aptly named Patrimony Contemporaine Ultra-Thin Calibre 1731, itself a svelte 8.09 mm thick, making it the thinnest minute repeater in production today. Collectors are well aware of Vacheron’s history with striking watches; in fact the brand’s Caliber 1755 which debuted in 1992 and exited production in 2010 was even thinner than the Caliber 1731 at 3.28mm. In this update to my 10/30/2013 article, I take a closer look at this exciting new watch and caliber.
The Patrimony Contemporaine Ultra-Thin Calibre 1731 conceals remarkable complexity beneath its apparent simplicity. Its design is inspired by an ultra-thin model created in 1955 to mark the Vacheron Constantin bicentenary and then revived in 2004 to give life to the Patrimony Contemporaine, reference 81180.
On the dial side, Vacheron Constantin has placed an elegant small seconds offset at 8 o’clock, the first in the Patrimony Contemporaine line. I adore the not-oft-seen placement of the subdial at this position.
Patrimony Contemporaine Ultra-Thin Calibre 1731
41mm x 8.09mm pink gold case, manual wind VC Cal 1731 (full details below)
The curve of the case middle has been accentuated so as to trim down the silhouette, while the sapphire crystal case-back has been opened as broadly as possible so as to reveal the hammers, along with a rare glimpse of the gongs.
Ultra-Thin Caliber 1731
It was in 2009 that Vacheron Constantin decided to create a new minute repeater combining slenderness, a pure sound, aesthetic beauty, reliability and sturdiness. Four years later, the new Calibre 1731 emerges, barely thicker than the Cal 1755 due to its robust 65 hour power reserve. But the Cal 1731 is every bit if not more impressive a caliber – it is also equipped a highly ingenious device developed by Vacheron Constantin in 2007 for the 2755 movement – another member of this exclusive family of minute repeater calibres: a flying strike governor. Explains Vacheron:
Contrary to classic lever-type governors, this one is completely silent. Its role is to steady the rate at which the hammers strike the gongs. Without a regulator or governor, this musical sequence would take place at the speed of the striking barrel-spring, and would merely produce a rush of indiscernible notes. The device developed by Vacheron Constantin comprises two inertia-blocks or weights designed to act as a brake on the rotating shaft of the governor and thus evening out the energy supplied by the barrel spring. To achieve this, it makes use of two opposing centrifugal and centripetal forces. When the governor spins, the centrifugal force pivots one end of the weights outwards so that the other end presses on the shaft so as to stabilise the rotation speed and thus ensure a steady cadence. Perfectly finished right down to the smallest details, the governor bears Vacheron Constantin’s Maltese Cross emblem, even though the latter cannot be seen from the front of the calibre.
The gongs are not only connected to the case middle to as to amplify the sound, but also for the first time stacked rather than placed side by side.
The finishing is of course top-notch; for comparison look to something such as that found on Patek’s top-line Ref 5016 Repeater.
It is at precisely at 4:49 that the tests of the calibers sound are performed, since that is the time when the cadence is the most clearly audible due to the almost identical intervals between the hours (4 strikes), quarters (3 strikes) and minutes (4 strikes). The true soul of a repeater watch, the individual chime of each watch is recorded and carefully stored before it leaves the Manufacture, thus constituting a “soundprint” duly registered in the Vacheron Constantin archives. This procedure guarantees not only the lifelong repair of all its timepieces, both historical and contemporary, but also the ability to restore within its workshops the unique sound of each model equipped with a minute repeater.
For those of you interested in have a more tangible review of the Caliber 1731, please check out this wonderful book by Vacheron Expert Alex Ghotbi >>> (note: I am in the process of reading this book now and will post a full review in weeks to come)
Also, FYI, price on the watch last I heard was ~270,000 Euros.