Vacheron Constantin’s Les Cabinotiers atelier produces one-of-a-kind pieces that demonstrate what it takes to be one of the so called “Holy Trinity” of Swiss watch brands (the other two are Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet). It isn’t about being the oldest – although Vacheron Constantin, founded in 1755, does have that distinction. It’s about the almost obsessive dedication to perfect craftsmanship and the kind of heritage and know-how it takes to experiment with complicated watchmaking concepts and nail it every time.
Case in point: the Planetaria grand complication is fully loaded with a double-axis tourbillon with a spherical hairspring; 31-day retrograde jumping perpetual calendar with day, date and month; spherical double hemisphere moon phase orbs (one for each hemisphere); 24-hour and day/night indication; leap year; hours and minutes. It was four years in the making, and required four prototypes.
The Armillary double-axis tourbillon escapement was originally created for the Ref. 57260, the world’s most complicated watch (57 complications) created in 2015 to celebrate Vacheron Constantin’s 260th anniversary. It has a silicon escape-wheel and a lever with diamond pallets, materials that reduce friction and eliminate the need for lubrication. It was repeated in 2016 in the caliber 1990, and now again for the Planetaria’s caliber 9100. The 3D orbiting globes, made of galvanized titanium covered with gold leaf to represent the continents, were created just for the Planetaria. They rotate in opposite directions to provide day/night indication via a tinted half crystal placed over each globe, and also indicate 24-hour time, and the orbs serve as moon phase indicators that will require just one correction every 122 years.
The Planetaria is large –46mm wide x 20.20mm – thick. “The challenge was to showcase everything within the smallest case size possible,” says Christian Selmoni, style and heritage director of Vacheron Constantin.“We are talking about 745 components. It’s hard to make such a complex, 3D caliber and squeeze it into a case less than 46mm. It’s quite a compact watch despite its complexity.” The case and dial components were created within tolerances of fractions of a millimeter. The thickness of the sapphire crystal glass alone was reduced to 0.35mm.
The Planetaria is a unique piece in the sense that Vacheron will not make another one exactly like it – and this one is sold – but it serves as a model that can be customized for another customer with a different case metal, a specific dial finish, and so on. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we get another order,” says Selmoni