If you know one thing about Vacheron Constantin, you know they’re the brand behind Overseas — one of the best and most underrated 1970s-style sports watches on the market. If you know two things about Vacheron Constantin, you know they’re also the world’s oldest continually operating watchmaker, tracing their roots back to 1755.
Now that you know those two things about Vacheron Constantin, here’s a third: no one does a better retrograde date complication — a variation in which the date hand sweeps horizontally across the dial before snapping back to the start when its arc is complete. For 2023 the brand is doubling down on all of these strengths, with new Overseas models, some very interesting complications, and retrograde dates galore. Here are the highlights.
Overseas Moonphase Retrograde Date
Combining the finesse of Vacheron Constantin’s workmanship with a sporty modern look, there’s nothing else like the Overseas, a factor which has helped it gain a growing following in recent years. This new version, which sports a moon phase and (for the first time) a retrograde date, is sure to win it many more admirers. The most notable feature here is the restraint with which these busy complications were added, with a tone-on-tone blue date hand that almost disappears into the dial.
Patrimony Day-Date Retrograde
The retrograde date isn’t new to the Patrimony lineup, but it has rarely looked better than this model, which places that signature complication along with a day display against a luxurious salmon dial. Inspired by retrograde watches from the 1920s and 1930s and presented in a platinum case that’s less than 10mm thick, this Patrimony is as substantial as it is elegant.
Tourbillons are the olives of the luxury watch world: most people either love them or hate them. Whatever your feelings about this negligibly useful complication — which, isn’t even a complication depending on who you ask — it’s hard to argue with their pure visual appeal when tastefully done — as Vacheron’s newest Traditionelle model proves. Unlike a lot of tourbillon watches, whose maximalist dials seem designed to call attention to themselves (and their owners’ net worth) the Traditionelle is refreshingly subtle. The dial features a tourbillon at six styled after Vacheron’s signature Maltese cross, but it’s the Geneva Seal-certified calibre visible through the case back that’s the real showstopper here. There’s no retrograde feature on this one, but it was too good to not mention.
Traditionnelle Tourbillon Retrograde Openface
When classical elements and modern designs converge, it can be difficult to strike the right balance. This watch is a great example of what happens when it’s done right, with an open-worked dial that reveals a complex 62 R31 movement accented by slate grey elements contrasted by traditional golden dauphine hands. As with the Patrimony, the retrograde hand is gloriously subtle, with a pointer in the same shade as the numerals.
Les Cabinotiers Dual Moon Grand Complication
There’s a long and storied history of watchmakers vying to cram as many complications into a movement as possible, but few have ever managed it with this much style. This piece unique (watch parlance for one-of-one) contains a new manual-winding in-house movement with 11 horological complications including a minute repeater, a perpetual calendar, moon phases, and a sky chart. It’s hard to conceive of the complexity and precision required to make all of this work, and due to the double-sided nature of the design (all the better to display that beautiful sky chart on the reverse) the only ones who will ever get to admire it fully are the watchmakers who built it. Fortunately, there’s still plenty here for the lucky owner to enjoy.