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closeup 12, Oct 2017 05:44pm
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Vacheron Constantin's Overseas Special Edition

An exclusive look at Vacheron Constantin’s newly launched Overseas special edition for India and the Middle East.

Steel is the new sexy. The world of luxury watches is witnessing a huge comeback of sporty timepieces with vintage designs and ultra cool movements. While the bar was already set high with icons like the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Chronograph and the Patek Philippe Nautilus dominating the scene for the past many decades, last year, Vacheron Constantin joined the league with an all new Overseas collection.

The sleek, stylish line-up in the third generation of the Overseas collection includes five models and twelve references equipped with three in-house calibres and fancy, quick-change bracelets. Developed over five years, the new watches have a cleaner design with a rounded appearance and more fluid lines. “The re-launch of the Overseas at SIHH 2016 was an important project for us and it was very well received in Asia, Europe and the Middle East,” says Christian Selmoni, artistic director, Vacheron Constantin.

"Starting October, the special edition models will be available in India for a limited time and would be restricted to under 50 pieces each."

Over the past two decades, Vacheron Constantin produced around 60,000 pieces for the Overseas collection, but the company was not satisfied with the movements used in these models. “The Overseas has a strategic role within our product offering, so we wanted to develop a line of dedicated calibres, matching the dimensions of the particularly robust cases and the active nature of the timepiece,” says Selmoni. The three new calibres are the 5200, a column-wheel chronograph with a vertical coupling clutch and 50 hours of power reserve; the 5100, with hours, minutes, seconds and date function; and the 5300, for the ladies’ model with hours, minutes, and small seconds function. Both the 5100 and 5300 replace the Jaeger-LeCoultre movements used in the previous collection.

The “elegant sports watch” vibe and the inimitable in-house movements made the new Overseas a much coveted timepiece soon after its launch. Priced between `12 lakh and `70 lakh, the watches in steel or gold recorded the best sell-out rate in India last year. While America and China sold the maximum numbers, the sell-out rate, averaging at 35 to 40 per cent globally, was the highest in India at 99 per cent.

This year, keeping the popularity of the collection in mind, the brand has rolled out two exclusive Overseas timepieces for India and the Middle East. Made of 18k pink gold, the special edition with dark, chocolate-brown dials includes the chronograph model and the small model for ladies. “The inspiration behind this special edition was to find an aesthetic link to the spirit of the region. For us, the different shades of brown in combination with the warmth of pink gold perfectly represent the intense colours of the region. In India, the pink gold models work particularly well and the brown dials in steel have been our bestselling pieces. So, I’m hoping that this special edition will do well in the country,” says Alexander Schmiedt, regional brand director Middle East and subcontinent, Vacheron Constantin.

"We are happy to have created this new generation, which has allowed us to modernise some typical design elements from the 2000s." Christian Selmoni Artistic Director, Vacheron Constantin

Starting October, the special edition models will be available in India for a limited time and would be restricted to under 50 pieces each. While the exclusive Overseas Chronograph model is priced at `36.3 lakh, the small model for ladies is adorned with 84 round cut diamonds and is priced at `34.7 lakh. “It is rare for Vacheron Constantin to make special editions, so we were happy to get this opportunity. We chose the most iconic model for our male clients—the chronograph—and the small model with the diamond-set bezel, which is a favourite among ladies,” says Schmiedt. “The profile of an Overseas customer in India is similar to our global clients—a sophisticated, cosmopolitan person, who is young at heart and lives his life the way he pleases. He could be in a formal setting at work in the morning, out on a trip in the afternoon and end up at a beach at night. Combining traditional fine watchmaking with young, casual elegance and versatility, the Overseas collection has been conceived to become the perfect companion for these clients. The concept has been well appreciated by both men and women,” he says.

Known for its ultra-thin calibres and skeletonised timepieces in the 1960s, Vacheron Constantin first introduced a sports watch in 1977. Created by Jorg Hysek, the ‘222’, with its thin barrel-shaped case and a notched round bezel, was a radical breakaway from the brand’s traditional dress watches.

While the ‘222’ was one of the more simplistic versions of a sports watch from the brand, it set the ball rolling for multi-functional watches such as the Phidias, with a chronograph and GMT function, and the Overseas, launched in 1996. Designed for global travellers, the Overseas represented casual luxury at its best.

According to Selmoni, the first generation of the Overseas was quite conservative and was influenced by the ‘222’ model. The second generation transformed the conservative style with its strong design codes—the metal bracelet featuring a half Maltese cross motif, stamped guilloche pattern and a strikingly large date display. “The third generation maintains the character of the previous generation, but we have incorporated some classic, even “vintage” elements on the dial such as shiny finishes and the typical indices, which reflect the codes of the 1960s. We are happy to have created this new generation, which has allowed us to modernise some typical design elements from the 2000s,” he says.

The first 3D-printed prototype of the third generation of the Overseas was made in 2012 and, after several reiterations, Selmoni and his team finally signed off a model that came across as an aesthetically satisfying, high performance timepiece. “Due to the strategic nature of the sport/elegant product segment in our field, many iterations were necessary to achieve the level of satisfaction we wanted. The new geometry of the bracelet, for example, is highly complex and sophisticated. A lot of technical iterations were necessary to validate it. In addition, we were also implementing interchangeability of bracelets, which required flawless technicality. We have now patented the system of the tool-free changeability of the straps and folding clasp,” he says.

Redesigning an existing collection without disturbing its core elements is always a big challenge for watchmakers. In case of the new Overseas, the designers wanted to play around with the bezel, which was eight-sided in the second generation models and gave a barrel-shaped look to the watches. “The evolution of the bezel is one of the key design elements in the new Overseas. It is made in two parts and is slightly larger than the case itself. The accentuated round shape of the case allowed us to create what we thought was a better, balanced design,” says Selmoni.

The third generation of the Overseas collection marks a new milestone in the history of the company. Vacheron Constantin is now making all its mechanical movements in-house, and the timepieces come with the prestigious Hallmark of Geneva. “We make very few limited editions, but they are useful to support the growth of a particular collection. However, the most important thing is to remain consistent in the development strategy and concentrate on the regular models for any collection,” says Selmoni, who doesn’t deny the possibility of introducing models and grand in the Overseas collection some time soon. “Skeletonised movements are a great speciality at Vacheron Constantin, and we already have a perpetual calendar within the Overseas collection… so, why not go further?”

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