First Look: Vacheron Constantin Introduces Its Most Affordable Watch Ever

Our first impressions of Vacheron Constantin’s exciting new FiftySix Self-Winding Steel, the brand’s most affordable watch to date.

This week, the Palexpo facility in Geneva, Switzerland, will become the center of the watch world for the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, or SIHH, a luxury watch show rivaled only by BaselWorld in relevance and prestige. We’ve got a team on the ground, there to bring you the most exciting releases. Follow our coverage here, and also be sure to check out Instagram. We’ll be posting to our feed throughout the week.

Upshot: Storied watchmaker Vacheron Constantin just released an all-new collection called FiftySix. The collection’s design is inspired by Vacheron’s own watch (ref. 6073) originally released in 1956. The most important piece in the collection is also the simplest and features just time, date and an automatic movement. More notable, though, is that it’s the most affordable timepiece Vacheron has ever released, priced at $11,700.

Who It’s For: Vacheron Constantin is clearly positioning their new piece towards newer, younger buyers to the Maison. That’s a good thing. If you’ve ever wanted a Vacheron, or a timepiece in the so-called “holy trinity” — Audemars Piguet, Vacheron Constantin, Patek Philippe — then you know it would typically cost you around $20,000. With the FiftySix Self Winding Steel, however, more buyers will realistically consider coming into the Vacheron family. Another upside is the everyday utility of a steel watch. This can easily fill a massive tentpole in a small-watch collection by being dressy, yet something you’ll feel comfortable wearing day in and day out.

First Impressions: The design isn’t blockbuster nor is it intended to be. Classic, understated designs are hallmarks of enduring watch concepts. Vacheron calls out the FiftySix design as “retro-contemporary … elegant masculine.” The effect in person is handsome and balanced and should age well.

Another unignorable aspect is that this watch caters to the buyer who may be considering both a Rolex and a more high-end timepiece. Vacheron has sort of tried this before with their Quai De L’iLe, but while that piece required a specific taste in watches, the FiftySix is a line drive right down the middle of classic designs.

We’re particularly fond of the premium finishes across the entire collection including the bog standard steel model. Some of the highlights include a 22k pink gold oscillating rotor that can be seen through its exposition back, gold hands and indicators along with a retro boxed crystal sapphire and a housed crown. At 40mm, the watch wears neither too large nor small — again, incredibly balanced — thanks to elongated lugs and rounded case edges.

The Vacheron Constantin FiftySix watch collection features five models: Self-Winding Steel at $11,700, pink gold in $19,400; a Day-Date model with power reserve indicator in steel at $17,400 or $32,500 in pink gold; and finally, a Complete Calendar model in steel at $21,600 or $35,800 in pink gold.

Insight: For those of you who care about watch movements, it’s worth noting that the calibre in the FiftySix Self-Winding Steel ($11,700) is completely hand finished by Vacheron Constantin, but is actually sourced from within its parent company, Richemont, which also owns brands like Jaeger LeCoultre, A. Lange & Sohne and Cartier. Higher-end pieces within the FiftySix collection, such as the power reserve and Complete Calendar, use Vacheron’s own movements. There’s been a macro trend in the past few years towards watch brands using movements developed in-house, but my sense is that to a non-watch nerd or jaded journalist, the appeal of a lower price point and real world versatility of a steel Vacheron Constantin will simply outweigh the desire or need for an in-house movement. There’s no doubt that the Steel FiftySix is a gateway watch for Vacheron and it’s a smart move. Look at it this way, there’s a reason the 3 Series is so critical to BMW’s success.

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