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: True technological breakthroughs in watchmaking are often hidden behind the dial — an extra-large mainspring barrel for example may make for a longer power reserve, but this is hardly a customer-facing, “sexy” innovation that can be easily admired and appreciated by the user. Vacheron Constantin’s new Traditionelle Twin Beat Perpetual Calendar, however, takes a true technological innovation and moves it front and center on the watch’s dial, rendering it visible and appreciable by the wearer.
The Twin Beat is a “user-controlled, dual-frequency watch.” What does this mean? The watch’s movement actually incorporates two balances, each of which operates at a different frequency: an “Active” mode of 5Hz (36,000 vph) with 4 days of power reserve, and a Standby mode of 1.2 Hz (8,640 vph) with a power reserve of at least 65 days. Using a pusher at 8 o’clock, the user can switch between the Active mode when the watch is being worn to the Standby mode when the watch isn’t on wrist, thereby conserving power reserve. As the watch incorporates a perpetual calendar, the fact that the user can set it down on a table and pick it up two months later to find that it’s still ticking away accurately is fairly remarkable. There’s no having to readjust calendar information simply because you didn’t wear the watch for a couple of days.
Who It’s For: The engineering that went into the Twin Beat is pretty incredible, so the ideal user is likely someone who appreciates not only fine watchmaking, but complicated mechanics and mathematics as well. Vacheron collectors might be interested in the Twin Beat by simple virtue of it bearing the Vacheron name, but the appeal here seems to really be in the unique mechanics at play.
First Impressions: Having read about the functionality of the Twin Beat, you wouldn’t be remiss to assume that the watch itself required an oversized case in order to accommodate the sophisticated and complicated movement with its dual-frequency feature. Thankfully (and impressively), the Twin Beat measures only 42mm in diameter by 12.3mm thick — notable when one considers the technology ticking away inside. That the perpetual calendar and dual-frequency selector are all controlled via a traditional crown, recessed pushers and one additional pusher at 8 o’clock is also an impressive feat. Unless you knew what you were looking at, you it would be natural to assume that this was a significantly more conventional watch.
Insight: While the dual-frequency system is noteworthy in and of itself, a vintage analogue for the system is also worthy of mention: during the Japanese Edo Period (1603-1868), the day and night were divided into six segments, wherein the length varied from day to night and from one season to another. Clocks from this period were equipped with a double foliot balance that enabled automatic changes to their operating speed. On the Twin Beat, this system has been improved and integrated such that there is instantaneous transition from one operating frequency to another. On a simpler calendar watch, having to change the date after picking up the watch from a dormant period wouldn’t be such a big deal, but on a perpetual calendar, there are many more displays to readjust. Thus being able to put the watch down for an extended period of time and then pick it up without needing to readjust it is genuinely useful.
The Twin Beat also uses a unique system that implements instantaneous jumping indications for the date, month and leap year. Generally, jumping indications negatively affect the amplitude of a watch’s balance, but the Twin Beat’s movement has been designed using a dual-gear compound system that requires less torque than a conventional jumping display.
Of course, the Twin Beat’s appeal isn’t merely technical — a platinum case and a dial that merges modern sophistication with classic design cues ensures that the watch is more than a mere showcase for the impressive engineering that went into the movement. But there’s no doubt that the star of the show here is the dual-frequency design, a brilliant feat of engineering and watchmaking that both solves an old problem and shows that Vacheron is committed to pushing the envelope of movement development.