Sometimes high end watch making seems like an endless challenge of making watches as complicated as possible. Especially in the last decade we’ve run out of complications to combine, since everything has already been tried. So we come up with different ways of showing the time or speeding up hands to such an extent that probably in a year of two you can hear a loud bang from under the crystal of your watch, created by a hand that went through the sound barrier as soon as you engaged its chronograph.
True classics die hard, but sometimes a dash of current times can do even a classic good!
Stuff of dreams but about as necessary as sugar coated cherry on top of your apple sauce, since most occasions in life are perfectly served by a simple, elegant watch with two hands. One hand is inconvenient but three or more hands only add stress. Many brands are still making such watches, often in color combinations that are as classical as a pair of Brogues with rib cord pants. Yellow gold and off white dials still reign supreme in this part of the watch world. But there are other options. One of them is the magnificent Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Contemporaine reference 81180.
40mm of contemporary delight! picture by Alex Ghotbi
The case of the 81180 is all in platinum, which still represents a minor part of the market. Although demand is increasing only 2.6 percent of all Swiss watches were made out of this metal in 2004 (source Johnson Matthey). A pity because not only is platinum very exclusive, this metal also has a warm, soft glow that sets it apart from the less regal white gold, not to mention the plebeian steel! By being a white metal you can dress it up or dress it down just as easily as you change your own wardrobe.
Vacheron Constantin even helps you by equipping the Patrimony 81180 with a grey dial. A regal companion when you wear your pinstripe, while almost sporty looking when you jump into your 501’s! It also gives the watch a sense of unity yet without being boring or old fashioned. That is of course also why Vacheron Constantin added “Contemporaine” to this watch name, though probably in reference to to its size! No 34, 36 or even 38mm diameter but a healthy 40mm! That gives wrist presence but also offers Vacheron Constantin with a slight dilemma.
The brand is one of the royals when it comes to the production of ultra slim movements, and the 81180 has one in it, the manual wind caliber 1400 to be precise. A dream of a caliber that is about half the diameter of the whole watch: 20.65mm! Although sapphire case backs are all the rage, Vacheron Constantin fortunately thought that a closed case back was a better option than to fill up the extra space with a huge (platinum) spacer. Some might call it a waste of the finely finished, Geneva Seal recipient caliber, with its chamfered edges and highly polished jewel counter sinks. Actually a closed case back also has its charm. It suits the watch’s straight forward design, and honestly, wouldn’t you rather have platinum resting on your wrist than a piece of sapphire crystal?
Vacheron Constantin finishes the watch with a nice Mississippi (yes, no Louisiana this time!) alligator strap, with its signature Maltese Cross transformed into a buckle. This still is one of the coolest pin buckles available, period, and actually almost a reason by itself to treat yourself to a Vacheron Constantin. Overall the Patrimony Contemporaine reference 81180 is a watch for almost anytime, anywhere, always appropriate, never too much or too little. Perfection in its most simple form, which almost, yes almost, gives you the desire for little more.