Vacheron Constantin, founded in 1755, boasts the world’s oldest watch manufacture in continuous production – that’s 260 years and counting. They tend to be somewhat underrated amongst luxury watch buyers these days, however, perhaps because their designs, while flawlessly executed, tend to be on the quiet side. Not so, however, with their latest creation, a one-of-a-kind, intricately engraved, solid rose gold, double-faced watch featuring no fewer than 15 complications: the Les Cabinotiers Grand Complication Phoenix.
Les Cabinotiers is an 18th century term referring to the highly skilled watchmakers, jewelers and engravers who worked in “cabinets” on the top floor of Geneva’s ateliers, where the natural light was best. Vacheron has borrowed it for the name of its new bespoke service for creating custom, one-of-a-kind timepieces, and the Les Cabinotiers Grand Complication Phoenix is certainly a tour de force of timeless watchmaking and decorating skills, as well as a reference to the original watchmakers’ fascination with astronomy, science and the arts.
The initial homage is to the legend of the immortal Phoenix, which Vacheron notes arose in the Far East before reaching Asia, a “fabled bird which braved the cycle of life and death by setting itself on fire and rising from its ashes every 500 years.” An “array” of indications are visible on both sides of the watch, including a perpetual calendar, equation of time, sunrise and sunset, sky chart, seasons, signs of the zodiac, age and phase of the moon, solstices, sidereal hours and minutes, and power reserve, capped by a minute repeater and a tourbillon.
The watch’s two dials are finished in slate-grey colour of the two dials on either side of the watch, contrasting nicely with the rose gold bezels and case. The latter showcases two ancient hand engraving techniques: bas-relief for the case-band and fine line engraving for the bezel and case-back, which required over 300 hours of painstaking craftsmanship to complete by artisans with over a decade’s experience. This should certainly make some other Swiss watchmakers we could mention sit up and take notice.