Vacheron Constantin produced the most complicated watch ever made – the Ref. 57260 with 57 complications. The maison now unveils the Maître Cabinotier Retrograde Armillary Tourbillon model. This timepiece bears the Hallmark of Geneva and was produced by the three master watchmakers who created Ref. 57260, and they incorporate two of the complicated features of the superwatch: the armillary tourbillon and the double retrograde indication.
The high-precision manually wound movement is housed in a 45.7mm case in white gold. Four patent applications have been filed for this unique model. Inspired by the Reference 57260, on September 17, 2015, Vacheron Constantin introduced a watch with 57 complications — the most complicated watch ever made. It was devised by three master watchmakers from the company’s Atelier Cabinotiers workshops, and took eight years to develop. It was presented to mark Vacheron Constantin’s 260th anniversary.
The one-off piece was made to a special commission to preserve the traditional watchmaking principles certified by the Hallmark of Geneva.
The Maître Cabinotier Retrograde Armillary Tourbillon
This model is the first born of this project. It’s a remake of two of the Ref. 57260’s complications, the double retrograde indications and the armillary tourbillon, in a contemporary guise.
The retrograde function governs the hours and minutes while the tourbillon revolves on two axes and has a spherical balance-spring. The movement coated with NAC (a special metal alloy) is also revealed through lateral windows in its case. Part of the select Maître Cabinotier collection, the manually wound in-house caliber 1990 movement features retrograde hours and minutes indications with instant flyback.
The hands flick back to zero at such a speed that attention is needed to ensure a precise indication and such lightweight and resistant materials as the titanium used in the hands.
The lighting reaction of the retrograde hands contrast with the stately pace of the armillary tourbillon with a spherical balance spring. The elegantly structured tourbillon operates as a sphere perpetually rotating on two axes under a sapphire crystal dome at 9 o’clock. It’s based on an armillary sphere like the one incorporated in an astronomic clock made by the French clockmaker, Antide Janvier, in the 18th century.
The spherical balance spring, which was first developed by Jacques-Frédéric Houriet in 1814, is particularly rare in today’s watches. The shape ensures the concentric development of the spring and consequently the isochronism of the balance wheel. The tourbillon carriage, made of lightweight aluminum alloy, incorporates Vacheron Constantin’s Maltese Cross emblem, which forms every 15 seconds as the tourbillon rotates. This spectacle may be admired every 30 seconds through a sapphire crystal opening on the side of the case.
High precision movement
The high-precision movement is fitted with a new type of escapement, developed and made by Vacheron Constantin. The escape wheel and lever are of silicon with diamond pallet stones for resistance to wear and long life.
The escapement is as lightweight as possible by the use of high-tech materials, and contributes significantly to the performance of the watch, which greatly exceeds the requirements of the Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC).
The precision is all the more noteworthy due to the large amount of energy absorbed by the double retrograde indications.
Contemporary styling and finish
Another feature that makes the Maître Cabinotier retrograde armillary tourbillon watch original is the modern styling applied to the architecture and finish of the movement. The caliber 1990 is electro-plated with an NAC treatment in a dark anthracite color creating a mirror-polished effect.
On the dial side, the movement displays its modern architecture with sharply cut bridges tempered by a sunburst satin finish and Geneva stripes. Chamfering of all the edges took more than 130 hours. The Poinçon de Genève hallmark is exceptionally also engraved on the dial side above the inscription “Armillary Tourbillon” to certify the supreme quality of the timepiece.