It's complicated: Vacheron Constantin's incredible 57-complication pocket watch

An exclusive excerpt from the forthcoming coffee-table book on the Reference 57260


Over the past eight years, Vacheron Constantin, the oldest watch manufacturer in the world, has been working to create an intriguing new timepiece, the Reference 57260, which features a staggering 57 complications, or functions, a significant achievement for a mechanical watch.

Developed by a team of master craftsmen, the double-dial pocket watch combines the classic principles of watchmaking with modern innovations, many of which are entirely new.

Now a beautiful new coffee-table book reveals the near-obsessive craftsmanship behind the new timepiece, complete with detailed photography. Here is an exclusive excerpt:

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Reference 57260 is a masterpiece of unimaginable complication and technical innovation, one that looks at least as far into the future as it looks back into the past for inspiration. It is a celebration of human ingenuity, technical mastery, and, yes, life itself, with its beating mechanical heart.

Conceived, developed, manufactured, prototyped, finished, and assembled over a breathtaking period of eight years by a team of three of VacheronConstantin's master watchmakers, this all-encompassing study of the past, present, and future of horology is stamped with the prestigious Hallmark of Geneva.

The symbolic name of Reference 57260 comprises two numbers: 57 for the number of complications and functions it features, and 260 for VacheronConstantin's anniversary year in 2015.

The technical innovations included in Reference 57260, some of which have never been seen before in a mechanical timepiece, resulted in more than 10 patents being filed.

One of the most ingenious – and some might say greatest – man-made objects in the world, Reference 57260 was created using the principles of traditional watchmaking alongside resolutely twenty-first-century concepts. Within the 57 functions and complicated elements, we find multiple calendars, including a Hebrew calendar the like of which has never been seen in a mechanical timepiece; a double retrograde split-seconds chronograph, also a new and unique development; and modified, reinterpreted, and redesigned existing complications such as the armillary tri-axial tourbillon.

What we do not find are any off-the-rack standards – not even the exquisitely finished tourbillon cage, which is shaped like Vacheron Constantin's Maltese cross emblem – or the "simple" indication of hours, minutes, and seconds, which is interestingly displayed regulator-style on Reference 57260.

The realization of Reference 57260 also required an enormous and exceptional understanding of both mathematics and craftsmanship. As it sets a new benchmark in horology, this was a given. However, without the encounter that takes place between an important collector capable of commissioning such a work of art and the expertise of a great Maison comprising experienced artists, this would never have been possible.

Vacheron Constantin's history has been filled with extraordinary, complicated, and elegant timepieces, all of which take their places of honour in the lineage of the world's oldest continuously operating watch Manufacture – though none of these quite compares to Reference 57260, a record-setting watch if there ever was one. The pages that follow offer a relatively comprehensive explanation of the most interesting and innovative complications that this timepiece offers.

Buy the book here when it comes out next month