Vacheron Constantin makes some of the most expensive, exclusive watches in the world, but it's also thoroughly modern when it wants to be. At an event in New York earlier this month, the Switzerland-based watchmaker unveiled one of its most unusual projects to date.
The Historiques Cornes de Vache 1955 Limited Edition is the culmination of a two-year joint project between one of the world's most prestigious watchmakers and the popular watch website Hodinkee.
So what happens when you combine the forces of horological history and what The Observer calls "a mecca for watch enthusiasts"? As you'd expect from such an unexpected creative union, the resulting timepiece has many features that set it apart.
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The Historiques Cornes de Vache 1955 Limited Edition is based on the equally hard to get Vacheron Constantin Historique.
First released in 2015, that limited-edition piece harked back to a much older watch that "while not a literal translation of the 1950s reference 6087, was deeply inspired by this final manually-wound Vacheron chronograph of the vintage era," says Hodinkee.
So where does the name come from? According to Hodinkee, the Cornes de Vache (or cow's horns), gets its name from the beautifully crafted lugs that attach the watch to its strap.
Lugs aside, the watch has several key features that make it different to other Vacheron Constantin models. The new piece is 38.5mm across by just 10.9mm thick with a stainless steel case and a transparent caseback that allows you to see the movement.
Previous versions of the Vacheron Constantin were fashioned from platinum and aluminium, but this Hodinkee special marks the first time the watch has ever appeared in stainless steel.
The metal adds a more modern flavour to the watch, but it also reduces the price. As the New York Times notes, the watch cost $45,000 [£36,000], "much less than the $69,200 [£55,500] price of the platinum Cornes de Vache that made its debut in 2015."
Although the Corne de Vaches is technically a chronograph, it doesn't include a tachymeter scale like you would find on the Rolex Daytona or the Omega Speedmaster. Instead, Hodinkee and Vacheron have used a scale that helps the wearer calculate their heart rate, rather than the speed they are moving, making the watch more of a medical than a motorsports tool.
The highlight of the watch might well be its grey opaline dial. In some lighting conditions it appears to be black while in others it turns grey or even brown, reminiscent of aged, tropical dials.
"We chose grey because it sits squarely in between the two colours that would be possible for a chronograph in the 1950s – silver and black," Hodinkee writes. The unique dial is finished with 18k white gold applied hour markers, minutes, small seconds and 30-minute hands.
The Corne de Vaches is powered by a Vacheron Constantin caliber 1142 manually-wound chronograph movement that Hodinkee says is "based on easily one of the most lauded and collectible movements in all of watchmaking, the Lemania 2310."
Three straps are included with the watch; a Vacheron Constantin grey alligator strap and two Hodinkee straps: one in light grey textured calfskin and another in natural tan Barenia leather.
"Essentially, we've created a 1950s Vacheron chronograph that we would love to discover in an auction catalogue, with the durability and wearability of a steel case," writes Hodinkee. "But with the simply divine, architectural shape for which Vacheron is world-renowned."
If you're interested in buying one, it's likely you're already too late: the Historiques Cornes de Vache 1955 Limited Edition is confined to just 36 pieces. As the Observer says, this limited number echoes "the original reference 6087, which was produced in an identically rare quantity of 36 pieces when it first debuted in 1955. According to the New York Times, it already has a waiting list of 120 hopeful buyers.
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