A slender silhouette for a fantastic sports collection – Vacheron Constantin Overseas self-winding
An introduction to the Overseas
Vacheron Constantin has a longstanding tradition in “sports” timepieces, and has developed models with enhanced antimagnetic and water-resistance capabilities. The brand’s archives reveal a water-resistant pocket watch presented in 1898, 14 years after a model designed to withstand magnetic disturbances (thanks to the incorporation of palladium, gold and bronze components). The 1930s saw the emergence of steel “form” watches, characterized by screwed-down bezels and casebacks, and unbreakable sapphire crystals. The technical characteristics and sporty appearance of these timepieces were confirmed by an aesthetic approach combining a “form” case with a 10-sided case topped by a round disc. This trend was reinterpreted a few decades later, during the 1970s, by various iconic models, including the famous “222” presented in 1977 to mark the 222nd anniversary of Vacheron Constantin.
The Overseas Collection was launched in 1996 and it was designed to evoke the spirit of travel and openness to the world. It was the first time we saw the dynamic lines and the signature bezel as we know them – an evolution of the design code that we love and appreciate today. Vacheron Constantin introduced the Maltese cross-inspired bracelet in 2004. The beauty of the Overseas Collection lies not only in its external characteristics – 2016 saw the first models featuring Hallmark of Geneva-certified movements, an important distinction for Haute Horlogerie watches.
Vacheron Constantin Overseas is now a mature collection with an extensive selection of complications: from three-hand time/date variants to superbly crafted tourbillons and perpetual calendars. The brand has addressed the lack of small-diameter fully mechanical watches by introducing two reduced sizes: a 34.5mm version available in steel and gold with a blue dial, and a gem-set 35mm version available in a pink gold case with a blue dial and in a steel case with a pink dial, featuring self-winding calibers. Previously, the dimensions under 37mm were reserved for the 33mm quartz versions (available in 33mm only).
Vacheron Constantin Overseas self-winding 35mm
The new 35mm Overseas comes in the well-known steel or gold case. Particular to this dimension is the presence of the ninety round-cut diamonds, which add a touch of sparkle. Now, the “sports” nomenclature is blurred by the sparkling detail, but the collection is so deeply rooted in the collective mind as a sports watch that not even the tourbillon or other high complications could dethrone it.
I am a happy wearer of pieces down to 33mm, so I am glad to see the new additions. On exceedingly rare occasions, diamonds can be a gentleman’s guilty pleasure. The stainless steel and pink gold presence is equally desirable for a small wrist. The 9.33mm thickness and the various strap versions ensure not only a comfortable wear but also the possibility to adorn the pieces with a leather strap, a rubber strap or an all-metal bracelet (in the case material) to suit the occasion.
The crown with the embossed logo is made of the same material as the case. As expected, it is a screwed-in design to ensure water tightness. It has a good grip and no issues in terms of functionality: unscrewing, winding, date setting, time setting – as logical and classic as it can be.
A pink dial – a ladies’ prerogative?
I must admit that pink dials are not my thing, but I salute the idea for the more glam and/or feminine collectors. While I will not be wearing it, I fully appreciate and enjoy seeing it on other wrists.
The dial is adorned with a sunburst satin-finished base and translucent blue or pink lacquer (I chose the pink dial as a color variation for the photo). The applied 18K white gold (or 18K 5N pink gold for the gold model) hour markers are interspersed among the markers of the velvet-finished outer minute track. The hour and minute hands are made of 18K white gold (or 18K 5N pink gold for the gold model) and are highlighted with blue Super-LumiNova® insert. Legibility is not an issue, since the dials are easy to read in all light conditions.
Vacheron Constantin Overseas self-winding 34.5mm
The second model launched during Watches & Wonders has a slightly smaller diameter – by only 0.5mm – and lacks the icing. Although the Vacheron Constantin Overseas self-winding 35mm has the same thickness of 9.33mm, the reduced diameter is much more visually balanced compared to having it in full 35mm – the diamond-covered estate would be much too large and austere. So, I welcome the fact that, instead of going the straightforward way, the brand used two separate tooling lines to bring out the best versions – elegance is paramount for the Geneva watchmaker.
The Overseas case is virtually unchanged from the previously presented model and the larger (or smaller) collection pieces. I find the polished finish of the Maltese cross-inspired bezel makes a beautiful contrast to the circular brushed base.
Only blue, but Vacheron Constantin’s superb shade
The 34.5mm versions of the Overseas come only with a blue dial, irrespective of the case material – steel or gold. The dial finish offers an unexpected variation of shades (for those not familiar with this VC dial): from light blue to black, depending on the direction and quality of the light – direct sunlight produces the most spectacular result. I love the Vacheron Constantin blue, in real life, but it is quite difficult to photograph correctly with my current mobile equipment.
The date window is placed at 3 o’clock on both versions. The framed aperture reveals a black-on-white scheme. Although I am a fan of having the date in the theme of the dial, this choice makes the most sense for legibility.
Both the 34.5mm and the 35mm Overseas versions are powered by the same Caliber 1088/1. Designed and manufactured in-house, this movement is an impressive workhorse. Set to a 4Hz beat rate, it offers a decent 40-hour autonomy.
Caliber 1088/1 shines in terms of decoration: the top bridges showcase a Côtes de Genève motif and subtly polished and chamfered edges. Polished screw heads and some of the twenty-six jewels can be admired along the polished sinks.
The cherry on top is the 22K gold rotor bearing the collection’s emblematic compass rose. The rotor weight is decorated with hammered and satin-brushed surfaces and engraved with the Vacheron Constantin name and the Maltese Cross logo.
The movement is visible under the sapphire crystal fixed in the screwed-down caseback. Other details visible on the back of the watch are the “150 m” water resistance and “antimagnetic”, the serial number and various marks (such as the gold certifications).
The 34.5mm and 35mm Vacheron Constantin Overseas self-winding watches are fitted with metal bracelets with polished or satin-brushed links in the shape of a half Maltese Cross (in gold or steel, respectively, depending on the case material). The blue dials are accompanied by a blue calfskin strap with light-grey stitching and a blue rubber strap. The pink dial package includes (besides the bracelet) a beige-rosé calfskin strap with tone-on-tone stitching and a beige-rosé rubber strap.
The simple push-piece change system is intuitive and easy to use. Changing the bracelet or the strap only takes a few moments, an experienced user being able to change any strap variation in seconds. Of course, the straps are also interchangeable between models.
Christian Selmoni, Director of Style and Heritage at Vacheron Constantin, explains: “It is characterized by a reduction in the size of the watches, which are equally suited to both men’s and women’s wrists.” – this remark is welcome since assigning a gender to such a classic size and model would be a mistake. However, these watches can be found in the “For Women” selection on the Vacheron Constantin website.
I enjoy both versions, with and without diamonds, but I have a weak spot for the gold/diamonds/blue dial version. It is something unconscious that makes me return to it again and again. I find the size great and the wearability excellent. It may not be obvious, but a smaller sports watch is statistically less prone to be hit or scratched due to our natural tendency to protect our hands from harm.
I am sure the brand will come up with new color variations in the future, so if these are not for you, wait for the right ones.