The single-piece edition Les Cabinotiers Malte Tourbillon – Tribute to Haussmannian style, a masterpiece of engraving, echoes the major urban planning projects carried out in the City of Light by Baron Haussmann in the mid-19th century

Les Cabinotiers – Récits de Voyages collection reflects Vacheron Constantin’s geographical expansion. Crossing Europe, the journey passes through Paris, a capital where Vacheron Constantin has had its own agent since the early 19th century and whose current urban planning stems from the major works conducted by Georges Eugène Haussmann under the Second Empire. Witness Les Cabinotiers Malte Tourbillon – Tribute to Haussmannian style watch, distinguished by its in-house manual-winding Calibre 2790 SQ, an ultra-thin skeleton movement featuring a tourbillon regulator with date and power reserve.

Jean-Marc Vacheron, whose workshop founded the Manufacture in 1755, was himself the son of a weaver who had emigrated to Geneva. France and Italy soon came to represent major commercial outlets for the founder’s descendants, with ports such as Genoa and Livorno offering close contacts with merchant navies. From the beginning of the 19th century following the partnership concluded between Jacques-Barthélémi Vacheron and François Constantin in 1819, the Maison gradually extended its reach to the main countries of Europe, to the point where, by 1850, its watches were already being sold throughout the continent.

François Constantin was the architect of this expansion. His travels inevitably took him to Paris, where he began sourcing jewellery in the early 1820s, convinced that watches and jewellery would have to complement each other in order to appeal to European customers. At the same time, his supplier, the jeweller Watin, became Vacheron Constantin’s agent in the French capital. A few decades later, in 1880, an encounter with Ferdinand Verger in Paris sealed an exceptionally enduring partnership that was to be one of the Maison’s most fruitful. The City of Light had just undergone colossal urban development spearheaded by Georges Eugène Haussmann. Vacheron Constantin’s Récits de Voyages echoes this masterful architectural undertaking with the single-piece Les Cabinotiers Malte Tourbillon – Tribute to Haussmannian style edition.

A Haussmann-style case, top-notch engraving work

To ensure the watchmaking tribute is worthy of the model, a highly architectural, even three-dimensional piece was the obvious choice. The entire movement and case passed through the expert hands of the master engraver, whose task was to sculpt the latter using Haussmann-type façades as inspiration, as well as to adorn each movement component with a motif recalling the metal structures of the Eiffel Tower. This meticulous task required 150 hours of work on a watch whose tonneau shape already evokes Parisian chic through the harmonious curves of its case middle. First introduced in 1912, this ‘barrel’ shape is part of Vacheron Constantin’s heritage and typical of the Malte collection that was redesigned a century later. At the time, Vacheron Constantin had already distinguished itself through this creative freedom in a watchmaking world that rarely ventured away from the classic conventions of the round watch. Today, it reaffirms this aesthetic moment through a new timepiece brimming with character.

The master artisan has left no surface blank on the 18K 5N pink gold case. The bezel and caseback are circular-grained and engraved with gadroons that are round on the front and hollowed on the back. While the lugs feature concave gadroons, the case middle provides an exceptional showcase for artistry, while recalling that this watch with its ultra-thin calibre is only 12.7 mm thick. It features a motif recalling the work of Baron Haussmann: while standardising the face of Paris, the latter encouraged the use of ornamentation, resulting in lions ‘taking over’ the capital, its monuments, its building facades and door-knockers as well as its parks. The case middle of the watch adopts the feline in the form of a bas-relief sculpture surrounded by a frieze. After tracing the decor with a dedicated scriber, the engraver sets about creating a champlevé (raised field) by removing the material around the motifs, of which the volumes are created using a burin. The result is a meticulously accurate depth effect – corresponding to 4/10ths of a millimetre for the lion and 2/10ths for its frieze – that still requires polishing. This extremely delicate operation is designed to strike the right balance between the gleam of the metal and the relief of the volumes, whose shadows are accentuated by small incisions or line engraving. The work is completed by fine chasing on the base, hand-crafted point by point to accentuate the contrasts and bring out the shimmering decoration.

The mechanism has also been meticulously finished and embellished, a task rendered all the more complex by the fact that it is an ultra-thin movement. At just 6.1 mm thick, given its tonneau shape and, above all, its tourbillon regulator, manual-winding Calibre 2790 SQ represents a veritable technical feat. Unveiled by Vacheron Constantin in 2014, this 246-component movement powering displays of the hours and minutes, small seconds on the tourbillon, date and power reserve, is entirely skeletonised to create a highly architectural three-dimensional decoration. The movement has also been designed to offer a striking view of the regulating organ, oscillating at 2.5 Hz (18,000 vibrations per hour), a relatively slow tempo perfectly suited to this mechanical ballet. Similarly, the axis of the hours hands has been moved slightly upwards to leave more space for the tourbillon carriage shaped like a Maltese cross, the emblem of the Maison since 1880.

Once the calibre has been skeletonised, the work of the engraver consists of reworking the components, essentially the fixed parts, mainplate and bridges, in order to give depth to each surface and thus ensure optimal light reflection. The result is an impression of lightness due to the airy design of the movement, whose technical sophistication is highlighted by the meticulous work of the master artisans wherever their scorpers can cut into the material, including interior angles of less than 45°. This tonneau-shaped Calibre 2790 SQ with its complete absence of right angles offers a striking horological vision, enhanced by the opulence of the case. In the grand tradition of ultra-thin movements presented by the Manufacture throughout its history, it perpetuates the Maison’s expertise as much in terms of the technical mastery required to develop them as the aesthetic research required to transform them into works of art.

The Les Cabinotiers Malte Tourbillon – Tribute to Haussmannian style bears the prestigious Hallmark of Geneva – a guarantee of fine craftsmanship, precision as well as High Watchmaking decoration – and comes fitted with a dark brown alligator leather strap secured by a folding clasp, also engraved in the style that was intended to “aerate, unify and embellish” Paris, exactly as Prefect Haussmann wished.

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