Vacheron Constantin Unveils the Traditionnelle Split-Seconds Chronograph Collection Excellence Platine

Spectacular mechanics.

First revealed in 2015 inside the Harmony Grande Ultra-Thin Complication Chronograph, the cal. 3500 is a thin, split-seconds chronograph movement with a beautiful construction and novel peripheral winding mechanism. After a brief hiatus, the cal. 3500 has returned at Watches & Wonders 2021 with the Traditionnelle Split-Seconds Chronograph Ultra-Thin Collection Excellence Platine.

Cleaner and more formal in style than the Harmony of 2015, the new Traditionnelle split-seconds boasts the same gorgeous cal. 3500, and because it’s a Collection Excellence Platine (CEP) edition, a solid platinum dial. Vacheron Constantin is on a roll with the CEP watches in 2021, with the Traditionnelle split-seconds being the second CEP edition for the year, after the elegant and quirky American 1921.

Initial thoughts

I was wowed by the cal. 3500 when it made its debut in the Harmony split-seconds chronograph in 2015, and found it a shame that the movement disappeared from the catalogue. The cal. 3500 deserved to be revived, and now it has been.

Beautifully traditional in its construction and endowed with intricate and elegant details, the cal. 3500 is one of the finest modern-day chronograph movements. Beyond its aesthetics, it is also exceptionally thin at just 5.2 mm high, making it a feat of construction. And it is also innovative with its peripheral winding mechanism, which is admittedly not new but almost never found on classically handsome movements.

The cal. 3500

The Traditionnelle split-seconds is an expensive watch – it retails for about US$300,000 – but it is arguably worth it. Not only is it impressively complex, there is nothing else quite like it. The recently-launched Lange Triple Split is perhaps more complex, but it is substantially thicker – its movement is almost twice the height of the cal. 3500 in fact.

The closest comparables were the Patek Philippe Ref. 5959 and 5950, both ultra-thin split-seconds chronographs powered by the same hand-wind CHR 27-525 PS movement (that’s 0.05 mm thicker than the cal. 3500) . They have been discontinued, but when available both had retail prices higher than the Traditionnelle split-seconds.

Platine

Being a CEP edition, the Traditionnelle Split-Seconds is dressed in a familiar livery. As is tradition for the CEP, the dial is sandblasted platinum, giving it a finely-grained texture. The hour markers and hour and minute hands are solid white gold, while the rest of the hands are blued steel.

The “Pt950” hallmark between four and five o’clock is the de facto emblem of the CEP line

The case is naturally platinum as well, as is the folding clasp. And to maximise the use of platinum, the thread that holds the strap together is woven from a mix of silk and platinum wire.

Measuring 42.5 mm in diameter, the case is largish, but a thin 10.72 mm high. Being a Traditionnelle model, the case is characterised by straight, clean lines, with the only flourish being the Maltese cross subtly worked into the sides of the lugs.

Made up of 473 parts, the cal. 3500 is visible through the display back. Despite being an automatic movement, the view is very much that of a traditional, laterally-coupled chronograph because of the peripheral winding mechanism.

The rotor takes the form of a ring with a semicircular, 22k yellow gold weight that surrounds the movement. It’s mounted on ball bearings and winds the mainspring via teeth on its inner rim that meshes with a tiny winding wheel that sits next to the balance wheel.


Key Facts and Price

Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Split-Seconds Chronograph Ultra-Thin Collection Excellence Platine
Ref. 5400T/000P-B637

Diameter: 42.5 mm
Height: 10.7 mm
Material: Platinum
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance:
 30 m

Dial: Platinum with white gold applied numerals

Movement: Cal. 3500
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds; mono-pusher, split-seconds chronograph; and power reserve indicator
Winding: Automatic
Frequency:
21,600 beats per hour (3 Hz)
Power reserve:
 48 hours

Strap: Alligator with platinum folding clasp

Limited edition: 15 pieces 
Availability:
Only at boutiques
Price: Approximately US$300,000

For more, visit vacheronconstantin.com


 

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Cartier Introduces the Santos-Dumont Extra-Large Limited Editions

In platinum or two-tone steel and pink gold.

Having introduced several Santos-Dumont limited editions last year that all sold well, Cartier has followed up with a pair of Santos-Dumont Extra-Large watches, both also limited editions but featuring dials that are notably unconventional for the Santos.

Leaving the Santos Dumont XL distinct from earlier iterations of the same model, the new dial design features a spiral, stamped guilloche in its centre, along with reflective Arabic numerals for the hours. It’s found on both the new editions, one in platinum that’s accompanied by a pair of cufflinks, and the other a more affordable, two-tone iteration in steel and pink gold.

Initial thoughts

While attractive, most of last year’s Santos-Dumont models were in the Large case size – except for the ultra-pricey platinum, box-set edition – which despite the name is relatively small by modern standards. The Santos-Dumont XL, on the other hand, is a good size that’s large enough while still being thin and elegant.

The pair of new watches are both XL size, making them ideal for anyone who found last year’s trio too small. Though the case design remains identical, Cartier smartly bestowed a new dial design on the new pair, which leaves them looking surprisingly unusual.

Though the dial design is clearly inspired by vintage Cartier watches from the early 20th century, the Arabic numerals are novel for Cartier, which makes the two new models unconventional but still appealing.

I don’t typically like two-tone watches of this style, but the steel-and-gold edition is surprisingly good looking, while also being affordable compared to the platinum version.

Flying machines

As with last year’s editions, the new models are each named after one of the flying machines invented by Alberto Santos-Dumont, the Brazilian aviation pioneer who was responsible for the creation of the original Santos. Both watches shares the same case that’s 33.9 mm in diameter and just 7.5 mm high. Inside is the 430 MC, which is actually the Piaget cal. 430P, an ultra-thin hand-wind movement with a 38-hour power reserve.

The two-tone model is inspired by the No. 19, an early, lightweight aircraft that was evolved from “La Demoiselle”, the plane that inspired last year’s platinum limited edition.

The Santos-Dumont XL “No. 19”

And the platinum Santos-Dumont is inspired by the airship “guide-rope maritime”, which is part of the Santos-Dumont Precious Set.

This is accompanied by a lacquered wood box that includes a pair of 18k white gold cufflinks inlaid with Hawk’s Eye, a type of Tiger’s Eye. And the lid of the box is bears a stylised depiction of the Maritime Guide Rope airship, which is also reproduced on the case back.

The Santos-Dumont XL “guide-rope maritime” along with its box and cufflinks


Key facts and price

Cartier Santos-Dumont Precious Set
Ref. CRWGSA0048 (wristwatch)
Ref. CRWGSA0050 (box set)

Diameter: 46.6 mm by 33.9 mm
Height: 7.5 mm
Material: Platinum
Water resistance: 30 m
Crystal: Sapphire

Movement: 430 MC
Functions: Hours and minutes
Winding: Hand-wound
Frequency: 21,600 beats per hour (3 Hz)
Power reserve: 38 hours

Strap: Alligator with pin buckle

Additional accessories: Lacquered wood box with inlaid airship motif, and cufflinks in 18k white gold inlaid with hawk’s eye

Limited edition: 100 pieces
Availability:
From September at Cartier boutiques and retailers
Price: US$31,100; or 42,900 Singapore dollars


Cartier Santos-Dumont Extra-Large “No. 19”
Ref. CRW2SA0025

Diameter: 46.6 mm by 33.9 mm
Height: 7.5 mm
Material: Steel and 18k pink gold
Water resistance: 30 m
Crystal: Sapphire

Movement: 430 MC
Functions: Hours and minutes
Winding: Hand-wound
Frequency: 21,600 beats per hour (3 Hz)
Power reserve: 38 hours

Strap: Alligator with pin buckle

Limited edition: 500 pieces
Availability:
From June at Cartier boutiques and retailers
Price: US$8,350; or 12,000 Singapore dollars

For more, visit Cartier.com.


 

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IWC Introduces the Big Pilot’s Watch Shock Absorber XPL

Incredibly shockproof and very expensive.

Most famous for its functional aviator’s watches, most notably the Big Pilot’s Watch, IWC is going even further with the Big Pilot’s Watch Shock Absorber XPL, a highly experimental version of the Big Pilot with extreme shock resistance that was tested by the Fracture & Shock Physics Group at Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge University. The Big Pilot XPL boasts exceptional shock resistance – made possible with advanced and ingenious engineering – and an eye-watering price tag.

Initial Thoughts

The Big Pilot XPL is certainly an impressive piece of engineering, with its hyper-modern aesthetic being a result of the shock-resistance mechanism within the case. The look is clean and strikingly legible, as a pilot’s watch should be.

Despite its looks, the Big Pilot XPL is not even that big. In fact, at 44 mm wide and just over 12 mm thick, it is one of the smaller Big Pilot models to date. This, together with the lightweight Ceratanium case means that it will likely be quite wearable.

Highly legible

The Big Pilot XPL will retail for CHF80,000, or about US$87,000, an eye-watering price for a time-only IWC, despite all of the engineering inside. However, it might be a bargain from another perspective – this might just be the cheapest watch with a performance comparable to a Richard Mille.

That said, ultra-shock resistant watches have rarely performed well commercially, aside from Richard Mille’s multiple creations. In fact, IWC’s sister company, Jaeger-LeCoultre, debuted several similar watches (including the Master Compressor Extreme World Chronograph) about 15 years ago that gained little traction. With that in mind, the small, 30-piece production run of the Big Pilot XPL is logical.

Resistant to 30,000 g

“XPL” is short for experimental and quite descriptive: little about the watch is much like any other IWC.

The case is Ceratanium, a titanium and ceramic composite that was also used in the Fliegerchronograph Ceramic 3705 released earlier this year. Produced via powder metallurgy, in which powdered titanium and ceramic are mixed before they are sintered in a special oven at high temperature and pressure. The result is a material that is as hard and as scratch-resistant as ceramic without having any of its brittleness.

Though many similar watches tend to have highly stylised, technical-looking dials that make reading the time a challenge, the Big Pilot XPL makes no such concessions. The dial is a plain, matte black with Arabic numerals in white. The luminescent hour markers are not on the dial, and are instead attached to the SPRIN-g PROTECT system that is the star of the show.

SPRIN-g PROTECT protects the watch from shocks or acceleration of over 30,000 g – about twice the acceleration of an artillery shell.

A key component of SPRIN-g PROTECT is the gold-tone cantilever spring made of Bulk Metallic Glass (BMG), a metal alloy with a crystalline structure similar to that of glass. The elastic properties of the BMG and the design of the spring maximise the dissipation of force equally across the spring, minimising the shock to the movement.

In addition, the winding stem – which connects the crown to the movement – is constructed such that the movement can movement independently of the case, further boosting its shock resistance.

The complex case construction includes a BMG cantilever spring (in gold) within the SPRIN-g PROTECT system

Inside the watch is the cal. 32115, a five-day automatic movement that is constructed to be lighter than the standard version of the calibre. Amongst other things, the base plate, which is the heaviest single component of a movement, is aluminium instead of brass. And the movement sits in a spacer ring that’s titanium instead of steel or brass.

Despite the novel materials used in its construction, the movement remains a traditional IWC movement at heart, incorporating the trademark Pellaton bidirectional-pawl winding system for instance.


Key facts and price

IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Shock Absorber XPL
Ref. 357201

Diameter: 44 mm
Height: 12.09 mm
Material: Black Ceratanium
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 100 m

Movement: Cal. 32115
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, and date
Winding: Automatic
Frequency: 28,800 vibrations per hour (4 Hz)
Power reserve: 120 hours

Strap: Black rubber strap with leather inlay

Limited edition: Total 30 pieces, with 10 made per year until 2023
Availability
: Via order at IWC boutiques or its online concierge service
Price: 80,000 Swiss francs

For more, visit IWC.com.


 

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Chopard Introduces the L.U.C QF Jubilee

A double-certified chronometer in steel.

Named after Chopard founder Louis-Ulysse Chopard, the L.U.C line is all about haute horlogerie, encompassing both complications and fine finishing. To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Chopard Manufacture in Fleurier, the brand is releasing the L.U.C QF Jubilee, a doubly-certified chronometer with a steel case, offering a finely finished movement at a relatively accessible price.

Initial Thoughts

The L.U.C QF Jubilee is an attractive watch that straddles the line between vintage and modern design. It is 39 mm wide and a hair under 9 mm thick, making it the perfect size for a classically-styled dress watch.

The vintage inspiration extends to the shape of the lugs and the proportions of the mirror-polished case – both the bezel and case back are domed and sandwich a thin case middle, giving it proportions reminiscent of watches from the first half of the 20th century.

Despite being a dress watch, the QF Jubilee is surprisingly practical – the hands are filled with Super-LumiNova, as are the indices. While the sector-style design and syringe hands are vintage-inspired, the blue-on-silver colours and lume are concessions to modernity.

But the best thing about the watch is the movement, which is an in-house automatic with a sophisticated construction and refined finishing. Even though the calibre is not decorated to the top grade of L.U.C finishing (those have the Poincon de Geneve), it is good enough to be better than almost all watches at this price range.

The vintage-inspired dial also has modern touches like Super-LumiNova on the hands and at the indices

Notably, Chopard has chosen to use a steel case for this commemorative edition instead of a precious metal, so it will retail for an affordable US$14,500. For a watch that is as well finished as it is, especially on the inside, the L.U.C QF Jubilee offers solid value.

The L.U.C 96.09-L inside

Manufacture Chopard

In keeping with the rest of the L.U.C line, the QF Jubilee is executed very well in terms of fit and finish. The dial for instance, has a two-texture surface – radially brushed before the blue chapter ring dial is applied with as a galvanic coating.

The distance of the seconds sub-dial from the outer edge of the dial hints at the small but impressive L.U.C 96.09-L inside, which is visible through the case back.

Chopard’s signature micro-rotor automatic is just 3.30 mm high, but powered twin, stacked mainsprings for a longish running time of 65 hours. It’s is decorated by hand to a notably high standard, with Côtes de Genève on its bridges and polished, bevelled edges on most of the components – even the steel rocker arm for the rotor. And the 22k gold rotor itself is decorated with two techniques, radial brushing on its centre and solarisation on its outer edge.

The cal. 96.09-L is certified by two chronometer testing bodies

Not only is it a fine movement, but the cal. 96.09-L also undergoes not one, but two tests for chronometric performance. It’s first examined by the Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC) as a movement without a case, and then samples of completed watches from each production run undergo a three-week battery of tests, known as Chronofiable, at the Fleurier Quality Foundation (FQF).

Set up by Chopard and a handful of other brands, FQF tests for performance in heat, cold, and humidity, as well as its winding efficiency, and resistance to magnetic fields and shocks. Finally, every finished watch watch is tested on a Fleuritest machine, which simulates a full day of use.


Key facts and price

Chopard L.U.C QF Jubilee
Ref. 168613-3001

Diameter: 39 mm
Height: 8.92 mm
Material: Stainless steel
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 30 meters

Movement: Calibre L.U.C 96.09-L
Functions: Hours, minutes, and seconds
Winding: Microrotor automatic
Frequency: 28,800 vibrations per hour (4 Hz)
Power reserve: 65 hours

Strap: “Responsible” leather strap and stainless steel pin buckle

Availability: At Chopard boutiques and retailers
Price: US$14,500

For more, visit Chopard.com.


 

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Louis Vuitton Introduces the Tambour Carpe Diem Automaton Minute Repeater

Remarkably impressive.

Continuing Louis Vuitton’s slow-but-steady progress upwards as a technical watchmaker, the Tambour Carpe Diem is its flagship watch for 2021. The Carpe Diem is a minute repeater with a quadruple jacquemart – it incorporates four automata – along with a jumping hour and retrograde minutes display.

Developed and produced entirely in-house at La Fabrique du Temps, the Geneva complications specialist owned by Louis Vuitton, the LV 525 movement in the Carpe Diem is accompanied by artisanal decoration on the dial. All of the engraving is done by Dick Steenman of Art&D in Geneva, while the enamelling is the work of Anita Porchet, who needs no introduction.

Initial thoughts

One of the most impressive watches of the year, the Carpe Diem is highly complicated – and boasts extremely fine enamelling – but the gothic style will be a bit too much for many.

I saw the watch in person a few weeks ago, and I was amazed by the delicate quality of the artisanal decoration. The memento mori motif is not for me, but the work is unmistakably excellent. The snake is enamelled by Anita Porchet and particularly fine. It’s extremely slender and its skin is incredibly nuanced, covered in scales and the Louis Vuitton monogram.

The tail of the snake is coiled around a single brilliant-cut diamond, while the eyes of the snake are a pair of rubies

The only tangible downside of the watch is its size. It is almost 47 mm in diameter and 15 mm high, and feels every bigger due to the narrow bezel and tall, sloping flanks of the Tambour case.

While Louis Vuitton is not a traditional watchmaker, they have been steadily putting out notable timepieces, and this certainly counts as one. And for US$475,000, the Carpe Diem is fair value for a watch of this complexity.

Artisanal craft

The extravagant aesthetic of the dial is made up of work by two artisans. The engraving – all done by hand naturally – was done by Dick Steenman, whose Geneva workshop Art&D counts Piaget and Van Cleef & Arpels amongst its other clients. Every element of the dial is engraved – dial, snake, skull, teeth, and hour glass – with the textures of the skull and snakeskin being exceptionally fine.

After engraving, the dial, snake, and teeth are then enamelled by Anita Porchet. The dial and snake are finished in translucent enamel, while the teeth are coated in bright white enamel. Exemplifying the refined enamelling that has made Ms Porchet perhaps the most famous enameller in watchmaking, the snake is outstanding in its detail and colour.

Telling the time

The automata are integrated into the displays of the Carpe Diem. Pushing the snake-shaped button at two o’clock triggers the jacquemarts, which start moving in sync in a 16-second mechanical dance.

The head of the snake pivots to reveal the hours in the skull’s forehead, and its tail simultaneously swings to point to the minutes on a retrograde scale at eight o’clock.

And a pivoted lattice slides into view in the left eye of the skull, transforming the emblem within from one component of the Louis Vuitton monogram into another: turning a rounded, four-petaled flower into a four-pointed star. And at the same time, the jaw of the skull lowers to reveal “Carpe Diem” between the two rows of enamelled teeth.

All of the mechanical action is powered by the LV 525, which is based on the minute repeating movement constructed by La Fabrique du Temp several years ago (and also found in the Laurent Ferrier Galet repeater). Boasting an impressive 100-hour power reserve, it’s a hand-wind movement made up of 426 components.

The bridges have been cleverly reshaped to form a skull on the reverse, with the eyes revealing jewel bearings and the mouth of the skull the balance wheel


Key facts and price

Louis Vuitton Tambour Carpe Diem
Ref. Q1EN0Y

Diameter: 46.8 mm
Height: 14.42 mm
Material: 18k pink gold
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 30 m

Movement: LV 525
Functions: Minute repeater, and jacquemart with four automatons – jumping hour, retrograde minute hand, power reserve indicator, and jaw of skull
Frequency: 21,600 beats per hour (3.5 Hz)
Winding: Hand wind
Power reserve: 100 hours

Strap: Leather with pink gold folding clasp

Limited edition: No but very limited production 
Availability:
 At Louis Vuitton boutiques
Price: US$475,000

For more, visit Louisvuitton.com.


 

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