Vacheron Constantin Reopens Flagship New York Boutique

An expansive, airy new home.

Announced last year and finally complete, Vacheron Constantin’s flagship boutique in the United States just opened today in Manhattan on 57th Street, just as New York City is coming back to life post-pandemic with summer around the corner.

Replacing its former location uptown at the corner of East 64th Street and Madison Avenue – which was the brand’s first boutique in the country – the new store is quite literally bigger and better.

The brand’s former space was a one-story location in a quieter neighbourhood, but now its home is a two-storey building with an interior spanning 4,500 square feet, and neighbours that include several notable watchmakers and retailers, including Richard Mille and Audemars Piguet.

The new boutique is also the opening act for Alexander Schmiedt, who was recently tapped to lead Vacheron Constantin in the Americas. A watch-industry lifer whose family has roots in the business, Mr Schmiedt was formerly head of Vacheron Constantin in the Middle East, and prior to that the chief of Montblanc’s watch division.

Open plan and welcoming

The relocated store is kitted out with a new-look interior that slightly more contemporary than the outgoing decor that was heavy on dark wood. Characterised by golden hues and geometric shapes, the store has airy, floor-to-ceiling windows that reveal the rich colours inside, along with a selection of watches that are dangerously inviting.

In a nod to the brand’s long presence in the United States, the boutique’s decoration during its opening is modelled on inspired by the works of Chris Burden, an artist best known for sculptures and installations. The bronze cityscape and railway tracks on the facade and interior are inspired by Burden’s Metropolis II.

And being the flagship boutique, the store does more than showcase watches in the current catalogue, although it will offer an impressive line up of modern watches, including examples from Les Cabinotiers, the department that specialises in one-off and custom watches. Past examples of Les Cabinotiers creations include the graceful “Romantic Note” minute repeater and the Armillary Tourbillon.

And the boutique will also have on show a selection from Les Collectionneurs, the curated range of vintage watches that have been sympathetically restored at the mothership in Geneva.

But while Les Collectionneurs watches typically travel around the world for periodic stays in select boutiques, they will be a permanent offering at the New York City store, which will help newcomers to the brand better appreciate its rich archive of timepieces.

In addition to the vintage timepieces, the store is also the first venue for a public showing of the American 1921 Pièce Unique, the one-off, near-exact recreation of the vintage original from a century ago.

The American 1921 Pièce Unique (left), with its forebear

The upper floor of the store

The new store will also offer personalisation services, including engraving or strap embossing. And the second floor is home to the in-store watchmaker and a wide watchmaking that allows for an interactive watchmaking experience.

Vacheron Constantin
28 East 57th Street
New York, NY 10022
United States

Open Monday to Saturday from 10 am to 6 pm, and Sunday from 12 pm to 6 pm

For more, visit vacheron-constantin.com.


 

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Living With: Tudor Black Bay Chrono “Panda”

The best sports chronograph for the money?

Tudor was founded in 1946 expressly to offer good value, specifically, its founder Hans Wilsdorf (who’s better known to establish Rolex) wanted Tudor watches to offer the trademark dependability of its bigger brother, but at a more accessible price. Seventy-five years later that remains true, with watches like the Black Bay 58 being amongst the best dive watches in its price segment.

When I covered the Tudor Black Bay Chrono “Panda” at its launch earlier in the year, I wrote it is “likely the best-value sports chronograph one can find under US$5,000”. So I naturally jumped at the opportunity to test drive the watch for a week.

Initial thoughts

The Black Bay Chrono “Panda” is, on its face, a more accessible alternative to the Rolex Daytona, now virtually impossible to get at retail. The similarities between the two are obvious: a “Panda” dial with one line of red text, screw-down pushers, and a black tachymetre bezel.

Yet to simply pigeonhole the Black Bay Chrono “Panda” as a more affordable Daytona would do it a disservice. The Black Bay Chrono possesses enough character to stand on its own. It’s instantly recognisable as a Tudor with the signature “snowflake” hands matched with round indices.

Though the new Black Bay Chrono is near identical visually to the first-generation model, it has been refined with a slightly thinner case.

Nevertheless, the watch is still relatively thick on the wrist, slightly beefier than the Breitling Premier B01 which uses the same base movement (Breitling supplies the movement to Tudor). Given that Breitling recently introduced a manual-wind version of the movement, I hope a manual-wind Black Bay Chrono is in the works. That will allow for a slimmer case which will no doubt create a more retro design.

The Black Bay Chrono is available in two guises, each the inverse of the other in colour. When I first saw images of the watch, I preferred the “Reverse Panda”, which is a black dial with white registers, over the “Panda” which has black registers on white.

After a week with the “Panda”, my initial opinion has not changed. While the white dial is eminently striking, the hands blend into the dial, which impacts the legibility at times.

I test-drove the watch on the fabric NATO-style strap, which impressed me with its quality. Made by an old-school French mill, Tudor’s fabric straps are amongst some of the best in the industry. The strap was robust but comfortable, and importantly, the finishing on its metal fixtures – often an afterthought – is top-notch.

Nevertheless, if I were buying one, I would opt for the steel bracelet. The bracelet best complements the sporty look of the watch, and is well worth the small extra cost.

As is typical of most of Tudor’s watches, the Black Bay Chrono “Panda” is a terrific value proposition. The build quality is best in class, and the movement is perhaps the most sophisticated in the sub-US$5,000 category. But above all, the “Panda” dials are striking, while retaining all the design elements that we have come to love from Tudor. What’s not to like?

Panda

The Black Bay Chrono “Panda” has a white opaline dial with contrasting black sub-dials. Compared with the first-generation Black Bay Chrono that had a single-colour dial, the “Panda” aesthetic is more arresting. The juxtaposition of the colours endows the watch with a retro sportiness that calls to mind the famous “Paul Newman” Daytona.

Up close, it is apparent that the dial is very well done. It has a fine, granular texture that provides some visual interest, while retaining a matte finish that reinforces the utilitarian nature of the design.

Secondly, the combination of the recessed sub-dials, applied indices, and sunken date window gives the dial a greater sense of depth.

In addition, the text on the dial is sharply printed, with the depth rating in red – a design element appropriated from vintage dive watches – that’s match with a dash of red on the tip of the central Central seconds hand.

While the red depth rating may be theoretically incongruous given the tachymeter scale that indicates this is an auto-racing chronograph, the red accents provide a pop of colour to the otherwise monochromatic dial.

Being a Black Bay, the watch naturally features the signature snowflake hands taken from Tudor’s vintage dive watches, though the hands have been slimmed down.

The design also possesses several other vintage-inspired touches, such as the domed sapphire crystal that evokes the acrylic crystals found on vintage Tudor chronographs. And the stainless steel bezel insert found on the original Black Bay Chrono has also been replaced by one in black aluminium, which reinforces the retro-racing feel of the watch.

Oyster

The case on the Black Bay Chrono “Panda” was originally introduced in 2019 with the Black Bay Chrono Dark and Black Bay Chrono S&G. Trimmed in height from 14.9 mm to 14.4 mm, the new case now makes it to the base model chronograph.

While thinner, the case preserves the same finishing found on the first-generation model, which was well-finished for the price. Satin-brushed at the top and polished on the sides – highlighted by a gleaming, chamfered edge along the flanks – the case feels both refined and sturdy.

Like its predecessors (and the Daytona), the Black Bay Chrono “Panda” has screw-down crown and chronograph pushers. Slightly inconvenient when using the chronograph, the screw-down pushers give the watch a more robust feel, though they are not strictly necessary for water resistance.

And in a nod to vintage Tudor chronographs, the screws of the pushers are fluted, while the crown is signed with the brand’s retro rose logo.

Although the look has been gently refreshed, the watch remains powered by the MT5813, which is the Breitling Calibre 01 that has been modified by Tudor to include a free-sprung, adjustable mass balance wheel and a silicon hairspring.

Equipped with a vertical clutch and a column wheel, the MT5813 is an integrated chronograph that features an impressive three days of power reserve and is also COSC-certified. It is likely the highest-spec chronograph movement in the Black Bay Chrono’s price segment, and the biggest contributing factor to its value proposition.

Concluding thoughts

The Black Bay Chrono “Panda” doesn’t reinvent the wheel – it’s no experimental dive watch.

Instead, it’s a sharply executed sports chronograph that is terrific value for money. Retro in style with an on-trend dial, the Black Bay Chrono “Panda” is a winner.

Importantly, the Black Bay Chrono “Panda” is accessible in both availability as well as price, making it a great pickup for enthusiasts on a budget. And the high-spec movement means this is a great entry into the world of mechanical chronographs.

Alternative sports chronographs around the same price point include the Sinn R500 and the recently released TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph. Compared to the Sinn (which is powered by an ETA 7750), the Black Bay Chrono has the superior movement, as well as a better-finished case and dial.

And although the Heuer 02 calibre in the Carrera Chronograph has similar features, the Black Bay Chrono features a more striking aesthetic that best conveys a retro-racing feel, along with a case that is noticeably superior in quality.

The Black Bay Chrono “Panda” possesses both style and substance at a very compelling price point. Likely the best in its price segment, the watch is an easy recommendation to anyone looking for an affordable sports chronograph.


Key facts and price

Tudor Black Bay Chrono
Ref. 79360N

Diameter: 41 mm
Height: 14.4 mm
Material: Steel
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 200 m

Movement: Cal. MT5813
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, chronograph
Winding: Automatic
Frequency: 28,800 vibrations per hour (4 Hz)
Power reserve: 3 days

Strap: Steel bracelet, leather strap, or fabric strap

Availability: Now at Tudor boutiques and authorised retailers
Price:
US$4,900 or 6,770 Singapore dollars (strap)
US$5,225 or 7,200 Singapore dollars (bracelet)

For more, visit Tudorwatch.com.


 

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Corum Marks 10 Years of the Golden Bridge Automatic

With a panoramic sapphire case.

While known for unorthodox designs such as the Coin, Bubble and Admiral’s Cup, Corum’s piece de resistance is the Golden Bridge. Devised by independent watchmaker and ACHI co-founder Vincent Calabrese in 1980, the delicate, elongated movement remains a watchmaking feat.

In 2011, Corum debuted the automatic Golden Bridge movement that was wound by an innovative weight that slid on rails. To celebrate the decade since that milestone, Corum has created the 10th Anniversary Golden Bridge Automatic, which puts the movement within a larger case with a wraparound sapphire crystal.

Initial thoughts

I’m not the biggest fan of Corum’s better known designs, which are often oversized and ostentatious. The exception is the Golden Bridge, which is to Corum what the Tourbillon with Three Gold Bridges is to Girard-Perregaux – a movement defined by its construction and aesthetics.

I’ve always liked the Golden Bridge – the baguette shape is not only unique, but also a mechanical marvel. The automatic Golden Bridge further stands out for its vertical winding mass, instead of a traditional rotor.

My pick of the collection

Starting at about US$35,000 in titanium, the 10th Anniversary Golden Bridge Automatic is actually rather well-priced, considering the movement. In fact, the new anniversary models are priced lower than their 2011 counterparts.

The watch is available in either titanium or titanium and rose gold, along with diamond-set variants

Smoked Sapphire

Like the original, the 10th Anniversary Golden Bridge Automatic has a tonneau case. However, it now features a one-piece sapphire crystal that wraps around the front and sides, allowing the movement to be admired from all angles.

More contemporary in style than its predecessor, the new Golden Bridge has a minimalist case in either titanium or gold. The titanium version is entirely coated in black diamond-like carbon (DLC), while the gold model has an inner frame coated in DLC.

Taking its name quite literally, the movement has its bridges and main plate in solid 18k gold – either white or rose depending on the case. The bridge are hand-engraved with a pronounced vertical fluting reminiscent of Art Deco.

Although the movement is undoubtedly the highlight, the dial is constructed in an unusual manner. The indices are applied by hand along a rail that frames the movement, which Corum refers to as a “floating harness system”.  Because the watch has no dial, the indices are suspended only by the rail, seemingly appearing to “float”.

Under the smoked sapphire case back is the cal. C0303, with its defining sliding weight visible from both sides of the case.

Comprising of 194 components, the baguette-shaped movement is equipped with a variable-inertia balance promises more stable timekeeping, as well as a slipping spring for the automatic mechanism that prevents overwinding. And despite its miniature size, the calibre still boasts a decent 40 hours of power reserve.


Key facts and price

Corum 10th Anniversary Golden Bridge Automatic
Ref. B313/04278 – 313.200.95/0F01 HS10 (titanium)
Ref. B313/04279 – 313.200.86/0F01 HS15 (titanium and rose gold)
Ref. B313/04280 – 313.200.77/0F01 HS15 (titanium with diamonds)
Ref. B313/04281 – 313.200.87/0F01 HS10 (titanium and rose gold with diamonds)

Diameter: 37.2 mm by 51.8 mm
Height: 13.7 mm
Material: DLC titanium; DLC titanium and rose gold
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 30m

Movement: Cal. CO 313
Functions: Hours and minutes
Winding: Automatic
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Power reserve: 40 hours

Strap: Leather with folding clasp

Limited edition:
50 pieces (titanium)
150 pieces (titanium and rose gold)
25 pieces (titanium with diamonds)
100 pieces (titanium and rose gold with diamonds)

Price:
45,800 Singapore Dollars (titanium)
63,000 Singapore Dollars (rose gold)
57,700 Singapore Dollars (titanium with diamonds)
66,200 Singapore Dollars (titanium and rose gold with diamonds)

For more, visit Corum-watches.com.


 

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