Vacheron Constantin Mount a Unique Watch in a Custom Rolls-Royce

The Armillary Tourbillon designed for the coach-built car.

Today, Vacheron Constantin has announced a specially commissioned piece by the Les Cabinotiers workshop, the Armillary Tourbillon conceived for the coach-built Rolls-Royce Amethyst Droptail. Designed in collaboration with a client of both the watch brand and carmaker, the double-axis tourbillon pocket watch is mounted on the wood-panelled dash of the one-of-a-kind coupe that reputedly cost about €25 million.

The Amethyst Droptail. Image – Rolls-Royce.

Initial thoughts

While the watch itself is interesting considering the movement (though it existed in wristwatch form already), perhaps the most noteworthy part of this watch is the collaboration between two establishment brands. Obviously, such a coming-together would never have been possible if it wasn’t for the owner who is known to be the biggest client of Rolls-Royce. In fact, it is also believed that the very same client just completed a very similar project with Rolls-Royce and Audemars Piguet, which created a removable Royal Oak Concept Chronograph mounted in the dash the La Rose Noire Droptail (and word has it that there are two more Droptails on the way for the same owner).

The Audemars Piguet unique piece that was created for the owner’s other coach-built Droptail. Image- Rolls-Royce.

La Rose Noire Droptail. Image – Rolls-Royce

It is great to see commissions such as this being carried out by companies like Vacheron Constantin, which given its success and size could easily pass on such requests. The brand’s willingness and ability to carry out such an unusual idea demonstrates a quality that many might think can only be found in independent watchmakers today.

The movement itself is not original, but it is still impressive. We first saw the tourbillon in the Reference 57260, the most complicated watch in the world, but here it has reworked into a smaller calibre with pleasing symmetry. While purple movement plates won’t be to everyone’s taste, when in context of the Amethyst interior, it certainly seems appropriate.

The construction of the twin-axes tourbillon. Image – Vacheron Constantin.

I find the rendition of the hours and minutes in retrograde format a tad gimmicky. It is supposed to mirror a car’s speedometer, but the automotive inspiration feels too obvious. The display just feels like it makes the time harder to read at a glance. Although the layout does have the added benefit of the hands never obscuring the double-axis tourbillon.

The time and money that have gone into the watch remain undisclosed, except for the rumoured €25 million price tag for the car, but given that the watch will remain married to the car forever, it feels like a defining addition to a unique vehicle.

Image – Vacheron Constantin.

A luxury pairing

Those who follow the brand will be more than aware of Vacheron Constantin’s Les Cabinotiers studio by now. Producing the company’s most artistically and mechanically complex pieces, it has built a reputation for exceptional watchmaking. This latest piece shows the flexibility and creativity of the team there, able to create something that the company has never done before.

The case is made from stainless steel and measures 43.8 mm across and 19.9 mm thick, although these measurements are slightly redundant given that it is fixed into its holder which mounts it into the car. This holder had a white gold back that has a sunburst guilloché design which resembles the Maltese cross.

The magnifying dome which offers a clearer view of the tourbillon cage. Image – Vacheron Constantin.

Inside, the cal. 1990 has been fitted with two complications, a double retrograde of the hour and minute hands and an armillary tourbillon which is spherical in shape and rotates on twin axes. The two spheres that make the tourbillon cage are shaped so that every 15 seconds the image of a Maltese Cross appears.

Inside this cage you will find a cylindrical balance spring which beats at 18,000 beats per hour. An interesting inclusion in the escapement is the diamond-coated silicon pallet lever, something the brand has used in the past, but only in the unique pieces from Les Cabinotiers. An unusual addition, but one that should aid in the longevity of the movement.

The oversized crown had to be moved to the 12 o’clock position for obvious reasons, but it does give the impression of a vintage pocket watch, and once it has been fully wound, the watch should run for 58 hours.

Finally, as mentioned above the holder and watch can be completely removed from the car, and when it is there is an identical placeholder which can be inserted – ideal if you need to leave the car parked anywhere in London.

The symmetrically designed cal. 1990. Image – Vacheron Constantin.

Key facts and price

Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers Armillary Tourbillon
Ref. 9880C/000A-182C

Diameter: 43.8 mm
Height: 19.9 mm
Material: Stainless steel
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: Unavailable

Movement: Cal. 1990
Functions: Retrograde hours and minutes
Winding: Manual
Frequency: 18,000 beats per hour (3 Hz)
Power reserve: 58 hours

Strap: Not applicable

Limited edition: Unique piece
Availability: Unavailable
Price: Unavailable 

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