Well the gauntlet has well and truly has been thrown down by Vacheron Constantin, who have just teased us with an announcement of the most complicated timepiece, a pocket watch, ever to have been created. A bespoke commission through the Atelier Cabinotiers, it has been eight years in the making and involved three full time watchmakers dedicated to its creation.
Think about that for a minute.
Think also about the fact that this has been kept hush-hush. No announcements about how this piece was going to be created, just the announcement that it has been. Now that’s discretion.
In terms of records, we must first pay note to one of the most famous timepieces ever made.
The Packard/ Ward battle of the complications is a key part of horological (and perhaps American alpha male businessman) history, culminating in the 24 complication Graves Supercomplication ordered by banker Henry Graves Jr. from Patek Philippe in 1928 and delivered in 1933, for which Graves paid 60,000 Swiss Francs.
Still on the Patek Philippe pocket watch route, the Calibre 89 (1989) has 33 complications. The Grandmaster Chime, released this year as an anniversary piece but which is a wristwtach, has a mere 20.
Wristwatch wise, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Hybris Mechanica Grande Sonnerie is of note, with 26 complications which I listed in an earlier post.
Information regarding the number and listing of the complications will be revealed, in the manner of serials of old, tantalisingly over the next few months, but in the meantime, the one and only Alex Ghotbi has revealed some of them online –
“This piece features the following:
CARILLON WESTMINSTER CHIMING
GRANDE & PETITE SONNERIE SELECTION
A NEW “NIGHT TIME SILENCE” FEATURE
You see two hands for two different functions:
On the top sector: Sil (Silence) , Night and Chi (chime)
On the bottom sector: PS (Petite Sonnerie) and GS (Grande Sonnerie)
The Carillon Westminster Chiming & Minute Repeating
A Carillon Westminster chimes to the same tune as London’s Big Ben… This watch follows the traditional Westminster chiming sequence (quarter-hours, minutes and hours) and has 3 options to choose from:
Minute repeater – the time is indicated by the striking of the gongs
Grande sonnerie – whereby both the hours and the quarter-hours are struck at every passing quarter-hour, for example, if the time is 4.45, the full three-bar Westminster tune is struck (one bar of the tune for each elapsed quarter-hour), then 4 single strikes for the elapsed hours.
Petite sonnerie – whereby the hours are struck at the hour only and thereafter a quarter-strike only on the quarter-hours so that for example at the time 4.45 when in Petite sonnerie mode, the watch strikes the full three-bars of the Westminster tune but no further strikes are sounded for the hours until the next full hour is reached.
A silence option can also be activated when no striking is required.
Night-Time Silence Feature
The chiming mechanism incorporates a unique and very user-friendly new feature developed especially for this watch – that of the automatically activated “Night-Time Silence”. This innovative system, unique to Vacheron Constantin, automatically engages so that (in this instance) between the hours of 10pm and 8am it does not chime in order not to disturb its owner. The night time silence function is the first to be automatically activated without the need to manually set the chime or silence option. The precise hours of night silence are bespoke set in-house at Vacheron Constantin before delivery.”
Add in a tourbillon. Let us assume there will be a perpetual calendar and a minute repeater. Others that might be included – power reserve indicator, moonphase, chronograph, equation of time, sidereal time?
One thing that should be noted however, is that what constitutes a ‘complication’ is not as set-in-stone as one would assume, with brands differing in their definitions. Perhaps this is something that, for the good of both industry and consumers, could be mulled over at some point – consistency, an agreed list of complications.
Vacheron Constantin will celebrate its 260th birthday on September 17th 2015. They have chosen this day to unveil this new piece. According to Alex Ghotbi it is unofficially called ‘Tivoli’ but internally, referred to as Grande Oeuvre/ Magnum Opus.
Okay – suggestions please, as to what the full list of complications might be, and what you hope the new original ones will be. For those counting, the quantième perpétuel counts as five complications.