Let me begin by admitting that I am a big fan of sports watches and particularly dive watches. They are bold, offer presence, and most of all have been built to handle any situation at hand. That said, recently, I have seen myself veering towards watches that are not only sporty but are also a little more versatile and capable of pulling a formal event should the need arise. So, when I got an opportunity to spend some time with the Vacheron Constantin Overseas Chronograph (Reference 5500V/110A-B481), I felt elated, as this is a watch, that at least in pictures seems to strike a delicate balance between sportiness and elegance. So, how good is this one in the metal? Let’s find out.
The case on the reference has been crafted from stainless steel and is well-sized for a modern-day chronograph. It measures 42.5mm in diameter, has a thickness of 13.7mm, and a lug to lug length of around 51mm. While the dimensions are quite straightforward, given its unique integrated lug structure, the Overseas chronograph wears differently on different strap options. When the case is attached to the bracelet, the watch wears more like a 44mm piece, which is because the first link after the end link is a little stiff and also flares out taking the actual the lug to lug length to around 57mm. Whereas, when the watch is worn on the supplied rubber strap, it measures more according to its dimensions as the strap falls straight off the short integrated lugs, allowing for a more snug fit.
Don’t get me wrong here; the watch wears comfortably on either the strap or the bracelet. However, it wears slightly larger on the bracelet and offers a little more wrist-presence. Another point I would like to highlight here is that thanks to a quick-release strap change mechanism, switching straps on this watch is quite easy, and can be done without using any extra tools. All it takes is around 10 – 15 seconds and there you are with a different looking watch. This feature comes in handy, especially with this watch as it comes bundled with a choice of straps right out of the box.
Now that we are done with how the watch wears, let’s talk a little bit about aesthetics. When it comes down to selecting a wristwatch, making a strong visual impression is quite important and, in my opinion, the Overseas Chronograph manages to do that, thanks to the unique case design. Featuring smooth flowing lines, thick angular integrated lugs, and a fixed polished bezel inspired by the brand’s Maltese cross logo, this watch cannot be mistaken for anything else out there. The finishing of the case is another area where I feel this watch shines. Starting from the fine brushing throughout the case to the sharp bevels that run along the sides, the entire watch exudes a sense of luxury, which is expected given the premium one pays for it.
As I mentioned above, the watch comes with a couple of strap options, and both, like the case, ooze quality and attention to detail. The links on the bracelet also follow the Maltese cross inspiration coherent to the design as a whole. Every link on the bracelet is removable and features a mix of brushed and polished surfaces which includes the bevelling on the edges that flow down from the lugs. The bracelet tapers nicely from top to bottom and culminates into a slim twin-trigger deployment clasp that also features the brands engraved logo on it. The clasp operation is smooth, and it locks securely into place every single time. During my time with the watch, the clasp never opened without a deliberate attempt. The rubber strap is also of high quality and is quite supple, and I enjoyed the watch more on the rubber strap.
The watch overall has a robust feel to it. I like that it never feels fragile and instead offers a solid build like a good sports watch should. One of my favorite details in this regard is the way Vacheron Constantin has handled the water resistance. To ensure that the watch remains water-resistant to 150 meters both the crown and the pushers are sealed with a screw-down mechanism, providing peace of mind when taking a dip. Furthermore, the crown is devoid of any wobble, and it screws and unscrews smoothly, the screw-down pushers are also smooth to operate.
Clean and legible are two words that immediately came to my mind when I first looked at the dial of the Vacheron Constantin Overseas Chronograph. Yes, I do agree that these remarks are quite common, and I have felt the same way about many other watches, but the majority of them were not chronographs.
Here are a few things that, in my opinion, make viewing the dial on this watch a visually engaging experience. First and foremost is the reverse panda style layout which is unique to this black dial variant. The base dial has been presented in a deep glossy shade of black that plays well with the light and provides the perfect backdrop for the highly contrasting white subdials. Furthermore, the subdials have been sunken to provide some additional depth to the dial. The counter at 3 o’clock records the chronograph minutes, the one at 6 o’clock records the chronograph hours, and finally at 9 o’clock is a running seconds display. Thanks to the crisply printed markings, all this information is very easy to read at a glance.
Moving outwards from the tri-compax layout, you come across the first chapter ring that comprises a white printed minute track along with polished applied hour markers and a date window. What I like here is that Vacheron Constantin has given it a nice matt finish, a neat touch that helps break things a little and adds more visual interest to an otherwise monochromatic dial. That said, as much as I like the muted tones, I don’t like the date execution. While it isn’t an eyesore as it has been neatly tucked away between 4 and 5, I think that this dial would be better off without it. In case the omission of date is not a possibility, I do feel that Vacheron should at least match the color of the date wheel with that of the dial to make it blend better with its surroundings.
Lastly, the chronograph seconds have been printed onto the inner flange ring, to add another layer of depth to the dial. Reading the time on this watch is a pleasant experience that is made possible with the help of a polished baton-style hands that lends some elegance to the dial. Both hands are well-proportioned and show attention to detail, the minute hand goes all the way to the tip of the outer ring, making it easy to read the time accurately. The hour and minute hands along with the markers have also been filled with luminous paint to enhance low light visibility. The remaining hands are of stick style and have been finely brushed to provide a nice contrast against the white background.
At the helm of the Overseas Chronograph is the self-winding in-house caliber 5200. This a column wheel-based chronograph movement that comprises 54 jewels, operates at a frequency of 4Hz and offers a healthy power reserve of around 52 hours. Just like the rest of the watch, the movement is made to the highest quality standards and thereby receives the Geneva seal certification. It can track elapsed hours and minutes along with normal timekeeping functions and has a date. The movement hacks and can be wound by hand, and here I would like to say that winding the movement is a pleasurable experience.
The movement has been beautifully decorated and is a sight to behold, so much so that there were times when I intentionally removed the watch and flipped it over to appreciate its beauty. You get perlage on the base plate, finely executed Geneva stripes and polished bevels on the bridges, and a gorgeous solid gold engraved rotor. It is also worth mentioning that the column wheel assembly is also clearly visible, and you can have some fun by seeing it in action using the chronograph pushers that offer satisfying clicks.
I had the Vacheron Constantin Overseas with me for about 2 weeks, and it was a delightful experience. This is a watch that looks good in pictures, but that feeling gets elevated to an entirely new level once you handle it in person. The finishing on the watch, the feel of the bracelet, the action of the pushers, the strap changing mechanism, that gorgeous looking movement, and much more, all of it, comes together sort of justifying the EUR 31,800 price point.
That said, I do agree that this is a large amount of cash for a watch and this one certainly faces a lot of stiff competition from the likes of the Patek Phillipe Nautilus and the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. But what I can say with certainty is that in case you are in the market to buy a luxury chronograph around the aforementioned price point, the Vacheron Constantin Overseas Chronograph should be given a try before making a purchase decision.