Introducing A Range of New Les Cabinotiers Watches From Vacheron Constantin

Vacheron Constantin's gone on a globetrotting journey with these new watches.


If you’re on Vacheron Constantin’s mailing list, like I am, you probably received a slew of marketing materials about a range of watches that just dropped. Excited is one way of describing us here right now, another is slightly jealous of those who have got a hands-on with them already, but that’s life. What matters is this: Vacheron Constantin has released an array of new complex ‘Les Cabinotiers’ watches and we’re here to check them out. 

By the way, Les Cabinotiers is Vacheron Constantin’s special watchmaking department that creates unique watches that can be purchased and sometimes customised by the client. Think of it like ordering the Mulliner specification on a Bentley, it might be built on the same base as other cars, but there’s a lot more customisation and craftsmanship involved (if that’s possible, which it is apparently), broadly the same goes for Vacheron Constantin.

Les Cabinotiers – Memorable Places

Horology is a really great way of capturing the moment, a wristwatch can sum up an entire idea or period of time. They can also capture the theme of a place if they’re designed right, and all members of the ‘Memorable Places’ collection have indeed been designed right. There are four unique editions to choose from. Each of the dials has a plate made of yellow gold, white gold and pink gold which has been engraved with people, animals, street scenes and much more. 

The four scenes to choose from are La Tour de l’Île where Vacheron Constantin’s Geneva workshop was from around 1845 to 1875, the entrance gate to Angkor Thom (the great city) in Cambodia and is based on a Louis Delaporte drawing, the Entrance gate to Confucius Temple and Imperial College Museum which is based on a sketch of China’s second-largest temple by Emile Thérond. The final piece is the Old Summer Palace which is a tribute to the Qing Dynasty’s architecture and horticulture prowess. All watches use a self-winding 1120 movement and are set in a 40mm x 9.1mm case made of pink or white gold.

Les Cabinotiers Grasaille High Jewellery Dragon

The next Les Cabinotiers piece is the High Jewellery Dragon watch, it has the same basic profile as the last watches with a diamond-set (7.1k to be precise) 18k white gold case measuring 40mm x 8.9mm. The reduction in thickness comes from the fact the dial is enamelled rather than having individually engraved parts with 3D textures. Speaking of enamelling, this watch marks the first time Vacheron Constantin has used an enamelling technique called grisaille to finish the dial of a watch. Grisaille, which we first wrote about last year with Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Master Hybris Artistica Galaxia watch, is an old technique which uses a dark base enamel over which layers of Limoges white enamel are added. The Limoges is slowly layered over a period of time using a kiln to set them, and the dragon slowly takes shape. Transparent enamel is then layered on top to allow the design to shine under the spotlight.

Les Cabinotiers Malte Tourbillon – Tribute To Haussmannian Style

Georges-Eugène Haussmann’s Parisian renovation is widely known to all who live in Paris or have wandered down its streets with their eyes to the high buildings. Haussmann, the representative for the main Paris area, was tasked with dealing with the city’s overcrowding, crime and disease problems. From around 1853 to 1870 Paris was transformed, and the new Malte Tourbillon unique piece is the tribute to that iconic Parisian architectural style. This tribute comes in the form of the engraving all over the piece, I particularly like the decorative ‘gadroons’ engraved onto the bezel, and Vacheron Constantin says that over 150 hours of time were spent solely on engraving the 41.5mm x 38mm x 12.7mm 18k pink gold case. The skeletonised bridges of the manually-wound calibre 2790 SQ, which comes complete with a tourbillon, a date and a power reserve meter.

Les Cabinotiers Minute Repeater Tourbillon Tribute to Arabesque & Tribute to Art Deco Style

Following on from the previous piece which was inspired by an architectural style, the next pieces of the released collection follow the arts as well. The Tribute to Arabesque follows the floral patterns of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. As one of the oldest and grandest watchmakers, Vacheron Constantin has a strong history of connections with the Abu Dhabi area of the world, just as they have strong connections with China and all of Asia really. A beautiful white gold plate took a whole month to engrave thanks to its complexity and thickness. The black backdrop contrasts it well. The 18k white gold case has matching engravings.

If that isn’t your thing, there’s always the 18k pink gold Tribute to Art Deco watch. Art Deco is one of my favourite art styles, and this watch sings to me in so many ways. The centre of the blue dial is made of black and blue wood; this is a special type of artful woodworking called marquetry and is typically found on wooden panels of a Rolls-Royce or Bentley or perhaps on the stock of a bespoke set of Holland & Holland shotguns. The dial of this watch seems to have been inspired by the panels of the Chrysler Building in New York. Either way, marquetry is a rare thing to do due to the complexity of natural wood which is cut extremely thin. Vacheron Constantin’s ability to organise the wood pieces so they explode outwards from the tourbillon in a dramatic manner faithful to Art Deco says a lot about their design and production teams, but you knew that, of course, this is Vacheron Constantin. I haven’t even mentioned the case engraving here either.

Both watches come with the manually-wound calibre 2755 TMR which is a Geneva Seal movement with a power reserve indicator, tourbillon and a minute repeater as well. 

Les Cabinotiers Armillary Tourbillon Tribute to Art Deco Style

The final watch for today is probably the headline act of this little roadshow of watches. The Les Cabinotiers Armillary Tourbillon Tribute to Art Deco Style marks Vacheron Constantin’s involvement in the American continent which stretches as far back as 1832. The watch features a marriage of guilloché engraving and technical design turned into an art. 

The black dial is the base for the calibre 1990 which intrudes in spectacular fashion. The bi-axial tourbillon takes up half of the dial, with the other half used as a retrograde dial where the hands move across it and then ping back to the beginning, the mechanism which controls this is also on display. The tourbillon features a cylindrical balance spring with no terminal curve, Vacheron Constantin says that its design means it’s more accurate than a regular hairspring in a tourbillon as it’s less subject to errors caused by natural variations in the construction materials. Also, the tourbillon aligns itself to make the Maltese Cross logo of Vacheron Constantin every 15 seconds, a unique trait which was used in the tourbillon of their reference 57260 pocket watch, the world’s most complex mechanical watch.

All of this is sat inside a gorgeously engraved 45mm x 20mm 18k yellow gold case. It’s that big so it can fit all the mechanical stuff in. I’ve said ti a few times but there are rarely moments where large-scale producers of watches can seriously pull out the big guns and put the thriving independent watchmaking scene in its place. This is Vacheron Constantin doing just that and it’s always good to see.

You might be reading this (if you made it this far, congrats, nice to meet you!) and thinking, “Wait, didn’t he say these are unique?”. You didn’t misread that, only one of each watch was made and they’re probably with their new owners now. However, it’s not all bad news as if you ask nicely, have a fair amount of cash sitting around and are prepared to wait, it’s possible for Vacheron Constantin to work with you to design a Les Cabinotiers piece. The Les Cabinotiers watches are all about going the distance with customising a Vacheron Constantin wristwatch and there are rumours that you don’t need a purchase history as long as your arm first before they’ll consider your idea. 

That’s not an open invitation to bombard them with things, though. The Les Cabinotiers experience isn’t free, but it does show that they have got the whole ‘exclusive high-end watches’ thing right in my books. It’s nice to see that, in this world of purchase history and (to put it bluntly) butt-licking disguised as “exclusivity”, Vacheron Constantin runs itself as a sensible business, as it did 200 years ago and undoubtedly will be doing in 200 years’ time.