The Gateway Vacheron
The FiftySix Day-Date is the Entry to Complicated Vacheron Constantin
While a day-date complication on a wristwatch can be executed and displayed in several configurations, integrating one into a dial in a non-obtrusive manner is often easier said than done — add a power reserve indicator into the equation and you suddenly have a lot of information that needs to figure into the dial design, all while maintaining a clean aesthetic and legibility. And what’s more, if you want this kind of functionality from one of the Big Three (Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin or Audemars Piguet), you should be prepared to shell out some serious cash.
At BaselWorld 2018 Vacheron Constantin launched its Fifty-Six Collection, modeled upon a particular reference (the 6073) dating from — you guessed it — 1956. The FiftySix Collection is meant to function as the gateway to the world of Vacheron for a new, younger demographic that might not be prepared (or, quite frankly, have sufficient cash) to purchase one of the brand’s more complicated pieces or chronographs. The Day-Date is one of three models available in the line (other models include a three-hander and a complete calendar), and comes in both stainless steel and pink gold (I received the stainless steel model for review).
The Good: You get a lot of information out of a beautifully built and decorated movement, made entirely in-house by Vacheron and fitted into an elegant, faceted case with thick lugs and an exhibition case back. You may not necessarily be getting a lot of watch for your money, but you’re certainly getting a lot of watch.
Who They’re For: Someone who wants a complicated wristwatch in steel with an in-house movement from one of the Big Three and isn’t afraid to shell out for it (or wants one in rose gold and isn’t afraid to really shell out for it, at $32,500).
Watch Out For: At the end of the day, this is a very well-built luxury watch. If the aesthetics aren’t for you, this is a personal decision, of course. From an ergonomic standpoint I wouldn’t have objected to a slightly thinner case of a smaller diameter, but this is of course constrained with respect to case depth by the height of the automatic movement. If you don’t mind the depth and diameter, then these shouldn’t be issues for you.
Alternatives: The FiftySix Day-Date occupies some interesting territory with respect to materials and complication — on the one hand, there are plenty of complete calendars in steel to choose from that actually offer more complications for less money, such as the JLC Master Calendar for $9,550, and if money is no object, there is a certain iconic watch from Rolex that features a day-date complication (though not a power reserve indicator), but this model is not available in steel. Finding another day-date complication with power reserve indicator in steel is difficult, though there are certainly several available without power reserve, such as the Omega Seamaster Aqua-Terra Co-Axial Day-Date.
Review: There is certainly a lot to appreciate about the Day-Date, not the least off which is the completely in-house Vacheron Constanin 2475 SC/2, an automatic, 27-jewel, 4 Hz movement with 40-hour power reserve and Geneva Seal (indicating the highest level of finishing and decoration, which is thoughtfully displayed through the sapphire case back). Considering that the movement is automatic and features hours, minutes, central seconds, day of the week, date, and a power reserve indicator, an overall case thickness of 11.6mm doesn’t seem unreasonable, though admittedly I did find myself wishing the watch were a touch thinner, as I would likely want it to fit comfortably under the cuff of a dress shirt (I probably wouldn’t be wearing the Day-Date regularly with a t-shirt and jeans, but that simply be more indicative of my personal sartorial preferences. If you can pull this thing off while walking your dog, more power to you).
I felt the same way regarding the case and its dimensions — beautifully faceted and well-designed case, with attractive finishing to boot — but at 40mm by 11.6mm, for me personally, the watch was encroaching upon tool watch dimensions. I will say, however, that a large, easily grippable crown and the two recessed pushers make advancing the date and day wheels (as well as simply changing the time) and easy proposition, with buttery smooth action that was a pleasure to use (and definitely says, “You just spent $17,900.”).
The dial on the steel version of the watch is grey with an opaline center and a sunburst exterior, with two sub-dials for the day of the week (9 o’clock) and the date (3 o’clock), as well as a power reserve indicator above the 6 o’clock position. For me personally, the dial on the Day-Date was its biggest drawback — while certainly finely executed, I found myself glancing at it and becoming lost in the wash of silver, grey and white accents. As my eyesight slowly withers and dies like my dreams of retiring with a healthy pension by age 65, I find it more and more difficult to discern the time from dials that maintain a monochromatic color scheme. Is it possible to (relatively) quickly read the time from glancing down at the dial? Of course. Could the dial have benefitted from some more contrast? Probably. Is this nitpicking? Maybe — but I’m actually paid to nitpick. It’s in my job description, I swear.
Fine, maybe “nitpicking” isn’t in my actual job description, but it may as well be. I also found the power reserve indicator and its placement a touch awkward, but I admittedly can’t put my finger on why — I think it’s a matter of it breaking the symmetry of an otherwise very symmetrical dial.
Of course, these points aside, this is a very nice dial. The applied silver numerals add some dimension and weight to the design, and, perhaps more importantly — they’re shiny. What guy doesn’t like shiny stuff? Isn’t that why we wear watches? You know, that, and, like, telling the time?
I also appreciate that the sub-registers carrying the calendar information are oversized, which is helpful when presenting this much data on the dial. The hands and odd-numbered indices are also lumed for visibility in low-light conditions, and the case is water resistant to 30 meters (though I would very much recommend removing theis watch before entering the pool or shower).
The Day-Date is available on a brown or black alligator strap with a deployant clasp. It should say something that while I’m personally not the deployant clasp’s biggest fan, I did find the one that shipped with the watch ergonomic and easy to operate (it also nicely integrates the Maltese cross, Vacheron’s logo), and the strap comfortable in general and well-made (I believe the one that shipped on my review model was a prototype, but it was a fancy-ass prototype).
Verdict: So how does the FiftySix Day-Date actually wear? I sported the watch over a long weekend and found it comfortable and reliable, and its 40-hour power reserve meant that I certainly didn’t have to worry about winding or setting it after having taken it off for the night. It sits comfortably on my wrist and it nice to look at, though I think if I actually owned the watch I would constantly be worried about bashing it into something — at $17,900, this is certainly not inexpensive for a watch made in steel, “budget” Vacheron or not.
Regardless, the Day-Date will likely find a welcome audience among Vacheron lovers, or complicated watch lovers, or a whole host of other types of watch lovers, including, potentially, those just becoming interested in complicated Swiss watchmaking.
Movement: Vacheron Constantin 2475 SC/2
Case Diameter: 40mm
Case Thinkness: 11.6mm
Water Resistance: 30m
Notable Features: In-house automatic caliber; day-date complication with power reserve
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