As a watch company that excels in crafting some of the most exquisite, artistic, and classical luxury timepieces of our time, Vacheron Constantin has definitely secured a place in the minds of art lovers all over the world. Through numerous tribute timepieces honouring iconic masterpieces, the manufacture shares strong ties with the art world. Much as they’re all rather more Louvre and less Centre Pompidou at this point, however, the truth is that Vacheron Constantin has got a lot more in common with modern art, and indeed Pop Art, than one might realise.
It may be revered for its deep wealth of horological savoir-faire—and rightfully so—but Vacheron Constantin is also famous for its virtuosity with powerful aesthetics. Between the 20s and the 70s, shaped watches filled the manufacture’s ledger books with a style for every dandy that walked the streets of London, New York, or Paris. And each of these creations comes finessed with a plethora of distinctive features ranging from the artful and the elegant to the quirky and even the eccentric.
Because just as the greatest Pop artists found great inspiration in challenging the norms of fine art to evoke irony, humour, and parody, so has Vacheron Constantin reinvented the classics with daring combinations of textures, patterns, and colours to astound the mind and create some of its most original designs. Till this day, the manufacture builds on this unique horological philosophy, offering a twist on conventions, a composition of unexpected contrasts, and playing with light effects to generation emotions like no other.
Take the Patrimony Retrograde Day-Date for instance. Its elegant 42.5mm 18K pink gold case encircles a rich sunburst blue dial as it presents two useful functions in a playful retrograde display, turning something as mundane as day and date into a moment of excitement. Catching the retrograde hand skipping back from 31 to 1, or from Sunday back to Monday, is one of the most delightful rewards of wearing this timepiece.
And that’s really the essence of Pop Art, isn’t it? To surprise and to provide sudden, intense emotion. Likewise, with the Traditionnelle Tourbillon Chronograph, a svelte 42.5mm grand complication timepiece in 18K pink gold that places the tourbillon regulator at 12 o’clock. Why? Well, why not? It’s beautiful, yet it’s functional. Like Warhol’s soup cans, it is a work of art fully deserving of its own canvas. Except, in lieu of an actual canvas, it gets a fine opaline dial accentuated with a 45-minute counter, a power reserve indicator, a tachymeter scale, and the most elegant railroad style minute counter you ever did see.
Moving away from haute horlogerie but no less coveted is the FiftySix Day-Date which brims with everyday utilitarian vibes. The day, date and power reserve displays are clearly marked out on a classic opaline dial but this 40mm 18K pink gold number also includes a cool design feature hiding in plain sight. A throwback to the 50s, its four lugs get their slender, tapered aesthetic from each side of Vacheron Constantin’s emblem, the Maltese cross. You'll find that it’s not that hard to imagine the four-armed symbol rising into the air, splitting up into four equal segments, complete with Lichtenstein-esque onomatopoeic effects.
Even in Vacheron Constantin’s bread-and-butter timepieces such as the Patrimony Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin or the Patrimony Manual-Winding, there lies a palpable connection to this Pop Art spirit. Clean, sober graphics and clever use of contrasting finishes reflect the manufacture’s phenomenal range when it comes to creating magical moments through watchmaking craftsmanship.
So while we might not be seeing a can of soup or a comic strip on a grand complication métiers d’arts timepiece any time soon, what you could certainly expect is an explosion of joy accompanied by an avalanche of exclamation marks, coupled with loads of likes and loves, when you POP! into the new year with Vacheron Constantin.