1979: Vacheron Constantin caused a sensation by introducing a model destined to become a legend, Kallista. This quintessence of absolutes, embodying the perfect union between watchmaking and jewellery, remains unmatched to this day. The Geneva-based Manufacture now presents a worthy heir to this noble creation, the Kalla Duchesse Haute Joaillerie.
The history of jewellery-watches features certain milestones that in the recent past have turned the spotlight on horological and jewellery creativity. The birth of the Kallista remains the most spectacular such landmark event, since this one-of-a-kind record-holding work of art is recognised as the most expensive watch in the world (5 million dollars at the time, 11 million dollars today). Equipped with a mechanical hand-wound movement and set with 118 emerald-cut diamonds on a case sculpted from a solid gold block weighing over one kilo, the Kallista required more than 6,000 hours of work performed over a full 20 months by the world’s finest jewellers. Kallista, meaning “the most wonderful” in Greek, truly deserves its name.
The models composing the new Kalla Duchesse Haute Joaillerie line are entirely in keeping with this tradition binding Vacheron Constantin to the world of top-flight jewellery-making, and in an even broader sense to the “Métiers d’Art” cultivated by the Maison over many generations. Rather than restricting itself to a mere exercise in sophisticated gem-setting, the Manufacture wished to combine the purely horological spirit driving Vacheron Constantin since its founding, with the mastery it has developed in the most refined gem-cutting and setting techniques.
Each of the diamonds adorning the case – 162 (9 carats) or 182 (11.63 carats), according to its size – is dealt with exclusively using the techniques of skilled hand- craftsmanship. Once selected, each gem is individually cut to its assigned shape: baguette, square or trapeze. The distinctive accomplished on the Kalla Duchesse relates to the contours of its 18-carat white gold case forming a spherical tonneau shape, clothed in trapeze-cut diamonds. The horizontal radius, which is fullest at the case centre, dwindles progressively into the bracelet or strap.
The sophistication of this design implies adjusting the trapeze shape of each of the baguette-cut diamonds, before fitting them individually into their recess. This type of gem-setting, calling for extremely distinctive expertise, is known as the “inverted pyramid” technique. The patient work performed on the case magnificently reflects the splendid paving on the dial. Composed of an 18-carat white gold plaque, it is studded with 62 or 98 trapeze-cut diamonds, depending on the model, respectively totalling 5 or 6.7 carats.
The bracelet of the Kalla Duchesse enables the gem-setter to exercise his art according to another very special technique known as “Parisian mesh”. The latter ensures the bracelet moulds the wrist to perfection, while avoiding any potential gaps that might appear between the links along the profile, due to the rigidity of the supporting structure crafted from 18-carat white gold, and the diamonds. This refined technique enables the bracelet to flow seamlessly around the wrist.
To give life to this Haute Joaillerie masterpiece, Vacheron Constantin has fitted it with a Manufacture-made proprietary watchmaking heart entirely finished and decorated by hand, mechanical hand-wound VC Calibre 1400. It proudly bears the token of the strictest and most demanding standard applying to a mechanical movement, the Poinçon de Genève quality hallmark. Beating at 28,800 vibrations per hour, the Calibre 1400 driving the Kalla Duchesse Haute Joaillerie is housed within a diamond cage available in two sizes, on a bracelet set with either 380 or 560 diamonds. A leather strap in alligator mississipiensis is also available, complete with a white gold pin buckle paved with 13 or 27 diamonds.
The Kalla Duchesse large-size model is entirely paved with 876 diamonds totalling over 58 carats, while the small model is set with 617 diamonds totalling over 44 carats. A genuine masterpiece, the Kalla Duchesse Haute Joaillerie admirably sublimates the arts of jewellery and Haute Horlogerie, transcending them to enshrine a vibrantly luminous creation.