News August 2006

The Platinum Les Cabinotiers Skeleton
Minute Repeater Limited Edition,
Grande Complication

A collector’s dream

The Watch Quote™ - August 2nd, 2006

Collectors the world over will be in awe of Vacheron Constantin’s iconoclastic Les Cabinotiers Skeleton Minute Repeater watch – the world’s slimmest-ever skeleton minute repeater watch. Born of inspired workmanship, countless craft traditions and over two and a half centuries of Vacheron Constantin’s horological achievement and expertise, the Les Cabinotiers Skeleton Minute Repeater watch is a veritable work of art – a perfect blending of the most precious Vacheron Constantin movement and most exquisite skeleton of its kind, lovingly set in a case of platinum– the most precious metal known to man. A rare masterpiece of breathtaking proportions – a timeless labyrinth of sparkling reflections of light and shade – this watch is an impassioned work of art made in a limited edition of just 15 pieces.

The ultimate in the watchmaker's art, this Les Cabinotiers Skeleton Minute Repeater watch is distinguished by its highly elaborate decoration in which half of the basic movement has been delicately cut away. The result is lightness and ethereal elegance beyond compare. Vacheron Constantin pierces, decorates and chases each part and chamfers the bridges. For optimal transparency, the sapphire dial is never more than thirty-hundredths of a millimeter thick. Vacheron Constantin has imagined this watch as a means of "visualizing" the passing time in a halo of light, with each minuscule part seemingly inspired by a life of its own. Les Cabinotiers Skeleton Minute Repeater watch remains a work of exception, a luxury object that only a rare and passionate few are destined to possess. An object of such beauty is a joy forever, and this Les Cabinotiers Skeleton Minute Repeater model is a collector’s dream in its execution.

The art of Creating a Skeletton Watch

A skeletonized watch allows you to view the complete movement of the piece in all its perfection while at the same time being able to appreciate its complications and time displays. The spectacular intricacy and technically demanding expertise required to produce a skeletonized piece ensure that it has remained a truly exclusive art with only a handful of distinguished watch houses capable of mastering the entire process. Given the complexities of the technique and the need to reduce the size of all elements to their most refined and precisely finished form, most watch houses skeletonize very few of their movements, generally the ones featuring the most elaborate complications.

Vacheron Constantin pays particular attention to the finish of its skeleton watches, from the decoration, the chamfering, the côtes de Genève… each stage is performed with the utmost attention to delicate detail. Every tenth of a millimeter of metal is scrutinized under the watchmaker's loupe. "Even a barely visible screw is adjusted and polished by hand," explains Chrystian Lefrançois, Master Watchmaker in Vacheron Constantin’s Complications workshop. "It is the ultimate challenge, the quest for perfection, and most of all a sense of achievement for the watchmaker who has the honor of bringing these complications to life." This is why these pieces are the preserve of the most impassioned watchmakers, for whom technical precision and beauty are of equal consequence.

Vacheron Constantin has for many years been one of the very few full-fledged watch manufacturers to continue this tradition, skeletonizing many of its superb movements – from the simplest to the most awe-inspiringly complex – for as JC Torres, CEO Vacheron Constantin say, “We have an obligation to conserve and encourage the often centuries-old arts and crafts that define both Genevan watchmaking and the heritage of Vacheron Constantin evolving them into timeless masterpieces for the benefit of future generations”.

The Art of the Minute Repeater

Despite technological progress, the minute repeater is still the greatest challenge a master watchmaker can face. Each one is unique in its decoration, its sound and its history. Vacheron Constantin draws on all its expertise in the outstanding tradition of Genevan Fine Watchmaking – a dazzling demonstration of an art form beyond the reach of normal man.

Over its 250 years Vacheron Constantin has built up unrivalled expertise and heritage. After more than two centuries of excellence the fabulous and mysterious Minute Repeater continues to epitomize the highest expression of the art of complications at Vacheron Constantin – and the alliance of passion and precision. The graceful chimes of this grande complication watch punctuate each moment, while its delightful music smoothes over time – at the same time measuring it.

In the late nineteen-eighties Vacheron Constantin decided to focus attention on creating a new Minute Repeater. The company patiently disassembled a nineteen-forties wristwatch and imagined a new Minute Repeater, drawing up plans, buying machines and tools, and most importantly putting together a team that could bring such a marvel to life. After four years of research and endless hard work, in 1993 the company unveiled its first piece, the caliber 1755, in honor of the year Vacheron Constantin was founded and it is this – the exceptional final series of the caliber 1755 – that is to be found in the Platinum Les Cabinotiers Skeleton Minute Repeater watch.

Assembled from over 330 parts, its movement is barely 3.30 mm thick, making it the slimmest in the world. Achieving this means juxtaposing traditional, time-honored methods and contemporary state-of-the-art techniques. Cutting, piercing, engraving, polishing, assembling, adjusting… so many essential stages, each masterpiece taking at least 320 hours to complete, each one a painstaking labor of love. A genuine tribute to the watchmaker's art, this exceptional timepiece calls on the extraordinary expertise of Vacheron Constantin's master craftsmen. A work of art in its own right, each of the parts that make up the mechanism and case is handcrafted. The result is an instrument with the purest possible sound – a sound enhanced by the sapphire crystal of its case back and dial. Press lightly, and its two gongs will strike the hours, quarters and minutes.

This hand-wound mechanical watch is fitted with an "all-or-nothing" mechanism, if the slide on the side of the case is not fully depressed, the mechanism is not fully armed and so the gongs will remain silent hence, …"all-or-nothing". In Minute Repeaters that are not equipped with this device, the chimes will be heard even when the slide is not sufficiently depressed but the number of strikes will be fewer than the actual time. This intelligent mechanism, invented in 1720, ensures the striking mechanism functions to the utmost accuracy.

The Vacheron Constantin caliber 1755 possesses two tones: the lower pitch marks the hours, the higher pitch the minutes, while an alternating high and low pitch chimes the quarter-hour. Each gong is patiently tuned by hand, while the slightest modification to the mechanism can influence the sonority of the watch. Not only must the watchmaker demonstrate an acute musical ear – the two gongs must be tuned to a fifth – the duration of each strike must also be perfectly precise: the chimes indicating four hours, three-quarters and four minutes must not exceed seven to eight seconds! It is clearly understandable why such perfection is a collector’s dream.

Vacheron Constantin naturally has a long tradition of creating beautiful platinum watches, which is why platinum was chosen for this very special watch. While platinum is rare –a beguiling treasure declared to be the only metal fit for kings – more rare is the Platinum Les Cabinotiers Skeleton Minute Repeater watch – made in only 15 examples. Platinum is a precious metal chosen when only the best is judged sufficiently good – a justly profound choice for the perfection for Les Cabinotiers Skeleton Minute Repeater model as the play of light on its spectacular components offset the intricacy and demanding expertise of this uniquely original piece.

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Technical specifications

Vacheron Constantin The Platinum Les Cabinotiers Skeleton Minute Repeater Limited Edition, Grande Complication

Caliber:1755 SQ, extra flat, manual winding
Movement thickness:3.28 mm
Movement diameter:30.8 mm
Indications:hours, minutes, repeating hours, quarters and minutes on demand
Rate frequency:18,000 vpm
Movement jewelling:30 jewels
Power reserve:34 hours
Case:platinum 950, 37mm diameter soldered lugs, back case with sapphire crystal Repeating slide on the case band at 9 o’clock
Dial:sapphire glass, metallic deposition rose indexes, 18K oxidized black gold hands
Strap:blue hand-stitched alligator mississipiensis leather
Buckle:950 platinum
Limited edition:15 examples

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