When we talk about iconic watch designs of the 20th century, I typically gravitate towards the 1970s as it was a time when watch brands were more experimental in their approach and took more risks. Despite many designs from that era being a complete flop as a result of said experimentation, some have gone on to be irreplaceable icons today.
Obvious examples of such include the Patek Philippe Nautilus and the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak but there is one other watch that is seldom discussed in the same conversation as the former two, despite it being a part of the Holy Trinity – the Vacheron Constantin Ref. 222.
The Ref. 222, introduced in 1977 to commemorate Vacheron Constantin's 222nd anniversary, was a significant departure from their traditional ‘old world’ designs and served as their entry into the luxury sports watch market. Designed by a young Jorg Hysek, it brought a fresh perspective to the brand's traditional aesthetic. Though what we have here today is not the original Ref. 222 from 1977, this particular example is a brilliant reissue unveiled at Watches and Wonders 2022. There is not a single doubt that the Vacheron Constantin 222 was the star of the entire show that year- it is all anyone could talk about.
This watch hails from the Vacheron Constantin Historiques Collection, which was established in the early 1990s to offer “contemporary reinterpretations” from the brand’s extensive design portfolio and heritage. The best of both worlds I say, using a vintage-inspired design with modern technology and functionality.
The Historiques Ref. 222 comes in a luxurious case crafted out of 18-carat 3N yellow gold, measuring at a perfect size of 37mm x 7.95mm, faithful to the original vintage Jumbo 222. The most amazing part is that while brand’s have been known to butcher reinterpretations, Vacheron Constantin managed to keep the 222’s thickness at an amazing 7.95mm. For me, integrated sport watches are all about how thin it can get and the 222 takes the cake, significantly edging out the 15202’s 8.1mm and 5711’s 8.3mm thickness. While it may seem like not much in numbers, I assure you on the wrist, the difference is noticeable as the 222 sits almost flush with your wrist.
The aforementioned thinness of the 222 largely comes down to the brand new, in-house, self-winding Cal. 2455/2 powering the watch. Meticulously finished and decorated, it is topped off with its iconic ‘222’ engraved solid gold rotor.
Despite sharing most of its design cues with the original, such as the emblematic fluted bezel and the mini Maltese Cross Logo at the bottom right side of the case, this Historiques Ref. 222 now features a 3-part construction with an independent exhibition caseback.
As expected, the overall finishing of the 222’s case is impeccable, with brushed surfaces and bevels that integrate seamlessly onto its newly improved bracelet with no visual breaks.
Turning our attention to the matte gold dial, it similarly mirrors the layout of the original with its historical fonts, logo placement, and two-hand configuration. However, as a Historiques reissue, there are some contemporary technical adaptations here. For instance, the hour markers and baton hands now feature SuperLuminova for improved legibility in low-light conditions. Additionally, the date window aperture has been repositioned, moving away from the outer periphery of the minute track, resulting in enhanced legibility compared to its predecessor.
In today’s world where reissues of an iconic design from the past are plentiful, I find the Historiques Ref. 222 to be a breath of fresh air for some reason, which is quite ironic in this case. Perhaps it is attributed to the fact that the Overseas line has taking centre stage in recent times. While similar as an integrated ‘sports’ watch, the 222, I assure you, is an entirely different proposition.
Overall, Vacheron Constantin's execution of this reissue is exceptional, striking a perfect balance between incorporating modern technical enhancements and remaining faithful to the original design. While not a limited edition, this Vacheron Constantin 222 is notoriously difficult to purchase in-store and tightly allocated, making this available example a pleasure for us to offer.