Beloved by collectors for their classical approach to watchmaking, Vacheron Constantin is the most traditional of the three Holy Trinity watchmakers thanks to their old-time aesthetic, heritage-inspired design, and traditionalist view of mechanics. With this, some of Vacheron's timepieces offer a wonderful view of the timepieces that came generations before the modern watches of today and the Les Historiques Chronograph ref. 47101 that I have here is a beautiful example of that.
Released in the early 1990s and produced until 2003, the Les Historiques Chronograph ref. 47101 is a modern-day interpretation of Vacheron's iconic manual-wind chronograph, the ref. 4178. Made of 18ct yellow gold, the Les Historiques Chronograph ref. 47101's 37mm case is entirely polished and svelte on the wrist by today's standard, with its sapphire crystal and exhibition caseback providing a wonderful view of its inner workings while keeping the watch slim at just 10.6mm tall. With stunning heritage-inspired down-turned tear-drop lugs, which we seldom see in modern horology, a chamfered bezel and ovoid pushers, the ref. 47101's case is complex and intriguing as its variety of shapes battle it out for the eye's attention.
Perhaps winning this battle is the ref. 47101's stunning silver dial. Pleasingly symmetrical, its layout utilizes two gold-encircled subdials with concentric circles engraved within to display the running seconds at 9 o'clock and the chronograph's 30-minute counter at 3 o'clock. Despite the tachymeter scale along its chapter ring, the ref. 47101's dial is clean and legible, as its 18ct yellow gold applied hour markers and Arabic numerals pop gently against the warm silver background.
A dress watch at heart, the ref. 47101 features some of Vacheron's textbook finishing on its exposed movement, the Lemania cal. 2320-based cal. 1141. Manually wound, the cal. 1141 fully displays Lemania's signature labyrinthine architecture with an array of Vacheron's emphatic finishing techniques on its bridges, baseplate, levers, and screws. A beautiful watch on the wrist and off it, the ref. 47101 presents itself as a pure expression of classical watchmaking, long before the advent of modern manufacturing and flashy design.
As part of the recent resurgence of Neo-vintage timepieces from the ’90s, I am glad to see elegant and historically important dress watches such as this one come back to importance.