Originally released in 1996, the Vacheron Constantin Overseas was the revival of Vacheron's first sports watch, the 222. Like many other iconic timepieces, the Overseas has evolved over the years with three distinct generations under its belt. The current generation was released in 2016 and features some aesthetic design elements from previous generations, while also featuring modern creature comforts and luxuries that Vacheron has pioneered. In my opinion, this current generation is the best Overseas line the brand has ever produced.
Perhaps the last accessible high-end stainless steel sports watch, the Overseas competes with the likes of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and Patek Philippe Nautilus in terms of quality, finishing, and engineering, but is currently priced at a steal. For a long time, the Overseas has lived in the shadow of the aforementioned watches but since the revamp in 2016, it has slowly started to stand on its own with qualities that I think, are even better than the Royal Oak or Nautilus.
Sized at 42.5mm x 13.7mm and tonneau-shaped with a Maltese-style bezel, the case is finished excellently with brushed and polished surfaces throughout the case all the way to each bracelet link. Integrated as all luxury sports watches are these days, the bracelet is perhaps one of the stars of the show. Engineered with innovative quick-release functionality, the Overseas Maltese cross-inspired integrated bracelet can be swapped in seconds for the additional sporty rubber strap provided. Furthermore, the Overseas bracelet features an incredible extension system on either side of its hidden butterfly clasp that can provide 2mm on either side of the bracelet's partition. None of Vacheron Constantin’s rivals provides any functionality close to this, quite the opposite actually. The Royal Oak and Nautilus annoyingly have a strap and bracelet-specific references- so if you want your bracelet Ref. 5711 with a strap, you just have to buy a whole new watch that allows for it.
Dedicated to going the extra mile, the Vacheron Constantin Overseas Chronograph Ref. 5500V features one of the most incredible-looking dials in all of watchmaking. A jet-black lacquered dial adorned with white gold indices, a date window aperture at the 4:30 position, contrasting silver sub-registers and logos, effectively making it a ‘reverse-panda’ dial, if you will. With all these elements in place, this dial imparts a monochromatic edge to their Overseas' aesthetic while also being extremely legible with two separate chapter rings- one for the minutes along the dial periphery and one for seconds along the rehaut. The depth achieved from the mirrored lacquer finish is amazing.
Featuring satin-brushed finishing along with the majority of its case, the Overseas' polished sides, and Maltese cross bezel both pop in conjunction with the incredible black dial. Powered by the stunning in-house automatic Cal. 5200 movement, the Ref. 5500V features a 22-carat gold oscillating weight, 52 hours of power reserve, and a myriad of finishing techniques, all on display behind the Overseas' sapphire crystal exhibition screw-down caseback, which aids in providing 150m of water resistance.
All in all, it is only a matter of time before the Overseas begins to appreciate in tandem with its Holy Trinity counterparts. In fact, waitlists are growing at boutiques just like how the Nautilus and Royal Oak did a few years ago (hint hint). Relatively accessible at the moment given its incredible craftsmanship and rich heritage, collectors will soon understand the plethora of strengths this timepiece has as a luxury sports watch hailing from one of the big three.