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This post is not available in English. Read it in: French.
(This post is not available in English)
This post is not available in English. Read it in: French.
by Jason on 8 April 2013
When someone works with watches on a daily basis, they tend to develop a list of particular watches. The watches on the list are the essentials – the best, the necessities, the icons. They are the watches that every watch lover should own at some point in their lifetime. It’s the desert-island list for watch nuts.
My list includes a spot for the Panerai Historic Collection Radiomir – a watch that, in my opinion, is one of the finest designs of the 20th century. It represents all the qualities I look for in a watch – a rich brand and model history, an iconic design, harmonious proportions, and fine finishing. And of course it looks and feels fantastic on the wrist.
Panerais in general have become a phenomenon in the current watch market. The brand has been steadily building a fanatical following in the last 20 years, which has transformed the marque from a boutique Italian manufacturer of military instruments into a powerhouse Swiss watch brand. The popularity of Panerais has become such that base models and limited editions are scarce and can command significant premiums, to the point that the brand often unseats Rolex as the king of residual values.
When most people think Panerai, they general think of the Luminor. With its distinctive “device protecting the crown” (seriously, that’s what it is officially called) and chunky squared-off case, it has become the prototypical military style watch and the design most associated with Panerai along with the related 1950 case style. The Radiomir line, itself representing the genesis of the Panerai watch brand, is often overlooked in favour of its more popular stablemates. And I, for one, think this is unfortunate.
Based on a Rolex pocket watch and utilizing a Rolex movement and case, the Radiomir was introduced as a prototype diving watch in 1936. Panerai, a watch and instrument making operation based in Florence, was looking to develop a specialized watch for Royal Italian Navy divers. The watch had to be durable, watertight, and easily legible underwater. Rolex provided the rugged mechanism and their expertise in waterproofing, while Panerai developed a special radium luminescent paint that ensure high visibility in all conditions. Hence “Radiomir” – Panerai’s name for their radium mixture.
The basic elements of the design were established from the get go - a large (47mm) cushion shaped pocket watch case with oversized crown and wire-loop lugs to attach a strap. The production version introduced in 1938 used an innovative two-level “sandwich” dial that has now become a signature of the marque.
Panerai continued producing military instruments and modified their dive watches according to experience in the field. The original Radiomir was superseded in the 1940s with an updated case that had sturdier cast-in lugs. In 1949 a new and safer tritium-based mix dubbed “Luminor” replaced the Radiomir luminescent compound. In 1950 a unique crown protector that applied pressure to maintain water resistance was introduced, and the style of the current Luminor collection was established while the original wire-lug Radiomir faded into history.
Panerai remained a commercial supplier of instruments and equipment to the Navy for decades, only introducing a civilian lineup of watches in 1993. The initial collection featured re-editions of two historic models – the Luminor and the Mare Nostrum chronograph. It wouldn’t be until 1997 that the Radiomir would be reintroduced in the Panerai lineup as a limited edition of only 60 examples. The PAM 021 was a platinum recreation of the original 47mm design, with two casebacks included (one solid like the original and a modern sapphire back) and the same vintage Rolex calibre 618 that powered the original (refurbished to as-new condition, of course). Subsequent years saw the production of an annual series of limited edition Radiomirs until 2004 when a regular production model, the PAM 210 Historic Radiomir Base, was introduced.
The PAM 183 we have here is similar to the 210 but adds a second register and the “Black Seal” moniker - so called in honour of the black-clad Italian Navy divers who used Panerais in decades past. It is part of the Historic collection, which means no complications and a manual-wind movement. In the case of the 183 the movement is the tried-and-true ETA/Unitas 6497, modified by Panerai to resemble the classic Rolex 618. The result doesn’t look much like the workhorse 6497 it is based on - it is upgraded throughout, finely finished, has modified bridgework, a swan neck regulator, and is certified as a chronometer. The Base models are not officially chronometers, despite having the same movement, simply because they don’t have seconds hands and cannot be tested by the COSC as a result.
Outside of the movement it is a classic Panerai – large 45mm case, highly luminous sandwich dial and stick hands, wide leather strap. The Radiomir is one of those watches that is big, but wears well considering the size. The soft contours are comfortable on the wrist, while the delicate wire lugs make it wear smaller than you would think. Back to back with a 44mm Luminor or 1950, the Radiomir feels smaller. In my opinion the Radiomir case is one of the most beautiful in the watch business. It’s a fluid form with soft curves and an organic shape. It’s remarkably elegant for what is ostensibly a military tool – I describe the Radiomir as an oversized dress watch, a versatile design that is appropriate in both formal and casual settings. The pocket-watch lineage is clear – water resistant Rolex cases of the 1930s featured the same distinctive cushion shape with squared-off edges that transitioned remarkably well into a wristwatch design. The original was, after all, a Rolex pocket watch with a strap attached.
On the original (and the PAM 021) the wire lugs were one-piece items soldered permanently to the case, which meant that you had to sew or rivet the strap over the lugs – on more recent Rads the lugs are split into two and secured by screws, making them easy to remove for strap changing. The 183 is delivered on the classic brown calfskin strap with Pre-Vendome style tang buckle that is familiar to Panerai fans the world over. It is a tough hide that wears well and develops a caramel patina in short order. If brown isn’t your thing then you are spoiled for choice when it comes to replacement straps, be they OEM or aftermarket.
The strap width is well matched to the size of the case as well, wide enough to keep the design from looking disproportionate. Bell & Ross Instruments are another example – early BR01s had a narrow strap that fit between the lugs and made the already big watch look even more top-heavy. That strap was quickly replaced with the distinctive oversized item they use today and the design looks much more harmonious as a result. For the opposite effect, look at the Bell & Ross WW1 and WW2 which use narrow straps to emphasize the size of the case.
The dial is classic Panerai – two-layer black sandwich dial with Arabic 12-3-6 and a sub-seconds register at 9. The hour and minute hands are matte black, while the seconds are white. The “Black Seal” moniker is emblazoned on the dial, which to me kind of spoils the otherwise clean dial and looks gauche. Personally I would prefer metallic finish hands (and no HEY LOOK THIS IS A BLACK SEAL text on the dial) but in typical Panerai fashion minor details distinguish the pedestrian 183 from its more expensive stablemates – if you want gold or silver hands, or a more traditional dial, you have to step up to some of the limited edition pieces or the more expensive Historic and Contemporary models.
And that’s the thing about Panerai that is puzzling if you aren’t familiar with the brand. With only three main lines and a handful of styles, Panerais are typically variations of the same themes over and over with minor differences in details, materials, and complications. Certain models can appear identical at a glance but bear different model numbers and fetch completely different pricing. Panerais are a lot like luxury cars. The stripper model price tag (a Base) brings people in the door, but if you want any options, however minor they might seem, you are going to pay. You want heated seats? Those only come with the Winter Expedition Technology Package, which is only available on the LE-VTS model. You want a seconds hand on your watch? And a date window? Ooh, that’s going to cost you.
In the end none of that matters because Paneristi are some of the most fanatical and detail-obsessed fan boys in the watch business. Funny enough this commitment seems to be associated with Italian brands in general. Ducati owners, myself included, are fanatical devotees of the brand who hold events, learn to fix their own rides, and help each other out – most other motorcycle owners couldn’t possibly care less about who rides what or how it works. People stop me in the street and ask me about my bike, which never happened with any of my Japanese or German bikes, however rare they might have been. Italian car owners are similarly afflicted. So when I see a Paneristi stop someone and start chatting them up about their watch as if it was the greatest thing in the world, I understand. This is despite the fact that Panerai is now based in Switzerland and wholly owned by Richemont - the brand still carries some of that stereotypical Italian “character” that inspires the kind of loyalty that most watch companies can only dream of. And in this case you can’t chalk it all up to marketing – Panerai’s following has developed and sustained itself organically.
The Historic Radiomir is one of my all-time favourite designs, an iconic wristwatch that is as beautiful as it is distinctive. Nothing else looks like a Radiomir, except for knockoffs, and few watches are as versatile. I personally think it is the most attractive watch that Panerai produces, though it is outsold by the Luminor collections by a large margin. It is an under appreciated member of the Panerai family that deserves more respect – it is, after all, the original Panerai wristwatch. Now that the PAM 210 Base has been discontinued (as of 2012), the 183 Black Seal is effectively the new Radiomir entry model and the least expensive version of the Radiomir available. Our example is new in box, never worn… Except by me, to take these photos. If you are interested in any of our Panerais, or are seeking a particular model, please visit our contact page or call us a 514 845 8878.
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by Jason on 18 February 2013
The same week that we received the Navitimer 806, we also had a trade in of another iconic but seldom seen vintage Breitling. The Co-Pilot ref. 7651 Chrono-Matic is an exceptional watch in several respects – it uses the world’s first automatic chronograph movement (if we ignore Zenith’s claims to the contrary), and it has a massive 48mm case. It is imposing, eye catching, and a bit ridiculous. It’s a vintage watch for the extrovert.
The 7651 was one of a series of models introduced by Breitling in 1969 that featured the Calibre 11 (sometimes called the Calibre 12 family, which refers to a later revision of the design), the world’s first automatic chronograph movement. Of course Zenith likes to claim that the El Primero was the first, and some would say it was the Seiko 6139. Truth is all three were unveiled in 1969 around the same time, with development starting a few years prior, so arguing who precisely was the first is splitting hairs. Officially Breitling unveiled the Calibre 11 after the El Primero prototypes were shown, but the Calibre 11 was the first design to hit the market in the form of production models. It was based on a Buren base calibre, and developed as a modular chronograph in partnership with noted atelier Dubois Depraz.
In the Breitling lineup watches featuring the Calibre 11 had the same basic layout – bicompax registers for the minute and hour counters with a date window at 6 o’clock, and no running seconds. Open the caseback and you’ll be surprised to see that this supposedly automatic movement doesn’t have a rotor… Because it isn’t a traditional automatic with a full width rotor riding on a centre pinion, it uses a micro-rotor that is hidden inside the middle of the movement. At first glance it looks like any other manual wind chronograph movement of the 1960s-70s, aside from the odd placement of the crown on the opposite side of the pushers (a feature shared with the Heuer Monaco, the most collectible of these early automatic chronos). In design it is a Buren micro-rotor base calibre with a Dubois Depraz chronograph module added onto the back side. When you look at a schematic you can clearly see the two separate modules, with a near-standalone base movement on the dial side and the chrono module built onto the back.
The Co-Pilot is similar to the Navitimer Chrono-Matic of the same era, but features a unique dial with a simpler bezel, without the slide rule of the Navitimer. The bezel is graduated in minutes and hours, allowing elapsed time calculations, and rotates via an indirect mechanism. Rotate the PVD coated outer ring and the inner bezel turns via a series of hidden gears, a clever design that was intended to make the watch more water resistant (Navitimers rotate the glass, ring, and inner bezel as a single piece, requiring a large gasket between the assembly and the case).
The case is an enormous 48mm design that fits right in among current sport watches, and is surprisingly big for a watch of this vintage. Actually, it is impossibly big for this era. Aside from a few odd 42-44mm sport watches there really wasn’t anything in this size range during the 60s and 70s, a time when 40mm was considered large. For a watch this size the case has a fairly slender profile. The Calibre 11 is not much thicker than a manual wind chronograph, and quite a bit slimmer than a Valjoux or Valgranges chronograph, so the case it kept relatively thin. Lugs are short and thick, which makes it a lot easier to wear than the 48 mm size would suggest. This example is in very well preserved condition. The case is sharp and not over-polished - I hesitate to say “unpolished” because I don’t know for sure, and the caseback does show signs of polishing. So-called unpolished watches are the latest rage in vintage collector’s circles, with the vast majority being misrepresented by ignorant or unscrupulous sellers. The PVD treated bezel has some moderate wear around the edges but retains most of the black finish. The only flaw is a chipped blanking plug between the pushers – as the crown is on the other side, there is a plastic plug blocks an empty hole where the crown normally would be. Why they drilled the redundant hole at all is a mystery, maybe the case was supposed to be shared with another watch with a conventional crown placement.
Functionally the Calibre 11s can be a little unusual compared to what we are used to with modern ETA movements. Aside from the weird crown placement, you also have no running seconds. Unless the chronograph is running you can’t tell if the watch is running. The minute counter only goes up to 15 minutes, and jumps in 30 second intervals. The hour register is 6 hours, instead of the usual 12, and is graduated in 15-minute intervals so you can count how many periods have elapsed on the minute register. Date is non-quickset and doesn’t go backwards so you have to use the old fashioned method of going past midnight, then going back a few hours, then forward again to quickly advance the date.
The pusher action is remarkably light with this movement. When you are used to the firm click of a Valjoux it is surprising to encounter a chrono that has such a delicate feel, and it is surprising considering the Calibre 11 uses a lever and cam system that would normally have a firm action. I like it, though it probably isn’t as secure – it would be much easier to accidentally push one of the buttons than on other chronos.
The dial is beautiful, very functional and legible with a nice clean appearance. It has a grained matte texture with printed luminescent markers, with lume points on the minute subdial as well – very unusual. The hands are oversized and painted bright white and orange-red for easy legibility. The date window is perfectly placed as well, at 6 and raised slightly so it balances out the position of the subdials. The dial and hands on this example are perfectly preserved with a nice beige patina to the tritium that compliments the original, lightly worn condition of the watch.
The Co-Pilot is one of the most distinctive and eye catching vintage watches I’ve handled in a long time, and it has a design that looks remarkably modern for something that was made over 40 years ago. Normally I’m not a big fan of oversized sport watches, but there is something appealing about the Co-Pilot, and I must say it is a shame that it wasn’t more popular at the time. As it stands it is a rare curiosity, an uncommon watch that offers a lot of exclusivity to someone who wants an interesting vintage Breitling that isn’t a typical Navitimer, Chronomat, Superocean, or Cosmonaute. It might also appeal to someone who wants a distinctive vintage watch with modern, oversized proportions. In any case it is a standout piece that will surely attract attention on the wrist. While values are relatively strong for Co-Pilots when they (very rarely) come up for sale, they are a relative bargain considering how scarce they are. Add to that some genuine history in the form of the “world’s first” automatic chronograph movement, a well-preserved case and dial, and a first-year production run (the serial number suggests 1968, but actual production should be around 1969-1970), and you’ve got a winner.
by Jason on 11 February 2013
Sometimes you have odd moments of serendipity, even working in this weird industry that is watches. We deal with a lot of preowned and vintage timepieces, but can have lulls of long periods where we may not have any leads or offers to trade in new pieces. Then, suddenly, you will have a rush of items come in within a span of several weeks. Such was the case where we ended up with two exceptional vintage Breitlings. Both came from completely different sources, but ended up in our store in the same week. Both are exceptional, hard to find, and well preserved – and both have interesting histories behind them.
First up is one of the most iconic and popular Breitlings of all time, the Navitimer Ref. 806 chronograph. Introduced in 1952, the Navitimer has been in production in some form or another right up until the present, and remains one of the brand’s top sellers. The 806 was produced from 1952 until the early 1970s and all feature the same basic specifications – large (for the time) 40mm case, manual wind Venus chronograph movement, black dial with luminescent markers and hands, tricompax (three-register) subdial layout, and most importantly the slide rule calculator integrated into the chapter ring of the dial.
The slide rule was an important part of the design of a “professional” watch in the era before calculators. For complex speed and distance calculations on the fly a slide rule was a must and the Breitling design (with a rotating inner bezel accessed by turning a knurled bezel around the crystal) began in 1942 on the Chronomat, which was marketed as a watch for white-collar professionals. The Navitimer was marketed directly to pilots as a handy combination of a slide rule and stopwatch, which made it ideal for navigational calculations (hence the name). This was done in direct association with the Aircraft Owners’ and Pilots’ Association – early versions of the 806 are referred to as AOPA models because they carry the organization’s logo on their dial in place of (or below) the Breitling logo.
The 806 was marketed directly to AOPA members and became quite popular among pilots as a stylish and functional watch that was designed with flight in mind. AOPA models were marketed to members directly with brochures sent by the US distributor. A booklet was included with each watch describing the calculations possible and a paper “practice” rule, with a clear focus on practical calculations while in flight (speed, ascent and descent rates, fuel consumption rates, and nautical mile conversion). Two main Navitimer models were available – a standard 12-hour dial version (with or without Arabic numerals depending on the year) and the 24-hour dial, which was later renamed the Cosmonaute ref. 809 and marketed as a distinct model. The slide rule ring was always a contrasting colour, while the chronograph subdials were colour matched to the dial until the early 60s when the familiar black dial/silver subdial version was introduced. Stainless steel, 18k gold, and gold plated cases (such as our example) were available, steel apparently being the most common.
Production of the 806 spanned from 1952 until the late 1970s, with five “generations”. Our example is a fourth generation model dating to approximately 1967, and features the Breitling logo dial in place of the AOPA dial found on earlier versions. It is gold plated, which makes it less common than the steel models but not as prohibitively expensive as the 18k version.
Despite being 45 years old, this one retains all of its gold plating with no signs of wear in the usual areas - normally gold filled or gold plated watches of this vintage will show corrosion between the lugs and chipping around the edges of the case and lug tips. I would go so far as to say this watch is in remarkably well-preserved condition – not new old stock, but not restored either, just a solid example that could be worn daily or enjoyed as a collectible. The stainless steel case back has been polished but the engravings and serial number are still crisp and completely legible. At 40mm it’s big for a vintage piece, and looks even larger in person owing to the expansive dial and thin bezel. The proportions are such that it can be worn without looking awkward in a sea of massive sport watches. Much like the Omega Speedmaster Professional - the other large manual wind sports chronograph that has been in production since the Ordovician period - the design and proportions are timeless and still look good.
This 806 has also benefited from regular servicing and runs perfectly, with a nice crisp action to the pushers and crown, a testament to the enduring quality of these old manual wind calibres. The Venus 178 featured a column wheel that gives it a slightly better feel than later chronos that dispensed with the difficult-to-adjust system in favour of a simpler cam and lever used on later Valjoux calibres. In the 1970s Breitling introduced the 806-36 (also called 806-E) that used an easier to produce and more available Valjoux 7736 movement in place of the Venus calibre, which makes the Venus 178 models slightly more desirable. Which is funny because the rarest 806 of all is a limited batch made in the mid 1950s that featured a Valjoux 72 movement - the holy grail for a lot of Breitling collectors.
The dial is the highlight of this piece. Much like Rolex sport watches of the era, this watch features a stunning gilt dial. Produced by treating the brass baseplate of the dial with a special coating, the result is a crisply printed dial with warm gold markers and a lustrous semi gloss black finish. The markers aren’t printed: instead they are exposed brass and it is the black surface that is printed by a chemical process. A well-preserved gilt dial is a beautiful thing, with sharp and delicate printing and a depth that normal printing can’t match. This dial was only available on the gold plated and 18k gold version of the 806, and you have to examine it in person to appreciate how amazing it looks. As far as dials go, they don’t make ‘em like they used to. The hands are gilded to match the markings and everything is marked with tritium lume, which has faded to a mottled medium brown on the dial and a biscuit colour on the hands. The subdials and chapter ring are flawless and there is only light corrosion on the hands. It’s a very clean dial overall, considering the age, with just the right amount of patina in my opinion. I like my vintage watches to show a little character and wear so they don’t end up looking like some contrived retro-re-edition that just came off the shelf.
But wait, there’s more! In Part II we will cover the Co-Pilot 7651, a remarkable and rare watch that introduced the automatic chronograph to the market. Stay tuned to the Baily Blog to read about the second watch in the Vintage Breitling Duo.
by Jason on 16 January 2013
First off I’d like to apologize to our readers who have been following the Baily Blog as of late; I’ve been busy here at the store due to the Holiday season, newsletters, website back-end work, and the translation of our site into French. As a result I’ve been neglecting the weekly blog updates, something I will be rectifying in the coming weeks. Bear with me as I return to the regular routine to keep you updated with the latest and greatest products here at Matt Baily. – JC
When referring to the Swiss watch industry, there are a few venerable heavyweight companies that have a disproportionate amount of influence upon the market. You have the highly recognized and well-integrated Rolex brand, the staunchly traditional Patek Philippe, the classically inspired and heritage-driven Breguet… And then you have Vacheron Constantin, one of the oldest brands in Swiss watchmaking that has maintained a continuous lineage since Jean-Marc Vacheron founded his workshop in Geneva in 1755.
Vacheron started his atelier in Geneva and operated quietly for several decades before passing the business along to his son Abraham, who then passed it to his son, Jacques-Bartholemy. Francois Constantin would join the company in 1819 to aid with sales to Vacheron’s growing export markets – subsequently the company was renamed Vacheron & Constantin (the “&” would be dropped from the name in 1970; any pieces produced before then will feature the ampersand in the brand logo). The most important contribution the company would offer in its early years would be the introduction of standardized (mass produced and interchangeable) parts for specific calibres. This technological breakthrough came courtesy of Georges-Auguste Leschot, who joined the company in 1839.
Leschot modernized movement production and tightened tolerances to the point where parts could be made to fit different movements with minimal hand-work. Before Leschot’s standardization, each movement was built from scratch and the parts used within were unique to that particular watch – any replacement parts had to be made to suit. Even if the movement design was the same in two different watches, the parts could not be changed between the two without modification. Imagine two carpenters building the same cabinet with hand tools, then attempting to swap panels between them. Minor differences in production would prevent perfect fitment. But if both cabinets were made with a jig and mechanized cutting that insured consistent tolerances and sizing, you could easily swap parts. Despite the “mechanization” of the process, a craftsperson would still be needed for final fitting, adjustment, and decoration of the piece. Others had attempted to modernize the industry before but Leschot’s innovations were the first that offered the precision needed for watch movements, and his contributions allowed Vacheron & Constantin to grow exponentially and begin supplying other brands with parts and movements.
Today Vacheron Constantin maintains a relatively low-profile spot among the top Swiss names, quietly producing high-quality pieces in a variety of styles with moderate brand recognition compared to competitors like Patek. Like Blancpain and Jaeger LeCoultre VC straddles the line between classical and modern style, offering elegant dress watches alongside contemporary sports designs – with flagship high-complication and limited-production artisanal pieces rounding out the catalogue. Since 1996 the brand has been part of the Richemont (nee Vendome) group, where the brand is positioned as one of the group’s most prominent manufactures alongside Jaeger LeCoultre and A. Lange & Sohne.
The watch we have here today is one of the rarest modern Vacherons this side of a minute repeater – the very rare and seldom seen 247, which is a Patrimony retrograde model produced in platinum in 2002 to mark the (you guessed it) 247th anniversary of the company. As you would expect, 247 individually numbered watches were produced - and sold out within a short period. As a result finding information about the 247 is sometimes difficult, and examples for sale are extremely rare. Collectors speak of the 247 in reverent tones as a difficult-to-obtain holy grail that is seldom offered for sale outside of major auction houses (at a rate of about one per year by my research). It’s a rare bird and we are fortunate to have one of the only examples in Canada in stock at Matt Baily’s.
The 247 is essentially a Patrimony retrograde date model with a skeletonized dial and platinum case. It is sometimes referred to as a Malte Retrograde, though today the Malte collection is limited to tonneau-shaped models. It features the same 37mm diameter of the original Patrimony (the current Contemporaine Biretrograde versions have been upsized to 42.5mm) and the same automatic calibre 1126/1-R31 movement with retrograde date at the top of the dial and a day register at 6 o’clock.
The case is small by current standards but not out of place among its peers – it’s the same size as a (large) Patek Calatrava and a bit thicker. Most dress watches in this category are on the smaller side, usually no more than 40mm – it’s only recently that the high-end brands have begun offering substantially larger dress models, a bit behind the mid-range end of the market where big has been the norm for a few years. The case has some art-deco elements in the lugs and combines some angular details with a rounded profile. The massive lugs give the watch an odd set of proportions; it looks smaller than it is, though the effect is diminished when it is on the wrist. Being made of platinum, the 247 has a nice weight despite the small size. There are sapphire crystals front and back, as you’d expect. Overall the design is sober and understated, certainly not a shouty piece by any stretch. This is a simple design that could blend in almost anywhere without drawing undue attention.
Much to the chagrin of collectors and those who seek information about the 247, the case is engraved with the wrong model number – 47245 (which is a standard Patrimony in gold) while this watch is referred to as the 47247 in warranty paperwork and official documents. Oops. Rest assured this is normal for this model and no cause for concern, though the first few owners who noticed the discrepancy had some worries…
The unique feature of the 247 that distinguishes it from standard Patrimony models, aside from the platinum construction, is the skeletonized dial. It’s not a traditional skeleton, though Vacheron is well versed in the practice of elaborate skeletonization, but a more-subtle revealing of the intricate retrograde mechanism and a flawlessly finished base plate. A traditional skeleton would have the bridgework carved away to the bare minimum with ornate engraving and detailing throughout, whereas the 247 has a more industrial look that eschews baroque detail in favour of a straightforward peek at the inner workings. The chapter rings for the various displays are cut to the minimum needed for legibility, and float a few millimetres above the base bridge. The hands are minimalist, polished batons for the hours, minutes and day, and a blackened arrowhead for the date. No lume is present, and hour markers are reduced to small triangular markers. The mechanism visible is finished well but not decorated any more than usual (aside from the brand’s signature Maltese Cross engraved on the central wheel). The bevelling and striping is flawless and fine, even better than some of Vacheron’s competitors who charge far more money for something comparable (I won’t name names, but I’ve handled some very expensive pieces that have remarkably coarse finishing on their movements).
It’s not very legible at a glance, but that’s not the point of such a watch. The retrograde works is the centrepiece – push the quick-set button at 10 o’clock to advance the date one click at a time… When you reach 31 and press again, you’ll see the intricate series of levers and pawls lock together and then instantaneously spring everything back to the opposite side. It makes for a nifty display of engineering and fine tolerances, and it’s also something rarely seen in-action outside of a watchmaker’s bench. Try to find another watch with a visible retrograde mechanism.
The movement is the Vacheron 1126/1 R31 (for Retrograde 31 day module). The 1126 is derived from the well-respected Jaeger LeCoultre calibre 889 ultra-thin automatic, a movement that has been used by quite a few major brands, and in some legendary models (it was used in the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, the IWC Mark XII, Portuguese and Ingenieur, and a variety of JLC and Vacheron models). The 1126 is a slim automatic calibre that has earned a good reputation among aficionados. While very similar to the JLC 889, it features some subtle modifications, like ceramic bearings for the rotor instead of ball bearings (and of course the retrograde module and day of the week register). A 21k gold mass rings the rotor. As you would expect for a watch of this calibre, the movement is adjusted to 5 positions and heat/cold, though it is not certified as a chronometer by the COSC (Vacheron doesn’t submit to the COSC for testing, preferring to do its own accuracy certification in-house).
The strap is a black alligator item with a platinum Maltese cross tang buckle, as you will find on most Vacherons. In my opinion it is the only weak point of the watch, the quality of the alligator is acceptable but not exceptional and the tang buckle is a put-off to clients accustomed to deployant clasps. But, as I always tell my clients, you can always change a strap. You wouldn’t dismiss a car because of the tires it came delivered on, would you? Ok, bad analogy, a lot of reviews do just that.
The 247 is one of those rare, once-in-a-collecting-lifetime pieces. It is rare and sought after, and is seldom seen on the open market. By my research, an average of one to two examples per year are offered for sale, usually at a major auction house. You won’t find it on eBay. You won’t find it at the local dealer. You likely won’t even find it in the usual watch classifieds. But you can find it here at Matt Baily.
For more information about the Vacheron Constantin 247 Retrograde or any other preowned watches, give us a call at 514 845 8878 or visit us in-store.
by Jason on 15 December 2012
Nous sommes fiers de vous annoncer le lancement de notre site Web mis à jour. Sur le nouveau site Matt Baily, vous retrouverez les mêmes renseignements utiles qu’auparavant, des offres spéciales, des critiques de produits, ainsi que divers médias visuels, présentés dans un nouveau format épuré. Nous avons également le plaisir de vous présenter notre site en version française, pour permettre à nos clients francophones d’accéder à notre contenu.
Depuis longtemps, Matt Baily est fier de sa solide présence en ligne et de la grande qualité du contenu de son site Web. Nous espérons que notre nouveau site permettra à un public plus vaste, du Canada et d’ailleurs, de naviguer avec aisance pour accéder plus facilement à notre mine d’information.
We are proud to announce the launch of our updated website. On the new Matt Baily site you will find the same useful information, special offers, product reviews, and visual media with a streamlined new format. We are also pleased to introduce a French website so that our content can be more accessible to our Francophone clients.
Matt Baily has long prided itself for its strong online presence and high-quality content, and we hope that our new site can make our information more accessible and easier to navigate - for a wider audience in Canada and abroad
by Jason on 28 November 2012
Avant les taxes. Offre valable jusqu'a epuisement des stocks. Limite d'un article promotionnel par client. Pour en savoir plus, voir notre boutique.
Before taxes. Good while supplies last, limit one per customer. See our store for details.
by Jason on 14 November 2012
Offre valable jusqu’à epuisement des stocks. Pour en savoir plus, voir notre boutique.
Good while supplies last. See our store for details.
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