Vacheron Constantin Royal Eagle Chronograph ¶
Vacheron Constantin has established a reputation as one of the most storied Swiss manufacturers on the market. It is also one of the oldest manufacturers, established in Geneva in 1755. Today Vacheron is a producer of haut-de-gamme pieces that lean toward traditional and classic designs. They have, however, produced a few interesting sport models that straddle the line between Vacheron’s traditional watchmaking and modern styling. The Royal Eagle chronograph is one such model, a sporty design that still retains Vacheron’s classic values.
Here at Matt Baily we have established ourselves as a Canadian specialist in the realm of pre-owned and vintage timepieces. We began our business 30 years ago in Montreal dealing in pre-owned watches and gradually moved into selling new pieces from unique and exclusive brands. The Royal Eagle you see here is a good example of our expertise in pre-owned; we seek out the finest examples we can find from the best Swiss brands.
The Royal Eagle was introduced in 2001 as a modern chronograph for the Vacheron line. Most Vacheron chronographs up until this point were very simple, sober and traditional designs that were firmly rooted in the style of the 1950s and 60s. The Royal Eagle, along with the Overseas chronograph, was a departure to offer a more modern sport design. It was available in stainless steel (like our example) as well as gold.
The Royal Eagle still retains some classic elements; the case shape in particular is a curved tonneau that recalls 1930s art-deco design, and the dial has printed Arabic numerals that also reference art-deco styles (Franck Muller is another example of this nouveau art-deco aesthetic). The details are modern, however – the case has a nice mixture of polished and brushed elements with a complex angular design, and the bracelet is a heavy-link design that has a nice hefty feel on the wrist. As with most Vacherons the details are subtle but beautifully finished; there is nothing extravagant or ostentatious about the design, but the finishing and quality is impeccable throughout. The case is a good size, about 37mm wide and 48mm long, and wears well even on a small wrist. It’s not oversized, and it isn’t too small, it is just about right for a watch of this style.
The movement is an automatic winding 1137VC calibre big-date chronograph with a tri-compax layout. As you would expect all functions are impeccable. Winding is smooth, the chrono functions flawlessly with an extremely light pusher action, and the big-date clicks over instantly. The only flaw is that the case has a screwed-on closed back – you have to imagine the impeccable finishing underneath, because it isn’t on display. Vacheron is known for their fine movements, and hiding it behind a closed back is a real shame.
The dial is quite plain for a watch of this calibre. It’s a muted creamy beige colour with a slightly metallic grain, and has black printed Arabic numerals. The hands are a pronounced sword shape with an interesting texture – one half is polished, one half is grainy. The date wheel is a brighter grained silver to make it stand out from the dial. The chronograph subdials are recessed and have a different texture to distinguish them from the rest of the dial. Overall the dial is quite sober and easy to read, but nothing exceptional.
2008 was the final year of production of the Royal Eagle, which was superseded by the larger Malte chronograph. The Malte retains the basic design of the Royal Eagle but changes the proportions completely – instead of an elongated tonneau it is a wide barrel shape, much wider than the more elegant Royal Eagle design. The lugs are shortened and the case is fattened, in keeping with the “bigger is better” trend we have been seeing from most manufacturers. The dial is also simplified. Most importantly, the Malte is not available in stainless steel – only gold. Thus there is no real replacement for the discontinued Royal Eagle in steel.
We have two examples of the steel Royal Eagle available in store – one new in box with a metal bracelet, and a second pre-owned on a leather strap. If you are looking for a finely finished classic-sport watch from a pedigreed manufacturer, the Royal Eagle is an excellent choice. It’s distinctive and finely finished, and Vacheron doesn’t offer anything comparable in their current catalogue. The new-in-box example is available for 12500$, while the pre-owned piece is 9500$. If you would like to get more information on our Vacherons or any other pre-owned pieces please visit out contact page or give me a call at 514 845 8878.