The Vacheron Constantin Fiftysix, not to be confused with the similarly numerical Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight, is a collection that got me and many other fans of the brand all excited when it launched back in 2018.
Here, the hallowed watchmaker took aim at a slightly different demographic to its usual band of extremely wealthy horophiles by offering a classic* watch design in steel for the first time in the brand’s history. Yes, we were still looking at an entry point of a shade more than £10,000, but given Vacheron’s illustrious name and history, this is about as accessible as the Swiss giant gets. (*In this context, classic meaning “not a sports watch” – a style of timepiece the brand has used steel for in the past.)
Why Fiftysix? Unsurprisingly, Vacheron explains this away as the “heir to a model from 1956”; the Ronseal approach, then.
In execution this amounts to a nearly-not-quite homage to the Reference 6073 – a Vacheron design from the mid-1950s from which the Fiftysix collection has gleaned some of its sensibilities, including the rather charming sector dial and the box-like case shape, without paying superfluous reverence to the source material. To this blueprint it has added alternating Arabic and baton markers, a recessed crown, and more elegant lugs than the original, while also fitting a contemporary movement at its heart.
Much in the same way Vacheron Constantin’s modern day Overseas collection is inexorably tied to the iconic Reference 222 sports watch without being an exact replica, the Fiftysix uses its inspiration as a jumping off point for a wholly new collection for the modern day. Tourbillon, day-date, and calendar models have joined the simplest self-winding model in a swathe of silver, blue and caramel-brown tones.
Why Fiftysix? Unsurprisingly, Vacheron explains this away as the “heir to a model from 1956”; the Ronseal approach
The star of the show, for me at least, is the complete calendar model. ‘Complete’ insofar as it features day of the week and month apertures just below 12 o’clock, a moon-phase indication at 6 o’clock, with the date shown in a pointer hand around the dial. Compositionally, this is my preferred calendar layout in terms of aesthetics and general readability, but more than that it particularly suits the sector dial design of the Fiftysix – everything just looks like it belongs.
Watchmakers being peculiar braggarts at times, I would be remiss not to point out this movement is set in such a way that no adjustment is necessary for 122 years. That means this watch remembers it’s a leap year, even when you don’t.
It may seem a small detail, but it rather sums up the Fiftysix collection as a whole; a group of watches that perform their task with elegance and grace.
The Fiftysix may be born from a different era, but it's very much in keeping with the modern times.
Vacheron Constantin Fiftysix Complete Calendar; £20,900. For more information, see vacheron-constantin.com