Vacheron Constantin Create Unique Timepiece For Rolls-Royce

Vacheron Constantin Create Unique Timepiece For Rolls-Royce

A request from a client who collects both luxury cars and fine watches, has led to Vacheron Constantin creating a unique timepiece designed to fit into the dashboard of the Rolls-Royce Amethyst Droptail.

Working closely with the British luxury house on the technical specifications and finishing details, Vacheron Constantin developed this single-edition Les Cabinotiers Armillary Tourbillon timepiece to complement perfectly the Rolls-Royce Amethyst Droptail’s interior. Designed to be displayed on the dashboard, which is finished in Calamander Light open pore wood veneer, the timepiece is housed within an elegant, fully integrated yet removable holder mechanism (below).

Vacheron Constantin’s Les Cabinotiers department, which specialises in crafting bespoke timepieces in accordance with clients’ wishes, responded brilliantly to this request. While Vacheron Constantin’s archives reveal that a watch was commissioned for an automobile in 1928, this project, designed to fit within a very particular Rolls-Royce Coachbuild commission, represents a first in the company’s modern history. This in itself was reason enough to accept the challenge, given the celebrated British luxury marque’s commitment to excellence and meticulous attention to detail. 

The design teams worked collaboratively, to ensure the shapes, materials and colours of the timepiece were in perfect harmony with its environment – all in keeping with Vacheron Constantin’s perpetual pursuit of excellence dedicated to the customer.

“The two centuries-old brands share a quest for perfection that consists of constantly pushing the limits of feasibility. This philosophy is an excellent catalyst for innovation and good taste, both technically and aesthetically.”

Christian Selmoni, Director of Style and Heritage, Vacheron Constantin

The watchmakers at Vacheron Constantin suggested to the client to equip this unique timepiece with the exceptional calibre 1990, a hand-wound in-house complication movement incorporating certain technical developments derived from Reference 57260, the most complicated timepiece in the world presented by the Maison in 2015. This choice was notably influenced by the bi-retrograde display with instantaneous return of the hours and minutes. This function is reminiscent of traditional motor car speedometers featuring sweep hands. The hands return to zero at startling speed, but not without exerting a great deal of tension. This particularly demanding mechanism requires special attention to ensure the accuracy of the display and the resistance of the materials used. In this case, the hands are made of titanium, which is extremely light and sturdier than steel.

In addition, this type of configuration with time-related indications on the upper part of the dial provides all the space needed for the mechanical ballet of the tourbillon. On this model, the latter appears in a complex ‘armillary’ version. This term is a nod to the work of 18th century French watchmaker Antide Janvier who invented a moving sphere with a planetary gear known as an armillary. Visually, this tourbillon evokes the interlocking circles and armillas (graduated metal discs) of the famous scientific instrument modelling the celestial sphere. The construction of this type of regulator – designed to compensate for the effects of gravity on the smooth running of the movement – consists of two nested carriages rotating around two different axes at a speed of 60 seconds per rotation to form a sphere in perpetual motion. Given the watch’s vertical position on the car dashboard, the presence of such a regulator at the heart of the mechanism is fully justified. 

Four patents have been filed for the technical innovations featured in Calibre 1990. First, there is the instantaneous retrograde system, controlled by a single minutes cam that perfectly synchronises the jump of the two hands at midnight or noon. The patented escapement collet – a component securing the inner end of the balance-spring – is made of titanium. The fact that this material matches that of the regulating organ results in improved regulator performance. The third patent concerns the architecture of the tourbillon carriages, which rotate every 15 seconds to form a Maltese cross motif, the Vacheron Constantin emblem. The last patent relates the diamond-coated silicon pallet-lever, which offers greater resistance to wear and an optimised friction coefficient.

It is worth noting that for practical reasons, the crown has been deliberately oversized to facilitate winding and ensure a 58-hour power reserve. Positioned at 12 o’clock, it is reminiscent of vintage hand-wound chronometers, just as the minutes track recalls traditional speedometers.

While the construction of movements – however complex, such as calibre 1990 – has been familiar territory for Vacheron Constantin since its creation in 1755, fitting them inside a motor car is altogether new. Vacheron Constantin’s mechanical engineers had to develop a holding mechanism that, above all, would meet the precise dimensions of the Rolls Royce Amethyst Droptail’s dashboard compartments. 

The holder was also designed to be removed from its housing if necessary and to allow the watch to be rotated through 180° for setting, winding and admiring the reverse of the calibre. The holders’ slightly curved outer frame is made of polished steel, with a bevelled steel inner frame laser-textured with a black PVD coating. The base watch is affixed to a white gold base-plate, adorned with a hand-crafted sunburst guilloché motif featuring an applied Maltese cross. The holder can be covered with a steel lid, secured with a Maltese cross-shaped lock. When the watch and holder are removed from the dashboard and placed in their box, an identical empty holder takes its place. 

The watch and its accessories can be kept in a display case in the same Calamander Light open pore wood and the Amethyst leather used for the interior of the Rolls-Royce Amethyst Droptail. The interior of the case itself is slightly curved like the motor car’s fascia. 

Vacheron Constantin and Rolls Royce share the same culture of devoting their expertise to meeting the most demanding personalised luxury requirements. Delivered with the car on 24 August 2023, the one-off Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers Armillary Tourbillon watch is to this motor car what time measurement is to the world of speed: essential.

For more information please visit Vacheron Constantin

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