Vacheron Constantin’s Historiques collection is now enriched by the 222, a contemporary re-edition of the Maison’s iconic 1977 ‘Jumbo’. We saw the novelty at Watches and Wonders 2022.
A few years ago the upper part of the boutique of Vacheron Constantin at 7, Quai de l’Île, Geneva was a temporary exhibition space with amazing history pieces themed like the ‘Voyage et Ornaments’, ‘The Chronograph through Time’ or the ‘Elegance in Motion’. I was lucky enough to have a guide by my side, who lives and breathes heritage watches, Jérôme Meier. He was the Collection & Expertise Manager of the Maison back then.
One of the exhibitions’ chapters was dedicated to Vacheron’s ‘driver watches’ and more sporty timepieces – like the ‘American 21’, offset dial (1921) or the water-resistant Reference 4190 in stainless steel.
As I learned, the early and mid 70’s brought along many great icons in fine watchmaking. In 1972 Audemars Piguet shocked the industry with the series designed by Gerald Genta (a Swiss watch designer, who worked with other firms too, including IWC and Patek Philippe among others) and named after the ship of the British Royal Navy, the Royal Oak. In 1976 Patek Philippe presented its first ever sports watch, the Nautilus.
Just before that, in 1975 Vacheron Constantin briefly introduced Royal Chronometer Automatic 2215 stainless steel (please see a pic of the 2215 on the wrist of Jérôme at the end of our article here). This reference has an integrated stainless steel bracelet, a slightly squared-off cushion case and is powered by the self-winding calibre 1096 with a hacking function that allows for more precise time-setting.
In 1977 VC celebrated its 222ndanniversary with the model ‘222’, referring to the birthday’s number. It became – maybe together with the before mentioned 2215 – the forerunner of the Overseas collection (originally issued in 1996 and re-launched in 2016).
The 222 was a sporty but refined timepiece, fitted with a screwed-down bezel and case-back guaranteeing water-resistance to 120 metres. The design came from Jörg Hysek, the great and influential German-born watch designer and contemporary artist. He worked for Rolex, Breguet, Cartier, Tag Heuer and many other watch companies. He was only 24 years old, when he led the 222 project.
The barrel shaped case, the very distinctive bezel, the fully integrated metal bracelet and sleek design (with a sleek automatic movement inside) were important elements of the now iconic 222. The firm offered this watch in two sizes, a mid-sized 34mm case and a ‘Jumbo’ version at 37mm (this name is somehow funny to see after an era of shamelessly mega watches).
Vacheron Constantin 222 – 1981, steel, Auto.cal. 1121 (Lot 20 at Phillips Watches, Geneva Auction Four)
There were all-steel, two-tone, and full yellow gold 222 timepieces – mainly with black dials but also a few examples with silver or, even less often with white dials. We shot one with a silver dial from 1981 at one of the auction previews of Phillips Watches. A little design touch completed the look – the Maltese cross emblem nestling in the right-hand corner of the case at 5 o’clock on every version.
Vacheron Constantin had the 222 in production until 1985.
The new Vacheron Constantin Historiques 222
Perfectly aligned with the current trend of the desire for great vintage watches Vacheron Constantin now presents a contemporary re-edition of the 37 mm-diameter yellow gold 222 ‘Jumbo’.
While all the original design codes have been respected the watch is really contemporary. Inside is the new-generation in-house Calibre 2455/2 – which you can admire through the case-back. The movement features an oscillating weight redesigned specifically for this model. It has a 40-hour power reserve and operates a rate of 28,800 vibrations per hour (frequency of 4 Hz).
The new 222 has a gold-toned dial, straight hour-markers and baton-type hands, an integrated bracelet and hexagonal central links, as well as the Maltese cross at 5 o’clock made of polished white gold and soldered onto the flat base of the case.
The hands and hour-markers are coated with Super-LumiNova®, which are off-white by day and gleam lime green by night. The date window has been significantly offset from the outer rim of the dial to enhance legibility, closer to the center of the watch dial.
Vacheron Constantin is known for the great details of finishing – here you can find a vertical-satin-brushed crown and bracelet, a circular satin-finished bezel and polished hour-markers, hand-chamfered gear trains and bridges adorned with a Côtes de Genève motif, as well as a circular-grained mainplate.
As Louis Ferla, CEO Vacheron Constantin sums up – ‘Above and beyond its status as an icon, the 222 watch is a wonderful tribute to the work of our designers and engineers, and an illustration of their ability to perpetuate the avantgarde spirit of our Maison.’