Not long after the introduction of the Ref. 57260, the most complicated watch made to date, Vacheron Constantin has unveiled yet another ultra-complicated one-off timepiece: the Maître Cabinotier Retrograde Armillary Tourbillon.
Borrowing the armillary tourbillon and the double retrograde functions from the aforementioned 57260 superwatch, this contemporary timepiece has a “high-precision” manually wound movement, housed inside a (45.7 mm x 20.06 mm) white gold case.
Notably, the Maître Cabinotier’s caliber 1990 movement is the subject of four patent applications in regards to 1- the instantaneous retrograde system, 2- the balance spring collet, 3- the multi-carriage tourbillon, 4- the escapement lever.
One of the coolest features of this watch, both technically and visually, is the retrograde hours and minutes that fly back to zero so fast, that the use of titanium was required because of its strength and lightness. Basically, the hour and minute hands move down a half-circle, located on the right side of the dial, that represents the 12-hours (instead of 6-hours), and 60 minutes (instead of 30-minutes), and at the end of their path, they flick back to 12 and zero, respectively.
According to Vacheron Constantin, “The lighting reaction of the retrograde hands contrasts with the most stately pace of the armillary tourbillon with a spherical balance spring. The elegantly structured tourbillon operates as a sphere perpetually rotating on two axes under a sapphire crystal dome at 9 o’clock. It’s called an armillary tourbillon because it is based on an armillary sphere like the one incorporated in an astronomic clock made by the French clockmaker, Antide Janvier, in the 18th century. The tourbillon is a visual evocation of the rings and hoops of the ancient model of the celestial sphere. The spherical balance spring, which was first developed by Jacques-Frédéric Houriet in 1814, is particularly rare in today’s watches. The shape ensures the concentric development of the spring and consequently the isochronism of the balance wheel. The tourbillon carriage, made of lightweight aluminum alloy, incorporates Vacheron Constantin’s Maltese Cross emblem, which forms up every 15 seconds as the tourbillon rotates. This ongoing spectacle may be admired every 30 seconds through a sapphire crystal opening on the side of the case.”
Even though one of the best features of the armillary tourbillon, is the visually mesmerizing way it oscillates – it is not just for looks. It has a new Vacheron Constantin developed escapement, with an escape wheel and lever in silicon with diamond pallet stones for resistance to wear. And the escapement is as lightweight as possible thanks to the use of high-tech materials, which contributes significantly to the performance of this watch, which greatly exceeds COSC chronometer standards. According to the manufacture, “this level of precision is all the more noteworthy considering a large amount of energy absorbed by the double retrograde indications.”
Uniquely, caliber 1990 is electro-plated with an NAC treatment in a dark anthracite color creating a mirror-polished effect. Also, interestingly, on the dial side, the movement has a modern architecture with sharply cut bridges tempered by sunburst satin finishing. Whereas, on the back, there is a more traditional look, with perlage and Geneva stripes.
The manually wound movement beats at 2.5Hz (18,000 vph), has an approximate 65-hours of power reserve and consists of 299 total components, including 45 jewels.
The Maître Cabinotier Retrograde Armillary Tourbillon comes with a black alligator leather strap with alligator inner shell and an 18K white gold triple-blade folding clasp with the brand’s signature polished half Maltese cross. (Ref. 91990/000G-9882)
With the impressive combination of a multi-axis spherical tourbillon and double retrograde functionality, I don’t know about you, but we cannot wait to see this one in the flesh!