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A Week On The Wrist The Replica Vacheron Constantin 222

Vacheron Constantin’s relaunch of the 222 at this year’s Watches & Wonders wasn’t exactly a surprise, but it was still an extremely welcome revival of a design which, after 45 years, was ready to come back with a bang. The 222 was part of the first generation of integrated bracelet luxury sports watches, which of course began with the groundbreaking Audemars Piguet Royal Oak in 1972, and then the release of the Patek Philippe Nautilus in 1976. swiss replica watches

The question sometimes arises as to why exactly these watches were considered so revolutionary – after all, they were not the first to have integrated bracelets (in steel, or in precious metals). The feature distinguishing the Royal Oak, the Nautilus, and the Vacheron 222 from earlier integrated bracelet watches is the use of steel as a luxury material, with a degree of complexity in finishing and polishing usually reserved in the past for precious metals.

While all three swiss replica watches were made in precious metals as well, it’s really the use of steel cases and integrated steel bracelets that makes them stand out from their predecessors – that, and the use of designs which were unlike anything else seen before in luxury watchmaking.

Since these three watches were and are considered poster children for using steel as a luxury metal (Patek’s ads for the Nautilus read, “One of the world’s costliest watches is made of steel”), it’s interesting that Vacheron chose to launch the new 222 not in steel, but in yellow gold – a more conventionally luxurious take on a watch which, when it first came out, was part of a new class of watches which were at least partly intended to actually subvert the accepted order of precious and non-precious metals.

Luxury Sports Watches And The 222

These designs – deliberately opposed to the round or, occasionally, rectangular cases usually used for high-end luxury watches from major high horology brands – were intentionally sophisticated but also, if not informal, definitely not evocative of button-downed reserve in the manner of traditional dress watches. And there were, finally, the prices – the Royal Oak, at launch, was CHF 3,300, more expensive than in gold – and 10 times the price of a Rolex Submariner.

All three watches had one other thing in common, as well. They all used one of the great, classic ultra-thin movements of all time: The JLC caliber 920, designated the Vacheron 1120, Audemars Piguet 2121, and Patek Philippe 28-255. Vacheron, Patek, and AP are sometimes called the Holy Trinity (or Big Three, if you’re feeling non-theistic) of high-end watchmaking, and the fact that all three chose to use the same movement is a testament to both the quality of the movement and the deeply intertwined relationships between ostensibly separate and independent brands. swiss replica watches

There is some legitimate debate today about whether or not the traditional Big Three classification is still warranted – it seems to be more an historical artifact and less a relevant classification every year – but at the time, there would have been little debate.

Jorg Hysek And The Birth Of The 222

The Nautilus and the Royal Oak have something else in common with each other, but not with the Vacheron 222, and that is their designer – both the Royal Oak and the Nautilus were designed by Gérald Genta (who had ended his relationship with Audemars Piguet before the Nautilus actually debuted at Basel in 1972). The 222 was designed by Jorg Hysek, who was born in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) in 1953, and came to Geneva with his parents in 1960, shortly before the completion of the Berlin Wall in 1961. swiss replica watches

The son of a goldsmith, Hysek is not as well known as Genta but has spent his professional life in the watch world – first at Rolex, where he worked for four years, and following that, he worked as a designer for many other brands, including De Bethune, Cartier, Ebel, TAG Heuer, Tiffany, and, in 1977, Vacheron Constantin, where he designed the 222. If you’re a fountain pen aficionado, you’ve probably come across some of the pens Hysek designed and sold under his own name. Hysek founded a watch company under his own name in 1999 as well, but in 2006 he left that firm and started a new company: HD3 Complications, where his work can still be seen today

Then: The Original 222 And What Came Before

The original 222 was a limited-production watch, which is probably a big part of the reason that it was not as top of mind for collectors as the Royal Oak and Nautilus, both of which their respective brands continued to produce after their debuts in 1972 and 1976, respectively, down to the present day. Conventional wisdom is that Vacheron made about 500 222s in steel, 150 in gold, and less than 100 in two tone, although Silas Walton, founder of A Collected Man, has written:

“It is commonly stated that just 500 examples of the 222 were produced during its eight-year production life but, according to factory records, there were more than 1,300 ladies’ versions, around 1,000 mid-size models, and approximately 700 ‘jumbos,’ with the rarest of the rare being the latter in white gold. There were also a few examples with silver or, even scarcer, white dials.” swiss replica watches

The 222 was quite obviously

The 222 was quite obviously influenced by the design of the Royal Oak in some respects – the general silhouette of the case and bracelet are similar to the Royal Oak, but the scalloped bezel and hexagonal interlinks on the bracelet (produced by Gay Frères, the renowned bracelet-maker which was bought by Rolex in 1998) give the 222 a design identity very much its own – in fact, it’s such a design signature that the 222 came, in its original packaging, with a money clip in the shape of the distinctive bezel.

By the way, the 222 was actually not Vacheron’s first take at producing a steel, integrated-bracelet sports watch. Less well known than the 222, the Vacheron Chronometer Royal ref. 2215 came out in 1975, in a rectangular case more reminiscent of the Nautilus than the Royal Oak. It’s an interesting watch – the movement, Vacheron caliber 1096, was based on the JLC caliber 906 and as the name Chronometer Royal promises, was chronometer certified, and finished, timed, and cased by Vacheron.

Interest in the vintage models of the 222 has spiked in the past few years – as Logan Baker noted last May, prices for vintage 222 models have gone, in just a few years, from low five figures to low six figures, depending on the model – an order of magnitude increase in value. In retrospect, collecting vintage 222 models seems like one of the smartest moves you could’ve made five years ago – and the interest in the vintage models is undoubtedly part of what stimulated this year’s re-introduction of the 222.

Now: The 222 For 2022

Since the 222 is a member of a genre of watches best known for their elevation of steel to the status of a precious metal – in design, and in attention to detail and finishing – it’s interesting that Vacheron chose to relaunch it in yellow gold. Probably the most conservative way to relaunch the 222 would have been to release it in steel, but in releasing it in yellow gold Vacheron has set itself – and us – up for a possible subsequent steel release. I don’t know exactly why Vacheron decided to forego re-launching the 222 in steel, but it does mean that a steel model, and even a two-tone model, would land with greater impact now that the yellow gold model has, you might say, primed the pump.

The new 222 could easily be mistaken for a vintage model, but there are some subtle differences – the date window on the new model is slightly closer to the center of the dial (which means it doesn’t cut into the minute track, as it does on the original), and the new 222 also uses a new folding clasp, which feels quite a bit more precise and secure than the folding clasp on the original. But to see the biggest difference in the new 222, you have to turn it over. swiss replica watches

The reissue uses the caliber 2455 – this is an in-house

The reissue uses the caliber 2455 – this is an in-house, self-winding movement which Vacheron first introduced in 2007. At 15 years old, it’s a well-established member of the Vacheron movement stable, and I think it’s a very attractive caliber – 26.20mm in diameter, with a 40-hour power reserve, and with the Geneva Seal (itself something of an endangered species these days).

The Geneva Seal stipulates that a movement must be made in Geneva, but there are also qualitative stipulations, as well – wire springs are forbidden, for instance, and screw heads and rims must be chamfered and polished. Vacheron appears to have cut no corners in quality in the 2455 and although a 40-hour power reserve might strike some as inadequate for a modern watch, it seems perfectly suitable for the 222 (for the current Overseas models, Vacheron uses the caliber 5100, with a 60-hour power reserve).

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