It was the 1970s and the emergence of sports watches is nigh. In anticipation of this trend, one of Switzerland’s most prestigious watch manufacturers, Vacheron Constantin, launched the Reference 222 in honour of its 222nd anniversary. The Reference 222 featured the aesthetic and technical attributes of sports watches and guaranteed 120 m of water resistance. Since then, this piece has never stopped evolving. It had led to the eventual birth of the Overseas, Vacheron Constantin’s resident sports watch line, in 1996. Currently in its third generation, the Overseas is thriving more than ever. Arguably the most coveted Overseas watch ever created was the one-off prototype Dual Time model, designed for American mountaineer and photographer Cory Richards. In 2019, Richards scaled the world’s highest mountain, Mount Everest, with the watch and did so via the treacherous North-East Ridge. The prototype was then auctioned off for charity at an impressive USD106,000. But what made this particular model so desirable wasn’t just its provenance. It was also the novel combination of materials that it was crafted in – tantalum and titanium – and its refreshingly unique aesthetics.
Vacheron Constantin Overseas Chronograph “Everest”
The prototype’s immense popularity pointed to the probability that Vacheron Constantin would one day produce it serially – and so they did. This year, Vacheron Constantin has presented two “Everest” limited editions: the Overseas Chronograph and Dual Time “Everest” watches. While the Dual Time version is more true to the prototype it was inspired from, the Chronograph is arguably more captivating in terms of looks. Here, we bring you the details and our thoughts on the Vacheron Constantin Overseas Chronograph “Everest”.
The Case, Dial, and Hands
Much like the standard iterations of the Overseas Chronograph, the case of the Overseas Chronograph “Everest” measures an assertive 42.5 mm x 13.7 mm. The key difference between the standard versions and this limited edition piece is in the material. The Overseas Chronograph “Everest” is crafted in a combination of titanium and steel, so in spite of the large-ish dimensions of the watch, it feels lighter than it looks. In fact, the only part of the case that is made of steel is the ring between the Maltese cross-inspired bezel and the case proper. Everything else is lightweight titanium finished different ways – either brushed, polished, or in the case of the bezel, crown, and pusher screws, sand-blasted. The latter sand-blasted components appear darker in shade than the ones brushed or polished. It is also worth noting that in the “Everest” edition, there are crown and pusher guards on the right flank of the case – these are absent in preceding versions.
Where the “Everest” limited editions stand out most from the regular fare is the dial. Out with the smooth and shiny, in with the granular and matte. In both models, the dials are grainy and rendered in a shade of grey that matches the sand-blasted titanium parts of the case. The three chronograph hands in the Overseas Chronograph “Everest” are done in bright orange, a key design element also inspired from the original prototype. This doesn’t just serve a cosmetic purpose as it also enhances legibility, and prevents confusion by distinguishing the chronograph hands from the time-telling ones. Orange hands and granular dial aside, other aspects of the dial, such as the layout of the chronograph counters, remain virtually unchanged.
Driving the new Overseas Chronograph “Everest” is the Calibre 5200/2, a variation of the original Calibre 5200 that powers the regular Overseas Chronograph watches. From a functional perspective, the two movements are identical, featuring date functionality, chronograph with column wheel and vertical clutch, 52 hours of power reserve, and automatic winding. Where they differ is in aesthetics. The Calibre 5200/2 has bridges and plates that are NAC-treated for a dark grey appearance. In addition, the 22k gold winding rotor bears a depiction of Mount Everest from one of Cory Richard’s photographs, rendered in relief engraving. These additional flourishings are executed tastefully and serve well to shine the limelight on the “Everest” limited edition.
The Competitive Landscape
It would not be outlandish to claim that Cory Richard’s prototype was the most admired Overseas watch ever made. Many wondered if the brand would ever issue an Overseas series with similar aesthetics. With sports watch mania reaching a boiling point in recent times, it was perhaps inevitable that Vacheron Constantin would eventually introduce the “Everest” edition. From a commercial standpoint, the Overseas “Everest” limited edition series is more likely than not going to be a smashing success. The reasoning is twofold: the unique aesthetics of the watches, including the uncommon blend of titanium and steel for the case; and the ravenous demand for luxury sports watches. The Overseas Chronograph “Everest” will be delivered with both a grey Cordura fabric strap and a grey rubber strap. Limited to 150 pieces and available at boutiques only, the watch is priced at EUR36,300 or SGD53,500.
An excellent alternative to the Vacheron Constanstin Overseas Chronograph “Everest” is the newly facelifted Breguet Marine Chronographe 5527. The similarities between the two watches are stark; they don’t just share the same functions, but also an identical display layout. The Ref. 5527 is even made of titanium, which the Chronograph “Everest” is mostly made out of. Priced at just under SGD31,000 for the strapped version, the Ref. 5527 offers decent value for a luxury sports chronograph, especially one that is crafted to House Breguet’s exacting standard.
One sports watch line that has been gaining traction in recent years is the Chopard Alpine Eagle. The Alpine Eagle XL Chrono (pictured below) was introduced last year and as you might guess from the name, it is a sizeable watch with a 44 mm case diameter. The watch is crafted in Lucent Steel A223, an alloy co-developed by Chopard that is harder than other steels, anti-allergenic like surgical steel, and intensely reflective (hence the name). The Alpine Eagle XL Chrono is functionally identical to the Overseas Chronograph, with a similar layout on its signature “eagle iris” dial. Retailing at about SGD26,500, the watch – with its equally contemporary aesthetics – is an excellent alternative to the Overseas Chronograph “Everest”.
The Overseas “Everest” edition ticks all the right boxes. It’s got a story behind it, it’s unique enough versus the rest of the collection, it’s a luxury sports watch, and it’s a Vacheron Constantin. While the GMT version is the more direct descendant of the Cory Richards prototype, the Overseas Chronograph “Everest” could just be as desirable with the extra pops of orange on the dial and the inherent popularity of the chronograph complication. It will be interesting to see if the “Everest” becomes a catalyst for future, more radically designed Overseas watches.