It’s over a year since my wedding day back in August 2019, and who would have thought we’d have had the year that we have had. In July 2019 I still owned my Breguet 5817ST and a Rolex 116710BLNR as my daily wear timepieces and I was looking for a watch that I could not only wear on my big day, but also to try and consolidate these watches down to one that would satisfy pretty much all requirements and be the very best for my lifestyle. I had always admired Vacheron watches for their design and on paper, the 4500V suited me perfectly. It would be a real step up in terms of finishing and capabilities over the Breguet; however I was a little concerned about the size of the watch and of course needed the right opportunity to sell the Breguet & Rolex pair in order to purchase a new watch, and a Rolex Datejust for my wife for her wedding day present.
As you can probably guess, everything aligned and the watch I’m still wearing today is still on my wrist and I’m sure will be for the rest of my days. I will surely add more Vacheron Constantin timepieces to my collection in the future – but I’m a big believer in purchasing something (or at least a small number of) useful objects that are built to last and don’t just sit in boxes. The concept of “luxury items” aside, buying a mechanical timepiece in 2020 is to buy something that breaks away from the throw-away culture and as long as it’s taken care of – it will last for generations and hopefully, add some value. It’s also not something that everyone else is wearing (at least in the microcosm that is the mechanical timepiece enthusiast community in 2020) – #oneofnotmany indeed.
So to many that might find wearing pretty much one watch every day would be boring, I could see their point – but that’s not me. Let’s discuss what the 4500V is like to live with everyday – and is it something you would consider?
As I mentioned and covered before in my review of the Overseas 2300V – I had concerns that the 4500V was too large. Many in the community have come to the conclusion that the white gold 2000V (now discontinued) at 40mm was the perfect size so this really is a watch that you should try on a couple of times at a boutique before buying. There does seem to be a stubborn mantra that integrated bracelet sports watches need to be large and while one can understand that “modern sizes” are no longer 33mm dress watches, I do wish that there was a better middle-ground between the 4500V and 37mm 2300V size. Fortunately though, I do have the wrist to support the watch and ultimately the 2300V was discounted as an option in favour of the larger watch for it’s better aesthetics.
Focusing on the case itself, my favourite element of the design has to be the complexity of the side profiles of the case down to the lugs. As with Vacheron’s Quai de L’ile line of watches there is an element of smooth and rounded curves that meet with strong and flat geometric edges to give a visually interesting aesthetic while being subtle and modern. While perfectly executed it also serves as a reminder why there is a gulf in price between your average slab-sided Rolex Submariner and a watch of this level.
There is a certain level of practicality of highly polished surfaces on the case – small hairline scratches can be fixed quite easily and the watch still looks good when it has had some wear for a year. Mine has faired very well over time considering it is worn every day – which definitely couldn’t be said of an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak as an example, which looks rather unsightly after daily-wear scratches land unfortunately on the heavily brushed case. I want to avoid refinishing a case as much as possible – a very important point for anyone looking to keep a watch until they’re pushing up daisies.
When it comes to the brushed finishing however, one can also tell that this is a big step up from mid-tier watches. The level of finishing emits a sort of “prism” effect in certain lights which looks amazing. Scratches on these surfaces (I have one on a lug) are always inevitable but the brushed surfaces help to re-emphasise the differences in angles and shapes across the case surfaces that are highly polished.
Overall, the combination of the round bezel (and round plinth that it sits on) atop the tonneau case shape looks great in my view and is different enough to the competition from other manufacturers that it couldn’t be accused of being a copycat watch. Is it “iconic”? No – but the hype around such a concept never bothered me anyway, and nor should you.
As a final point, the 150m water resistance is more than enough for most people and I not only take the watch swimming but shower with it daily – it pretty much never leaves the wrist (even for painting the walls of my house).
With the bronze dial now discontinued the options are the silver, blue and black. All four dial options are beautiful in there own way and while the brown dial was really my first love I settled on the silver for it’s versatility as a long-term watch. It suits every attire as well as being the most legible of the dials. I might be the only person I know who doesn’t have much love for the blue dial but if it’s your pick you’re still on to a winner. In the long term, the release of the generation 3 Overseas was amidst a trend for blue dials (that still runs strong in 2020) so in 30 years time the blue will still be the “snapshot” of what was happening in 2016-2020 in the watch world – if you consider the concept of this eventually being a vintage watch like any other. Do I regret not picking up the bronze instead of the silver? Sometimes.
What you should consider is that the silver dial watch is the one to pick if you prefer rubber and leather straps over the bracelet – the silver dial on silver metal can feel a bit “much”, and this might factor into your choice. It does still look pretty great though in my opinion, but the metal bracelet is often left in my watch box.
What else can be said though other than the quality is immaculate? The text and minute markers are printed crisply, and I especially like that there isn’t an essay of text on the dial – this watch is what it is and doesn’t need to tell me that it’s automatic, or even an Overseas, by way of extra unnecessary text. The layout itself is also great, with the date window as far over to the right as possible, though I would of course prefer a no-date option.
The only downsides that gripe with me are the stamped seconds hand (I wish it was more interesting as a finish); and the fact that the lume is…rubbish. It’s nice and bright, but lasts far too little time.
The move to in-house movements has two real benefits here. The first is that the visual impact of the movement in the sapphire caseback really shows off the artisanal skill that really gives a wow factor. The way the bridges are laid out while allowing you to peek at the going train is spot on – i’m not a fan of an excessive amount of wheels on show but the trade off is the amazing quality of the hand-laid Côtes de Genève and the anglage across the edges of the bridges. There is also of course the hand engraved 22K pink gold rotor – a joy to see, but the sound of the rotor spinning is incredibly noisy – a side effect of the ceramic rotor bearings common on high-end movements.
The second benefit is that the larger sized movement allows for the date window to be situated at an appropriate place on the dial (a pet peeve of mine – when the movement is obviously too small for the case that the date wheel ends up far too close to the center of the dial). The 5100 is a base movement for the more complicated versions of the Overseas line and while it’s a collector’s dream to own a complicated timepiece from such a prestigious manufacturer; the time-only watch in my opinion is the watch to have in the Overseas line-up due to it’s clean aesthetic principles.
The 5100 movement is only found in the Overseas and Quai de L’ile lines and this goes some way to demonstrate that Vacheron has invested heavily in making this watch “right” – creating in-house movements is understandably a very expensive undertaking and it’s pleasing that this movement hasn’t then ended up in lots of other models. The 5100 movement is 30.6mm in diameter; 172 parts, 60 hours power reserve and beats at a modern 4Hz.
The accuracy of my watch has been around 8s slow per day and consistently leaving me about a minute per week slow. This is just about within the standards of the Geneva Seal. The lack of pinpoint accuracy has been an interesting topic in the Facebook group and one can understand to a certain extent the sentiment that a watch so expensive is far less accurate than a chronometer grade watch at a quarter of the price. Obviously I wish it was a touch more accurate at this price level.
However, consider the following example: One can visit Claude Monet’s house in Giverny and take a photo of the scene in his garden, of the bridge over the pond with water lilies. To a certain extent, it’s like complaining that Monet’s original painting of water lilies isn’t photo-realistic enough, and a bit blurry. This is art – not something made and finished by robots, and I know which of the two options I’d rather be hanging on my freshly painted walls.
“Value” is a difficult word to throw around with such a timepiece but it is pleasing to know that you receive the metal bracelet, rubber strap, and alligator strap in the box when you purchase the watch. The obvious bonus is the quick strap change system, which is probably the biggest reason for my move away from the Breguet to the Vacheron. When you are planning on making your every day watch stick to your wrist then having options for different attire without extra expenditure is a massive win. Take note competitors – this is a deal breaker for many people and knowing that each strap is of amazing quality, there really are no compromises.
The metal bracelet, when compared to it’s competitors is a stand-out due to it’s sturdy and comfortable construction, quick change system and the micro-adjustment for hot days. The finish of the brushing is excellent but of course bear in mind that any brushed-steel bracelet is going to get a little beaten up over time. Ensure that the aesthetics of a bracelet are an important in your decision making process, but an immaculate finish is not meant to last.
One final note is that you can purchase extra straps directly from the boutique. As of the time of writing you can buy black, blue, brown or white rubber straps as extras at around £270, but in the leather you can have Vacheron custom make you one for £370 in any colour you desire. I opted for a blue leather strap with silver stitching which really makes the silver dial variant sing!
It’s a big disappointment that you can’t buy more different colour rubber straps been as you are locked-in by the quick release system – something I’m hoping Vacheron will correct in the near future.
HERE’S TO MANY MORE YEARS
In summary, I’m pretty stoked with this timepiece and has so far held up well as daily driver.
The easy comparisons to Patek Philippe’s Nautilus and Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak might be factoring in your mind as options but overall I’m happy that of the three, I picked this watch – it just seems like the overall better product when you weigh up all the elements. Water resistance, value, practicality and under-the-radar cool. Collectors looking for “iconic” timepieces (that are also investment vehicles) are always going to be very difficult to persuade otherwise but as a (what I like to think) sensible watch buyer who values history in a brand as well as quality, I’m confident that this piece of art will serve me well for many more years to come.