Having a sports watch with an integrated bracelet was all the range back in the 1970s. Having a precious metal sports watch that not only looked the part but was also a tool watch that would accompany you through pretty much everything and be your faithful wristwatch companion, was essential – even if it seemed to be somewhat of an oxymoron. The Royal Oak, designed by on Gerald Genta, was AP’s answer to this conundrum. Patek Philippe had theirs in the form of the Nautilus (also design by Mr. Genta) and Vacheron Constantin had what was called at the time, the ‘222’ which marked the brands 222th anniversary and was designed by a young Jorg Hysek. It would later evolve into the Overseas via the 333 and Phidias. A couple of weeks ago, Vacheron introduced the new chronograph version of the Overseas Automatic 5500V in stainless steel.
The Overseas has always been a timepiece that wasn’t designed to be a sports watch but more of a casual/leisure, timepiece. When you think about it, sports watches are made for sports and while the Overseas can be worn during sporting activities, it is also a discreet model which can be worn during the weekends – an all-rounder wristwatch. I’ve always been rather fond of the 222 and until 2016 never really appreciated the Overseas. But with its new design, flowing lines and delicate finishes, the new Overseas model has a more seemingly timeless appearance but one that is still very modern.
The case features a six-sided bezel and the fluted crown with grooves that evoke the Maison design codes. The rounded, polished and satin-finished opening dips towards a refined dial topped by a sapphire crystal glare-proofed on both sides. The dial features a silver sunburst dial with an angled black flange, which creates an illusion of depth when gazed upon. The three registers have are also black, giving the dial its distinctive “Panda” look. At 4:30 is the date window, which has been highlight with a pink-gold frame. Being a sports watch, it features screw-down chronograph pushers, as well as a screw-down crown.
The use of an integrated bracelet is something that is rather emblematic of these 70s casual, sports wristwatches but with wearers wanting to change the look and feel of the Overseas, every now and then, Vacheron started to make versions of the Overseas with leather and in some cases rubber straps. Vacheron have taken this concept a further over the past few years on the new Overseas. The new Overseas model is supplied with three types of easily interchangeable bracelets, including a solid steel bracelet, a black leather strap and the all-important utilitarian rubber strap. An ingenious interchangeability device for the bracelets/straps and the folding clasp, serves to secure them in place without any need for tools. And while this is something extremely new, just the fact this can be done on a Vacheron Overseas, I think is rather classy.
The screwed-down case back fitted with a sapphire crystal reveals a 22K gold oscillating weight adorned with a wind rose, a universal symbol indicating the cardinal points for travelers, and adorned with sandblasted, polished, and finely grained finishes.
This new Overseas Chronograph houses the in-house calibre 520o which of course exhibits fine finishing and is endowed with a 52-hour power reserve. Vacheron’s caliber 5200 is a column wheel, vertical clutch design, measuring 30.60mm x 6.60mm, which perhaps sounds large but in comparison to some old-snook stalwarts – it’s pretty much the same. Being a self-wound chronograph movement, it is a little bit difficult to admire the movement because of the large 22k-carat gold oscillating weigh, but nonetheless, in the caliber 5200, several delightful details can still be seen. That said, you can see one half of the Poinçon de Genève-bearing movement at a time — certifying it is manufactured within the Canton of Geneva — on occasion. With the obstruction view of the case back the mechanism loses that uninhibited “je ne sais quoi.” Nonetheless, it is neat to see the column wheel screw bearing the Maltese cross motif.
Aesthetically this new steel Overseas Chronographs, ticks all the right boxes if you are looking for a tool watch that can be dressed up or down and with the different variations on offer, there is a lot to choose from. That said, this reference 45ooV incorporates the everyday usefulness of a date window, which isn’t too intrusive of the overall flow of the dial. However, I think the real winning quality of this Overseas 5500V is the interchangeable strap system. While the case, at 42.5mm, may sound a little on the large side, it sits quite comfortably on the wrist – this is again due to the bracelet.
This new Stain-Steel Vacheron Constantin Overseas Chronograph with panda dial comes with 3 interchangeable straps and is priced at £31,200. For more information visit vacheron-constantin.com.