Within a crisis, there are always seeds of opportunity. In the midst of the quartz crisis, the Swiss watch industry produced some of its most iconic and ground-breaking mechanical watches; the Gérald Genta-design Audemars Piguet Royal Oak being a case in point. Its grande tapisserie dial, octagonal bezel and integrated bracelet defined a new genre of premium sports watches that would inspire many more over the coming decade. Appealing to a younger consumer lifestyle, this new category of luxury timepieces was sporty yet elegant, and became the ultimate expression of independence, style and success.
The recent withdrawal from the market of the even more legendary Nautilus Ref 5711, released in 1976, has also presented an opportunity for some fine new suitors with unique contemporary designs for this luxe sport segment. These include the H Moser Streamline, Speake-Marin’s new Ripples, Laurent Ferrier Sport Auto, Czapek Antartique S, Chopard Alpine Eagle, Bell & Ross BR05, and of course the architecture-inspired Bulgari Octo, which has accumulated more awards than we can count.
Among the original icons is the Vacheron Constantin 222, designed by Jörg Hysek and released in 1977 for the 222nd anniversary of the Maison. Hysek ranks among the very best and most successful watches designers whose work includes the Breguet Marine, futuristic Seiko Arctura, TAG Heuer Kirium, and racy dual-dial HD3 Idalgo XT-2. Hysek’s bold design for the 222 with its integrated bracelet not only captured the spirit of that time, but also marked a turning point for Vacheron with a foray into the world of “sporty-chic” watches.
This year at Watches & Wonders, Vacheron marked the 222’s 45th anniversary through a contemporary reinterpretation of the Ref 44018 in 18K 3N gold with a 37mm diameter. Initially presented in a 37mm version — considered large for the time — it got the nickname “Jumbo”. Its monobloc tonneau-shaped case, which required the movement to be cased-up from above, was water-resistant to 120 metres, thanks to its prominent fluted screw-down bezel. The 222 was also remarkably thin at 7mm thanks to its ultra-thin movement, measuring 3.05mm.
On the wrist, the redesign of the articulated bracelet ensures a more ergonomic and comfortable feel. The aesthetic codes of the initial 222 have been respected in the Vacheron Constantin Historiques 222 with a few adjustments for extra comfort and enhanced reliability. The case features a Maltese cross emblem at 5 o’clock, and an exhibition back reveals the new-generation in-house Calibre 2455/2 with its oscillating weight redesigned for this model.