SOLD – 1970s Vacheron & Constantin 222 “Square” Ref. 46004
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A true collector’s piece, this beautiful example is presented in excellent unpolished condition. It also retains its original brushed grey “Sigma” dial and hands in excellent condition and displaying a fantastic patina. Circa late 1970s, this example features the bracelet in superb condition with flip lock deployment clasp. This watch was part a collection and was rarely worn from new hence the condition. A unique variant of an iconic and highly sought-after timepiece that has exploded in popularity in recent years.
Vacheron Constantin History
Founded in 1755 in the Swiss canton of Geneva, Vacheron Constantin is the longest continuously running watch brand in the world. First, to create a horological complication and the current record holders for the most complicated timepiece ever with a pocket watch with 57 complications, Vacheron Constantin’s reputation as one of the best watchmakers in the world is well deserved. While Vacheron Constantin isn’t a household name like some other watchmaking brands, they have always let their watchmaking do their talking and exists as one of the three “Holy Trinity” brands alongside Patek Philippe and Vacheron. With such an impressive and well-deserved reputation, they have been endorsed by numerous dignitaries, royal family members and other notable wearers over the last 260+ years, and they will continue to receive those endorsements well into the future.
The 222 and the Need to Compete
During the Quartz Crisis of the 1970s to 1980s, brands were falling by the wayside as they failed to stay relevant in a marketplace overrun by cheaper, trendier and increasingly accurate quartz movements. Following Audemars Piguet’s bold move to remove themselves from the dogfight and create a new category of watch, the luxury sports watch, Vacheron had to join them and fight for market share thanks to their natural position as competitors within the “Holy Trinity.”
Much like how Patek Philippe released the Nautilus a few years after AP brought out the Royal Oak, Vacheron brought out the 222. Released in 1977, it celebrated Vacheron’s 222nd anniversary and was a radical move away from the traditional dress watches Vacheron had become renowned for. While the misconception has long been that Gerald Genta, the Royal Oak and Nautilus’ designer, also designed the 222, that isn’t the case. Young watch designer Jorg Hysek designed the 222. Having spent several years at Rolex, he left to start his own design business and secured Vacheron as one of his earliest clients.
Design and Mechanics
Clearly influenced by Genta’s work, the 222 was a considerable departure from the more conservative designs Vacheron typically created. Featuring a one-piece construction tonneau-shaped case, a uniquely notched bezel, the Vacheron Constantin Maltese cross on its case at 5 o’clock and an integrated bracelet made of long hexagonal bars that connected H-shaped links, the 222 was sufficiently Vacheron-esque in its design to stand on its own two feet. With its discontinuation in 1985, Vacheron only produced around 720 men’s examples of the 222, across three metals (500 steel, 100 yellow gold and 120 bi-metal) – making it an exceedingly rare watch, especially compared to the likes of the Royal Oak or Nautilus where multiple thousands were made, and never faced discontinuation.
Offered in a selection of black, blue-grey, charcoal grey dials, white and silver dials, the 222’s dial often bore a “Sigma” designation thanks to the use of precious metals in its furniture. As steel would corrode, luxury watchmakers began to use non-reactive white or yellow gold for the logos, hands and indices to combat dial deterioration. These “Sigma” dials confirm the timepiece’s standing as a luxury watch and the intrinsic value that it holds.
Internally, the 222 is powered by the Jaeger Le-Coulte Calibre 920, which Vacheron shared with Patek and AP, where it was also used in the Nautilus and Royal Oak models, respectively. Interestingly, the cal. 920 was never used by JLC, with its used exclusively by the “Holy Trinity” brands. Reworked by Vacheron to their requirements, the cal. 920 was re-designated as the VC 1120 and would go on to become an incredibly iconic movement thanks to its use in three of watchmaking’s most essential watches. Funnily enough, as JLC and Vacheron had merged in 1938, the movement can technically be classed as an in-house movement, at least to some degree.
The Square 222
As you may have noticed, the 222 that we have here breaks away from the tonneau case shape most commonly associated with the 222, as it is indeed the 222 ref. 46004 “Square”. Powered by the VC cal. 1124 ,a close relative of the cal. 1120 used in the typical 222, the Square 222 features a 31mm square case that, much like the AP Royal Oak, features exposed screws – one in each corner. With roughly 300 examples produced across three materials (steel, yellow gold and bi-metal), the Square 222 occupies a special place as an exceedingly rare timepiece. While the 222 is an extremely challenging timepiece to find, the Square variant we have here is that bit harder.
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