SOLD – Vacheron Constantin 222 Ref. 46003
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The Vacheron Constantin 222 Automatic in steel & gold from in the late 1970s, reference 46003. This example features its original brushed silver “Sigma” dial and hands in excellent condition. The bracelet is tight and overall in condition for its age. This reference features the automatic calibre 1124 (JLC base 899) stamped with “Geneva Seal”. The tonneau case measures approx. 34mm in diameter and is referred to as the midsize, similar to the 3800 Nautilus and 4100 Royal Oak. The case features the Maltese Cross emblem at the lower right of the case and distinctive bezel design in solid gold. The case retains sharp facets with no obvious signs of polishing and also features the original crown with Maltese Cross.
Overall this is an excellent and honest example of an increasingly sought-after collectors watch within the “Holy Trinity”.
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.
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