Introducing the most complicated wristwatch in the world
Luxury watches constitute one of the categories of high-value assets we collateralise as security for our unique secured asset loans at peer-to-peer lender Unbolted. We thought we’d take a closer look today at an exceptionally high-value watch, manufactured by one of the “holy trinity” of Swiss watchmakers, Vacheron Constantin (the other two being Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet). So, without further ado, let’s get up close and personal with the world’s most complicated wristwatch: the Vacheron Constantin Calibre 1990.
This astonishing creation incorporates ideas that went into the making of the 57-function Vacheron Constantin Reference 57260 pocket watch, which the legendary manufacturer unveiled last year. That little beauty took a full eight years to develop through the efforts of three dedicated craftsmen. Some of those ideas simply had to be transferred into the company’s “production” wristwatch offerings.
The first such development is the amazing Calibre 1990 (or, to call it by its full name, the “Vacheron Constantin Maître Cabinotier Retrograde Armillary Tourbillon”). The watch incorporates two of the 57 functions (or “complications” as they’re called in the watchmaking business) of the 57260 superwatch. The Calibre 1990 is a wristwatch version of the pocket watch’s so-called “armillary” tourbillon.
Let’s unpack that. The wristwatch is basically designed to replicate in miniature an “armillary sphere” – one of those 18th century astronomical clocks consisting of rings and hoops representing the tropics, the equator, and other celestial circles, all revolving on the contraption’s axis. A tourbillon is a rotating cage that safely houses and regulates the watch’s “escapement” – the “brain” of the watch consisting of a fine hairspring mounted on a balance wheel rotating back and forth for every tick of the watch. The tourbillon ensures a regulated tick, whatever position the watch is in.
The second incorporation is the 57260’s “double retrograde indication,” a function that equips the hands that mark the hours and minutes with an instantaneous flyback capability so that they are always moving, marking the time, and then immediately flying back to zero after reaching their end-points to begin their journey all over again.
This feature, which involves lightning-quick motion, depends on an intricate repertoire of special gears and wheels within the calibre. To minimise wear and tear, the hands are made of pure titanium.
But it’s the meticulously crafted intricacy of the spherical armillary tourbillon that is perhaps the most visually mesmerising feature of the watch. Below a sapphire dome at 9.00, the tourbillon rotates on two axes. The escape wheel and lever are fashioned in silicon with diamond pallet stones for added durability, with the movement made in dramatic, dark-treated anthracite.
The chamfering and hand finishing took in excess of 130 hours of work and, unsurprisingly, the watch bears the coveted Hallmark of Geneva to attest to the supreme craftsmanship that went into its manufacture.
The value of the watch is not yet in the public domain. As a production watch, it’s likely to be a little more affordable than the one-off 57260. The price for that little treasure remains a closely guarded secret, but most estimates put the price at above $10million! In any case, if you were the owner of the Calibre 1990 and you had some serious borrowing requirements, the chances are high that you’d qualify for a hefty offering from our pool of investors at Unbolted.