Clean Living: The Twentieth Anniversary of Vacheron Constantin's Patrimony

Vacheron Constantin are celebrating 20 years of the Patrimony, their slim, uncluttered masterpiece.

Clean Living: The Twentieth Anniversary of Vacheron Constantin's Patrimony

Every collection needs a time-only dress watch. And if we take the watch geekery a step further, every collection needs a baton-marker time-only dress watch, preferably thin and hand-wound. It is the equivalent of a wardrobe needing to contain certain staples, like a crisp white shirt, a navy blue suit, some grey flannel trousers and a polished pair of brogues. 

If you’re in the market for such a watch, you would have come across models such as the Patek Philippe Calatrava or even a Vacheron Constantin Patrimony. The Patrimony is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. It comes from makers who have been in business since 1755 (which in itself is quite remarkable), and its design is both subtle and distinct. 

Let’s not forget that any watch designer’s ultimate goal is to create something that’s instantly recognisable from across the room, even if it is just popping out from underneath the cuff, and even if it is designed with only applied stick indexes, stick hands, and a dotted minute track. No screaming or shouting. The fact that Brunello Cucinelli wears a Patrimony says a lot. 

When Vacheron Constantin launched the Patrimony collection in 2004, mechanical watchmaking was just starting to make its way into popular culture and classicism was in vogue. The Patrimony collection was developed from a desire to revive 1950s elegance and was inspired, in particular, by two styles from 1957. Both sported a round case, a slim bezel, short lugs, a flat dial and a ‘pearl’ minute track. They were the reference 6187, which displayed hours, minutes and a large centre seconds hands, and the reference 6179, which featured small seconds at six o’clock, materialised by a slender cross, and no minute track. 

The Vacheron Constantin watch inspired by Patrimony ref. 6179, 1957.
Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Retrograde Day-Date, 2015.
Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Ultra-Thin Perpetual Calendar, 2016.
Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Ultra-Thin Minute Repeater, 2015.
Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Moonphase Retrograde Date, 2016.
The Patrimony collection was developed from a desire to revive the kind of elegance associated with the 1950s. 

In 2013, Vacheron took on a minute-repeater Patrimony, which resulted in the ultra-thin calibre 1731 and the hallmarked Poinçon de Genève, which won two world records: that of the thinnest minute-repeater movement in the world, at 3.90mm high, and that of the thinnest manually wound minute-repeater watch on the market, with a height of just 8.09mm. Insane. 

The Patrimony is all about shape, with applied indexes that follow the contours of a subtly curved case. The finely curved hands keep track of time along a circular minute track with ‘pearl’, or dot, markers. These are the hallmarks of an enduringly classic collection, intended for men and women, with diameters that range from 

36mm to 42.5mm and are driven by in-house movements that display varying degrees of complications. Alongside the record- breaking minute repeater, the Patrimony line includes an ultra- thin perpetual calendar, a retrograde date-day, and a moonphase also with retrograde date. 

This year the two standout (time-only) Patrimony models to me are the slightly reduced (40mm to 39mm) variations in white- gold and rose-gold. In classic Vacheron style, they have taken a traditional style and given it a twist, with the white-gold case now boasting gold markers and hands. But to fully appreciate where we are with these models, we have to look back, to their lineage and their context within the watch world. I love the slim silhouette and uncluttered dial of the Patrimony. For me, it is the epitome of refinement in a watch. 

Designs that appear simple on the surface are often the most challenging to achieve. And like all great designs, the Patrimony is above fashion. 

Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Moonphase Retrograde Date.
The Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Manual-Winding.
Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Manual-Winding.