In Focus Watches

Around The World in Four Unique Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers Récits de Voyages Watches

Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers Memorable Places

Lately, many a watchmaker has been attempting to offer something a little more commercial than their usual fare, something a little more accessible. Les Cabinotiers are not that. Indeed, Vacheron’s annual series of unique pieces – expanded with the Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers Récits de Voyages ‘Memorable Places’ collection – defy access. Often many years in the making, the series is created by the same master watchmakers behind their bespoke pieces and as such is less a ‘collection’ as much as it is a series of showpieces that could all be headliners.

The closest analogue might be something like Rolls-Royce or Bentley, both of whom regularly flex what their custom wing can do by releasing one-off, ultra-bespoke numbers in different paint jobs and construction options. They’re showpieces, not commercial collection. They’re inspirational, aspirational, and out of reach of mere mortals. And even then, Les Cabinotiers are a cut above.

Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers Memorable Places

Entrance Gate to Angkor Thom (top) and Old Summer Palace (bottom)

The way Vacheron approach Les Cabinotiers generally falls into one of two pools. On the one hand, you have metiers d’art, with a focus on fine artistic details over mechanics. These are things like Vacheron’s ongoing collaborative works with the Louve, which draw inspiration from museum pieces rendered in the kind of intricate detail that borders insane. On the other hand, you have pieces that push complications to the nth degree, often in forms you just don’t normally see in Vacheron’s line-up.

Their latest annual line-up in Les Cabinotiers focusses on horological exploration via real-world exploration to the theme Récits de Voyages, or Travel Stories. Essentially, each of the four Les Cabinotiers Récits de Voyages pay homage to Vacheron’s expansion across the globe in the 19th century, a grand tour from Switzerland to Beijing where our first stop is the Far East – and a bit of forewarning, expect superlatives aplenty. These pieces are beyond gorgeous.

Vacheron Constantin Récits de Voyages Les Cabinotiers Memorable Places
Vacheron Constantin Récits de Voyages Les Cabinotiers Memorable Places Entrance gate to Angkor Thom

First, let’s take things back to the 19th century. It was a time when vast new areas of the world were becoming open to exploration, with travel to South America now much more possible and the end of the First Opium War (pretty much what it sounds like) opening up China and the East.

It’s that last point that Vacheron have decided to focus on for this collection. This was the era that, for the first time, Westerners got to see some of the wonders of the Far East, awe-inspiring architecture that was both figuratively and literally a world away from European styles. It likely helps that today, Vacheron are equally keen on exploring the Asian market, but practicalities aside, this is a stunning quartet of watches.

Vacheron Constantin Récits de Voyages Les Cabinotiers Memorable Places Tour de l’Ile

Tour de l’Ile

Naturally, for a grand tour we must have a departure location and for Vacheron Constantin that’s La Tour de l’Île, an ex-Swiss police building that played home to Vacheron for 30 years from 1843, until they moved to the nearby Quai des Moulins, depicted here with glorious multi-level engraving. Rather than the real building, this watch draws its architecture more from a lithograph from 1881, with water, bridge, buildings, sky and trees all rendered in realistic style.

Vacheron Constantin Récits de Voyages Les Cabinotiers Memorable Places Entrance gate to Angkor Thom
Vacheron Constantin Récits de Voyages Les Cabinotiers Memorable Places

Entrance Gate to Angkor Thom and Old Summer Palace

The next stop on Vacheron’s hand- engraved tour is the Entrance Gate to Angkor Thom, one of the 200-odd temples in the Angkor region of Cambodia. Angkor Wat may be the most famous, but Thom was both the last build and the most enduring, with much more of its 12th century architecture intact – architecture which in miniature golden form took VC 200 plus hours to complete. That’s an hour for each of Angkor’s temples. Completely unintentional of course, but a nice little parallel.

Vacheron Constantin Récits de Voyages Les Cabinotiers Memorable Places Old summer palace

Old Summer Palace

Next, we have the Old Summer Palace – or, originally, the Garden of Perfect Clarity – of Beijing. A masterpiece of the 18th and 19th centuries built by the Qing dynasty, it’s a marvel of Royal Garden magnificence, blending constructed and natural beauty together in the same way that Vacheron have blended white, rose and yellow gold together. Engraving the different elements separately before setting them into the dial.

Vacheron Constantin Récits de Voyages Les Cabinotiers Memorable Places Entrance gate to Confucius temple and imperial college museum

Entrance Gate to Confucius temple and Imperial College Museum

The final stop on the tour through Asia takes us to the Entrance Gate to Confucius Temple and Imperial College Museum. Covering 20,000sqm, Beijing’s is the second largest temple to Confucius in China, bordering the old Imperial College. The watch is based on a drawing by artist Emile Thérond, which at the time became one of the most famous glimpses of Chinese society when it was published in 1864. Every detail from brickwork and tiles to the leaves on the trees has been revisited in the triumvirate of golds and the result is extraordinary.

Vacheron Constantin Récits de Voyages Les Cabinotiers Memorable Places Tour de l’Ile
Vacheron Constantin Récits de Voyages Les Cabinotiers Memorable Places Old summer palace

While the dials are most definitely the reason to pay attention to the Récits de Voyages, the mechanics are more than up to snuff, too. Inside each watch is the ultra-thin Calibre 1120, a collector-centric piece that’s been relatively untouched since it was developed well over 50 years ago now. At the time it was a marvel, and it still stands the test of time, particularly as it’s an absolutely gorgeous looking movement, just 2.45mm thick. Sure, there are thinner out there these days, but few that pair thinness with beauty in quite the same way, with a not-too-shabby 40-hour power reserve.

Price and Specs:

Model: Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers 'Memorable Places'
Ref: 2000C/000R-103C (Entrance Gate to Angkor Thom), 2000C/000R-105C (Entrance Gate to Confucius Temple and Imperial College Museum), 2000C/000R-104C (Old Summer Palace), 2000C/000G-106C (Tour de l’Ile)
Case: 40mm diameter x 9.10mm thickness, 18k pink or white gold
Dial: Hand engraved 18k gold and hand damascened gold
Movement: Vacheron Constantin calibre 1120, automatic, 36 jewels, 144 parts
Frequency: 19,800 vph (2.75 Hz)
Power reserve: 40h
Functions: Hours, minutes
Strap: Dark brown or black alligator leather, hand stitched with 18k pink or white gold pin buckle
Price: Price on request, unique pieces

More details at Vacheron Constantin.

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About the author

Sam Kessler

Legend has it that Sam’s first word was ‘escapement’ and, while he might have started that legend himself, he’s been in the watch world long enough that it makes little difference. As the editor of Oracle Time, he’s our leading man for all things horological – even if he does love yellow dials to a worrying degree. Owns a Pogue; doesn’t own an Oyster Perpetual. Yet.