Why The Vacheron Constantin Les Historiques 222 Is My Sublime Favorite From Watches & Wonders
Vacheron Constantin is not pulling any punches this year. My previous article was a mere toe-dip in a veritable lake of horological goodness, and I haven’t even started looking at the elaborate wristwear from Le Cabinotiers. This atelier within the atelier has some rather elaborate pieces in its Geneva arsenal.
But this story is about one single piece of horology. One that, for me, stood out like a shining totem in the Vacheron press releases. The Vacheron Constantin Les Historiques 222 has the power to put diamonds, tourbillons, and perpetual calendars in the shade, and it seems very familiar. My story on new releases from Vacheron Constantin the other day could have included this, but truth be told, it needs its own space. That says a lot about its significance.
The Vacheron Constantin Les Historiques 222 brings back a classic
The middle name Les Historiques tells you that this piece is an homage to Vacheron Constantin’s rich past. And yes, there are recognizable similarities with the Overseas range in its design. There is a simple reason for this. In 1977, the 222 was Vacheron’s first major foray into the then-new game of integrated bracelets and the only cult classic not designed by Gérald Genta. A brief year after the Nautilus, Vacheron showed its integrated panache with the 222. It was the brainchild of a young 24-year old German-born designer named Jorg Hysek. Actually, VC did release the integrated-bracelet Royal Chronometer in 1975, but the 222 will always be considered The Daddy. The Overseas was always meant as a modern variation of this watch. I would love to see a continuous bloodline of 222s, but the market was different when the Maltese-cross-inspired Overseas bezel was created. That makes this release all the more special.
A ’70s image of golden cool
What I admire the most today is the stronger integrity of brands that stick to the correct, smaller sizes of the originals. And that’s exactly what Vacheron Constantin has done here. The new Les Historiques 222 is a very slim 37mm design, which has thankfully not been upsized to attract a wider audience. With a softly angular tonneau case similar to the Royal Oaks and Laureatos of this world, this new 222 is seriously thin. Its sleek 18K yellow gold case is a mere 7.95mm thick, despite the fact it houses a modern Vacheron caliber 2455/2.
This is a robust 4Hz automatic movement with a charming big “222” engraving and echoes of the bezel on its solid gold rotor. Kudos to VC for keeping the svelte body with a full-sized rotor, and I’m happy to see this solid movement increasing its wearability.
Smooth, brushed charm
We all know that this could sell in massive numbers with a steel case and bracelet. But the bold move of introducing it in 18K yellow gold is a sensory delight. Long gone are the days of 222s being bought for decent money. The world seems to have finally caught on to its balanced and elegant design. Even before the conclusion of this story, let’s hope that the undoubtedly fast sell-out of these will incite a steel version!
Now, the dial design is nothing special in itself. It is a solid ’70s look with grooved lume-filled indices and matching baton hands. The special nature, however, lies in the perfect execution of the small details, like the sharp gold frame for the date window and the impeccable matching of the gold dial with the ever-so-slightly darker case.
The contrast of a bezel
The modern Overseas bezel and bracelet are quite in-your-face and an obvious take on the Maltese cross. The bracelet of the 222, however, is more subtle, and the bezel brings a welcome contrast with its industrial, notched edge. The main reason for this was the top-loaded case design of the original 222, but it has a secondary effect. Especially visible on this reissue, it cranks up the sporty factor of the slim case. It is simply a welcome juxtaposition to the smooth tonneau shape and discreet chamfers. The bezel is separated from the main case body by a disc. This has another slim, polished chamfer, creating a glittery play of reflections. As on the original, you will find a quirky placement of the Maltese cross, recessed into the case at 5 o’clock. In white gold, this little cross is my favorite detail, making the 222 as noticeable as it is unique.
A bracelet of choice
Personally, I like the soft yet still aggressive design of the Overseas bracelet, but this is next-level smoothness. I can only imagine the work that went into re-engineering this slinky piece of ’70s design. From both the press and live photos I’ve seen, nothing comes close to the tolerances Vacheron maintained here. The bold brushwork of the 18K gold makes the hexagonal shape perhaps even more of its era, just quietly improved. Suffice to say, I’d be more than happy to have even a couple of hours of wrist time with this. The danger, of course, is that I would spend the rest of the day applying for multiple credit cards… Then proceed to max them out for a sobering €62,500. The Vacheron Constantin Les Historiques 222 might be unreachable, but it sure is divine. Bravo!
So, what do you think? Is this 222 a sublime re-take on a classic that warrants a full resurgence of the 222 range? Or is the modern Overseas all we need? Let us know in the comments. I just know that I’m infatuated and will not be turned.
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