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Les Cabinotiers Armillary Tourbillon

Pioneers of the Exceptional – Vacheron Constantin celebrates Harrods’ 175th anniversary

Harrods, the world’s most famous luxury department store, is marking its 175th anniversary with all manner of exciting celebrations and special-edition products. The Swiss maison of haute horlogerie Vacheron Constantin has joined in with a unique Les Cabinotiers watch presented at an immersive experience titled, Pioneers of the Exceptional.

From the 19th of June to the 21st of July, watch lovers will first be awed by Vacheron Constantin’s amazing displays on Harrods’ Hans Crescent windows, which tell the story of the company and its key watch collections. It is here that the synergies between the two brands are best appreciated and why the experience is called Pioneers of the Exceptional. Both started as family businesses, both were pioneers in their fields, and both are at the forefront of their sectors in terms of excellence and innovation.

Pioneers of the Exceptional presents original archive images highlighting the synergies between Harrods and Vacheron Constantin.

THE EXCEPTIONAL VOYAGE

On the 5th floor of the department store, Vacheron Constantin invites visitors to The Exceptional Voyage, a multi-sensory 4D VR cinema experience* powered by Xydrobe, followed by an exhibition of some of Vacheron Constantin’s most remarkable historical pieces. It is here that the 175 years of history of Harrods blends in, represented by archive images and properties from the iconic department store. The exhibition space itself is pretty unique, inspired by the rarely seen Harrods vaults and the iconic lift with its doorman.

LES CABINOTIERS ARMILLARY TOURBILLON

The heart of the show is a one-off masterpiece of haute horlogerie, a unique edition of Les Cabinotiers Armillary Tourbillon – High Jewellery, crafted in Harrods’ signature colours. Christian Selmoni, Style & Heritage Director at Vacheron Constantin, explained to me why such a choice, “For this unique celebration, it made sense for our maison to create a unique grand complication timepiece part of Les Cabinotiers, our department dedicated to unique pieces – and consequently ultimate exclusivity.”

Made in platinum, the 45mm watch is entirely set with 671 brilliant-cut diamonds (approx. six carats), including on the dial flange and folding clasps. As Christian put it, the watch is “An ode to the maison’s watchmaking art, combining technical mastery and expertise in decorative crafts.”

The main plate and bridges were hollowed in order to feature a marquetry inlay of mother of pearl, dyed in Harrod’s green, which as Christian said, “showcases our creativity and sense for innovation”. The watch is powered by the in-house Calibre 1990, a patented manual-winding movement with a 65-hour power reserve. Retrogrades watches are nothing short of horological marvels, not so much because of the system itself but because of the display. The watch must be equipped with a very complex mechanism to allow the hand to jump back to its initial position. In the case of the Vacheron Constantin Armillary Tourbillon, it features a double retrograde and the hands jump at such speed, that they had to be crafted from titanium to cope with the stress.

The dial-free configuration in the Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers Armillary Tourbillon allows the viewer to admire properly the green mother-of-pearl-encrusted main plate as well as a bi-axial armillary tourbillon, positioned at 9 o’clock.

This exquisite timepiece also presents a bi-axial armillary tourbillon, pioneered by Antide Janvier in the late 18th century, in an astronomical clock with a moving “armillary” sphere. “This spectacular tourbillon is the offspring from two famous bespoke pocket watches,” explained Christian, “namely the ref. 57260 and the Berkley Grand Complication presented at Watches & Wonders this year, the world’s two most complicated watches ever made.”

The regulator has a cylindrical balance spring without a terminal curve – an invention from 1814 by Jacques-Frédéric Houriet, the father of Swiss chronometry – which delivers a perfectly concentric beat and remarkable precision.

Vacheron Constantin’s special escapement – silicon escape-wheel and diamond-coated silicon pallet-lever – can then transmit impulses of 2.5 Hz without unwanted friction and the need for lubrication.

We saw the first Les Cabinotiers Armillary Tourbillon – also a one-off piece – last year on the dashboard of another unique piece, the Rolls-Royce Amethyst Droptail. The one created for Harrods’ 175th anniversary is probably the only opportunity you’ll have to see such an horological wonder up close… unless you commission your own.

HEADING TO THE BOUTIQUE

After the privilege of admiring Les Cabinotiers Armillary Tourbillon – High Jewellery, Pioneers of the Exceptional continues at the Vacheron Constantin boutique and the Fine Watch room on the ground floor of Harrods. Here, visitors will be able to discover some of the most emblematic timepieces from the Maison’s private collection spanning nearly three centuries, including the Tour de l’Ile, created in 2005 for the Maison’s 250th anniversary.

Vacheron Constantin Tour de l'Ille watch

Vacheron Constantin Tour de l’Ile double-sided watch in pink gold and guilloché dials. With its 16 complications, this mechanical wonder became one of the first super-complications of our time.

Among the pieces on show at Harrods, there are real jewels, such as the very first wristwatch in the Vacheron Constantin collection – a ladies’ bracelet watch from 1889 – and a Bassine Lentille pocket watch from 1901. Christian’s favourite is the perfume pendant watch from 1885. “I confess I am totally in love with that piece,” he said, “very unique and exclusive, and one that drives us back to a type of watches that have been almost forgotten, even if today such pendant watches are gaining again interest – a very nice example is the Vacheron Constantin Grand Lady Kalla presented this spring at Watches & Wonders, a convertible high jewellery timepiece which can be worn – guess – as a pendant watch!”

Left, ladies’ pomander-shaped chain bracelet watch in solid silver and red gold, silver-toned dial and clasp bearing the signature “Boucheron Paris” – 1885. Middle, round jewellery watch, gem-set bezel, finely chased case middle, enamel dial and carved lugs – 1889. Right, Bassine lentille pocket watch in yellow gold, cloisonné enamel, small seconds, gilt guilloché dial – 1902

Lovers of mid-century design would have the chance to admire extraordinary examples from this period, such as an ultra-thin model from 1955, equipped with the 2.94 mm-thick Calibre 1001 bearing the Hallmark of Geneva and distinguished by its five arabesque bridges. Its precision regulator ranks it among chronometer-quality movements. Another highlight from this time brought to London for this show is a 1966 “Chronomètre Royal” self-winding date piece in yellow gold, with a sunburst silver-toned dial. Don’t miss the “Prestige de la France”, a trapezoid-shaped watch from 1972 which was made to honour the “Diplôme” of the same name that was awarded to Vacheron Constantin that year In 1972, recognising the maison’s expertise, technical acumen and elegance.

Left, ultra-thin watch, small seconds at 6 o’clock, galvanic dial with Maltese cross – 1955. Middle, “Chronomètre Royal” self-winding watch, date, sunburst silver-toned dial – 1966. Right, “Prestige de la France” asymmetrical watch with brushed silver-toned dial – 1972

This and much more await visitors at Pioneers of the Exceptional, Vacheron Constantin’s anniversary homage to Harrods. Book your visit HERE

Words: Julia Pasarón

Pioneers of the Exceptional
5th floor, Harrods
Monday to Saturday: 10:30 am – 8:30 pm. Sunday: 12:00 pm – 5:30 pm

*Screenings take place every 30 minutes

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