In 2017, Vacheron Constantin introduced the Les Cabinotiers Celestia Astronomical Grand Complication 3600, a horological marvel that had a whopping 23 complications, the most complicated watch ever made. This year the brand introduces a wristwatch that can be loosely-described as a mash-up between this 2017 heavyweight and 2013’s Patrimony Ultra-Thin Minute Repeater Caliber 1731. So without further ado, meet the Les Cabinotiers Astronomical Striking Grand Complication “La Musique du Temps”, a one-off twin-dial timepiece with a staggering 19 complications.
Before we go any further, a word or two on Les Cabinotiers: This is Vacheron Constantin’s elite workshop that produces custom, one-off timepieces that aim to stand at the very pinnacle of the haute horology. The term Les Cabinotiers is a reference to the gifted 18th century watchmakers who plied their trade in Geneva workshops, known as cabinets. “La Musique du Temps” is a collection of exclusive chiming watches made by the good folks at Les Cabinotiers and was first unveiled in December 2019.
What is incredible about this new timepiece is how Vacheron squeezed in 19 complications in a 12.54 mm thick 18K 5N pink gold case that is 45 mm wide. This timepiece’s development is based on the extra-ordinarily slim manufacture 1731 minute repeater movement used on Patrimony Ultra-Thin Calibre 1731 from 2013. Only 3.90 mm thick, the 1731 movement has been reworked to accommodate the astronomical complications seen on the Celestia. The resultant movement, Caliber 1731 M820, is only 7.84 mm thick, which is again quite an achievement, and comprises 600 components. According to the development team, one of the great challenges was to index the running equation of time to the minute repeater while maintaining the slim profile of the movement.
The blue opaline front dial has the majority of the 19 indications. A perpetual calendar is placed on the top half of the dial with apertures for day and month and snailed sub-dials for the moon phase, age of the moon. Since this is a unique piece for a specific collector, the front dial also displays sunrise and sunset times, pointed out by slim hands moving over two graduated scales, as well as the length of day and night appearing on a special gauge at 6 o’ clock. Another unusual complication is seen in a semi-circle at 4 o’ clock – zodiacal signs, seasons, solstices and equinoxes.
While pink gold hands indicate conventional time, solar time is told by means of an additional coaxial pink gold minutes hand with a cutout sun. This hand also serves a unique ‘running’ equation of time mechanism. In a traditional equation of time display, a hand moves across an auxiliary scale running from +14 to -16, which tells you how much you need to add or subtract from the standard time to know the difference between the length of that particular solar day, and the mean, or average, solar day. In this instance, the continuously running pink gold minutes hand runs ahead or behind the traditional minute hand as the year goes by.
The second dial on the back of the watch has a celestial chart that depicts the constellations viewed from the Northern Hemisphere ringed by a blue bezel ring showing the months of the year. A second disc rimmed by a graduated gold tone scale displays sidereal time. The difference between the sidereal day and the mean or average day means that the movable lower disc will accelerate daily by some four minutes in relation to the fixed outer disc, so as to indicate the current month at exactly midnight by means of a yellow arrow.
The minute repeater is activated by a slider on the case. Thanks to an partnership with the legendary Abbey Road Studios London, the owner of the watch will get a unique sound print, a recording the unique sound, of this model. As one would expect, the watch is hand-finished to the kind of high standards you would expect to see from a timepiece like this. It is paired with a blue alligator leather strap with a pin buckle. The price of this timepiece, being unique and all, is only available by request.