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Beat Generation: The new Traditionelle from Vacheron Constantin

Vacheron Constantin has added cutting-edge movement technology to its iconic timepiece, as Simon de Burton discovers

I have always thought that the greatest challenge faced by designers probably isn’t creating something entirely new, but being expected to reinvent the wheel by coming up with a fresh take on an existing “thing” – especially one that not only looks different but is also better functioning and more efficient.

As a result of the recent downturn experienced by the watch industry, there has been a shortage of truly innovative and interesting new designs in terms of aesthetics and engineering. So it came as a pleasant surprise to visit the Vacheron Constantin stand at this year’s SIHH show in Geneva and discover that the historic firm (founded in 1755, so the oldest dial name in continuous production) has developed a genuinely fresh and useful mechanical movement.

Debuted in a new version of the Traditionelle Perpetual Calendar model, the ingenious Twin Beat movement does away with the age-old thinking that the mainspring of a mechanical watch can run for only a preordained amount of time by incorporating not just the conventional single balance wheel, but dual balance wheels that operate at different speeds.

Usually, the single balance wheel takes energy from the mainspring and converts it into an oscillating action that contributes to an even delivery of power to the gear train, thus ensuring accuracy. The faster the oscillations – which are measured in vibrations per hour (vph) or hertz – the more accurate the timekeeping. Slower oscillations, however, allow power to remain in the mainspring for longer, meaning the watch has to be rewound less often.

The Twin Beat cleverly enables the wearer to switch between an “active mode” frequency of 36,000vph when the watch is being worn and a “standby mode” of a mere 8,640vph when it is o the wrist or in storage. The benefits of this are that the watch is extremely accurate when on the wrist, but will run autonomously for more than 65 days when set aside. This is particularly useful on perpetual calendar watches (that automatically account for leap years and short months) because they are usually complicated and time-consuming to reset if allowed to stop.

Vacheron Constantin has managed to fit the exquisite, 480-part hand-wound movement into a 42-millimetre platinum case and create a dial that indicates the mode setting, power reserve, time, date, month and leap year status with absolute clarity. Whoever designed it, I applaud you. And I’m glad I don’t have your job.

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