Inside Vacheron Constantin's Fiftysix Collection Launch At Abbey Road Studios
On a journey around the streets of London in a 1967 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia sports car, I was treated to a tour of the history of British music.
Zipping between Berwick Street in Soho and Battersea Power Station I was taken to locations where some famous album covers were shot, including Oasis’ (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?, David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars and Pink Floyd’s Animals. Driven by a gentleman who lived next door to David Bowie in the '60s, the stories flowed thick and fast.
The road trip was designed to prepare us for a musical extravaganza that evening at the historic Abbey Road Studios, where Vacheron Constantin launched its new collection, Fiftysix, and introduced its “One of Not Many” campaign, where the brand partners with artists of exceptional talent and creativity.
As we walked through the studios where legends like The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Radiohead and Amy Winehouse have recorded, and delighted in a soulful performance from English artist Benjamin Clementine, I have to admit that for a second I forgot I was in London for a watch launch. But as I learned more about the collection, everything made perfect sense.
Fiftysix is positioned as an “urban, retro and modern watch with a cosmopolitan spirit,” inspired by music and heritage. And the result is a casual but refined watch, one that falls comfortably between Vacheron Constantin’s more formal ranges like the Patrimony and its sportier variations such as the Overseas.
“The Fiftysix has all the elegance and sophistication one would expect of a Vacheron Constantin but with a level of coolness,” says Christian Selmoni, style and heritage director of the brand. “It has a very contemporary aesthetic—from its shape, size and proportions to the way the hours and minutes are presented—but we add subtle aesthetic touches from the brand’s 16th- and 17th-century pieces.”
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The inspiration behind the Fiftysix is the reference 6073, a watch Vacheron Constantin introduced in 1956. “From a design perspective, the 1950s is very interesting to us,” says Selmoni. “It’s an era we haven’t quite touched on in the past. It has that modern with a bit of vintage feel, traditional and at the same time contemporary—and it works beautifully on this watch. It’s round, slim and effortlessly elegant. The reference 6073 is distinguished by its four lugs, each representing a branch of the Maltese cross, which we also see on the Fiftysix.”
The collection consists of date, day-date and complete calendar variations that come in either a stainless steel or pink gold case, as well as a tourbillon version in pink gold.
The music of the 1950s was also a source of inspiration, Selmoni adds. “The 1950s were the heyday of musical creativity, in my opinion. They produced rock ’n’ roll icons Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash, and blues legends Ray Charles and Ruth Brown, to name a few. I felt that this surge of creativity trickled into the world of watchmaking. In the 1950s, Vacheron Constantin created some of its most innovative designs.”
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According to Selmoni, customers are looking for a more relaxed way to wear a Vacheron Constantin. “With the Fiftysix, we complete the offering,” he says. “I could imagine a Patrimony with your suit or tuxedo, an Overseas with your chino shorts or khakis, and a Fiftysix with a nice jacket and a pair of jeans. It’s elegant but less formal.”
For heritage brands like Vacheron Constantin that carry centuries of history, there’s always a risk in developing completely new lines that depart from the classic, time-tested formula. They face the challenge of reaching out to a wider and possibly younger clientele without alienating long-time followers. Luckily, Vacheron Constantin doesn’t have this dilemma with the Fiftysix, thanks to an aesthetic that straddles fashionable and vintage, a level of craftsmanship that meets the high standards expected by existing, loyal clients, and enough historic references to keep purists happy.
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