The 1970s is associated with economic turmoil for the luxury Swiss watch industry, but there were some positives to come out of this era. It was the decade that disruptive designs from the steel sports watch category were conceived. The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak watch, designed by Gerald Genta, paved the way for other high-end sports watches from the likes of big brand names like Patek Philippe with its Nautilus watch and, of course, IWC Schaffhausen with the release of the Ingenieur watch. These models sparked a complete paradigm – a clear break away from the traditional elegant dress watch or, indeed, the slim quartz-powered watch that was proving itself so popular during this time.
The rise of the elegant steel sports watch was a game-changer. It communicated a laid-back, eclectic and casually elegant look. Octagonal bezels and integrated bracelets were all the rage – the case and bracelet of which were considered a whole, as opposed to two individual components. The Overseas watch by Vacheron Constantin is yet another example of a sports watch that took the world by storm. Today, it is one of the most instantly recognisable models, featuring a two-handed dial design accompanied by several different complications depending on the watch and its production year. But what made the Overseas watch such a stand-out and highly collectable model? Let’s first take a look at the history of the Overseas watch and how it came to be.
Following the success of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, Vacheron Constantin – the oldest watch manufacturer to have remained in continuous production for over 260 years – developed the 222 model. It was a radical break away from anything the prestigious watch manufacturer had ever produced before. Designed by Jorg Hysek, it has a slim barrel-shaped case, a one-piece case construction, baton hour markers, a flat and highly reliable movement developed by Jaeger-LeCoultre, and a notched round bezel. It ceased production in the mid-1980s and has subsequently become a horological icon that is hugely desirable amongst elite watch collecting circles. Following this was the 333 model with different complications that included a GMT function and chronograph.
In 1996, Vacheron Constantin produced the Overseas watch. Built around a tonneau-shaped case with a fluted bezel, it featured an integrated bracelet, a 37mm diameter, a 150-meter water resistance, and was powered by a COSC-certified movement. Over the years, the Overseas watch has seen some modifications, namely the new patterned dials and removal of the crown guard during phase 2 of the Overseas production series between the years 2004 and 2016. Today, there are ultra-flat models, chronographs, perpetual calendars and skeletonised variations belonging to the collection. Some of the most noteworthy advantages of owning a Vacheron Constantin Overseas watch today include its in-house manufactured and Geneva Seal-approved movements and its impressive anti-magnetic technology of up to 25,000 A/m.
The starting price for a collectable chronograph from the Overseas watch collection can set you back around $28,000 on the pre-owned market – a price similar to new three-handed watches that are easily accessible today. The top-level models with perpetual calendars and tourbillons, however, carry a much higher price tag of between $94,000 and $120,000. There are much more affordable Overseas watches too, namely women’s quartz-powered models that were released around the turn of the millennium. Men’s pre-owned three-handed automatic watches, are a little more, costing around the $10,000 to $13,000 mark.
Perhaps the most classic-looking of Vacheron Constantin Overseas watches is the model 4500V/110A-B483. Its stainless steel case, executed in a mix of brushed and polished finishes, is particularly suited to those with active lifestyles. The black dial surrounded by a steel case and matching stainless steel integrated bracelet epitomises the classic steel sports watch aesthetic. The dial is equipped with a simple three-handed layout, with central tapering hour and minute hands that have been treated with Super-LumiNova, along with a baton index hour track and a legible date window at 3 o’clock. Here, it is easy to appreciate the structure of the watch’s bezel, bearing the Maltese cross in its design. The same logo can also be seen underneath the 12 o’clock location on the dial, whilst inside the watch’s 150-meter water-resistant case is the in-house developed Calibre 5100. This self-winding movement was introduced in 2016 as part of Vacheron Constantin's latest generation of automatic movements and features a 22-carat gold oscillating weight adorned with a rose.
If the thought of an 18ct rose gold Overseas watch appeals to you, then the Vacheron Constantin Overseas Perpetual Calendar might be worth a look – especially if you prefer the complexity and intricacy of a complication watch. The watch measures a 41.5mm diameter and its silver dial conveys a strong sense of technical sophistication, despite still maintaining that all-important sporty aesthetic. With a display that will not need adjusting until the year 2100, the Overseas Ultra-Thin Perpetual Calendar offers a date counter at 3 o’clock, a beautifully decorated moonphase indicator in blue and golden tones at 6 o’clock, a days-of-the-week sub-dial at 9 o’clock, and a month of the year ring at 12 o’clock combined with a leap year indicator. These features are accompanied by elegant luminous-coated rose gold indexes and hands, surrounded by a minute track protected underneath a sapphire crystal glass front. Flip the watch over and the peerlessly performing self-winding Calibre 1120 QP/1 can be admired through a sapphire-bottomed case feature. The engine is capable of producing a 40-hour power reserve and has been produced in-house at Vacheron Constantin’s manufacturing facilities. This Overseas watch is fitted on a traditional-looking alligator leather strap in dark blue but also comes with an additional dark blue rubber strap for transforming the appearance of the watch whenever desired.
When Vacheron Constantin reinvented the Overseas watch in 2016, the collection left room for classic, sporty models like this Overseas chronograph watch. The model presents the time on a vibrant blue dial with chronograph sub-counters placed in the traditional 3-6-9 layout. Its timeless design pays homage to the original 222 model which solidified the steel sports watch trend during the 1970s. A 30-minute counter resides at 3 o’clock, balanced by a running second sub-counter at 9 o’clock and the 12-hour totaliser nestled in between these two locations. A date window, dressed against a white background for enhanced readability is positioned at 4:30 and the hand and baton hour markers have been treated with a generous layer of Super-LumiNova. This Overseas watch will appeal to men with a preference for the classic chronograph. Thanks to its easy interchangeable strap system, the watch can be enjoyed on a stainless steel bracelet, a leather strap or a rubber band. This Vacheron Constantin Overseas ref. 5500V/110A-B148 is powered by the automatic Calibre 5200. Capable of performing at a rate of 28,800 vibrations per hour and comprising a total of 263 hand-assembled components, the movement provides a useful 52-hour power reserve for those occasions away from the wrist.
The steel-on-steel design of the Vacheron Constantin Overseas Dual Time watch ref. 7900V/110A-B333 keeps the faithful elegant-chic sports watch aesthetic alive, but comes integrated with an additional feature. The handy dual time complication enables you to track a second time zone alongside a day and night indicator, all whilst enjoying the robustness of its 41mm stainless steel case. This manageable case size houses the self-winding Calibre 5110 DT inside its 150-meter water-resistant case. A sapphire crystal glass top protects the surface of a silver dial with a vibrant shot of red seen in the arrow-tipped dual time zone hand. The rest of the dial features baton indexes and luminous-coated central hands for effortless timekeeping when on the go. Lastly, a date sub-counter resides at 6 o’clock for the easy tracking of the days in each month.
Beautifully balancing technique with an indulgent 18ct rose gold design, this stunning Overseas Tourbillon watch offers a glimpse of the movement through an open-heart design upon its rich blue dial. The in-house 2160 Calibre offers a staggering 80-hour power reserve whilst performing at a rate of 18,000 vibrations per hour. Its openworked carriage, shaped like a Maltese cross, is emblematic of the brand’s heritage, whilst its 22K gold peripheral oscillating weight provides a chance to admire the steady beating of its mechanism and its breath-taking level of traditional finishing through a sapphire caseback. This Vacheron Constantin Overseas watch measures a 42.5mm diameter, features rose gold hands and hour markers, and comes completed on a stunning 18ct rose gold bracelet.
The Vacheron Constantin Overseas watch will always make a solid investment-worthy sports watch. Deriving from an era when sports watches were at their highest in desirability – the design of the watch exudes the much-loved “elegant-chic” styling, whilst promising values in robustness, reliability and superior timekeeping performance. Backed by brand provenances, of course, the Overseas watch will always constitute an icon synonymous with supreme material selection and expert timekeeping technology.