Sunday Morning Showdown: Vacheron Constantin Métiers D’Art Collection

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Sunday Morning Showdown: Vacheron Constantin Métiers D’Art Collection Rate it or hate it? Whose side are you on? by Rob NuddsMarch 08, 2020 MIN READSunday Morning Showdown: Vacheron Constantin Métiers D’Art Collection

In this Sunday morning column, two of our writers go head-to-head in an epic showdown for the ages. Strong opinions and hysterical hyperbole are welcome (so feel free to join in with the fun in the comments section below). And don’t forget to let us know which watches you’d like to see torn to shreds/effusively exalted next week. We’ll try and feature as many of our readers’ choices as we can. This week the Vacheron Constantin Métiers d’Art collection is under scrutiny. It promises to be brutal. Squeamish readers, look away now…

Hahaha. Ha. Wow. Forgive me. I’m enjoying my freedom while it lasts. After the brutal battering I inflicted upon Mike last week, I assume my time on the outside is coming to a close. And you know what? I deserve it. A 91% win is so filthy it should be illegal. And the best bit about this is that Stockton knows it.

At least he’s tough enough to wear it. And don’t worry Mike fans (currently trending at around 9% of you), our plucky Floridian will be back. But right now he’s on ice. In his place is seasoned slugger, Balazs Ferenczi. He’s not new to this column, but he’s so far a stranger to losing. Last time out, he pipped me to the post in our tussle over the Audemars Piguet 11.59. That was our closest run race yet. And I’ve got a feeling this one could be equally as tight…

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Rob Nudds

My win/loss record is currently 2-2, so this pick is a risk for me. I may well be king of the castle right now, but that could all come crashing down around my ears if I can’t convince you that the Vacheron Constantin Métiers d’Art collection deserves your love. As divisive as I’m sure this will be, there are two key things on my side: Vacheron Constantin gets a lot of love from watch aficionados (rightly so), and what I’m arguing for here is really the ethos and application behind the collection rather than one specific watch.

The Métiers d’Art collection speaks to those who prefer artisanal excellence in their wristwatches. But I’m kind of banking on the fact that even those of you that may choose to wear a steel sports watch like, say, a Patek Philippe Nautilus, can also see, and crucially appreciate, the beauty of what I’m peddling today.

Okay. I feel like a bit of a cop-out chucking another collection at Balazs. I think that’s what resulted in such a strong victory last week. Mike wasn’t going up against a single reference. Instead, he was tackling an entire range. So I’ll tell you what I’ll do: I’ll pick a champion. And through this champion, I will explain exactly what I love about the pages of the catalog it calls home.

Balazs: Hey, don’t have to go soft on me Rob. You might have concurred the masses over the Floridian, but as far as our little internal battle is concerned I’m one and done…so far.

Rob: The Vacheron Constantin Métiers d’Art Villes Lumières series, specifically the New York model, is everything a luxury watch should be. It boasts an expertly-tuned, hand-finished movement, displayed in all its mechanical majesty through a sapphire display back. It is slim, elegant, and artful. Only the finest craftspeople can bring a dial of this complexity to life. Is it a horological howitzer? No. But is it is class manifested? Oh, sweet babushka, yes it is.

It is art, pure and simple.

Imagine rocking up to the Met Gala with Manhatten on your wrist? Gold cloisonné and opaque vitreous enamel bringing the scene to life — it’s something else. With other cities like Beijing and Paris available, there are options too. Watches like this transport you. They don’t just impress you in the way a triple-axis double tourbillon surfing a shark over a perpetual calendar while it caresses a wrist-mounted orrery might. But they make you feel something. It is art, pure and simple. And while you may find some of VC’s entries in this collection a bit bonkers, meretricious, or simply crass, faulting the execution would require you to have the kind of God-given talent I know I don’t possess. So what do you say, Blaise? Think you can do any better?

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Balazs Ferenczi

Not only do I think, but I know. Let’s start at the beginning though. Just like the last time, I have to begin my argument by saying that, I agree with you, Rob. Well, not on everything of course but we’ll get to that later. First and foremost we should look at the case and movement of the Métiers d’Art collection. 40mm is a perfect contemporary dress watch size. If you want smaller, go vintage. There’s plenty of options there. But size is not everything. In this price range, which is eye-watering, to say the least, we need more. Like a white gold case for instance. Awesome. Understated yet elegant, precious metal, not too flashy no too common. The movement, just like the case is a work of art. Then again, what else did we expect from a brand such as Vacheron Constantin?

Well, perhaps a more tasteful dial. Let me be clear. I understand, better yet salute the artisans who create these dials. Enamel is an amazing material and some brands like Breguet or anOrdain really know how to make beautiful timepieces with enamel dials. But Rob, come on…put your hand on your heart and tell me that you do not find them tacky one bit. If I need a map of Manhattan I’ll lend you my iPhone. That’s where I’m looking for a map. Not on a $93,300 watch face. Do I consider a double tourbillon watch more impressive than a beautifully made albeit gaudy map of Paris? Absolutely.

I’d rather be a boring guy with a watch that has a more traditional dial than Rob Nudds behind the police cordon at the Met Gala…

To me, a watch dial should be harmonious. It should have some kind of symmetry. A watch dial should have a center point, a frame, it should have dividers that break up the one-sidedness. Let those be numerical, indexes, or a logo. Call me traditional or boring. I might be both. But I’d rather be a boring guy with a watch that has a more traditional dial than Rob Nudds behind the police cordon at the Met Gala — because that’s pretty much as far as you’d get with that thing on your wrist.

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Rob: I’d rather be behind the police cordon than in the back of a patrol car, which is where you should be because of your CRIMINAL take on these masterpieces. So, having wasted a minute of my life reading that dross, I’ve managed to find one word I can agree with amidst your flagrant disrespect: Frame. You talk about the watch needing a center point, but just how minuscule is your range of focus if a dial measuring a little over three centimeters across is not “central” enough?

…it shows exquisite taste.

This is a work of art and the case is its frame. Your wrist? A mobile gallery. And while it may not be as technically stunning as a double tourbillon, it shows exquisite taste. And unlike the whirling wizardry of a double tourbillon, it is a quiet statement of refinement.

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Balazs Ferenczi: To be honest with you, I’m a bit disappointed in you. I tried my best. I wanted to be as open to your arguments as I possibly could. It was painful but I tried. Still not as much as looking at that hideous VC dial but close enough. However you, my dear Rob, are not worthy of my arguments for the simple reason that you don’t even try to consider them let alone adopt even one.

The size of the dial is not in question here. The design of it is. I look at a watch as a whole; dial, hands, case, strap or bracelet. It can be clean or busy but should be pleasant to look at with clear indicators for the purpose of the object, which shows the time, that is. How do you even read this thing? The Vacheron Constantin Métiers D’Art Collection pieces are not much, if at all, better than those laughable Corum Coin watches. Hey, we already have a topic for our next showdown. Let me guess Nudds; you’ll be for them too.

Rob: Nice try, but no. I’ve not fallen so far down the rabbit hole that I lust over the Corum Gold Coin… At least not yet. I suppose the difference between that example and the Metiers d’Art collection is the level of artisanal skill required to bring it to life.

Balazs: But the basic idea is the same. *YAWN*

Rob: We’ll have to agree to disagree on that point. But I do appreciate your arguments, especially regarding legibility. I love clean, minimalist, highly legible dials. They are essential in some cases. I wouldn’t choose a diver or even a daily wear with a dial this complex. That would, I’m sure you’d agree, be madness.

But my counter-arguments to your point regarding the prime purpose of a watch would be that a) this watch does actually have hour markers and hands of sufficient length to make them useful and b) the question of whether a watch of this watch’s nature’s primary purpose is to tell the time is a bit up in the air. Is this a timepiece first and foremost, or is it a horological work of art? I’d plump for the latter. I’d wear it as such. And I’d stick to a Rolex GMT Master II while I’m dashing through airports and hopping from one plane to the next. Variety is, after all, dear Blaise, the spice of life.

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Balazs: A horological work of art for me — and this is subjective, I know — is a Jaeger-LeCoultre Atmos clock. Or the aforementioned double tourbillon. Don’t ask me why. This is how my brain is wired. When it comes to the markers, I would not consider those little faint lines on the rim of the dial hour markers at all. To me, they look like add-ons the design department needed to put on after the initial dial design was thrown back at them due to bad legibility. Either way, I’m just as stubborn as you are Rob and will probably never like the Vacheron Constantin Métiers D’Art Collection. It’s just too much variety for me.

But let’s turn this one over to our readers. Perhaps the Métiers d’Art collection provokes just as passionate a reaction from the Fratelli as it did from us? Or maybe there are those out there who’ve had their opinions swayed by our fiery defenses. Let us know your thought process in the comments section below. And if you’d like to learn more about Vacheron Constantin, you can visit the official site here.

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About the author

Rob Nudds

Rob’s first exposure to the watch industry was a part-time retail role for the Signet Group at the age of 17. An obsession with watches soon developed. Following an ill-advised BSc in Archaeological Science, he applied for sponsorship to undertake… read more

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