Sunday Morning Showdown: Vacheron Constantin Overseas 4500V Rate it or hate it? Whose side are you on? by Rob NuddsFebruary 09, 2020 MIN READSunday Morning Showdown: Vacheron Constantin Overseas 4500V
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 it’s the turn of the Vacheron Constantin 4500V. Let the battle commence.
It seems like we’re gearing up to feature the Holy Trinity of manufactures right off the bat in Sunday Morning Showdown, but that’s no bad thing! Last week’s inaugural outing for the SMS series went down a storm, with yours truly getting the backing of the Fratelli with a healthy 68% vote in favor of the Patek Philippe Nautilus. This week we’re going to zero-in on a specific model from Vacheron Constantin.
The Overseas 4500V could be seen as VC’s riposte to the Nautilus and the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. It is a finely-wrought, expertly-styled, in-house creation in steel. A characterful integrated bracelet, a stunning selection of exquisitely-finished dials, a ticket price of less than €20,000, AND a legitimate shot of being able to pick one of these up from your local authorized dealer should add-up to make this one a winner.
What can I say? I must not have a head for numbers…
Despite all those plus points, I really don’t like this watch. It doesn’t just leave me cold; it chills me to the bone. The sight of one of these bad boys in the window of my local jeweler would make an icicle of me. It’s always been that way. Truth be told, my reaction to it is getting worse with every subsequent release…
So you might assume that I’m not a fan of Vacheron Constantin. But that isn’t the case at all. In fact, throughout my entire career, I have coveted the watches of VC more than either Patek Philippe or Audemars Piguet. VC was the only one of the Holy Trinity that stoked a fire in me. You can keep your Calatravas. Please, don’t come anywhere near me with a Millenary. But the hallowed grace of Vacheron Constantin could do no wrong in my eyes. But for one teensy weensy blight on the catalog: The divisive Overseas collection.
The Overseas collection debuted in ’96. It had a distant relative, born during the quartz crisis in 1977 (designed, intriguingly, by Jorg Hysek). Its most notable aesthetic feature is its scalloped bezel. I suppose your feelings for this watch may well begin and end with the bezel. If you love it, all is well with the Overseas 4500V. I personally hate it. Why? Because it reminds me of something I would have designed when I was a watchmaker desperately trying to be different. Oh, hey, Audemars and Patek have eight-sided bezels on their sports watches… Let’s do something with six facets instead.
Truthfully, it should work better (six goes into 12 pretty neatly). But for me, it is the beginning of a bad dream. The nightmare gets worse with the most integrated of all integrated bracelets the world has ever seen. Again, I get the intention. I appreciate the desire for novelty. I can even get on board with the execution. But for me, it is a forced, awkward chunk of steel that is not as smart as it thinks it is. So tell me, Jorg, exactly why do you think this unholiest of holies is worth a rethink?
Rob! I’m sorry to hear that a watch is able to turn you into an icicle. That does seem like a genuine nightmare and you have to tell me how you get out of these Overseas nightmares with some schnapps next time we see each other. That’ll hopefully keep us both warm when we verbally battle mano a mano. For now, let me try and explain why the Vacheron Constantin Overseas 4500V has found a place in my heart.
Let me make something clear: If you want a Royal Oak, get a Royal Oak. If you prefer a Nautilus, get a Nautilus. If you’ve always wanted a Royal Oak or a Nautilus but find yourself buying an Overseas because it is cheaper or because it’s available there and then, we’re done talking here. I think it shows a lack of character and a genuine disrespect to Vacheron Constantin as part of the holiest trio in watchmaking.
But the shadow of Genta’s legacy is cast long over the watchmaking industry. His designs set the standard — a standard that we’re still trying to exceed almost 50 years after the fact. It is inevitable that whenever a new luxury steel sports watch is released, enthusiasts will always compare it to the man and the models that started it all.
A genuine question is whether we really want to see something new and exciting or do we just want confirmation that nothing beats the Royal Oak or the Nautilus? The answer to that is not a rational one otherwise it wouldn’t be a discussion. Talk about the power of good design.
Which brings us back to the design of the Overseas. We can agree on the fact that the design is the discussion here. As you have already stated Vacheron Constantin delivers flawlessly on product specs as we would expect from the brand. And I also agree with you that the bezel is the design element that raises the eyebrows. So I feel your pain but I have grown to disagree with you more and more. Where you have been catapulted into the “nay” camp immediately because of the bezel, it has, slowly but surely, propelled me towards its defense.
Rob: This’d better be good, Jorg. Otherwise, the Schnapps is on you…
Jorg: In all honesty, my first reaction was the same as yours. I thought the bezel looked too much like a saw blade (not a particularly pleasant reference). But the bezel has grown on me and the more I look at it, the more I appreciate it as a distinctive part of the overall looks of the Overseas. I wasn’t a fan of the previous generations of Overseas watches. But with the Overseas 4500V, current Overseas designer Vincent Kaufmann has certainly managed to create a new design that feels like a natural step towards creating a potential classic and the bezel has become an integral part of that future classic.
First, because it’s derived from the brand’s iconic Maltese cross and therefore refers to the heart of the brand and I love that a design element tells a story. It’s the same reason that I love the bracelet you hate as well. And secondly, because it’s the element that has been optimized for the good, going from six notches compared to the previous eight. I had to get used to it because it has a bigger overall presence but it has been able to keep growing on me tremendously. Every design detail that feels forced to you, feels increasingly comfortable to me. And that to me is a sign of great design.
Rob: You know, I knew you were going to say that. I knew you were going to latch onto the Maltese Cross and use it against me. You know I love brands integrating their logos into their watch designs. But I hate, hate, hate it when they lever them into the package. And that, my friend, is what we have here.
Why am I so sure? The Maltese Cross has four, not six arms. Count ’em. I’m serious. I saw what VC was trying to do with that bezel. I saw the brand’s intentions when it came to the strap too. But it didn’t wash with me, oh no. This is the kind of labored over-branding that makes my eyes roll back in my head. And talking of that bracelet, those slithers of polished material between the links look like an accident. You’re going to have to do better than that if you want to convince me this one’s worth a second look.
Jorg: How about the dials?
Rob: What’s so special about the dials?
Jorg: Oh, Rob. Of all the many reasons to love the Overseas 4500V, my number one choice are the dials! Aside from a finessed finish, Vacheron has brought some really interesting colors into the fold. The one version of the 4500V I keep going back to because it looks unique is the one with the brown/bronze dial (ref. 4500V/110A-B146). The more I look at it the more I keep seeing myself wearing one. And it keeps growing on me minute by minute.
Truthfully, writing this response to you has solidified my stance. This watch should not be anyone’s fallback or second (or third) choice. It deserves to be number one. It’s build quality, nuanced design, and superior wearability mark it as a potential classic of the future. And it probably won’t be too long before this model is just as hard to come by as its holy brethren. So whose side are you on?
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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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