time well spent
The Vacheron Constantin Fiftysix Complete Calendar is the top-of-the-line model in the brand’s entry-level range. Okay, that might sound confusing, but I’ll come to that in a moment.
Inspired by and named for the year in which the Ref. 6073 was introduced (1956, so Fiftysix, get it?), it’s a retro-inspired watch with modern sensibilities, which is what all the cool kids are making. And by extension, what those cool kids hope the other cool kids will want to buy.
The Fiftysix Complete Calendar and the Fiftysix Day-Date are powered by in-house movements, though finished to a smaller degree than on their top-end pieces, while the time-only model has a sourced movement.
But is it really a cut-price Vacheron Constantin?
Well, not really.
40mm seems to be the magic number these days, and while it’s a good bit larger than the 35mm ref. 6073 it was inspired by, bear in mind the Fiftysix is a modern watch after all. And by that, I mean it’s chunky, and I’m not just talking about its weight on the wrist.
The lugs are long-ish, so the Fiftysix sits larger on the wrist than its diameter would suggest. Combined with a stepped bezel, elevated still further by the squared-off, box-shaped crystal, it’s 11.6mm thick. For context, that’s just 1mm off a bona fide sports model like the Overseas World Time.
Strictly speaking, the Fiftysix is a dress watch, but modernity dictates even dress watches must look good paired with jeans. And the Fiftysix certainly performs admirably dressed up or down.
A leather strap is present on all Fiftysix models (brown for gold models; black for steel), with the Maltese Cross for a buckle. No deployment closures here, but whether that’s a good thing or not is entirely dependant on your point of view.
Being the range-topper in the Fiftysix’s three model-strong range, the Fiftysix Complete Calendar gets every bell and whistle available. That is to say: day, date month and a moonphase. The second hand is centrally located, sharing a track with the date on the dial’s perimeter.
The moonphase display is of particular note, with the moon represented by a gold blob (silver in the case of the steel model). In more evidence that the Fiftysix wasn’t built to a price (in its dial construction, at any rate), there’s the presence of matching rose gold applied Arabic numerals and indices.
The dial, like the Fiftysix itself, is a coming together of the modern and the retro. The railway track sub-dial is a nice little throwback, and so are the “open-six" numerals. But some hands are also lume-filled, which lends it a modern touch.
Powered by a variant of Vacheron Constantin’s familiar Cal. 2460 – which also drives the Traditionelle Complete Calendar among others – the Fiftysix Complete Calendar, like the day-date model, gets an in-house movement complete with the Geneva Seal. It suffers not the ignominy of having third-party mechanicals.
The movements get perlage on the baseplate, bevelled edges, Geneva stripes on the bridges and our favourite bit of the movement – the gold rotor with a skeletonised Maltese Cross.
That said, the perlage isn’t as fine as on some other pieces and the Geneva stripes are a little coarse, though prices for those other pieces are far, far higher.
It feels like a dressed-up workhorse movement, which in all fairness, it sort of is. Nothing wrong with that, I suppose, because workhorse or not, it’s every bit a movement worthy of Vacheron Constantin.
In a nutshell, it’s remarkably unobtrusive on the wrist. Partly because it’s a completely new product line, it doesn’t have the instant recognisability of, say, an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak or Vacheron Constantin’s own Overseas line.
Whether that’s a good thing or not is entirely dependant on your perspective, however. For me though, I enjoyed the discretion the Fiftysix Complete Calendar afforded, even in spite of the blinged rose gold case.
Some people will surely bristle at the fact that a semi-complicated piece, especially from a manufacturer as storied at Vacheron Constantin, and a gold one at that, could go by unnoticed, but that’s how I like it.
If you’re getting a Fiftysix to attract eyeballs, then this definitely won’t be for you. If you, like us, prefer flying under the radar wearing pieces only those in the know would recognise, then step right this way.
I also enjoyed its versatility – I get the feeling it’d be a great companion for any event, barring a day out at the beach. The broad, lume-filled hands provide just the right amount of informal and the railway track sub-dial a nice formal counterpoint.
On the topic of accuracy, over a few full days of constant wear, I didn’t notice any glaring instances of it running fast or slow, despite it not being adjusted (it’s technically a pre-production piece doing a ‘tour’ of the region). But then again, I always say that if you’re wearing a mechanical watch to tell the time, you’re barking up the wrong tree.
If the Fiftysix Complete Calendar proves anything, it would be that the term “entry-level" is entirely relative. An entry-level Vacheron Constantin piece is still a Vacheron Constantin.
While its finishing isn’t up to the level of its perpetual calendar counterparts, those are exceptional watches meant for exceptional occasions and there simply is no comparison.
And this is just me quibbling, because the Fiftysix Complete Calendar is still well finished by any measure, especially that open-worked rotor. Even more so when you consider the range is supposed to be Vacheron Constantin’s most accessible.
There are, however, a few things that prevented me from liking the Fiftysix Complete Calendar more. I’d have preferred it to be a bit thinner than it is – just the box crystal or stepped bezel would have been fine, but not both.
And I could have done without the lumed hands and indices. I get that lume is modern, but considering the Fiftysix’s dress watch leanings, it’s better to err on the side of classy than sporty.
All told, it’s a solid piece, and minor faults aside, it’s an extremely commendable effort.