Available in the shop: The Vacheron Constantin Overseas, an integrated contenderBy Felix Scholz
Today, the high-end end luxury steel sports watch represents the ne plus ultra of the horological status symbols. And that lofty summit is dominated by those lofty stalwarts, the Nautilus and the Royal Oak. And while the view from the top is undeniably spectacular, it’s also crowded, and one of the watches edging ever closer to the top is Vacheron Constantin’s Overseas.
Before we find out just what makes the Overseas such a contender for integrated steel perfection, let’s briefly explore the backstory of this iconic watch. In the late 1970s, Vacheron Constantin was gearing up to celebrate their 222nd anniversary, and what would normally have been a joyous occasion was one fraught with the underlying tensions of a Swiss watch industry in trouble. Vacheron Constantin recognized masters of dress watches needed to do something different. So the Geneva-based brand turned to a young designer by the name of Jorg Hysek. Hysek’s response to the brief, known as the reference 222 became the primogenitor for the Overseas and featured a slim, barrel-shaped cased with a distinctive bracelet and Maltese Cross inspired bezel.
Fast forward to 1996, the heyday of the mechanical watchmaking renaissance, and the first generation of the Overseas, the spiritual successor of the 222, was born. This watch, 37mm across and with 150M of water resistance, exaggerated the Maltese cross elements found on the 222, most notably on the bracelet. In 2004 the second generation was released, sportier and more refined at the same time. New complications like the dual time were added. It was clear the Overseas was finding its feet.
The third — and current — iteration of the Overseas was debuted in 2016, 20 years after its official 1996 debut. Once again, the now-iconic design has been polished and preened to near perfection. Not only are the bezel, case and bracelet more harmonious than ever (many applauded the move of the date window from 4:30 to 3), and as impeccably finished as you’d expect from a ‘Holy Trinity’ brand, but there are some significant improvements for the wearer. Notably, the introduction of a quick-change strap system which offers both security and ease of use. Add to this the fact that Vacheron Constantin bundles bracelet, leather and rubber with every watch; you have a watch ready for any occasion. Of course, the movement inside this 41mm case was as impressive as the outside. The modern Caliber 5100 is beautifully finished and boasts a 22k gold rotor, along with a prestigious Geneva seal of quality.
Vacheron Constantin Overseas 4500V/110A-B128
This version, the 4500V, is perhaps the most famous of all the third generation Overseas. While it may lack the complication of the chronograph or the svelte profile of the ultra-thin, it does possess an absolutely drop-dead gorgeous blue dial, rich and glossy, dark and entrancing. Other brands may have integrated models with blue dials, but not like this.
For a long time, people slept on just what a quality piece of watchmaking the current generation Overseas is, but now they’ve well and truly woken up, as it is increasingly difficult to find these superb watches at retail. So when we say this clean 2019 example from Watchfinder & Co won’t stick around for long, trust us.