Forgotten Heroes — the Vacheron Constantin HarmonyBy Felix Scholz
In 2015, Vacheron Constantin was flying high. The brand was celebrating its 260th anniversary and had announced the gobsmackingly incredible reference 57260, a one-of-a-kind timepiece that boasted an astonishing 57 complications in one mighty platinum pocket watch. On top of that, we were treated to the phenomenally popular Historiques Cornes de Vache 1955 — a faithful reinterpretation of a legendary watch. Into this heady mix, Vacheron Constantin dropped another new design. With its curvy, cushiony silhouette and mature range at launch, the Harmony had a lot going for it. But now, six years later, it has been relegated to the very bottom of the list of the Genevan brand’s collections on their website and seems destined to fade into obscurity. So, what happened with the Harmony?
What We Said about It
In 2016, we wrote about the then-new Harmony collection, quickly summing up the appeal and unique proposition of the watch: “As far as cushion-shaped watches go, it’s sturdier than the cult-favorite Historiques American 1921, because it is a watch that is definitively for the modern era. Its inspiration is from an archival piece dated 1928. Still, its stacked curves and more generous proportions, its larger contrast between its thinnest and widest points, make it a far shapelier animal than its direct antecedent. You might describe the 1928 chronograph as beautiful, though blunt (a characterization that loosely fits many designs of the era). The 2015 watch is sharp but never aggressive — it swells out just the right amount at all the right places — and above all, it has poise.”
Why Did It Stand Out
Watches made by Vacheron Constantin are typically remarkable in one way or another. And the Harmony line was no different. These watches impressed on several fronts — smart dials, superb calibers and very fine finishes. But in a way, these attributes are shared with other watches from the famous manufacture. What stood out to me about the Harmony was that it was a completely new collection, in a new shape. Sure, it has a historical antecedent in the form of a single reference from the brand’s archive. Still, it was a far more liberal interpretation of heritage than other pieces in the Historiques collection. The other big story was the fact that Harmony was released, written out of the gate as a fully-fledged family, with a tourbillon, a chronograph, a smaller 37mm version with diamonds and a dual time model. The standout for many, though, was the monopusher chronograph, a ridiculously handsome watch with a brand-new movement, the caliber 3300, finally unveiled after seven years of R&D. This model in particular offered pedigree, impressive internals and a heavily vintage-flavored design that, everything being equal, should have been a hit.
What Happened Since Then
Make no mistake, 2015 was a big year for Vacheron Constantin. The cool factor of the Cornes de Vache was real, and the reference 57260 managed to garner mainstream media coverage, which isn’t an easy feat. Harmony started life with all the advantages, with very positive post-SIHH buzz. But by the time 2016 rolled around, things started to get odd. SIHH 2016 for Vacheron Constantin was the freshly revamped Overseas — and time has done very well by that release. And then, in October 2016, Vacheron Constantin dumped 10 new Harmony references, all at once and without ceremony. These comprised mainly dial updates, but the chronograph got some minor tweaks, and we even saw a very nice Harmony complete calendar, a pleasing design that looked straight out of the 1930s. Releasing that many watches all at once and without accompanying marketing support is never a good sign, and to me, it reads like several planned years of incremental releases being dropped at once. After that point, I cannot recall another Harmony release.
As to why this happened, I cannot say. But the obvious — and likely — answer is that Harmony did not perform commercially as well as Vacheron Constantin had hoped. It’s always a risk creating a completely new collection, and it doesn’t appear to have paid off in this case.
Why It Doesn’t Get the Love It Deserves
I think the Harmony’s less than optimal position in Vacheron Constantin’s catalog comes down to the fact that it has too much internal competition. The brand performs well with the classics, like the Patrimony and the Traditionnelle, and convincing a potential customer to opt for the oddball Harmony against these established collections is an ask. On the other hand, the Harmony is heritage-inspired, but not as heritage-inspired as the watches in the Historiques collection. Being released the same year as the Cornes de Vache 1955 can’t have done the Harmony any favors, and the more recently revived American 1921 has the same essential shapely appeal of the Harmony but with loads more personality.
What We’d Change
Hindsight is always 20/20, and it’s hard to fault Vacheron Constantin for how they rolled the line out at the time. However, if the executive team there did have a crystal ball, perhaps placing key models from the Harmony Collection (the monopusher chronograph and complete calendar would get my vote) under the broader umbrella of the Historiques line would make more sense. Those watches epitomize the appeal of the Harmony.