White Knights: Watches and Wonders Gives Us Two New Titans of TitaniumBy Barbara Palumbo
“You shoot me down, but I won’t fall, I am titanium.”
Those lyrics — written back in 2011 by Australian singer-songwriter Sia — became an anthem in the club scene for those who, despite whatever hardships were being thrown their way, refused to give up, give in, or let life get the best of them. The song was popular not only for its lyrics, but also because the tune also showed resilience in the face of doubt. It was Titanium, plain and simple, and today, the lessons we didn’t even know we were learning about it while we were sweating, often shirtless (hey, don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it), in some overcrowded Las Vegas nightclub as we danced and sang and tripped and made out, still exist, because we still exist, even after a multi-year long worldwide pandemic.
The Metal of Myths
Discovered first in Cornwall, Great Britain, in 1791 by English mineralogist William Gregor, titanium was named so in homage to the Titans of Greek Mythology. Originally used in the military and aerospace fields, it wasn’t until 1970 that we began to see the metal used in watchmaking. After years of research, Japanese watch brand Citizen introduced their X-8 Chronometer in 1970 with a case made in the brand’s patented Super Titanium™ alloy mixture. To this day, it is widely considered to be the first marketed titanium wristwatch. But Citizen didn’t stop with the X-8, and eventually, more brands began to see the benefits of working with the lightweight, durable metal.
From entry-level brands such as Seiko to high-end, luxury watch brands like Bulgari, titanium, over the last five decades, has proven its worth amongst the watchmaking circuit. And at this 2022 edition of Watches and Wonders in Geneva, Switzerland, we saw even more horological heavyweights step into the titanium ring.
Today’s Titanium and Its Newest Titans
One of my first appointments at Watches and Wonders this year was with Vacheron Constantin — a brand very close to my heart and honestly one of my personal favorites that exist under the Richemont umbrella.
As a journalist, what I’m about to say may blow your mind, because, well, my job is to know things; to be, at all times, in the know. However, for this year’s Watches and Wonders, I chose to be in the dark. I didn’t open a single email ahead of the fair that could potentially spoil the surprise of what I would be seeing in person. Thankfully, I wasn’t asked to write pieces ahead of time, so this wasn’t an issue with my editors at Revolution. But what this allowed me to do, was live in the excitement of the moment. It is — on a much smaller scale — like choosing not to find out the gender of your baby until it arrives. There are so few surprises in this life, and for me, the thrill of the surprises to come out of Watches and Wonders was something to which I was greatly looking forward, and Vacheron Constantin did not let me down. In fact, they provided some of the biggest surprises of the fair.
Vacheron Constantin Overseas Tourbillon Skeleton in Titanium
Without being hyperbolic, I felt my jaw drop when presented with the fully titanium version of the Vacheron Constantin Overseas Tourbillon Skeleton. I imagined Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins standing alongside me, in her proper English accent, stating, “Close your mouth please, Barbara… we are not a codfish.”
All I kept repeating to myself in my head was, “Vacheron Constantin made a titanium watch. Holy sh*t… VACHERON CONSTANTIN MADE A TITANIUM WATCH.” But seeing it in the flesh paled in comparison to getting to actually hold it and try it on, and imagine it on the wrist of my beautiful Greek god-like lover as we sailed the Aegean Sea while our sun-kissed bodies felt the mist of the water below us and… oh… sorry about that. In the middle of a divorce and my perimenopausal imagination got the best of me there. My bad. What was I saying? OH! So, yeah! Vacheron Constantin made a titanium watch! And not just any ol’ titanium watch — they made an Overseas Tourbillon Skeleton in Grade 5 titanium, and it’s as fabulous and spectacular as it sounds. Trust me (and my vivid imagination).
Statistically speaking, Vacheron Constantin’s manufacturer caliber 2160 was redesigned to be openworked for these new releases. The tourbillon skeleton is a first for the popular Overseas collection which was originally launched in 1996, but the fact that it was released in a titanium version this year — the first titanium watch ever manufactured by the maison — makes the piece all the more special. Sizewise, the case measures 42.5mm in diameter. The watch has an integrated bracelet made in the same Grade 5 titanium (though also offered in the brand’s 5N pink gold), is water resistant to 50 meters (for those sailing trips on the Aegean Sea) and has a power reserve of roughly 80 hours.
A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus in Titanium
The sport-like Odysseus model was originally released by A. Lange & Söhne in October of 2021 and its reviews were, well, let’s just say, mixed. The brand, up to that point, had largely been known for its classical-looking, complicated German-made timepieces, and as we all know, when a brand is known for something, they can get roasted by the masses when trying to do things outside of their comfort zone (case in point, look what happened with AP and the Code 11.59). But unlike the brand and model just mentioned, the A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus also had a few big fans, and eventually, watch enthusiasts warmed up to the model, which is why I was so happy to see it introduced in a titanium version at this year’s Watches and Wonders.
Like Vacheron Constantin, A. Lange & Söhne had never before released a titanium timepiece, but the Odysseus seemed to be a natural fit. While neither brand has ever been known for bowing down to what the public wants, in reality titanium is popular and watches made in the metal make a lot of sense.
When fully wound, the watch offers 50 hours of power reserve, is water resistant to 12 bar, measures 40.5mm in diameter and is limited to 250 pieces.
While many other brands unveiled new releases at Watches and Wonders in titanium, or even partially in titanium, these two watchmaking giants hit the bullseye as the ones that blew us away.