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REVIEW: The Vacheron Constantin Malte Chronograph

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Published on 06-27-2011 11:17 AM

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Review of the Vacheron Constantin Malte Chronograph

By: John B. Holbrook, II


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Vacheron Constantin is among the oldest and most well-respected houses in existence. In fact, 2005 marked the 250th aniversary of Vacheron Constantin's founding in 1755 by Jean- Marc Vacheron. That makes Vacheron Constantin the world's oldest watch manufacturer in continuous activity. Vacheron Constantin's pedigree and recognized brand cachet is without question, as is its considerable contribution to the world of horology. Certainly within the Vacheron Constantin catalog, there is an impressive assortment of highly complicated, exotic timepieces that embody the two and one half centuries of watchmaking tradition of the brand. While the chronograph may be viewed as something of a pedestrian complication, the Malte Chronograph from Vacheron Constantin proves to be anything but ordinary.

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The Vacheron Constantin Ref. 49180 is available in either rose gold or white gold—the review sample being the latter option. The case measures a pleasing 40mm x 50mm—certainly slender enough to slide under the cuff of a dress shirt, but large enough to look up-to-date with more casual attire. It's refreshing to see a case design more concerned with tradition and practicality than with bowing to contemporary fads with regard to size. The case blends both polished and brushed finishes with an elegant beveled edge around the bezel.

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One disappointment with the Make Chronograph is that it does not come with a sapphire exhibition back to allow viewing of the movement. Instead, there is a solid gold caseback, engraved with the Vacheron Constantin name and logo as well as reference and serial numbers. The case of the Malte Chronograph is water resistance rated to 30 meters.

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Attached to the case lugs is a well-padded and attractive black reptile leather strap with a case-matching white gold folding clasp in the shape of the Vacheron Constantin logo.

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Inside the polished white gold case of the Vacheron Constantin Malte Chronograph we find the Caliber 1137. The VC 1137 is a 37-jewel, self-winding mechanical chronograph movement with 21,600 bph and a power reserve of approximately 40 hours. Seen previously in the Vacheron Constantin Overseas Chronograph, the Caliber 1137 is based upon the Frédéric Piguet 85—a highly celebrated column wheel chronograph movement as a base caliber by several luxury watch brands. However, Vacheron significantly modifies the movement, replacing the small Le complication normally found between four and five with a date complication located at 12. 'While I did not remove the caseeback to visually inspect the movement, (watch companies tend get testy when reviewers disassemble watches) I can assume the Caliber 1137 is appropriately finished and decorated as part of the modifications and alterations made to the base caliber.

Beneath the scratch-resistant sapphire crystal is the lovely dial the Malte Chronograph. The dial is predominately a silvery white color with the subdials in a slightly darker silver tone for contrast and visibility. The watch hands appear to be white gold d flow nicely with the case while providing satisfactory contrast against the dial. Legibility is strong for the Malte Chronograph— my chronograph dials come off as being cluttered and illegible if it designed and executed properly; but that's not the case here. The central portion of the dial is finished in an attractive guilloche ttern that is not only cosmetically appealing but also helps to set off the chronograph subdials from the rest of the watch dial. Arabic numerals surround the outer perimeter of the dial.

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The retail price of the Vacheron Constantin Malte Chronograph is $41,300.00, in line with prices from the few luxury itch labels that compete at the same level as Vacheron Constantin. The Malte Chronograph is a fantastic timepiece, constructed with a precious metal case and featuring a movement with some unique modifications as well as some interesting complications. The big date complication combined with the chronograph functionality make the Malte Chronograph highly desirable from a day-to-day usage standpoint, even if these functions are among the more mundane mechanical watch complications.

In terms of critical commentary, I have only two minor issues, both of which have to do with the movement. Firstly, while the Vacheron Constantin Caliber 1137 is a very respectable movement, at this price point, and particularly from a brand with the cachet of Vacheron Constantin, I would really prefer to see an in-house designed and manufactured caliber as opposed to one constructed from a base caliber of another movement manufacturer. Certainly the Frédéric Piguet 1185 on which the VC 1137 is based is among the more legendary chronograph movements which could have been chosen as a base caliber, and as previously stated, Vacheron Constantin has performed significant modification of the base caliber in creating the VC 1137. I just happen to prefer an in-house movement and tend to hold certain watches houses (such as Vacheron Constantin) to a higher standard in this regard. Surely the movement has been finished and decorated significantly, which sets the VC 1137 apart, and brings me to my second point of criticism—no observation window for the movement. The debate over in-house vs. outsourced movements is one that has raged on within horological circles for decades without a clear winner. The VC 1137 is an extremely impressive caliber by any measure. So why, with such a fantastic movement inside such a handsome timepiece, were we not given a means to observe the craft and workmanship which no doubt went into finishing and decorating the VC 1137? I don't consider this omission a major concern, and it certainly comes down to one's personal preference, since many watch enthusiasts don't care for display backs on their watches. Moreover, these slight two criticisms aside, there's more than enough to like about the Vacheron Constantin Malte Chronograph.

**Photos & Text Copyright 2011 WATCH TALK FORUMS INC. No part of this report can be reproduced outside of WATCH TALK FORUMS without the expressed permission of John B. Holbrook, II.

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