Eight Years In The Making By Craig Duling

Vacheron Constantin, Swiss manufacture of prestigious luxury watches, has unveiled the Reference 57260 pocket watch. A pocket watch considered to be a breakthrough technical feat and named for its record breaking 57 complications, and its world-renowned maker, Vacheron Constantin’s 260th anniversary. What started as an initial concept conceived by a major American collector, specific function requests never before incorporated into a watch were on the list of must have’s. The Reference 57260 pocket watch became a reality eight years later thanks to the determination of the Vacheron Constantin team of three master watchmakers. Though eight years may seem like a lengthy time to wait, it comes with great rewards. There has been only a handful of occasions in which a watch brand has been able to claim the bragging rights associated with building the most complicated timepiece in the world.

Visually exquisite, the Reference 57260 pocket watch radiates stature. Weighing in at approximately 2 pounds, and measuring 4” in diameter and 2” thick with a sculpted crown, Vacheron Constantin insisted on making it obvious this pocket watch dazzled horologists worldwide. Encased within a shimmering 18-karat white gold case it proudly showcases its perfectly proportioned lines and discrete pushbuttons with an array of full dials both front and back. Including complex sub-dials, and indicators. It boasts an astonishing 2,800 plus components and 242 precisely placed jewels and claimed ten new patents. Eloquently inscribed onto one of the plates is Vacheron Constantin’s moto “Faire mieux si possible, ce qui est toujours possible” (“Do better if possible, and that is always possible”). There is no denying that from initial design to final production, the Reference 57260 watch brilliantly exceeds the demanding criteria of the Hallmark of Geneva. The Hallmark of Geneva, an exclusive certification of traditional Swiss workmanship issued by an independent organization, prominently displays the Reference 57260 pocket watch’s commitment to the rigorous quality criteria of durability, precision and expert workmanship.

Vacheron-Constantin-Reference-57260-4In Horology, complications are referenced as any feature in a timepiece beyond the simple display of hours and minutes. The masters of Patek Philippe’s, the previous record holder, custom timepiece contained a mere 33 complications. The Reference 57260 pocket watch contains a record breaking 57 complications. Some features are quite unique, technically advanced feats never before incorporated into a timepiece, including multiple calendars. The complications are grouped by families and include six time measurement functions. Six miscellaneous complications. Four 3 column wheel chronograph functions. Seven perpetual calendar functions, a lunar calendar, as well as 8 Hebrew calendar functions, and one religious calendar function. Vacheron Constantin included nine astronomical calendar functions which prominently displays seasons, equinoxes, solstices, and the signs of the zodiac. Eight Westminster carillon striking functions provide the illusion of a large clock. However, there will be no excuses for tardiness with seven alarm functions. Adjustments for the Reference 57260 will need to be done every 1,027 years and 108 days.

Dedicated collectors and enthusiasts everywhere reading the complications are as children, checking off items on an imaginary wish list. An incredibly detailed wish list we never compiled. The Reference 57260 is undeniably an incredible feat of technology craftsmanship, and precision. At an estimated value of $8 million dollars, is the eight years wait worth it?

Craig Duling

Craig Duling's fascination with timepieces goes back at least to his college days, when he built a digital clock from scratch for his senior year physics lab class. Currently the head of Heritage Management Services, a business management firm in San Francisco, Craig Duling is also a significant collector of rare antique pocket watches. Pocket watches are often associated with images of 19th-century railroad conductors consulting them as steam trains left the station. This close attention to correct time was essential. In the 19th century, most trains traveled in both directions on single sets of tracks. Sidings were placed at regular intervals to allow trains to pass safely. Printed timetables showed the arrival and departure of trains, as well as when they were waiting in sidings. This system depended on accurate watches. The problem with this became evident in 1891 when two trains in Ohio had a head-on collision, killing nine people. Investigation disclosed that the engineer's watch on the passenger train had stopped and restarted, making it four minutes slow. This tragedy prompted railroad officials to set up standards for pocket watches. These specifications mandated that watches share a common design, as well as being reliable, easy to read, and impervious to extremes of temperature.

Latest posts by Craig Duling (see all)