Vacheron Constantin 222, Stainless Steel

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This is an exceptional example of the Vacheron Constantin 222 reference 46003/411 in stainless steel. The case retains all its sharp, architectural elements while the beautifully constructed bracelet has no discernible stretch. The tritium on the hour markers and hands has aged evenly to a rich shade of cream, giving the monochrome face warmth. The watch is complete with its box, Certificate of Origin, and servicing invoice.

The Birth of the 222

In the wake of the Quartz Crisis, watchmaking manufactures were under increased pressure to justify their existence, as the very idea of a mechanical watch was under threat.

Against this backdrop, the phenomenon of the luxury steel sports watch with an integrated bracelet was born. Audemars Piguet released the Royal Oak in 1972, followed closely by the Patek Philippe Nautilus four years later, both of which were famously penned by Gérald Genta. Since then, these watches have gained a cult status which is difficult to quantify.

One year after the release of the Nautilus, in 1977, Vacheron Constantin put forward their own version of an integrated bracelet sports watch, with the 222. Designed Jörg Hysek, it was released to celebrate the 222nd anniversary of the manufacture. The 222 was produced for a brief eight-year period, between 1977 and 1984.

During that time, the core models of the 222 collection were the reference 44018, known the “Jumbo”, and the reference 46003, which was the mid-size version of the same design. According to factory records, around 700 'Jumbo' pieces and 1,000 'mid-size' pieces were produced across all metals, making these two variants of the 222 particularly uncommon. In comparison, the Nautilus and Royal Oak were made in far greater numbers.

Both Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe also offered “Jumbo” and mid-size versions of their distinctive Royal Oak and Nautilus. The latter often aimed to bring the design to a wider audience, who at the time preferred more modestly sized pieces. Vacheron Constantin continued to build on this trend, with this reference 46003 being a prime example of how the manufacture introduced a smaller diameter, whilst keeping the angular case and a high-quality automatic movement.