222 | steel
Possibly our favourite vintage, sports watch from the great age of the Nautilus, Royal Oak and the Ingenieur, the 222 ‘Jumbo’ in steel, was not designed by the hand of the celebrated Gerald Genta, but was - we feel - equally brilliant and made in far fewer numbers than any of its more famous contemporaries. We’ve always wanted to list a good example and this one is undeniably that. A great size, with a combination of slim proportions and robust performance, this was one of the greats.
Vacheron Constantin boast a lengthy and uninterrupted history of manufacture, dating back to 1755. The firm’s founder, Jean-Marc Vacheron, was one of many cabinotier-watchmakers who specialised in the production of complex components. Upon partnering with François Constantin, Vacheron (the brand) became widely-known for upholding the finest horological traditions - enamelling, piercing, engraving and engine-turning.
In 1977, Vacheron Constantin introduced the reference 222, to mark the brands’ 222nd anniversary. Conceived by renowned watch designer Jörg Hysek (with numerous design cues from Gerald Genta), the 222 has since become one of Vacheron’s most recognisable watches, due to its distinctive features and its contribution as a pioneer for high-end luxury sports watches. The Vacheron Constantin 222 firmly diverged from the brands’ pre-existing design principles - offering a true competitor to Audemars Piguet's then five-year-old Royal Oak, and Patek Philippe's Nautilus.
The 1970s was a time of great change within the watch industry, where the concept of a luxury watch in steel was a truly revolutionary idea. Vacheron 222 watches from the late 1970s are highly-sought by collectors, owing to their rarity and unique place in the brand’s history. Only 500 of the original models were made in steel, with an additional 120 in two-tone steel/gold and 100 in solid gold.
In the spirit of the era, this 222 has a bold ‘tonneau’ case with broad shoulders and an integrated steel bracelet, with large, geometric centre-links. The matte-grey dial is delicately textured, with applied, tritium-filled hour markers, white outer-minute divisions, polished baton-hands with luminous inserts, and a date aperture at 3 o’clock with the original date-disc. The case and bracelet are excellently finished, with beveled and polished surfaces.
At 37 mm in diameter, and only 7.2 mm thick, the 222 case is unique amongst 'Jumbo' 70s luxury sports watches - complete with a two-piece, mono-block and screw-down, serrated bezel, holding the case tightly together. Vacheron’s Maltese cross is inlaid at 5 o’clock. The outer-case-back correctly displays the watch’s unique serial number (522 XXX), as well as the reference number ‘222’, in retro typeface.
The Vacheron 222 is powered by the ultra-slim calibre 1121, derived from Jaeger-LeCoultre’s legendary ultra-thin JLC 920 calibre movement. The caliber 1121 was based on the caliber 2120, an initial project of Jaeger-LeCoultre in 1967, famous for its adoption by Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin. The ultra-thin, automatic 1121 calibre features 36 working jewels, Gyromax balance and four ruby wheels to support the full-diameter rotor, which runs on a beryllium rail for stability. The Vacheron calibre 12''' 1121 remains one of the thinnest full-rotor self-winding movements in the world, considered by many as one of the most stunningly refined and technically impressive wrist-watch movements ever made. Importantly, its movement serial number (686 XXX) corresponds with its year of production.
The watch comes fully-equipped with its original bracelet and clasp (clasp signed 'Vacheron Constantin’), as well as its box and Archive Extract from Vacheron Constantin.
Viewings can be arranged in Central London by appointment.
|Model:||44018/441 - Ref. 222|
|Movement:||mechanical self-winding Cal. 1121|
|Functions:||date, hours, minutes|
|Features:||unrestored matte dark grey dial|
|Case:||37 mm stainless steel|
|Bracelet:||original Vacheron Constantin steel bracelet|
|Box & papers:||box, Archive Extract|
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