Do you recall thinking how dumb it was to combine a toaster oven and a radio? Perhaps it could have some conceivable space saving use; but really, What is the point? To prove it can be done? If you haven’t heard of concept, it stems from the idea of unnecessary convergence products. You see combinations of products like this all the time, and sometimes they make more sense than others. Other times however, the whole idea is so repugnant both visually and in execution, that it just makes you upset. Not upset at the idea itself, that is all fun and games, but combining X and Y would be cool! Rather, what is disturbing is the notion that a dedicated group of otherwise intelligent people sat down for months designing, engineering, and executing a monstrosity. Having said that, the following is my perception and opinion of the new Vacheron Constanin Quai de l’Ile collection, which follows this theme.
It is important to state that for the most part, I really like Vacheron Constantin as a brand. They have been around a long time in one form or another, and release some really attractive watches for the high-market watch consumer world. I don’t know what inspired them to create the Quai de l’Ile collection, but I hope it is damned to eternity.
Lets start off explaining what the collection is. And this might take a while. So if you feel the need to stop and say, “wait, why did they do that? That doesn’t really make sense.” You can do so. The watches combine three main things. Haute horologie with in-house movements, manufacturer customizable watches, and passports. There are two base movements to choose from. A standard three-hand model with the date, and a calendar model with a power reserve. Other than the fact that they are in-house Vacheron Constantin movements, there is nothing to be excited about here.
Next is the customization. Each watch has various pieces that are customizable, which Vacheron Constantin will do for the customer. You need to go to one of 100 points of purchases around the world to do this, which actually makes no sense as you just sit there and use a computer tablet to choose everything. You could just as easily do it from your home. But why do that when you can fly to Geneva to use their computer, and have a snobby “brand consultant” explain how people of your ilk lack appreciation for the finer things in life? Other than engraving your name on the back of the watch, your choices are pretty simple. There are three different case materials (rose-gold, palladium, and titanium), which you can mix and match on the seven main pieces that make up the case. For the face, you have a few options, and of course there are various strap options. Vacheron Constantin likes to boast that there are over 400 possible combinations, which utterly does not excite me. As though the user is engaging in a total leap of personal creativity by making these simple decisions. I am not impressed. No matter what changes you make to the case, it still basically looks the same.
Actually, the Vacheron Constantin Quai de l’Ile watch case is quite attractive. It is the face which is ugly as sin. I don’t know that the case really benefits too much from these options, but its not too bad as a base. The face on the other hand tries to be too much. It is cluttered without having much function, and the transparency makes it look confused and really not well designed. Part of this has to do with Vacheron Constantin trying to appeal to a less aged market, with a “sporty new look” (at which they failed), and the other reason for this has to do with the “security” features of the watch. Then again, I don’t see any sport in the watch. I just see a lot of retro 50’s design accents and sunbursts. The design of the semi-transparent face over the skeletonized movement looks like a snowy TV screen. It’s just awful on the eyes. There is next to no elegance in the face or hands at all. Just look at those standard hands. Why would anyone pay upwards of $40,000 for such simple and uninteresting hands. What gives Vacheron Constantin?
I am going to sum up what I feel about the customization in this watch by referring to the reason anyone spends a lot of money on a watch. Money well spent goes for a really nice design, created by a really good designer. No one is going to spend $20,000 plus for a watch designed by me, so why am I being asked to spend this (and a lot more) for a watch “customized by me.” I pay good money for expert advice. I want a damn nice watch specially crafted to be that way, not a bunch of silly options like “titanium or rose gold?” You know what my response would be? “Whatever looks better, duh.” Watches are like art, and I pay for artistic and engineering talent. Not some gimmicky way of making a watch more personalized. I like the rear engraving option, but there is nothing novel about that. Basically this whole customization thing really feels arbitrary and self defeating.
So the next part of the watch is the really weird part. The “passport angle.” For whatever reason, Vacheron Constantin felt there was not enough “security” their watches. So they hired the same guy who designed the Swiss passport to “protect” the Quai de l’Ile. What does this mean? Basically you get a passport with the watch, that “cannot be copied!” You also get features in the watch face that make it really hard to duplicate, such as micro printing, patterns, and images only seen in special lights. Okay fine; Vacheron Constantin congratulations, you’ve made a passport and watch face that cannot be reproduced for the most part. What is next for you? Don’t you see the mere novelty in this and practically no usefulness. It will be a cool thing for about 10 minutes. You store the watch passport away, and cannot even really see the security features on the watch anyway. It is just another gimmick. I thought people with this type of cash to burn on watches thought about these things? I get the concept, I really do. I am just not sold. But then again, there are those few times during your life when the watch needs servicing, and you’ll send it to Vacheron Constantin who will certainly check for its authenticity!
I am not going to spend a lot of time talking about the passport derived features of this watch. It is obvious that I don’t care about them, and it adds no utility to this watch, nor does it make the watch look nicer. Just the opposite, and the watch looks like the terrible result of an argument between an engineer and an accountant paranoid people making knockoffs. All this time the designer is on vacation. Looking at this watch makes me think I am having vision problems! Trust me, I have seem the Quai de l’Ile watches in person, they don’t look any better in reality than they do in pictures.
If you want to learn more about the whole watch passport that comes with the purchase, or the little watermarks and things on the watch that are hard to copy, go right ahead. It is all rather pointless to me to be honest. Who will want to copy this watch anyways? Ok, so you have a “personalized” watch, and you want to make sure no one copies it. It doesn’t really look nice enough to copy in the first place. Next, the type of people that buy watches like this aren’t going to get one off the street in China or on some knock off website. Like I have said before, the people who buy $200 fake watches are not the same people who could ever afford the real thing. So Vacheron Constantin isn’t trying to protect a market. Maybe someone else can explain it to me, as this level of sophistication seems to be lost on me.
So what are we left with? A brand with a history of some really nice watches that in my opinion made a big mistake here. No doubt that the Quai de l’Ile watches will be high quality and decently put together. I don’t deny that. What I cannot understand is where the real value is, where the appeal is, where the aesthetic is, and exactly who is interested in these watches. Vacheron Constantin remarks that they are attempting to target a younger market with the Quai de l’Ile, but I am part of the younger market and they threw a total air ball on me. But hey, you never know, these watches might become a hit. I’d find a lot more to like about them if the dial matched the grace of the case, or if the novelty features at least made me think, “cool” for more than millisecond. But they don’t I am forced to shun this poor franken-watch in its lonely pursuit to find affection.
For the record, if you want a decent customizable watch, you can get one with far more options than the Quai de l’Ile at 121Time.com for a few hundred bucks. More high-end customizable, but cheaper than Vacheron Constantin watch can able be found at Blancier.
You have to check out this article explaining the Vacheron Constantin Quai de l’Ile watches more in depth at Europa Star. This article not only drips with the odor of marketing writing spew, but you can almost feel a succubus draining every ounce of dignity from the poor sap whose job it was to type out this barely digestible article more concerned with licking the ass of some executive at Vacheron Constantin than providing even an iota of value for the reader.
See Vacheron Constantin watches on eBay here.
See Vacheron Constantin watches on Amazon here.
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