With an aesthetic inspired by the Vacheron Constantin 222 from the late 1970s — the Overseas debuted in 1996.
Gerald Genta famously designed the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 5402ST (1972), followed by the Patek Philippe Nautilus 3700/1A (1976), and then the IWC Ingenieur Jumbo SL (1977). And while the Overseas was not part of Genta’s bloodline — it was his radical wristwatch designs, that led Vacheron Constantin to employ young designer Jorg Hysek, to create the 222 in 1977.
The first generation Overseas Chronograph case measures 40 mm in diameter and was introduced in 1999, powered by caliber 1137 (the three-hand model was introduced in 1996). With the second-generation Overseas Chronograph (2004-2016) the form factor remained mostly the same, although the bracelet received a new design that consisted of a half Maltese cross center link and better ergonomics. The crown guards from the first generation were also removed. Most notably, the case size was enlarged to 42 mm. For the third generation of Overseas Chronograph (2016-Present), a new movement caliber 5200 was created, and with this upgrade, the large double-date aperture at 12 o’clock was swapped for a regular date aperture, angled at a 45-degree angle at 4:30. The latest generation case and bracelet also received a significant redesign and the case diameter grew to 42.5 mm.
Fast forward to the present, and like Richard Mille, Patek Philippe, and Rolex, Vacheron Constantin receives name-drops in hip-hop songs. When the song Casablanca by Raekwon debuted in (1999), and Raekwon notably said “wristwatch Vacheron Constantin,” he pronounced it more like “Vacheron Constante,” and the brand name has resonated with me ever since. Vacheron Constantin comes to mind in cinema as well — particularly notable was that Josh Broslin wore one in Wall Street Money Never Sleeps (2010), the sequel to the classic Wall Street (1987). He wore a Les Historiques American 1921, though, not the Overseas.
Patek, Audemars, Mille, and Rolex, represent the four brands with the highest resale currently. Vacheron, however, is heating up and just added a new boutique on Billionaire’s Row in New York City — perhaps as a statement that they are on an upward trend. The Overseas is the hottest collection within Vacheron’s assortment, and it commands “good” resale — but not yet “excellent” resale like a Royal Oak or Nautilus — although it could be the next watch to achieve the coveted status.
Perhaps more important than the brand history and pop-culture references is that in 1996 — well before Nautiluses and Royal Oaks reached unobtanium status they have today — the Overseas effectively gave Vacheron Constantin an answer to Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe.
Fast forward to 2021, and the Nautilus is the most unattainable hype watch on the planet, the Royal Oak is nearly unattainable, and the Overseas is still the underdog. The market has changed considerably, though, and thanks to careful control of the supply by the manufacturer, the Overseas Chronograph is now trading at retail, and there are currently 4-6 month waits (based on our own independent research) to get the watch new from retailers. Furthermore, the Overseas Chronograph allocation is rumored to be boutique exclusive (meaning you can only buy them at the boutiques, a la Audemars Piguet and Richard Mille). This could eventually lead to price increases on the secondary market that make the watch worth more than retail the second it leaves the dealer.
The fact that you can buy the watch, even with a wait, is vastly different than what will happen if you try to buy any of the hot models from the other companies mentioned. This gives the Overseas Chronograph a significant upside because it’s available relatively quickly, and could appreciate considerably like the others.
What I’m getting at is that Vacheron Constantin is a sleeper — and the Oversea Chronograph could be the next hype watch, even if it’s not quite there yet. Crucially — whether we like it or not — the company is doing what’s needed to get there by playing the true-luxury game and limiting supply, which has proven to be an effective element in driving the long-term value of highly desirable luxury items.
Third Generation Overseas Chronograph
Compared to previous generations — you could argue that the modern Overseas Chronograph (3rd generation) is not as attractive as the first and second-generation models, which are smaller and have more retro flair. And I might agree. Conversely, the latest generation of Overseas Chronograph has a modern look and wears slightly larger than its predecessor, which presumably appeals to a broader audience than with the previous generations that wear smaller. Nevertheless, the modern Overseas Chronograph looks great, across all three generations.
The Overseas Chronograph is currently available as shown, with a stainless steel case and a white on black “reverse panda” dial (Ref. 5500V/110A-B481). It’s also offered in stainless steel with a blue dial (Ref. 5500V/110A-B148), a white dial (Ref. 5500V/110A-B075), and in 18K pink gold with a white dial (Ref. 5500V/000R-B074).
The dial is rendered in a glossy jet black, which has a sheen to it, and is what tends to be the trend for true luxury timepieces, over matte dials. When light hits it a certain way there is some reflection, but it’s not a troublesome amount of glare.
Vacheron Constantin Geneve is stamped in white on two lines at 12 o’clock. The Maltese cross has been hand applied directly above the brand name. Surrounding the flat main dial is a white printed minute track, with faceted white gold applied luminous indices marking the hours. Long, slender, gold-faceted, baton-shaped hands display the hours and minutes. Just outside of the main chapter ring is the flange, sloped at 45-degrees, with the same black glossy surface as the main dial, and a white chronograph seconds scale printed on it for use with the chronograph seconds function, in conjunction with the long, centrally mounted, vertically brushed steel hand. On the third generation of the Overseas Chronograph, the date is displayed via a black-on-white disc, through a 45-degree angled aperture at 4:30 (the first and second generations have large double aperture date displays at 12 o’clock).
Introduced in 2018, the white-on-black “reverse panda” dial was an interesting design choice considering that generally black-on-white “true panda” dials are more popular. Panda-type dials, whether regular or reverse, provide excellent contrast, making the chronograph indications particularly easy to read, a result of a pragmatic need within the motorsports in the 1960s, not purely for aesthetics. Although the silvery-white azurage stamped subdials, with black markers for the small seconds (9 o’clock), chronograph minute counter (3 o’clock), and chronograph hour counter (6 o’clock) — look really good. One of the most aesthetically pleasing details on the dial is the silver rings that surround the three subdials, raised approximately 2 mm above the counters. As someone that almost always prefers a reverse panda look, I love it. That said, I can envision the Overseas Chronograph with a true panda dial, and it would look equally incredible.
According to Vacheron Constantin, the caliber 5200 — which powers the latest generation of Overseas Chronograph — is the result of a five-year development process. The caliber is 5200 is certified with the Geneva Hallmark and is “distinguished itself by its sophistication and superlative hand-made finishing.”
From the sumptuous striped bridges to the luscious hand-beveled and polished edges, this is Genevan watchmaking at its best. Beating at a modern rate of 4Hz, has 54 jewels, 263 components in total, and a 52-hour power reserve driven by twin barrels, the caliber 5200 is very well equipped. At a connoisseur price point, you expect a very nicely finished column-wheel, and typically a vertical coupling clutch to prevent any jerking of the chronograph seconds hand when it starts — and in that regard, Vacheron does not disappoint.
Having a single-arm bridge supporting the balance wheel is not ideal for a true sports watch, especially at this price point, and moving to a two-arm traversing bridge design should theoretically enhance the movement’s chronometric performance by reducing shock to the balance system. And a free-sprung balance wheel tends to be standard in this price point as well. It’s far from a deal-breaker, though, when you consider the caliber as a whole.
There’s no silicon used for the balance spring, balance wheel, or escapement in this movement. Depending on who you ask, this could be a good or bad thing. Silicon parts are cheaper to manufacture, however, purists prefer traditional watchmaking materials. Practically all the renowned watch houses are utilizing silicon to some extent, to reduce cost, to reduce friction, and to prevent magnetization — which allows them to lengthen service intervals. Interestingly, for the Overseas Chronograph, the case is equipped with a soft iron “Faraday” cage to prevent the negative effects of magnetization.
Even without a more advanced regulation assortment, Vacheron clearly did not skimp on the finishing, which as mentioned above, is impeccable. Topping it all off is a 22K pink gold oscillating weight, that’s features a mixture of sandblasted, finely grained, and polished surfaces — and has been engraved and embossed, including a large, raised navigational wind rose motif.
Between the first and second generations of the Overseas Chronograph, the case size increased from 40 mm to 42 mm, but overall, the two cases stayed mostly the same shape. With the third generation, in 2016, the watch shape and angles changed more noticeably, while still retaining the recognizable DNA. The watch is officially 42.5 mm in diameter according to all brand-provided information. However, based on multiple measurements with two different types of calipers, we recorded the case diameter from left to right (not including the crown), at closer to 41.5 mm. It’s also worth noting that the case tapers all the way down to 40 mm at the caseback.
While the diameter of the case is the standard measurement by which most watches are compared. The lug-to-lug is often considered the more telling measurement in relation to fitting a wrist well. And at 50.5 mm, the lug-to-lug of the Overseas Chronograph fits my 7″ wrist very well. Moreover, the thickness of just 13.75 mm including the sapphire crystal, is not ultra-thin, relative to chronographs, it’s quite thin and wearable and much appreciated.
A standard signature of the collection since 1996 has been the fixed bezel, with the six Maltese-shaped notches — and this has remained for the third generation. A slightly raised flat sapphire crystal protects the dial side, protruding out a few millimeters beyond the plane of the bezel, and a solid screw-in sapphire caseback helps maintain the 150-meter water-resistant rating while also allowing a view of the gorgeous movement. Both the chronograph pushers and the crown (6.5 mm diameter), screw-down to the case. The crown and pushers, like the angular case flanks, are fully polished, and the crown is emblazoned with a raised Maltese cross.
We photographed the watch primarily with the stainless steel bracelet with a hidden deployant clasp (engraved with a Maltese cross), however, an additional textured black rubber strap, and a black alligator leather strap, come standard. The latter two of which have a single swappable stainless steel deployant buckle, adorned with yet another Maltese cross motif. Changing the bracelet and straps without a tool is relatively easy thanks to the push button quick-change system. Although, this process should be done with special care as the Overseas specific integration of the bracelet and straps is tight and leaves very little room for error so if you don’t do it very carefully you can scratch the sides.
On the Wrist
Wearing the Overseas Chronograph, with short sleeves or a long-sleeve shirt, was visually pleasing. The look of the watch paired with a short-sleeve shirt has an upscale casual feel. It’s flashy but not quite as reflective as the Royal Oak Chronograph. If you pair it with a blazer or suit, the watch takes on a dressier appearance. The watch’s ergonomics feel great, and the highly refined integrated bracelet is thick yet feels smooth and luxurious on the wrist, due to its high-quality design and construction. Subjectively, it feels more comfortable than how the Royal Oak bracelet feels on your wrist, but with similar heft.
Purchasing an Overseas Chronograph is not as easy as it used to be. Fewer points of sales exist now, and there’s evidence in some local markets the Overseas Chronograph is “boutique exclusive,” not to mention, even at the boutique, the wait could be 4-6 months — which frankly is better than waiting indefinitely for a Daytona or a Nautilus.
The Overseas Chronograph recently rose to a retail price of $32,400 and while that’s not an insignificant jump (up from $30,000), the Royal Oak and Nautilus have also seen considerable price hikes in recent years. Besides, if the Overseas Chronographs do start to appreciate at an accelerated rate, the increase will offset the retail price increase, and then some. The original 222s in good condition are commanding six figures nowadays, and that’s another possible indicator that the resale of the modern Overseas might increase.
The Vacheron Constantin Overseas Chronograph Ref. 5500V/110A-B481 comes from one of the best watchmakers in the world, a member of the “Holy Trinity” and while the most obvious competitors are chronographs from Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet — nobody else offers something quite like this.
I’ve often heard people say “buy what you like” and “don’t worry about resale value.” Next time someone says that make sure to check their wrist and ask about their collection and see if they really practice what they preach. Buying watches with high resale is smart because the timepiece which you can wear and enjoy becomes an appreciable asset. The Vacheron Overseas Chronograph is incredibly well made and is both desirable, to wear, and because of its strong resale value. You can have your cake and eat it too.
Total Weight: 187.3 grams (on bracelet)/124.7 grams (on leather or rubber strap)/103.2 grams (head only)
Case Diameter: 41.5 mm (tapers to 40 mm at the caseback)
Case Thickness: 13.75 mm
Lug-to-Lug: 50.5 mm
Lug Width: 23.5 mm approximately (tapers down to 18 mm to 20 mm at the clasp, although there’s no “lug width” per se here due to the design of the integrated connection of the straps/bracelet to the case.)
Crown Diameter: 6.5 mm
Glass: Flat sapphire, sits slightly above the plane of the bezel
Depth Rating: 150 meters