In 2016, Vacheron Constantin released a needed refresh of its only sport watch collection, the Overseas. This included a slew of new members of the Overseas family ranging from an ultra-thin two-hand model, a perpetual calendar, the Overseas Simple Date, and the Overseas Chronograph. These latter two models each introduced new, modern movements which in my opinion were important to the future success of what the Overseas collection should mean for Vacheron Constantin. Today I spend more time with the Vacheron Constantin Overseas Chronograph 5500V family of timepieces in my latest aBlogtoWatch watch review.
I found the modern Overseas Chronograph to be a rather decent watch with welcome features and a comfortable fit on the wrist. On paper, Vacheron Constantin offers more or less everything fans of the outgoing Overseas watch collection seemed to want in an updated model. With that said, I found something lacking in the design and overall presentation. When it comes to price, personality, and poise, I think the Vacheron Constantin Overseas Chronograph misses in a few too many areas to be a truly iconic watch. With that said, it is most certainly a good pick for a particular buyer.
I’ll begin by discussing some of my bigger problems with the watch, and then proceed to mention more minor nitpicks below while also espousing the virtues that this watch most certainly has. I will say again that Vacheron Constantin has in most ways upgraded the existing Overseas watch collection with a new product that is certainly more desirable in most ways.
Even at a retail price dangerously close to $30,000, the Overseas range has some serious competition from at least two other brands. Interestingly enough, the Vacheron Constantin Overseas Chronograph is the middle priced option among the competition’s luxury sport chronograph watches. I don’t always discuss competitor watches to a piece I am reviewing – and I have a lot of good reasons for that. With that said, in certain instances, discussing the competition is very important. This is particularly true when a watch isn’t just a tool, but a bona fide lifestyle piece. That means being expensive, and being prestigious is a core part of the ownership experience of a Vacheron Constantin, or competitor brands such as Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe.
It is those two brands specifically which the Overseas is trying to compete with. More specifically the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and the Patek Philippe Nautilus. Both have chronograph versions as well as three-hand versions, and both are serious success stories among modern luxury sport watches. Competing with the Royal Oak or the Nautilus is a daunting, and very challenging uphill battle.
For one thing, Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe artificially limit distribution. That means the companies intentionally release fewer Royal Oak and Nautilus watches (the hot models that is) than the market demands. More so, the brands strictly limit what retailers get them (again, with the hottest models), and carefully dole out new watches to ensure that they reach the end-consumers they want wearing their products. With the Nautilus you have to wait at least a few years in order to pay retail price (but you can buy it anytime online by paying a modest premium over retail), and some versions of the Royal Oak aren’t too easy to get. Thus, both Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe, at least for their steel-cased luxury sport watches, have been able to buck industry trends and actually get retail prices for these timepieces.
One of the major reasons why the Royal Oak and Nautilus do so well (outside of the fact that they are legible and comfortable) is that they are immediately identifiable from a distance. The reason sounds simple, but it is very important. This means that people who wear these watches know that people viewing them from across the room (assuming they have watch-spotting intelligence) will very immediately know what watches they are, their price, and ideally gather that the owner is more well-to-do than your average Joe.