Within the realm of watchmaking we have several iconic timepieces that seem to exceed their reputation and operate within this ethereal state of being whereby everyone wants one, but nobody can get it. In this class of timepiece you will find watches like the Rolex Daytona, Patek Philippe Nautilus and the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. Easily some of the most important watches within the industry, these models carry 5-7 year long waiting lists for those with the required spending histories and are effectively impossible to purchase at their retail price for us normal folk. While this class of watch is only small, there is one timepiece that is knocking on its door for entry within this exclusive club, the Vacheron Constantin Overseas. Originally released in 1996, the Overseas was inspired by Vacheron’s first sports watch, the 222 collection - released to celebrate Vacheron’s 222nd anniversary and itself released to compete with the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and Patek Philippe Nautilus. As such, when designing the Overseas, designers Vincent Kaufmann and Dino Modolo sought to build upon that very same aesthetic that the 222 was so well-known.
Like a lot of other iconic collections, the Overseas has evolved from its earlier edition into a completely different-looking watch that appeals to the modern collector. Produced from 1996 until 2004, the original Overseas featured a 37mm tonneau-shaped case and a fluted bezel that resembled the Maltese cross found at 5 o’clock on the 222. Combining its 37mm case with a thickness of just 9mm, the Overseas exuded the very same refined proportions that Vacheron are so well known for. With a rather adequate water resistance of 150 meters, the Overseas was allowed it to live up to its sports watch billing, but with the addition of Vacheron’s elegance.
From 2004 onwards, the Overseas leapt beyond its original 222-inspired design with an increasingly modern profile and bracelet. Keeping the Maltese cross-inspired bezel, the Overseas was given another ode to the brand’s heritage; a matching Maltese cross-inspired integrated bracelet, where each link represents one-quarter of the cross. Additionally, the Overseas was beefed up from a rather svelte 37mm to a pretty sizeable 42mm. While the second generation Overseas was great for the time it was released, the modern third generation Overseas was a whole other ballgame when it was released in 2016. The perfect sports watch, it has grown in popularity year on year with its popularity beginning to climb into the ranks of unobtainable timepieces, with waiting lists starting to appear and Vacheron deciding to go the way of AP with it being boutique-only, like their Royal Oak.
Featuring brushed finishing throughout the majority of its 41mm x 11mm case, the Overseas' polished sides and Maltese cross bezel both pop in conjunction with its incredibly vivid blue dial. Powered by the technically amazing and aesthetically beautiful in-house automatic cal. 5500 movement, the Overseas ref. 4500V features a 22k gold oscillating weight, 60 hours of power reserve and a plethora of finishing techniques that are all on display behind its screw-down exhibition caseback, which aids in providing 150m of water resistance alongside its screw-down crown. A robust timepiece that can actually live up to its sports watch billing, this is the real deal. Yet another point to be bullish on the Overseas, it features an innovative quick-release functionality that was pretty ahead of its time in 2016. This system enables the Overseas’ beautiful Maltese cross-inspired integrated bracelet to be swapped out for either of the two straps provided with the watch; a suave Mississippiensis alligator leather strap for formal occasions or sporty textured rubber strap for when you don’t want to ding up your steel. Furthermore, the Overseas' bracelet features an incredible extension system on either side of its hidden butterfly clasp that can provide 2mm on either side of the bracelet's partition for a grand total of 4mm. Tool-less, quick and simple, this might seem like a small point but it isn’t offered by anyone else. Beyond its construction, movement and design, the Overseas ref. 4500V features one of the most incredible dials in all of watchmaking. This rich electric blue lacquered dial features white gold indices and silver contrasting logos, that enable its rich aesthetic to evolve with light. Ranging from various hues of blue to the darkest navy or black, it is said the same dial manufacturer makes the dial for F.P. Journe’s Chronomètre Bleu, and it’s not hard to believe when you see it in the flesh. An immaculate timepiece overall, it’s not hard to see why the Overseas is developing such a cult following. With its market prices rising and retail wait times lengthening, it might be time for you to jump on this timepiece while you still can. You’ll be angry you didn’t when it joins the Nautilus' and Royal Oak's ranks!