The brief to Vacheron Constantin retail director Dominique Bernaz was simple. “My client told me, ‘I want the most complicated timepiece of the 21st century,’” recalls Bernaz, who also heads the luxury watch house’s bespoke-watch division, Atelier Cabinotiers.

The conversation between Bernaz and his client, a private collector, took place in 2006. This September, Vacheron Constantin finally unveiled the commissioned timepiece – and it has amply delivered. Reference 57260, informally dubbed the Grand Oeuvre, is a double-sided pocket watch with a stunning 57 complications (a watch complication being any function beyond simple time-telling), encased in nearly a kilogram of white gold.

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The two faces of Vacheron Constantin’s latest creation, which has rewritten record books with a stunning 57 complications

Made up of more than 2,800 parts, the Ref 57260 leaves its nearest ultra-complicated competition in the dust. Consider that 33 complications reside in the Calibre 89 by Patek Philippe, a pocket watch created to celebrate the company’s 150th anniversary in 1989, and that in 2010, Franck Muller presented the Aeternitas Mega 4, a wristwatch with 36 complications.

Requiring exceptional technical expertise to fit numerous features in a small space, the ultra-complicated watch has long symbolised engineering genius and, of course, its buyer’s socioeconomic status. Such works can remain covetable long after they were created. The Henry Graves Supercomplication pocket watch was completed by Patek Philippe in 1932 – a time widely regarded as a golden era in watchmaking. Last November, the 24-complication timepiece fetched a record-breaking 20.6 million Swiss francs (S$29.9 million) at auction.

Similarly, the Ref 57260 is destined to make horological history. Its smorgasbord of complications includes entirely new features, created over eight years by Vacheron Constantin’s top watchmakers and its other specialists. Instead of just a conventional Gregorian perpetual calendar (typically a covetable high complication in itself), the pocket watch deftly brings modernity and tradition together by incorporating the business-centric ISO 8601 calendar and the Hebrew perpetual calendar.

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Reference 57260 took 8 years to assemble (photo credit: Vacheron Constantin)

This no-holds-barred approach extends to its full suite of chiming functions. Fitted with a Westminster carillon chime, the timepiece includes grand sonnerie and petite sonnerie striking functions (which automatically indicate the hours and quarters by chiming), a minute repeater and alarm functions. As if the ante has not been sufficiently upped, a “night silence” function automatically stops the watch from chiming between 10pm and 8am the next day.

Also equipped with innovations such as a newly developed world-time system, a double retrograde split-seconds chronograph, and a spherical tourbillon housed in an ultra-light aluminium cage, the Grand Oeuvre is an innovative game-changer – and one that might well herald a new golden age of watchmaking.

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