43050 Vacheron Constantin Mercator
It’s not often that Vacheron throw caution to the wind and adopt a unique time display. It’s a bit like peering into your grandfather’s record collection and seeing David Guetta or something . . .you sort of forget that they’re capable of developing new tastes. In 1994, Vacheron went raving (does this analogy even make sense anymore?). The Mercator was what resulted. In period, the twin retrograde time displays were somewhat iconoclast. Today, collectors generally acknowledge the Mercator as one of VC’s more alternative modern classics.
1994 was the 400th anniversary of Gerardus Mercator, the inventor of map projection (precursor to world maps we use today). The dial here is a map of Europe, Africa, and Asia, though other many other regions were commissioned as dials by clients. Each dial started as a solid gold blank which has been engraved and then carefully filled with black enamel by Jean and Lucie Genbrugge. Along with many details such as a mythical sea creature at 9, the two enamelers signed their work J&L Genbrugge at 4. I don’t have any personal connection to cartography, the significance of Mr. Mercator escapes me. But I love a world map dial, particularly as out of place as this one is on a non-world-time watch. It was not divisive upon release for no reason.
The movement is a calibre 1120 modified with retrograde mechanisms. This allows for a very slim case, which feels just right for 36mm. The case features fully stepped bezel and lugs, quite a classically leaning design for such an atypical dial. That contrast is made more rich by a display caseback, fitting as the 1120 is one of the best finished time-only automatics around. In fact, this is a time-only two hander. Although it may not appear at first glance, this just might be a dress watch in disguise. It is thought that only 638 examples have ever been produced. I do love when the world’s oldest watchmaker in continuous production (since 1755) gets a bit alternative.
This example is in strong shape. Its case bears light surface wear with little to distract the eye. A few strap change bites in the inner lugs. Its dial is perfect. No box/papers. It comes from a well-regarded London retailer.
Find this Mercator here from A Collected Man for 39850 GBP.