46003 Vacheron Constantin 222 Midsize
Are you sitting down? I’m about to say three words that don’t get put next to each other often: 222 cream dial. The 1977 222 was made with more dial iterations than people realize today. Most know the slate, which can look a bit navy in certain light, and gold. But, albeit less frequently, you’ll find vertically brushed champagne, silver, and even white. And don’t even get me started on the Saudi 46004 ‘Square’ 222 or Roman numeral iterations. However the white dials, which are the rarest of the lot, had a tendency to not stay that way. Like the ‘panna’ 16550, 116520, or even 25572ST ‘Owl’, this dial goes cream. The effect is likely to be influenced by climate and UV exposure, a bit of a hybrid between natural age evolution and patina. And it’s in a 222; It’s worth knowing these exist, white or panna, even if there are probably fewer than 50 surviving today in each case size.
Vacheron’s records indicate they made roughly 700 Jumbo examples and 1000 of this midsized. The easiest way to tell them apart quickly online, where size isn’t obvious, is that the 34mm midsized has a seconds hand (and sigma signature, jumbo is Swiss only). Both exist with white dials, but just observing the market my best guess is something like 1 in every 10. This is not definite just intuition from spending a decade pining for one and searching frequently. Also, don’t let the 34mm fool you. Like the Skinny Ingenieur’s 34, this monobloc case has a lengthy lug to lug, it wears Day-Date-like in proportion. And if you already knew all that, here’s more for the real nerds. The original full set for all 222s included a money clip with a serrated bezel design to match the watch. In all my years, I still have never seen one in person, just 3 auction listings I’m aware of have pictured it (last picture). Who says Hairspring doesn’t include useful consumer advice?
These days, when I bring up the 222, most people think of Brad Pitt. But we should think Jorg Hysek. The man penned the 222, which is absolutely a life’s work in terms of its cultural impact to the watch world. But have you looked at some of his other designs? The Seiko Arctura, TAG Kirium, and original Breguet Marine are also his work. Hell, Jorg Hysek Jr works at De Bethune and creates musical automatons today under Reuge. Creativity runs strong in Hysek blood, clearly. And this is the culmination his work. Midsize or jumbo, the 222 isn’t just back. It has united both watch nerds who loved the original and modern watch celebrity culture in adoration. No small feat. For those of us that love nerdy details, it’s full of them. And when you tie in fantastic naturally evolving patina, well, that’s where it’s interesting enough that we have to talk about it. The 222 is dead, long live the 222.
This example has an incredible dial, truly world class. Its cream tone is even, the tritium is golden, and there’s no visible damage. The case is relatively sharp, but has seen a polish. The largest thing that stands out here is that the bracelet is worn-in and relatively slack, which stands out on this hexagonal design. Luckily, there are a few wizards out there who can very artfully reassemble such things to be near factory tightness. It comes with box and papers from a well-regarded Vietnamese retailer.