‘Swiss Only’ 43031 Vacheron Constantin Perpetual Calendar
The holy trinity 80s ultra-thin perpetual calendars that resuscitated mechanical watchmaking as an art form post-quartz-crisis are truly entering their own today. They made quartz look childish, like when you challenge your dad to a drinking contest only to realize your life has ill-prepared you (or wasn’t as depressing as you thought). You leave ashamed and with a resolve to do better. That was the effect the PP 3490, AP 5548, and VC 43031 had on Japan. They told the Land of the Rising Sun to stick piezoelectric crystals back where the sun doesn’t shine, in remarkable style. And that style is just starting to be fully appreciated. For example, this particular 43031 which bears a dial signed Swiss-only, marking it out as one of the earliest examples of the reference. It just so happens to also bear a bewitching Doré-like tone.
You’ll normally see sigmas flanking either side of Swiss, which was the Swiss standard of the time to indicate precious metal use in dial construction. This one still has all the gold furniture, just predates VC’s adoption of the standard. In addition, these dials are finished in a golden eggshell finish very reminiscent of Doré dial Patek Philippes. Ben over at WBL has been doing a solid amount of digging around the 43031, and he’s turning up great information on his path toward bringing these standouts to market (round of applause, please). For reference, it appears that the Swiss-only dials were only on the earliest production after 1983 intro, case numbers 5657XX-56699X. And if you didn’t know, that moonphase display is a disc of lapis lazuli with a solid gold moon.
One also has to appreciate that this JLC 920 ébauche was finished well enough to earn a Geneva Seal. The 5548 didn’t quite make that cut. But the VC offering is also a fan-fav for its extreme variation. There are many Rolex-like, collectible small dial changes. There are full skeletons. Guilloché dials of different types. Varied handsets. This is a collector’s darling which will reward study. For sad nerds like us, that’s worth celebration, as it stepping all over quartz weren’t enough. The 43031 is that quiet guy in an ill-fiting sweater in the corner of any party, the one who’s awkwardly sipping a negroni, a bit disheveled. But if you talk to them they slowly start to let you know that they’re an Emmy-winning saxophonist who does environmental chemical engineering in their spare time and is singlehandedly responsible for restoring clean water supplies in the Congo. You know the sort. They’d wear this.
And the dial is mercifully not let down by its case. The lugs are full, engravings and hallmarks deep, probably not messed about with. There’s light to moderate surface wear on its yellow gold exterior, commensurate with age. There is a tiny ding on caseback that should be noted. The dial is exquisite, no visible damage and no tritium to worry about. It comes with an extract of archive dating it to 1984 from a well-regarded London retailer.
Find this Swiss Only 43031 here from Watch Brothers London for 24850 GBP.