Rolex has its Daytona. Audemars Piguet its Royal Oak. Patek Philippe its Nautilus and Aquanaut. Steel watches that might as well be made of unobtanium. Timepieces that command a huge price premium the moment they walk out the showroom door. Grail watches. So where’s the Vacheron grail watch? Which of their models qualifies? None. Until now . . .
Last week, the Swiss watchmaker sent dealers a heads-up. Don’t accept any orders for the 41mm stainless steel three-handed Overseas. The company will fill this year’s allocation – hopefully by the November – but dealers won’t receive any additional stock for at least a year.
There are several possible explanations for VC’s warning that dealers need to adopt a “no soup for you” policy for customers looking to purchase a black or blue dial Overseas three-hander.
Post-Coronageddon shut-down, Vacheron may be concentrating on producing higher profit products. They may not be able to manufacture “basic” Overseas; COVID-19 whacked the parts supply chain but good. Or Vacheron simply didn’t anticipate demand.
It may be all of the above. But it’s the latter – insatiable consumer demand for the three-handed Overseas- that’s elevating Vacheron’s “entry-level” model from its position as just another expensive Swiss timepiece lingering under display case glass, to a grail watch, commanding reverence, respect and retail-plus.
A VC dealer told me a customer looking to buy an Overseas Self-Winding wouldn’t take no for an answer. After calling around the country and discovering that the model was sold out, he offered to pay full whack for the watch up front and . . . wait.
The first of many? Count on it. Grail watches are subject to a spiraling effect. The more people can’t get one, the more people want it. It’s true for certain Hermès handbags, Ferraris and now, Vacheron Constantin Overseas Self-Winding watches with blue and black dials.
Mind you, a grail watch has to have more than unavailability. It has to possess a certain je ne sais quoi. An inherent appeal that transcends both time and the desirability of “normal” watches.
That said, you may be surprised to learn that our resident industrial design guru Saad Chaudhry considers the Overseas a failed update.
Possessing neither the sharp, angular purposefulness of Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak nor the relaxed, organic sensuality of Patek Philippe’s Nautilus, the Overseas settles for overdoing it.
The case is an odd-looking oblong turtle-shell with a compounding radius employed for its flanks that doesn’t correspond to the proportions of its bezel – or anything else for that matter.
He goes on from there. I disagree. Given current availability, the market disagrees, too.
The Overseas is a hardy, handsome beast from a storied Swiss watchmaker. The blue and black dials’ depth of their color is stunning. The VC Overseas also has the distinct advantage of not being a Daytona, Royal Oak or Nautilus – watches that have been around for a long time. The Overseas has “the thrill of the new.”
More than that, the entry-level Vacheron Constantin Overseas comes with three straps – stainless steel, Mississippiensis alligator leather and rubber – easily swapped without a tool. None of its grail forerunners can make that claim. The Overseas’ versatility makes it One Watch to Rule Them All.
The market tells the tale, as the above ad from Chrono24.com reveals. Full retail for the Overseas three-hander with a blue dial is $18,800.
So the Overseas grail premium already exists. Will it go up from there? Given unsatisfied demand, Vacheron’s grail watch certainly isn’t likely to go down in value. Still, a grail watch must stand the test of time. Watch this space.