The Vacheron Constantin 222 is somewhat of an enigma. As being a child of the 1970’s, it is often placed in the company of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, the Patek Philippe Nautilus, as well as the IWC Ingenieur. A place that is rightfully his, yet at the same time, it has always also been the of the outsider of this group.
For this are many reasons, and one might be its rarity. Vacheron Constantin developed the 222 to celebrate the brand’s 222nd anniversary in 1977. With its integrated bracelet and fairly straightforward dial with stick hands, it became one of those sports watches that oozes luxury in a very understated way. Although Vacheron Constantin kept it in production until 1985 and made it not only in full gold but also in steel and steel-gold, not many were made. This full gold model is only one of one hundred made all together in this metal.
This rarity makes it that it simply does not show up as often at auctions or collectors events as any of the other iconic 1970’s watches. While the Royal Oak, Nautilus, and Ingenieur are still names that live on today in the collections of their respective manufactures the 222 does not. That didn’t mean that the 222 never knew a successor, as the Overseas took over, which is currently still a part of the collection of Vacheron Constantin. Although there is an unmistakable resemblance, it does not make for the clearest blood line.
For many years collectors thought that the 222 was designed by Gerald Genta. However, this is not true as it was a very young Jörg Hysek who created the watch. What it does share with the Nautilus and the Royal Oak is perhaps more of a surprise: its movement! The first generation of the Royal Oak and the Nautilus used a slightly customized version of the Jaeger-LeCoultre caliber 920. That same movement also powers the 222, also there slightly revised and named caliber 1121. This automatic movement is ultra-slim, and although today highly regarded as one of the best automatic movements, Jaeger-LeCoultre themselves never used it in one of their own watches.
Where does that leave the 222? Make it an understated connoisseurs choice of 1970’s sports watches. One who’s rarity is only surpassed by its understatement.