Vacheron Constantin 44018 'Jumbo 222'

Museum Piece
Mover over Nautilus and Royal Oak, Vacheron’s 222 is the discerning collector’s luxury sports watch.

Mover over Nautilus and Royal Oak, Vacheron’s 222 is the discerning collector’s luxury sports watch.

The story of the 222 goes back to the 1970s. At the time, the Swiss watch industry experienced important changes, among which the introduction of an entirely new category of watches: the stainless steel luxury sports watch with integrated bracelets. The Gerald Genta designed Audemars Piguet Royal Oak that was released in 1972 was the progenitor of them all. Patek and IWC followed in 1976 with the Nautilus and the Ingenieur SL, both designed by Genta as well. Vacheron Constantin followed suit in 1977 with the introduction of the ‘222’ to celebrate the company’s 222nd birthday.

Unlike the earlier three brands, Vacheron Constantin did not turn to Gerald Genta but opted to enlist Jörg Hysek, an upcoming designer, to envision a new watch. Hysek employed the same basic design language found in Genta’s creations: an ultra-thin cushion shaped case with broad shoulders and an integrated flat-link bracelet with large geometric center links. The distinctive serrated screw-down bezel and stamped Maltese cross on the lower-right corner of the case, however, clearly set the design apart from its Genta-designed forebears.

The 222 was produced for just seven years and came out in three sizes: a ‘Jumbo’ version in 37 mm and a smaller execution in 34 mm, both powered by an automatic movement, as well as a smaller quartz-powered ladies version. Recent estimates indicate that, among the desirable automatic varieties, fewer than 1,000 of the mid-size version were produced and around 700 of the large version. The production numbers were divided among steel, two-tone, yellow gold, and white gold executions.

This sought-after Jumbo variant dates back to the early 1980s and is in excellent condition with sharp lines and a tight 18k yellow gold bracelet. The matte black dial is in mint condition and features applied channeled baton indices filled with tritium lume that has turned to a pleasing cream tone. Meanwhile, the marker at the 3 o’clock position is replaced with a charming framed date window.

The 222 is powered by the ultra-thin caliber 1121 automatic movement, itself based on Jaeger-LeCoultre’s legendary caliber 920 that can also be found in the original Nautilus and Royal Oak references.

This historically important model is sure to experience a surge of renewed interest due to its 2022 reboot. This is your chance to get your hands on an original one!