How to best describe this piece? Think classic VC dress watch of the 1960s and pair it with a rotational diver bezel in 18k gold! Yes, that is a thing! The 6782 has a well-finished 18k-golden case in 36mm with slightly downturned lugs. It features the automatic K1072 movement, an ebauche from JLC, with a date window at 3o'clock. Several dial variants existed but the most prominent version featured a silver soleil dial. Yet this piece is a legitimate luxury sports watch.
January 31, 2023
Tool or Dress Watch? - Vacheron Constantin 6782 "Turnograph"
Marcus Siems @siemswatches
Collector, Author, Data Analyst
Just My Type You know that feeling, that one piece that always gets your attention, always makes you smile whenever you see it come up somewhere? Vacheron Constantin's 6782 is just that for me. The "Turnograph" is both; super classic and elegant, yet at the same time a little quirky and far from mainstream. It's VC's first dip into the sports watch pool and might have as much with the modern Overseas in common than the famous 222... So let me introduce you to one of my wildest horological dreams.
When the topic comes to luxury sports watches our brain immediately goes to the holy trinity: the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, the Patek Philippe Nautilus and the Vacheron Constantin 222. But as revolutionary as these collections have been I argue that the evolution of the luxury sports watch started before them! This story takes place in the 1960s.
Even though Vacheron Constantin was the last of the three to introduce their integrated bracelet watch in 1977, there's another interesting predecessor that is most often overlooked: The star of this week's article, reference 6782.
Let me introduce you to the star of the show: The Vacheron Constantin 6782 "Turnograph". A (so far) lesser known beauty of the 1960s and a core piece in the evolution of modern luxury sports watches. Photo Courtesy of Christie's Geneva May 2022.
1) The Watch
How to best describe this piece...? Think a bout a classic VC dress watch of the 1960s: it has a well-finished 18k-golden case in 36mm with slightly downturned lugs. It features the automatic K1072 movement, an ebauche from JLC, with a date window at 3o'clock. Several dial variants existed but the most prominent version featured a silver sunburst dial.
So far so good, nothing out of the ordinary. However, what makes this piece a legitimate luxury sports watch is the bezel; think about as contrasting details as possible and you got it: A bi-directional, engine-turned diver bezel, in gold, with 15/30/45 indication, a red-colored triangle at 12o'clock and rhomboid marker at each hour! Yes, that is a thing! And if it was't for other similarities these pieces most likely would be nicknamed "Joker" or "Roulette".
You can't make this up! This watch is a ticking controversy and as such exactly what defines the genre of the luxury sports watch. The bezel is the dominant feature with its engine-turned outline and the rhomboid and Arabic numerals at each hour. If that's not special enough, this bezel is not only for show it is indeed rotational. Photo Courtesy of AWCo.
Those details matter. It also features a screw-down case back which makes it even slightly water resistant. The 6782 is both quite tool-ish as well as dress-ish. It's loud and understated at the same time. It's a daring design that wouldn't really fit in any existing category.
That's it for the basic design but not all 6782s were created equally. Over the ten years production run - approximately 1963-72 - there have been quite some variations: different dial textures, hands, hour markers, crowns, bezels as well as dial colors exist. It's hard to find two pieces with the exact same layout as it is estimated that VC produced less than 100* of these tool-dress hybrids[4-5].
The Exterior. So let's have a closer look at different variants out there. As mentioned before these pieces come in 18k-golden cases - most of which are yellow- and 4 reported white golden examples have surfaced. The cases appear to have been constructed in-house (Maltese cross hallmark) and at least in one other manufacture (Gunther & Co SA, hammerhead 117). Further, a minimum of two types of different crowns seem to exist, with varying executions; two tightly milled (about 24 and >30 teeth) and two broadly knurled (8 teeth, with and without logo).
The more I look at these 1960s oddities, the less I understand why there's not more people on the for them... Photo Courtesy of Phillips.
Furthermore, you might see different bezel types. Here, the coloration of the hourly markers differs. The four options are: no coloration, red triangle only, red triangle and all black, and red 15/30/45 and triangle rest black.
The Dial. If your head's not spinning already we can now check out the dial. We'll find three different main hand-types: the faceted index, the onyx-filled index and the slimmer baton hands as well as Dauphine hands. The dial color can vary from white-silverish to champagne and might come in various textures. There appear to exist porcelain, linen, sunburst/soleil, plain and vertically brushed dials as well as maybe also checker-board patterns.
Here, you see a collection of three exemplary 6782 "Turnographs". Within these three pieces you can see: three different hand-sets (faceted, onyx-filled, baton), crown designs, distinct bezel colorations, hour markers (stick, onyx-filled, vertical stick), along with two different materials (18k yellow and white gold) and dial colors (white and silver) as well as crystals with and without loupe. Overall, a cornucopia of details. Photos Courtesy of Phillips.
The hour markers is were we truly find the most variability. The classic version is the longer stick hour marker, fitting to the hands either faceted or onyx-filled. But apart from that we might further see vertically or horizontally aligned stick marker, short almost squared marker and - best for last - horizontally aligned aligned, short onyx-filled stick marker. A cornucopia of different dial layouts. Putting everything together we could easily produce over 1000 distinct designs.
The reason we're speaking about Vacheron Constantin's 6782 today is not only because it's a cool watch. I believe it is an essential piece in the evolution of our modern luxury sports watches that get oh so much attention right now. Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe are probably still the frontrunner in this genre but other examples like Piaget's Polo or also Vacheron's own Overseas are important player today.
I argue this didn't start with the Royal Oak in 1972. I'd also argue it neither did with the 6782 in 1963. Much rather I'd draw the line in 1953. About ten years before VCs 6782 Rolex introduced their ref. 6202 "Turnograph" and the high-end iterations of these models sparkled some "luxury" on the field of sports watches.
Evolution of the luxury sports watch in the house of Rolex. From left to right: 6202 with Dauphine hands and acrylic bezel, 6202 with alpha hands and gold bezel, 6309 in 18k yellow gold with alpha hands. Photos Courtesy of Christie's.
Rolex's 6202 is famous for being their first "diver" with rotational bezel upon introduction in 1953. But with the arrival of the Submariner just one year later the "Turnograph" was strategically positioned somewhere between the sporty Submariner and the dressy Datejust. Exactly the dress-casual hybrid I've been taking about. By the way the 6202 was also Rolex's first sports watch in steel/gold mix and the 6309 (introduced 1954) was the first to come as full 18k golden "sports" watch**.
Here, you also see where the Vacheron 6782 got its nickname from. The 6782 is in many ways VC interpretation of the concept Rolex introduced. And it also is evolutionary the next step. Rolex is a sports watch manufacturer, for the genre to take the next step the concept of luxury-sport needed to be picked up by an Haute Horologie watch brand.
Looking into Vacheron Constantin's history alone there were several iterations of luxury sports watches. It started of with the 6782 Turnograph, but the official introduction into the genre came in 1977 with the 222 (the first to feature an integrated bracelet). It went on with the lesser known Phidias (introduced 1989) and finally the VC Overseas (Generation I introduced 1996).
A Vacheron Constantin design evolution from the 1960s to the 1990s. From left to right: 6782 "Turnograph" (1960s), 222 in steel (1970s), two-tone Phidias (1980s), 42040 Overseas (Gen I, 1990s). Photos Courtesy of Christie's.
That makes six different iterations of the genre for VC alone (counting also the 333 and Gen I & II of the Overseas). It most definitely has been a part of the market Vacheron targeted but from these numbers alone probably quite experimentally - until more recently.
Then let's apply a more quantitative approach. I compared the sports watch evolution based on their Heritage Score, a measure taking several key design elements into account (bezel, hands, hour marker, colors, materials, size, etc.). Here, my goal was to see into which era these pieces most likely fit and whether we can identify relationships and developments between these pieces - not on a technical but on a design level.
Figure 1. Design Age for four iterations of Vacheron Constantin's luxury sports watch models (6782 "Turnograph" in red, VC222 44018 in orange, Phidias in light orange, Overseas Gen I in yellow) in comparison to the bicolored Rolex 6202 Turnograph (gray).
Looking into the results we can see that by and large Vacheron's sports watch collections take a lot of design elements from the 1970s. All of the analyzed collections peak in that era, indicating that all share a very similar spirit.
The 1970s vibe is most pronounced for the 222 and the Overseas. This means that these pieces are featuring many design elements very distinct for that epoch whereas for the Turnograph this is not as clear. It's still surprising that the 6782 is envisioning a design language that is most common around 10 years after its introduction - the design clearly was ahead of its time. The Phidias is a reinterpretation of the concept with a clear 1980s vibe.
With all it's flair a somewhat classical 1970s piece, yet feasting off of the best of the 1950s and 60s as well... Photo Courtesy of AWCo.
This 1970s design language also sets the 6782 apart from its conceptual sibling - the Rolex 6202. At first glance these two pieces are indeed common - hence the nicknaming - but Vacheron's interpretation of the concept is clearly more modern at the time. The 6782 was taking the idea of the luxury sports watch and put it into a contemporary interpretation.
Overall, Vacheron Constantin's 6782 "Turnograph is clearly an ancestor to the modern luxury sports watch models. It is a missing link between early Rolex (and Omega, etc.) sports watches and the Haute Horologie interpretations of the 1970s. True, it doesn't feature an integrated bracelet, but that seems to be a bit of an arbitrary design element to start watch history.
Who needs an integrated bracelet anyway? A good (hi)story is enough for me. Photo Courtesy of Phillips NY Nov. 2018.
What makes a luxury sports watch - the perfect hybrid between tool and dress watch - is what I call the FU-factor. It means you take design elements that are utterly tool-watch related, i.e. a diver bezel, and pair it with a frame that oozes elegance and ballroom flair, i.e. an 18k golden case with an off-white pearl-esque soleil dial. A combination that on paper, sounds kinda ridiculous but works great in the metal. The 6782 clearly has this FU-factor and as such belongs to be part of the watch ancestry tree.
* Older sources speak of up to 300 made examples.
** It definitely is debatable when exactly you say "luxury" sports watches started. We could make a point that Omega's Constellation, IWC's Hermet and many other model might have been the first. I simply argue that the Turnograph is the first sports watch that gets dressier by strategy rather than the other way around - The Constellation/Seamaster for example would be a dress watch that's been made sportier.
 The Story of the Vacheron Constantin 222; Simon de Burton, A Collected Man;
 Precious Objects - vintage Audemars Piguet; J. Michael Mehltretter, WatchTime Magazine;
 Vintage - Referenz Wacheren Constantin - 6782; CollectorSquare;
 Linen Dial Vacheron Constantin 6782 Turn-O-Graph Thunderbird; Erik Gustafson, Hairspring Watches;
 Vacheron Constantin Turnograph Ref. 6782; Amsterdam Watch Company;
 Vacheron Constantin Incredibly Rare and Highly Attractive Turnograph Reference 6782 in White Gold; Monaco Legend Group Auction, April 2022;
 Die Noblen Aus Der Schweiz (2006); J. Michael Mehltretter, Heel;
 The history of the Rolex Turn-O-Graph; Watches Guild;
 How Much Do You Know About Vintage Breitling?; Marcus Siems, Goldammer Vintage Watches;
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