This is a dilemma of which I have a seemingly unexplainable fascination, borderline obsession with. I absolutely love the look of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Dual Time and the Vacheron Constantin Overseas Dual Time. I love the asymmetrical dials, I love how indiscreet they are, and they arguably offer a hell of a lot more bang-for-your-buck than the stock standard time-only models. Now with that being said, both Audemars Piguet and Vacheron Constantin released new versions of their much-acclaimed Royal Oak Dual Time and Overseas Dual Time pieces, respectively. Now I’m not going to harp on the negativity, but these pieces didn’t really do it for me. That’s why for this watch comparison article, I’m focusing purely on the Royal Oak Ref. 26120 and the Overseas Ref. 47450. Let’s take a look at both, shall we.
First off, the aesthetics of the pieces. The Royal Oak Dual Time is the more typical of the two. The overall look, shape and flow of the watch is definitely more in-keeping with what I personally think a collector is looking for in a watch. Yes, people go out to buy a watch for the sake of it, but I can almost guarantee you that they are thinking about value retention and resale in the back of their minds. Okay, the 26120 of course features the very traditional look of a Royal Oak. You have the infamous octagonal bezel with clockwise orientated screws, the stunning Grand Tapisserie dial with applied hour markers as well as the iconic Royal Oak hours. In the centre stack you have the passing hours and minutes, at 2 o’clock you have the date register, at 6 o’clock the second-time zone register, at about 7 o’clock you have the 24-hour indicator and then at about 10 o’clock you have the power reserve. The case measures 39mm in diameter and 10.3mm in thickness and has a depth rating of 50m. The dial is logically laid out, easy to read and with all the little bits of information scattered in a very enabling manner. The dial is available in either a silvery white, a dark blue or a dark grey-cross-black variation, and while the piece itself is available in precious metal options, we’re focusing only on the stainless-steel model variant.
Now onto the Overseas Dual Time. The 47450 presents itself as a very different package, even though both these watches are somewhat identical. The Overseas Dual Time looks a lot cleaner, a lot more refined and with a certain sharpness that I think the Royal Oak Dual Time lacks. From the outset, the polished Maltese Cross pattern bezel really hits off a package that I’m more drawn to from an aesthetic perspective. Yes, I love the Oak’s historic look, however the 47450 is just doing it for me so much more than the 26120. The Overseas Dual Time’s case sits at a very contemporary 42mm in diameter, which is definitely right in that Goldilocks’ Zone of comfort, wearability and functionality. The case features vertical brushing which is offset wonderfully well by the high-grade polish of the Maltese Cross bezel.
There are several dial variations too, for example a silvered Overseas thatched pattern, or a silky-smooth dial available in a variety of color options (black, white, blue and grey from what I’ve seen). I much prefer the Royal Oak’s integrated bracelet than the Overseas’ Maltese Cross motif bracelet, but in saying that were I to purchase the 47450 I would definitely opt in for the rubber strap and double-fold clasp. The dial is a very similar affair as the 26120’s, with all the sub-dial registers and indicators laid out in the same manner. With one exception: movement. While the 26120 lacks constant movement on the dial, the 47450 has a beautiful sweeping-seconds hand beating at a silky smooth 4Hz. I don’t hide my lust for dial-side movement, so in the aesthetic department I have to hand it to the Overseas Dual Time.
Beyond these subtle differences, I do believe that the 47450 holds its own a lot better than the 26120. There’s a certain stigma in watchmaking that Audemars Piguets’ Royal Oak is a far more superior option the Vacheron Constantin’s Overseas. Why? Probably because the Royal Oak has been marketed, distributed and popularized far more intensely than the Overseas. As I’m writing this comparison, I am definitely veering closer and closer to the Overseas Dual Time, however be that as it may we still have a fair way to go in this watch comparison!
So, to summarize on the aesthetics and before we move on to the movements powering these Dual Time pieces, I’ve come to the conclusion that I prefer the Overseas Dual Time’s overall look and feel than the Royal Oak’s. It’s a larger watch, it has a more dynamic feel to it and there is actually something happening on the dial at any one time. The 26120 is still a very beautiful and desirable package. I love the brushed finishings on the case and bezel, the polish on the sloped edges of the bezel and the knowledge that you are indeed wearing a piece of history, however the 47450 is really pulling at my heart’s strings with its very appealing characteristics. Okay, movement time.
The 26120 is powered by the Calibre 2329/2846 which incorporates the passing hours and minutes as indicated by the centre-hands stack, as well as the date, the power reserve of approximately 38-hours, a second timezone and a day/night indicator (or a 24-hour indicator, same-same). The 47450 is powered by the Calibre 1222 SC, which has the exact same indicators as the Calibre 2329/2846, but in addition it has a 40-hour power reserve as well as a sweeping-seconds hand. The Calibre 2329/2846 is actually based on the Jaeger-LeCoultre 889 automatic movement, with the Overseas’ calibre actually incorporating the dual timezone function based on the Jaeger-LeCoultre 920. Okay, no problem. So why, Mr. Haulogerie, are you featuring timepieces that use ébauche movements went you go on and on ad nauseam about in-house movements? Good question, my watch-interested friend. And to be quite frank with you, I don’t actually have a definitive answer. As lackluster, albeit anti-climactic as that may come across, I seriously don’t. The Jaeger-LeCoultre 920 is actually used only by Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin and of course Audemars Piguet, almost guaranteeing its exclusivity. The Jaeger-LeCoultre 889, on the other hand, has been used by a few other brands, namely IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre themselves, Vacheron Constantin as well as Audemars Piguet. I liken the 920’s exclusivity to be the reason why I’m happy to approach the movement with a bit more enthusiasm, while the 889’s fairly large saturation throughout the market leaves me thinking it isn’t as “special” (although its relatively well-spread use does mean it’s a definite workhorse). Both movements are unfortunately hidden away by an enclosed caseback. Ever heard of the age-old proverb, something about a cake and eating it, too?
Both pieces cost similar money now in the used market, with prices for the Royal Oak Dual time starting at about $15,000AUD for your entry-level used stainless-steel piece, all the way up to and exceeding $30,000AUD for your heavy duty, balls-to-the-wall solid gold versions. The Overseas Dual Time has a similar entry price, but with thanks to the full gold bracelet option, pricing for the stainless-steel’s showy brother exceeds the $50,000AUD. Not cheap at all, but I can definitely see prices shifting in our favor over the coming years with regards to the Dual Time’s not-so-popular look.
Okay, so where does that invariably leave us? Well, to summarize both pieces holistically I thought that the Vacheron Constantin Overseas Dual Time 47450 presented itself far better than the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Dual Time 26120. It featured a better all-round package, a better flow and altogether a better look. The addition of a sweeping-seconds hand adds some much-needed movement to a dial that could otherwise get a bit boring which unfortunately the 26120 lacked. The dial in itself in the 47450 was more interesting and with more to look at. The recessed sub-dials and angled rehaut look fantastic, and there is an element of Vacheron trying with the Overseas Dual Time, where a thoughtful approach to design is clearly evident throughout.
While the Royal Oak Dual Time is a magnificent timepiece, well worthy of your plaudits, your admiration and your desire, I have to say that the Overseas Dual Time from Vacheron Constantin is the definitive winner in this, our annual watch comparison. I believe in love at first sight, but my affection towards the Overseas Dual Time has taken months to grow and surpass that of the Royal Oak’s. I have a deep fondness for the 26120, as I have great respect and love for the Royal Oak in general, but in this very specific comparison I raise the proverbial hand of Vacheron Constantin’s Overseas Dual Time.