Introduction

Over the past year, Vacheron Constantin has delivered two exciting things to the US market that American collectors have long hoped for.

Please allow me to explain through a personal, true story…

Flashback to 2006 – just one year after Vacheron Constantin’s 250th anniversary. I was fortunate to be invited to a dinner that was part of a four-day “Métiers d’Art” exhibition hosted by the brand in New York City. Intended to showcase Vacheron’s in-house expertise in traditional watchmaking crafts, some of Vacheron’s top watchmakers were present, performing live demonstrations of enameling, guilloché, finishing, and engraving for guests to observe…


Also present were Christian Selmoni, Vacheron’s Head of Product Development, and Juan Carlos, aka “Charly”, Torres, Vacheron’s CEO. Following our dinner, first Christian then Charly gave presentations describing the brand’s rich history and current collection. Highlights of their 250th Anniversary Special Edition timepieces were also presented, including the unique Esprit des Cabinotiers mystery table clock and the Tour de l’Ile, which was, at the time, the world’s most complicated series-produced wristwatch…

Click on each photo for a larger image…


Photos courtesy of Antiquorum

After the presentations, guests were encouraged to ask questions. This was a moment I was waiting for. The year prior, a group of collectors and I visited Vacheron’s factories and their spectacular boutique, also known as the “Maison”, in the center of Geneva. After experiencing the boutique’s wonderful, welcoming service and seeing historic vintage timepieces on display (not for sale) throughout, we all thought: “Boy, wouldn’t it be great if we had a boutique closer to home?!” With the wishes of my fellow Vacheron collectors in mind, I raised my hand and asked Charly two questions:

“When will Vacheron open a boutique in New York City and when will Vacheron sell vintage watches in this boutique?”

Based on his response, it sounded unlikely, but I did get the sense Vacheron might consider a New York boutique at some point in the future. At least that was what I was hoping for…

Wish 1 Fulfilled: The Vacheron Constantin Boutique in New York City

Fast forward to the present, to our delight, last year Vacheron fulfilled the first wish, opening its first boutique in the United States on Madison Avenue – in the heart of New York City. A luxurious venue worthy of the brand’s watches, TimeZone showcased the boutique in this photo report written shortly after its opening…


Wish 2 Fulfilled: Vacheron Constantin Collectionneurs

In April of this year, our second wish came true with the launch of “Vacheron Constantin Collectionneurs” – Vacheron-certified vintage watches sold at the New York Boutique. The third of Vacheron’s 28 boutiques worldwide to offer vintage watches for sale, each watch is certified by Vacheron’s Heritage department in Geneva. All are fully serviced, restored, and sold with a Certificate of Authenticity.

Part of the appeal of vintage watches, with the exception of very rare and/or highly complicated models, is that they are more affordable than their modern counterparts. However, finding the right watch can be extremely difficult and time-consuming. Some collectors I know have waited years for a vintage watch they’ve wanted to appear on the market. Upon finding a hard-to-find model in the right condition, the level of satisfaction felt is about as high as it gets in the world of watch collecting.

Why are collectors so enamored of vintage Vacheron watches in particular? Here are a handful of reasons:

* A consistent and uninterrupted history of producing exquisite quality timepieces since the brand was established in 1755. The finishing found on Vacheron movements is considered by many to be the gold standard against which other brands’ finishing work is judged.
* Rarity. For a long period of time in the middle part of the 20th century, Vacheron produced no more than 24 models of any one design. Finding two identical examples is extraordinarily difficult.
* Superb aesthetics, with original, latin-influenced styling that is bold, warm, and unlike any of its competitors’. Collectors love the multitude of different, dramatic lug types found on some vintage watches. Some of the most desirable types produced by Vacheron are “devil’s horns”, “tear-drop”, “claw”, and “cow horns”.

Recently, I visited the Madison Avenue Boutique to take a look at the diverse Collectionneurs pieces available for purchase. Below are photos and descriptions of each…

“Knife Edge” Pocketwatch, Ref. 6345
Manufactured in 1962, this 18-karat yellow gold ultra-thin pocketwatch houses the legendary Vacheron caliber 1003 – the world’s thinnest mechanical movement still in production today. Reflecting the finishing skills of Vacheron’s watchmakers, the movement in this watch is stamped with the Hallmark of Geneva – not an easy feat considering how thin it is. The polished disk-shaped case is extremely thin along its outer circumference, with a precise sharpness leading to its “knife edge” nickname.


The gold-colored silver dial’s surface has a “sunburst” brushed finish, with applied yellow gold baton hour markers…


Gentleman’s Wristwatch, Ref. 4306
A stunning time-only dress watch made in 1952, this ref. 4306 features an 18-karat yellow gold case with dramatic, claw-shaped lugs. It’s fitted with an exquisite champagne-colored, hand-guilloché’d dial. The “Vacheron & Constantin Genéve” logo at 12 o’clock is champlevé enamel – a technique where the surface of the dial is engraved, filled with enamel, then fired in an oven. A high-quality and costly approach that yields an indelible print similar to a tattoo on human skin. Atop the dial are four art-deco styled applied yellow gold Arabic numerals. Along the outside of the dial, yellow gold dots are found at all hour positions. Time is indicated via slender gold baton hour and minute hands and a blued steel seconds hand.


The original crown has survived…


The beauty of the claw lugs, with their sensuous curves, can be seen in this photo…


Note the curvature of the minute and seconds hands – they were thoughtfully curved for the wearer to correct for parallax error caused by the curved crystals used…


Multiple types of guilloché can be seen across the dial – a diamond-shaped pattern in the inner region, and two outer regions with concentric circles…


Gentleman’s Wristwatch with Complications, Ref. 4240
Dating to 1947, a relatively large watch for the era at 35 mm in diameter, this ref. 4240 features a triple-date complication. The month and day are indicated via two English language disks, with the correct month and day visible through two apertures at the center of the dial. The date is indicated via a blued-steel hand with a red arrow-head tip pointing to a red-painted date chapter ring. Its 18-karat pink gold case also features “claw”-shaped lugs, similar to those found on the ref. 4306 above.


Note the “fluted” caseband with three steps…


Pocketwatch with Split Seconds Chronograph
Signed on the dial and movement by an American retailer, F.W. Drosten based in St. Louis, Missouri, this pocketwatch was in fact entirely manufactured by Vacheron Constantin in 1903. It features a highly complicated movement – a chronograph with split-seconds mechanism – among the most prestigious and difficult of all complications in watchmaking. A split seconds mechanism allows a user to simultaneously time individual laps of a race while providing the ability to time the entire duration of the race. The open-faced case is made of 18 karat yellow gold.


Views of the exquisite movement, in superb condition after nearly 110 years…


A push-button at 10 o’clock operates the split-seconds function…

The dial is enamel, with black Breguet-style Arabic numerals and red numerals for the five minute and 10 second indicators…


Gentleman’s Wristwatch, Ref. 4310
Another classic dress watch, in 18 karat pink gold, dating to 1945. This example is fitted with a dial with applied pink gold alternating Arabic and dot, or “stud”-shaped, hour markers.


With a curved seconds hand (in blued steel) and minute hand (pink gold)…


Pocket Watch, Ref. R.A. 17″73
A handsome dress pocket watch triple signed by Vacheron Constantin (signed on the case, movement, and dial) with an 18 karat pink gold hunter-case. This example was made in 1905 and features a white enamel dial with pink gold “spade”-style hour hands. The movement is frosted, gilt (plated in gold) finished, with blued steel screws used throughout.


Time is set via the slide piece visible at the 2 o’clock position on the top of the bezel…


Gentleman’s Wristwatch, Ref. 6394
Simple, elegant, and still in style, this self-winding 18 karat yellow gold watch from 1961 features a hand-engraved central caseband that measures 35 mm in diameter. The gold-colored dial is finished with a sunburst pattern. It’s adorned with applied gold faceted baton hour markers and an applied gold Maltese cross at 12 o’clock. As expected with a Vacheron Constantin watch, the cal. K1072 movement housed within is very high-grade, with an 18-karat gold edged winding rotor, and stamped with the Hallmark of Geneva.


Gentleman’s Wristwatch, Reference 6378Q
An elegant Vacheron dating to 1963 with an 18-yellow gold, 36 mm case. The silver dial features applied yellow gold “obus”-type polished and faceted hour markers. Inside is the Vacheron cal. K1072 similar to ref. 6394, however this variant features a date complication at 3 o’clock.


Gentleman’s Wristwatch, Reference 4571
Featuring wide, long, and faceted “claw”-shaped lugs even more dramatic than those found on the ref. 4240 and 4306 watches. The dial is fitted with diamond/dart-shaped faceted gold hour markers set atop a silver-toned base. The printing used is the highest quality champlevé enamel type.

Conclusion

At once thrilling, rewarding, and challenging, collecting vintage watches is no walk in the park. With the proliferation of difficult-to-detect fakes, it takes education, research, and experience to know what is original and what is not. Vacheron’s Collectionneurs greatly simplifies the acquisition process, taking uncertainty out of the equation with brand-certified and guaranteed vintage timepieces.

I hope you enjoyed,

Paul

Tagged with:
 
© 2012 Bourne In Time Inc.