Vacheron Constantin Shedding light on Vacheron's chronographs with Christian Selmoni
The chronograph complication and the "Cornes de Vache" model hold a special place at Vacheron Constantin, in terms of both history and savoir-faire. Style and Heritage Director, Christian Selmoni, explains why.
Born to a family of watchmakers in La Vallée-de-Joux, Christian Selmoni joined Vacheron Constantin in 1990 and has spent the best part of his career overseeing the concept, creation and development of the company's watches. As Style and Heritage Director since 2017, one of his key responsibilities is to enrich and develop the brand's heritage. This can be identifying models from the past for potential reissue, showcasing the Manufacture's archives and the stories within, or sales of vintage Vacheron Constantin watches.
Christian Selmoni © Vacheron Constantin
From a purely heritage perspective, while each chronograph has its own history and specificities, Christian Selmoni believes one in particular stands out: "We have three classic chronographs. They are the 4072, the 4178 and the 6087, the latter being the famous 'Cornes de Vache'”, he said. “Ideally, I'd name all three but if I have to make a choice, it would be the 4072 because it was introduced in the mid-1930s and production continued into the early 1970s. Having come through four decades, it is a lesson in longevity. Its classic style has endured regardless of changing fashions, all the while evolving to reflect technical developments. It began its career as a monopusher, before being modified to incorporate a second pusher for resetting to zero."
Reference 4072 © WorldTempus/Jordy Bellido
Asked to consider the question from a different angle, namely design, Christian Selmoni leans more towards the other two models mentioned, both of which offer interesting features: "The most unusual design for a chronograph has to be the 6087 with its distinctive lugs in the shape of a cow's horns," he explains. "The 4178, on the other hand, is the most representative of Vacheron Constantin with its well-proportioned round case, refined and legible dial, and of course the characteristic lugs."
References 6087 et 4178 © WorldTempus/Jordy Bellido et Vacheron Constantin
Turning old into new is a complex undertaking on any level, but all the more so when reissuing a vintage watch. "The real challenge facing the designers is to adapt the watch without denaturing it”, says Christian Selmoni. “The aim is to extract the characteristic design elements and transpose them to a contemporary context without betraying the essence of the original." Recently released in steel, the Historiques Cornes de Vache 1955 is the perfect illustration of this: a re-edition that is aesthetically true to the original but adapted to modern-day standards. At its heart is the manual-winding Calibre 1142. In the grand tradition of watchmaking, the chronograph mechanism is controlled by a column wheel. Its screw head takes the shape of a Maltese Cross, Vacheron Constantin's symbol.
Historiques Cornes de vache 1955 © Vacheron Constantin
Calibre 1142, front (on the left) and back (on the right) © Vacheron Constantin
While every Vacheron Constantin watch is precious in his eyes, Christian Selmoni does have his favourites. On the vintage front, he leans towards the 4261, while his pick of today's collections would be the Patrimony Collection Excellence Platine 81180. "The 4261, a minute repeater, is an exceptionally refined watch. For me it represents quintessential Vacheron Constantin style, characteristic of 1940s design yet still with immense appeal for today." As for the Patrimony 81180, which features a case and dial in platinum, he cites a design "that introduces a certain sophistication while retaining exceptional purity and sobriety."
References 4261 et 81180 © Vacheron Constantin
Looking ahead, it's clear in Christian Selmoni's mind that continued reissues of the Historiques Cornes de Vache 1955 would go against the very principle of the present re-edition: "Its raison d’être in today's collection is as testament to the Maison's rich history, and to pay tribute to this 1955 watch while respecting its DNA and stylistic essence," he affirms.
With more and more historic watches returning to current collections, Christian Selmoni would like to see greater emphasis on different types of display: "We've seen a good number of complications in the spotlight, so I think it would be interesting now to look at different types of display, such as digital displays from the 1920s for their sophisticated aesthetic, or retrograde displays as an alternative to circular formats", he concludes.
An exploration of the history of Vacheron Constantin is a voyage of discovery, revealing the excellence of age-old watchmaking. Each timepiece is the result of the creative inspiration of the watchmaker or craftsman, dedicating their knowhow to the birth of outstanding watches. The Manufacture also works within a social and environmental code of ethics, and has had Responsible Jewellery Council certification since 2012.Find out more >
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