Vacheron Constantin Les Collectionneurs
The trend for vintage timepieces shows no signs of abating - Richemont’s recent purchase of Watchfinder & Co will only amp things up – and now one of the world’s oldest maisons is directly taking on the vintage sector.
In London this month, Vacheron Constantin unveiled Les Collectionneurs - a selling exhibition of 18 pocket watches and wristwatches dating from 1923 to 1969, and which have been fully restored and serviced by the Swiss house. Available at the Bond Street boutique for a limited period, each timepiece notably comes with a two-year guarantee – the same as for a modern Vacheron Constantin watch – and a certificate of authenticity.
“The concept of Les Collectionneurs was to complement our modern timepieces,” says Christian Selmoni, Vacheron Constantin’s Style & Heritage Director, who cites that it’s the only house to offer such a dedicated, certified vintage programme. “It’s a great way to promote our heritage, creativity, design and technicality.”
Women’s gold bracelet secret watch from 1948 © Vacheron Constantin
The watches were sourced mainly from auction houses but also private collectors and the internet. Competitively priced from £9,900 for the pocket watches and £13,500 for the wristwatches, Les Collectionneurs also taps into a potential new client base. “Globally there are many young people who are interested in buying a vintage watch, but don’t want to risk purchasing at auction,’ says Selmoni. “Here they have a fully working and serviced watch with a two-year guarantee.”
A 1951 three hander model © Vacheron Constantin
Choices range from simple to complicated designs, and all with an interesting story to tell. A 1951 yellow gold, 34mm three hander for example is a masterclass in midcentury, minimalist design, with its 11 large gold faceted indexes and large triangular lugs (“dog-ear lugs”, describes Selmoni). Meanwhile a first generation waterproof watch from 1953, in white gold with a silvered dial, is among the first wristwatches that could be wound in both directions. There is also a fabulous, interlocking women’s gold bracelet secret watch from 1948, its manual winding calibre set in a 25mm case.
A first generation waterproof watch from 1953 © Vacheron Constantin
On the complicated side, a 1953 pink gold chronograph features a two-tone dial ringed with an external minute circle and outer tachymeter and telemeter scales. Further accented with blue steel hands and fan shaped lugs, it’s no surprise the handsome watch is Selmoni’s favourite. Elsewhere, three godrons and a two-level bezel give a 1947 triple calendar tons of character, as does its two-toned silvered dial with both Arabic and funky triangle indexes. The date is indicated via an external circle of red Arabic numerals, which chicly complement the red coloured day and date indication – in French no less – situated in the dial’s centre. Eye-catching and rare, the watch directly inspired the maison’s recent Historiques Triple Calendrier line.
A 1953 chronograph, Christian Selmoni's favourite watch © Vacheron Constantin
Meanwhile the oldest offerings come courtesy of the pocket watches, such as a yellow gold, split second chronograph from 1924. The 44mm manual winding design is a true period piece, with its four body-case, dome and back with hinges, and two sub dials – a 30-minute counter and small-seconds – stylishly interrupting a ring of 10, bold black enamel Arabic numerals.
A split second chronograph pocket watch from 1924 © Vacheron Constantin
The house says that the UK has an especially large proportion of vintage Vacheron Constantin owners – and so why launching Les Collectionneurs in London was a natural choice. (“Everything that’s connected to fine mechanics, heritage and restoration really speaks to English people,” says Selmoni.) Plans are already underway to show the collection around the world – yet doing so in the right way for one of the finest and most storied maisons around. “There is strong demand for vintage timepieces, says Selmoni, “but we have to find a balance between exclusivity and visibility.”
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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