“Classic with a Twist” in London: An exhibition celebrating Vacheron Constantin’s creativity and boldness at the dawn of the 20th century.
- VAC_CWAT_Exhib_Set2_12070Cushion shape, 18K yellow gold, winding-crown at 1.30 , white enamel dial, off-centre 45° clockwise direction, 11 black enamel skeletoned and luminescent Arabic numerals , small second at 7.30, external "railroad" minute track 1919
- VAC_CWAT_Exhib_Set2_10479Cushion shape, silver, white enamel dial with 11 black enameled Arabic numerals, small second at 6 o'clock, external "railroad" minute track. 1920
- VAC_CWAT_Exhib_Set2_10838Barrel-shaped, 18K yellow gold, gilt dial with 12 black enamelled and luminescent Arabic numerals, external "railroad" minute track, back engraved with inscription "Presented to C.P. Jarden by The Shervin-Williams Co. In commemoration of twenty five years faithful service 1903-1928" 1928
- This year, Vacheron Constantin is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the American 1921 watch, a timepiece that has become a much-loved icon among collectors.
- The "Classic with a twist" exhibition pays tribute to a spirit in which technique and style converse in subtle harmony between the conventional and the atypical.
- 1st – 24th May 2021, Vacheron Constantin, 37 Old Bond Street, London, W1S 4AB
May 2021, Vacheron Constantin, Old Bond Street - On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the American 1921 watch, the "Classic with a twist" exhibition celebrates the creative freedom of Vacheron Constantin at the dawn of the 20th century. From the 1910s to the 1930s, Vacheron Constantin was particularly renowned for its extraordinary artistic effervescence. The wide range of different-shaped ‘form’ cases and special displays on show in this exhibition reflects an exciting chapter in the history of Vacheron Constantin.
"Classic with a twist" is first and foremost a story of freedom, the tale of a singular style that emerged in the context of the Roaring Twenties and the Art Deco movement through a daring variety of shapes, designs and geometrical figures: atypical shapes, strict squares and surprising lozenges, elegant cushions, as well as a few examples of special displays and off-centre indications. The "Classic with a twist" exhibition bears witness to the creative energy expended by Vacheron Constantin between 1910 and the end of the 1930s: an exhilarating period conducive to making daring moves, flouting convention and opening up to all kinds of stylistic fancies.
Considered an exclusively feminine accessory at the end of the 19th century, it was at the turn of the 20th century that the wristwatch began to conquer the hearts of men, won over by the functionality and comfort of keeping track of time on their wrists. True to its pioneering spirit, Vacheron Constantin showed an early awareness of the evolution in the art of wearing a watch by creating – in 1889 already – a ladies' model on a bangle-type bracelet, probably the oldest wristwatch in the company's heritage known to date. Thanks to the considerable progress made in the miniaturisation of its movements, Vacheron Constantin freely expanded its field of creative expression through an incredible variety of avant-garde designs. Tonneau (barrel), lozenge, rectangle, cushion, oval, curved or cambered silhouettes: through the choice of pieces on display, "Classic with a twist" reminds us that all the iconic case shapes we know today were created between the 1910s and 1920s.
Quintessence of an era
The stylistic abundance of the "Classic with a twist" exhibition illustrates Vacheron Constantin's ability to capture the spirit of the times and the customs of its era. Above and beyond watchmaking, the exhibition reflects a way of life, the societal changes taking place at the dawn of the 20th century, as well as the evolving tastes and trends in clothing. It tells the story of the Roaring Twenties, the new-found sense of freedom and lightness, the artistic effervescence, the good life and the ebullient cultural world. It also traces the rise of the Art Deco movement and the appeal of a geometrical aesthetic that emerged in architecture as well as in art and watchmaking. Finally, it evokes the new spirit taking hold of Europe and the United States, a market in which Vacheron Constantin had developed strong ties from the outset, having been present there since 1832.
It was within this euphoric context that the Manufacture was one of the first to adopt the cushion shape. Between 1919 and 1921, it produced a few models intended exclusively for the American market. With its avant-garde design consisting of a cushion-shaped case, an atypical diagonal display and an offset crown, this rare timepiece particularly sought-after among collectors is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. Unveiled on the occasion of the "Classic with a twist" exhibition, this original model is one of the most striking examples of the creative energy that the Manufacture has demonstrated throughout its existence.
An American legend
Adopted by dandy drivers probably drawn to the possibility of reading the time diagonally without having to let go of the typically large steering wheel of 1920s cars, this legendary watch was also much appreciated by progressive personalities of the time. Among them was Reverend Samuel Parkes-Cadman. A clergyman and newspaper writer renowned for his fight for racial equality and against anti-Semitism, he was also one of the first to use radio to broadcast his sermons to millions of listeners. While on holiday in Montreux, he acquired two of the watches produced at the time, one with luminescent numerals and the other with black enamel Arabic numerals. This original model is displayed in the "Classic with a twist" exhibition and is one of the most striking examples of the creative energy that the Maison has demonstrated throughout its existence, particularly at the dawn of the 20th century.
Barrel-shaped watch in 18K yellow gold, white enamelled bezel with Grecian frieze motif, Ref. 10347 - 1913
At the turn of the century, the wristwatch gradually became an everyday accessory, potentially a piece of jewellery. The tonneau (barrel) shape naturally made its appearance thanks to its seamlessly integrated strap lugs and case. In 1913, Vacheron Constantin interpreted it with an 18K yellow gold case topped by a bezel adorned with a Grecian frieze motif in white enamel. The finely-grained silver-toned dial of this reference is punctuated by 12 elegant black enamelled Arabic numerals
Barrel-shaped watch in 18K yellow gold, welded “spider” lugs, Ref. 11445 - 1925
In 1925, at the heart of the Roaring Twenties, Vacheron Constantin explored the tonneau (barrel) shape with singular boldness. The wrist was adorned with fanciful touches, as shown in this 18K yellow gold barrel watch flowing into welded "spider" lugs. An atypical style picked up on the silver-toned dial featuring black enamelled Arabic numerals and blued steel "œil de perdrix " hands.
Barrel-shaped watch in 18K yellow gold, gilded champagne-coloured dial, Ref. 10838 - 1928
Accuracy, functionality, discretion and ergonomics are all at the heart of this tonneau-shaped watch produced in 1928. The elegant 18K yellow gold case frames a gilded champagne-coloured dial rimmed by a minute track. The caseback is finely engraved with the inscription: "Presented to C.P. Jarden by The Shervin-Williams Co. in commemoration of twenty five years faithful service 1903-1928".
Lozenge-type barrel-shaped watch in 14K yellow gold, Ref. 11551 - 1918
In the early 1910s, Vacheron Constantin produced this sophisticated “lozenge” watch shape. Its new creative boldness is illustrated by this 1918 model in 18K yellow gold, featuring a silver-toned dial adorned with stylised blue enamel Roman numerals stretching to follow the lines of the case. Vacheron Constantin chose blued steel Art Deco hands to indicate the hours and minutes.
Cushion-shaped watch in silver, Ref. 10479 - 1920
True to its pioneering spirit, Vacheron Constantin was one of the first watchmakers to dare to shake up conventions by devising a multitude of case shapes adapted to the art of wearing a watch on the wrist. The cushion shape appeared in the Manufacture's production as early as 1919 and is interpreted with understated elegance in this 1920 silver watch featuring a white enamelled dial embellished with black Arabic numerals.
“La Vogue” cushion-shaped watch in 18K yellow gold, Ref. 10754 - 1926
Based on a bold cushion-shaped case in 18K yellow gold, Vacheron Constantin allowed itself an additional fanciful touch. This 1926 watch, known as "La Vogue", is distinguished by its delicately domed flanks – an eccentric feature contrasting with the classic finely grained silver-toned dial graced by a minute track and black enamelled Arabic numerals.
Cushion-shaped watch in 18K yellow gold, crown between 1 and 2 o’clock, Ref. 12070 - 1919
Between 1919 and 1921, Vacheron Constantin produced two series of six cushion-shaped watches with diagonally off-centred dials and offset crowns. These now iconic watches feature a number of aesthetic differences depending on their production year: luminescent or black enamel Arabic numerals, screw-on or soldered lugs, as well as a crown positioned on the right or left. On this 1919 yellow gold timepiece powered by the RA’’’11 Nouveau Amérique calibre, the crown is positioned on the right, aligned with the top of the dial.
Pocket watch in 18K white gold, black enamel and crystal, Ref. 11131 - 1926
During the 1920s, Vacheron Constantin also expressed the scope of its creativity through special displays that showcased watchmaking sophistication. In 1924, the Manufacture launched its first skeleton pocket watch, a design that was in keeping with the Art Deco trend, as shown by this pocket watch made in 1926. Housed in an 18K white gold, black enamel and crystal case, the ultra-thin 17’’’ skeletonised calibre is revealed in all its splendour.
Marking the 100th anniversary of the Historiques American 1921 watch, the "Classic with a twist" exhibition celebrates the creativity and boldness of Vacheron Constantin at the dawn of the 20th century. Through a selection of avant-garde historical pieces, from special-shaped ‘form’ watches to original displays, this exhibition mirrors an era marked by the carefree spirit of the Roaring Twenties and the aesthetic influence of the Art Deco movement. From the 1910s to the 1930s, from Geneva to the United States, it recounts the tastes of the time and the evolution in the art of wearing a watch. A pivotal period that Vacheron Constantin was able to accompany by developing an unexpected aesthetic vocabulary in which technique and style converse in subtle harmony between the conventional and the atypical.