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Les Collectionneurs: The vintage world of Vacheron Constantin now visible online
- Les Collectionneurs are a selection of vintage watches carefully sourced, restored and authenticated by the Maison’s Heritage experts.
- It is now possible to view the selection on the Vacheron Constantin website, book an appointment, view the location of the timepices and register an interest.
- The new selections are presented in the United States, Shanghai and Dubai from October 2023 onwards.
Since October 17th 2023, Les Collectionneurs watches are available for purchase in selected Vacheron Constantin boutiques, and for the first time, they are available on the Vacheron Constantin website to facilitate the booking of appointments in the boutiques concerned. This new online service enables interested parties to ascertain details of the pieces in advance and to express their interest in visiting them on-site. The next encounters take place in the United States, Shanghai and Dubai from October onwards.
Since 2008, Vacheron Constantin has made the world of vintage watchmaking its speciality through its Les Collectionneurs range which provides a window onto the 20th century world of the Maison.
Consisting of constantly renewed selections of vintage timepieces, this collection can now be found on the Maison’s website. Interested customers can discover all the special features of the new watches tracked down by Vacheron Constantin's experts and enquire about the details surrounding this particular offer and its presentation. It is also possible for the visitor to request an interest in other vintage timepieces that the Maison Experts can advise on. Although displayed online, these vintage models are reserved for purchase in Vacheron Constantin boutiques. This presents an opportunity for collectors to show their interest by registering on the site and setting a time and date in the location of their choice with a view to forthcoming boutique appointments in the United States, Shanghai and Dubai.
Historical and technical expertise
The Maison’s Heritage experts are responsible for sourcing these watches from their network. Serving as a reference, Vacheron Constantin's exceptional archives span three centuries of history starting from the first document recorded in 1755, the apprenticeship contract signed by Jean-Marc Vacheron. These some 420 linear metres of sales and production registers, correspondence and other iconographic documents are complemented by 1,600 horological items from the 18th century to the present day. This documentary wealth enables the Maison’s experts to guarantee the traceability of all timepieces that have left its workshops since 1775. With each acquisition of a vintage timepiece, the first task thus consists in recording the serial numbers of the case and movement, which are kept in the Vacheron Constantin archives for authentication purposes.
After that, the technical diagnosis establishes whether the model requires simple cleaning, repair for malfunction or, more fundamentally, the replacement or supply of faulty or missing components. A corroded dial, missing hands, blunt-toothed gears or a pitted barrel spring are all challenges to be overcome. Within the Manufacture’s three workshops that handle these models according to their age, watchmakers can restore any watch produced by the Maison since its origins. The consistent objective is to intervene while respecting the work of previous watchmakers so as not to adulterate the timepiece. To accomplish these tasks, they have stocks of period components and a fleet of historical machines at their disposal if they need to recreate such or such a movement component. Any major operation performed on a timepiece is comprehensively documented in a booklet given to the client, so that the various stages of restoration can be fully explained.
Once these historical stages of authentication and maintenance techniques have been completed, the watches are delivered with a certificate of authenticity, a two-year warranty and a blockchain-based Digital Passport to enable trust and transparency for the future lifetime of the timepiece.
Questions for Christian Selmoni, Style & Heritage Director
Is this a new step forward with Les Collectionneurs?
Vacheron Constantin has gained enough experience since 2008 with its Les Collectionneurs selections to 'institutionalise' this range. By that, we mean that the Maison has now made this a collection in its own right, which appears on its website in the same way as its other collections. Vacheron Constantin began researching and restoring antique timepieces some 15 years ago, with the aim of meeting the needs expressed by a clientele of collectors. Considering that Vacheron Constantin is a watch Manufacture of and for connoisseurs, it seemed judicious to explore this vintage universe, especially since it has all the skills required, both historically and technically, to present a serious, thoughtful and attractive offering. For a long time, the events organised to present these products took the form of almost confidential customer meetings. This is definitely no longer the case today, as interest in this type of timepiece is growing, emanating from ever-increasing numbers of passionate enthusiasts. Within this context, the Maison has decided to take things a step further. These timepieces and their characteristics are now online, as are details of the boutiques where they are offered for sale, with the option of registering and making an appointment with the Maison’s experts.
What are the main challenges you face when selecting models?
First and foremost, we have to find models that are neither too rare nor too common. They must also not be too damaged, too recent nor too old. Very rare pieces are destined for auctions that exceed the price ranges that the Maison offers with Les Collectionneurs. The same applies if the restoration is too extensive and hence too expensive. Items that are too old are aimed primarily at specialists, while those that are too recent fall outside the realm of vintage. On this basis, it's a question of finding timepieces that all have a specific characteristic liable to make them sufficiently attractive to collectors. This may take the form of an original display, an exceptional calibre, an anniversary piece, artistic crafts models or Grand Complications. Any combination can work, provided of course that you know how to assess its relevance from a historical perspective. In theory, this may seem a relatively easy task. In practice, it is nothing of the sort. That's why the Maison’s Heritage experts have to be highly skilled in this area and have the right networks to source these timepieces. Once acquired, these watches are taken care of according to a well-established process within the Manufacture.
What are the distinctive features of the ranges you're offering this autumn?
The rich and varied selections include not only wristwatches but also pocket watches. They encompass both ultra-thin or complicated calibres and original displays. Collectors will thus be able to find highly sought-after 1940s chronographs, as well as artistic craft watches, Grand Complication timepieces and three-hand models equipped with outstanding movements. A closer look at the distinctive features of these selections highlights the wealth of Vacheron Constantin's production through the ages in terms of both men’s and ladies’ watches, bearing in mind that the boundary between the two is now increasingly blurred. In the field of mechanical watchmaking, just as in that of styles and trends, Vacheron Constantin has always been in the creative vanguard.
Watch selection, Shanghai
Watch in 18K yellow gold with jumping hours and mysterious minutes, silver-toned guilloché dial (Ref. 43040 – 1996)
In the first half of the 20th century, Vacheron Constantin introduced a unique display combining jumping hours and mysterious minutes. In the 1990s, the Manufacture sought to reinterpret this type of display with the apparently simple Reference 43040, featuring an hours aperture at 12 o'clock and an onyx minutes pointer appearing through a slot in the guilloché dial. The ultra-thin self-winding 1120 HS movement is housed in an extremely slim 36 mm yellow gold case measuring just 7 mm thick. The 1120 base calibre was developed in the 1960s, when it was the thinnest of its generation at only 2.45 mm thick. This remarkably accurate watch stems from the combination of an ultra-thin movement with an original, adventurous aesthetic.
Bicompax chronograph watch in 18K yellow gold, silver-toned dial (Ref. 4178 – 1941)
Since the advent of the wristwatch, Vacheron Constantin has confirmed its expertise in the art of chronometry (precision timekeeping), notably with models whose practicality and functionality paved the way for the instrument-watches that emerged during the first half of the 20th century. Reference 4178 is one of these and is now considered one of the most important timepieces in the Maison’s heritage. This highly successful chronograph launched in 1940 remained in production until 1964. Immediately recognisable thanks to its fan-shaped lugs, it is often cited as an example of perfect symmetry and balanced proportions. The yellow gold version equipped with the manual-winding column-wheel Calibre 434 is a collector's item.
Openworked perpetual calendar watch in 950 platinum, sapphire dial (Ref. 43032 – 1995)
Following the onslaught of electronic watches in the 1970s, mechanical watchmaking reasserted its rights at the end of the decade with a number of creations in the world of traditional complications. This trend was clearly observed at Vacheron Constantin, which in 1983 presented an ultra-thin perpetual calendar watch, followed a year later by its openworked version – Reference 43032 – in a case measuring 36 mm in diameter and 7.5 mm thick. This watch is driven by the famous self-winding Calibre 1120 with a date module powering indications of the day, date and month over four years according to the leap-year cycle, as well as the age and phases of the moon, all within a total thickness of just 4.05 mm. The movement has been entirely skeletonised and decorated. A rare example within the world of the Maison, this perpetual calendar is a masterpiece of mechanical watchmaking.
Watch selection, United States
Mercator" bi-retrograde watch in 950 platinum, engraved and enamelled white gold dial (Ref. 43050 – 1995)
The 400th anniversary marking the death of Flemish mathematician and geographer Gerhard Mercator, celebrated in 1994, gave Vacheron Constantin the opportunity to produce a series of watches reproducing various maps inspired by his work on the dial. Each white gold face is hand-engraved and then enamelled. Directly inspired by the so-called "arms in the air" models that the Maison has been renowned since the 1930s for featuring in its wristwatches, this timepiece is powered by the ultra-thin self-winding Calibre 1120 with bi-retrograde hours and minutes display using hands shaped like a pair of compasses. This benchmark movement is one of thinnest ever produced. Presented in a 950 platinum 36 mm case, the watch flaunts its originality while remaining slim with a case mesuring just 8.5 mm thick.
18K pink gold perpetual calendar chronograph watch with moon phases, black guilloché dial (Ref. 49005 – 1995)
The watch bearing Reference 49005 is an emblematic achievement by Vacheron Constantin, as much for the technical sophistication of its movement as for the aesthetically masterful layout of the complications. The model launched in 1992 remained in production until the turn of the century, when it was replaced in the Malte collection by Reference 47112. During this period, the Maison produced timepieces in pink gold and platinum. This model, with its pink gold gadrooned case measuring 38 mm in diameter and 12 mm thick, was Vacheron Constantin’s first to combine the chronograph and perpetual calendar functions with moon phases and small seconds, powered by self-winding Calibre 1136QP measuring just 7.10 mm thick. Among watches that feature both chronograph and perpetual calendar functions, Vacheron Constantin's Reference 49005 stands out for the perfect legibility of its functions, enhanced by an understated design.
Watch in 18K yellow gold, vertical satin-brushed silver-toned dial with Maltese Cross motif (Ref. 6068 – 1960)
This 1960 watch reflects the grand tradition of Vacheron Constantin's ultra-thin watches. It is equipped with manual-winding Calibre 1001, barely 2.94 mm thick and featuring a remarkable construction with its five arabesque bridges. Bearing the Hallmark of Geneva, its precision regulator places it in the category of chronometer-quality movements. Unveiled in the early 1950s, this calibre is undoubtedly one of the highest-quality manual-winding models ever produced. Everything about this ultra-thin 7 mm watch with small seconds evokes the Maison symbolised by its Maltese cross emblem. The lugs are shaped like a quarter-cross, while the dial features an applied yellow gold double Maltese cross at 12 o'clock and an "in reserve" motif distinguished by its horizontal satin-brushed finish.
Watch selection, Dubai
Perpetual calendar chronograph watch in platinum with moon phases, matt varnished white dial (Ref. 49005 – 1992)
The watch bearing Reference 49005 is an emblematic achievement by Vacheron Constantin, as much for the technical sophistication of its movement as for the aesthetically masterful layout of the complications. The model launched in 1992 remained in production until the turn of the century, when it was replaced by Reference 47112 in the Malte collection. During this period, the Maison produced pieces in pink gold and platinum. This version, with its platinum gadrooned case measuring 38 mm in diameter and 12 mm thick, was Vacheron Constantin’s first to combine the chronograph and perpetual calendar functions with moon phases and small seconds, powered by self-winding Calibre 1136QP, measuring just 7.10 mm thick. Among watches that feature both chronograph and perpetual calendar functions, Vacheron Constantin's Reference 49005 stands out for the perfect legibility of its functions, enhanced by its sophisticated design.
Aluminium pocket watch with small seconds, matt silver-toned dial (Ref. 4348 – 1952)
While slenderness is an essential component of elegant watches, lightness is a quest intimately linked to 20th century advances in metallurgy and to the current emergence of new composite materials. Vacheron Constantin's collaboration in 1937 with the Canadian and American companies Alcan and Alcoa enabled it to develop an aluminium watch that was exceptional for its time. With 85% of its components made of aluminium, particularly for its manual-winding calibre 439, Vacheron Constantin presented a series-produced timepiece measuring 44.5 mm in diameter and weighing just 19 grams at the end of World War II.
Watch in 18K yellow gold with small seconds, silver-toned dial (Ref. 6068 – 1958)
With the advent of the wristwatch in the first half of the 20th century, ultra-thin models were seen not only as an aesthetic choice but also as a sign of expertise. In 1952, the Maison presented its first timepieces equipped with manual-winding Calibre 1001, a movement just 2.94 mm thick and reflecting this relentless quest for elegance. Today, this movement that remained in production until the 1980s is still regarded as a masterpiece, one of the finest manual-winding movements ever produced and featuring a rare aesthetic appeal with its five-bridge construction. It is housed in an elegant yellow gold case measuring 32 mm in diameter with quarter Maltese cross-shaped lugs and features a pure white dial with applied gold hour-markers as well as a discreet small seconds hand.