Any brand will tell you heritage is one of its most cherished things; they will establish heritage departments to aid in the understanding of its archives, set up museums to preserve the past, even provide authentication and repair services for watch collectors who approach them with an old, discontinued model.
But no maison, as far as we can tell, has gone as far as Vacheron Constantin to set up an initiative that hand-picks vintage models from private collectors and auction houses, fully services and restores the watches and offer them on the market again with full warranty and certification. Called Les Collectionneurs, the travelling collection of 10 watches genuinely showcases just how much the storied brand is proud of their 263 years of uninterrupted history, each piece telling a wonderful story and giving us a tiny glimpse into the bygone era they were created in.
The Les Collectionneurs pieces arrived in this part of the world at the end of last month, and will be available exclusively at Vacheron Constantin’s Landmark Prince’s boutique in Hong Kong from now until November 29, 2018. At the time of our viewing, 10 pieces were shown, including eight wristwatches manufactured between 1942 and 1993, and two pocket watches manufactured between 1923 and 1926.
Below, we’ve picked a few to share with you, but for the full rundown, no one can recount the tales better than Vacheron Constantin’s own watchmaker at the boutique, so make your appointments quickly.
The oldest piece in the collection is a beautiful 18k yellow gold pocket watch from 1923, in a 44mm case. The dial is silvered two-tone, with classic black enamelled Art Deco style Arabic numerals, small seconds at 6 o’click and “Cathédrales” style hands in yellow gold. The inside of the case back is also engraved with “C.C.M from A.B.M Geneva, July 4th 1924.”
There’s also a trio of chronographs: a 18k pink gold gentleman’s wristwatch with a 30-minute counter chronograph and gilt dial, dated 1942; a 18k yellow gold 30-minute counter chronograph from 1945; and a 18k pink gold one from 1948. It’s quite wonderful to be able to see these three watches from the same decade side by side, and to spot the minute evolutions in the design language. The earlier two models still feature fan-shaped lugs soldered to the case, while the latter watch comes with integrated lugs. The 1948 chronograph also comes with a pulsometric scale instead of the more common tachymeter.
There’s a 18k yellow gold automatic wristwatch from 1952 that features the self-winding movement, Caliber 12″-477/1. The movement comes equipped with a Swiss lever escapement, beryllium balance, hairspring with terminal curve and an oscillating weight with bumpers – something rather unusual that you don’t regularly see in Vacheron Constantin timepieces. (If you pick up the timepiece and give it a firm, but gentle, shake, you can actually hear the parts crash into each other – rather terrifying if you didn’t know how the movement worked.)
There’s even a ladies’ wristwatch on offer, an 18k yellow gold ultra-thin piece from 1964. With an inclined and polished bezel, thin middle, radiant engine-turning, pressed flat back, the shape – we joke that it reminds us of a UFO, is not commonly seen today but was a typical shape for 1960s ladies’ watches. The movement inside is the Calibre 9″1003, an ultra-thin manual winding movement with 17 jewels.