11/06/2014
 3 minutes

Legendary Watch Brands: Vacheron Constantin

By Christopher Beccan
Vacheron Constantin Perpetual Calendar Chronograph
Vacheron Constantin Perpetual Calendar Chronograph Image: Auctionata

Vacheron Constantin are world renowned for making fine and exquisite timepieces, though often I feel they get overlooked in favour of Patek Philippe or Audemars Piquet. But if you take a moment to consider the “Holy Trinity” of true Haute Horlogerie brands, you’ll find that Vacheron Constantin is one of them. Founded in 1755 by one young independent watchmaker, Jean-Marc Vacheron of Geneva, Switzerland – making it the oldest manufacturer in the world today with continuous operation since it was founded. Some fifteen years later in 1770 Vacheron created its first ‘complication’ watches, which included a chronograph, moon phase and triple calendar. In 1819 Vacheron (at this time now headed by Jacques-Barthelemy Vacheron, grandson of the founder) as a company knew they needed to grow and to do this they needed to sell timepieces abroad, so in that same year a businessman by the name of Francois Constantin – who too shared an interest in sophisticated and complicated watches – became an associate of Vacheron. From then on the company continued to produce timepieces under the name of Vacheron et Constantin.

Then, in 1839 Vacheron et Constatin hired an horological engineer by the name of Georges-Auguste Leschot, though probably unknown at time to Vacheron et Constantin, who would become one of the most important pioneers of the watchmaking industry. You see, Leschot designed new tools, making it possible for Vacheron to now manufacture parts for watches on a large scale that were interchangeable, raising the quality of watch standards. Leschot was the first person to standardise watch movements into calibres. “Vacheron is the holder of countless timekeeping precision records, all achieved during an era where timekeeping competitions were held yearly among the world’s greatest watch brands.” – Paul Boutros

Vacheron Constantin watch
Vacheron Constantin watchImage: Bexsonn

In 1877, Vacheron & Constantin, Fabricants, Geneve became the official name of the company and just a few years later in 1880, Vacheron & Constantin adopted the iconic Maltese Cross as its symbol, which was actually inspired by a component mounted on the barrel cover to secure the most constant force from the spring and thereby achieving a better rate of accuracy. Such as life, nothing lasts forever and during the latter part of the 19th century through to the 20th century Vacheron & Constantin endured some hardship and change of heads at the helm but they still continued to create stunning timepieces, such as the world’s thinnest mechanical wristwatch; the Patrimony, which measured only 5.25 millimetres thick. The 6087, which featured an anti-magnetic and water-resistant case with a column-wheel chronograph movement and horned lugs, making it an absolute standout chronograph in the 1950’s and 60’s. In 1974 “&” was dropped from Vacheron & Constantin and during the 70’s Vacheron created, one of my favourite sports timepieces – the “222”, which would later become the ancestor of the Overseas collection.

Today, Vacheron Constantin are owned by the corporation juggernaut that is Richemont Group but this fact does not diminish their character, history or pedigree. They still practise today what they did centuries ago; manufacturing a diverse range of exquisite timepieces ranging from elegant, time-only dress watches to bespoke, Grande-Complication masterpieces, with in-house movements assembled and finished by hand. Vacheron are a traditional watch brand with traditional beliefs, that aren’t as well known as Patek and AP for that matter but for me this is what makes them a true connoisseurs brand and when you take time to look at what they’ve achieved, it is nothing short of stunning.


About the Author

Christopher Beccan

Christopher Beccan is the founder of the online magazine "Bexsonn," where he regularly writes about his two passions: extraordinary timepieces and whiskey. His work …

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