On June 23, 1972, at Paris’s Ritz Hotel, the Comité de France awarded the rare and coveted Prestige de la France award to Swiss watch manufacture Vacheron Constantin. As the first Swiss watch brand to receive this distinction, Vacheron launched a distinctive, asymmetrical timepiece, now referred to as the 1972. Now, to celebrate the opening of its Paris boutique (located at 2 Rue de la Paix, not far from the Ritz), the brand releases a new version of that famous wristwatch.
Like the original 1972 model, the new 1972 Prestige has an asymmetrical case, here made of polished white gold, that follows the proportions of the golden section. (For example, the dimension of the longest side of the case, divided by the length of the sapphire crystal on the opposite side, equals 1.618, the same proportion that appears in some of the world’s greatest architectural icons, such as the Greek Parthenon and Le Corbusier’s Modulor.) Also like the original, it contains an ultra-thin mechanical movement, manual-wound Caliber 1003, and has a caseback engraved with the Prestige de la France coat of arms. The watch also bears the prestigious Geneva Hallmark (Poinçon de Genève).
The case, with its curving lines, restrained silhouette, and natural reflections, is the same size as the original’s (25 mm x 47 mm, and 8.72 mm thick) and has a sapphire crystal covering the arched dial. The dial itself has a gray satin-finished sunburst pattern, with subtle chevron motifs, and two dauphine hour and minute hands made of 18k rose gold.
Whereas the watch is a product of the 1970s, its movement, Vacheron Constantin’s Caliber 1003, traces its origins all the way back to the 1950s. It was developed starting in 1952 and introduced in a watch in 1955, the company’s 200th birthday. To this day, it remains the thinnest mechanical hand-wound movement on the market. For the 1972 Prestige, Vacheron Constantin has updated this classical movement, retaining its record thinness of only 1.64 mm but adding more sophisticated finishing. The bridges and plate are made of 18K gold, its frequency is an efficient 18,000 vph, and it carries a power reserve of more than 30 hours. The decorative finishes include côtes de Genève, circular graining and bevelling of the components; the drawing of the steel parts is all done entirely by hand.
The white-gold case, which is water-resistant to 30 meters, is fitted with a brown alligator leather strap and a white-gold buckle in the shape of a half Maltese cross, Vacheron’s iconic symbol.
There is also another version of the 1972 Prestige, limited to 40 pieces and exclusive to select Vacheron Constantin boutiques, with a more contrast-heavy black-and-white color scheme. This watch has a shiny, silvered dial and as glossy black leather strap. Both versions retail for $40,000.