Once In a Century, Times Three: Vacheron Constantin’s Historiques American 1921 Collection

Might there be another “Roaring Twenties” at the end of the dreadful pandemic era that has ushered in this decade? It’s too early to say as of yet, but if so, Vacheron Constantin has created the perfect timepiece for celebrating. The Historiques American 1921 takes its Art Deco design DNA from a timepiece issued by the historic Swiss manufacture exactly 100 years ago, at the dawn of the 1920s, the last century’s first festive decade of economic prosperity and cultural boldness. The latest versions, which follow up the original Historiques American released in 2009, is offered in three precious-metal variations, two in 18k white gold and a third in platinum, as part of Vacheron’s haut-de-gamme Collection Excellence Platine.

The watch that directly inspired the Historiques American 1921 actually has its origins in 1919, during Vacheron’s period of experimenting with unconventional case shapes. Two years later, a revised version of that original model was produced in a small series specifically for the United States (hence the name “American”), and was distinguished by its cushion-shaped case, the 45-degree counterclockwise tilt of its dial, its crown between 1 and 2 o’clock, and its ornate Art Deco hour numerals. The popularity of this off-center design coincided with the rise of the automobile: drivers could check the time at a glance without moving their hands from the steering wheel.

The two white-gold models of the Historiques American 1921 offer two case sizes, one 40 mm in diameter, the other, 36.5 mm. Both feature an elegant grained-silver-toned dial accented with black-painted Arabic numerals in period-appropriate font and a black-painted railroad minute track. Hours and minutes are displayed on vintage-style, gold Breguet hands, while a subdial between 2 and 4 o’clock indicates the running seconds with a dainty baton hand. Both versions encase Vacheron Constantin’s manufacture Caliber 4400 AS, a manually wound movement that holds a 65-hour power reserve and carries the prestigious Hallmark of Geneva, a badge of honor for its high-horology finishing. Aside from the dimensions of the cases, the two white-gold models differ in the color of their straps — brown for the 40-mm watch, burgundy red for the 36.5-mm — both crafted of patinated calf leather by Italian leather-goods manufacturer Serapian.

The Historiques American 1921 Collection Excellence Platine, a limited edition of only 100 pieces, uses 950 platinum not only for its 40-mm cushion case but also its dial, which has a sandblasted finish — an operation requiring a great deal of expertise on such a malleable metal. Its applied Arabic numerals, minute ring, hour and minute hands, and applied Maltese cross emblem at 12 o’clock, are made of 18k white gold; the baton hand in the small seconds subdial on this model is made of blued steel. Like its predecessors in Vacheron’s exclusive platinum-cased series, the dial features a subtle “Pt950” shout-out to the precious metal at 3 o’clock. The half-Maltese-cross-shaped buckle is also made of 950 platinum; the metal even finds its way into the contrast stitching on the watch’s dark blue Mississippi alligator leather strap. As in the gold editions, a sapphire caseback reveals the manual-winding Caliber 4400 AS and its lavish finishes.

The Historiques American in white gold retails at $29,600 for the 36.5-mm model and at $35,900 for the 40-mm; the Excellence Platine limited edition is priced at $49,700.

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  1. Truly a beautiful and fascinating timepiece that I would love to wear, but the price is more than I could likely ever pay or justify paying. Thanks for the review of this!

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