In September 1831, Jean-Barthélémy Vacheron wrote a letter stating an intention to expand business to the U.S. market. Today, 180 years after that letter, Vacheron Constantin opens its first U.S. boutique, and celebrates the event with three limited edition watches. Find complete specifications, pricing and wallpaper for the boutique limited editions inside.
Vacheron Constantin’s relationship with the United States has existed far longer than most watch companies have been in business. The brand established its first U.S. agent in New York in 1832. By the mid-1800s, business had taken off, and by the end of the century the brand had over 100 independent agents in 27 states.
By the early 1900s, the manufacturer’s timepieces could be found on the wrists of eminent American personalities such as members of the Rockefeller family, Henry and William James, and noted jazz musician Sydney Bechet. The country’s leading collectors – Henry Graves and James Ward Packard – ordered custom Vacheron Constantin timepieces. (A piece from the Packard collection recently sold for $1.8 million at Christie’s New York.) Presidents Harry Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower each owned a Vacheron Constantin, and in the late 1960s and early ‘70s, the brand was called upon to commemorate the first U.S. expeditions into space. In 2005, Vacheron Constantin celebrated 250 years of history with gala anniversary events held in 17 global cities, including New York.
Given the brand’s deep New York roots, the city was selected to host the brand’s first U.S. boutique, which is located in a distinctive, historic building at 729 Madison Avenue at 64th Street. Built in 1908, the building is the work of architect William E. Mowbrayand and is reminiscent of the Palazzo Strozzi, a 15th century Florentine palace. The boutique officially opens July 26, 2011.
To celebrate the boutique’s opening, Vacheron Constantin is presenting three exclusive limited edition timepieces: the Historiques American 1921 Boutique New York, the Overseas Chronograph Perpetual Calendar Boutique New York, and the Patrimony Traditionnelle Calibre 2755 Boutique New York. WatchTime traveled to the Vacheron Constantin manufacture just outside of Geneva for the first look, and in Part II of this story coming next week, we will visit the manufacture where these limited edition pieces are made.
Vacheron Constantin CEO Juan-Carlos Torres (left) and Communication Director Sébastien Knop discuss the special limited edition watches created to mark the opening of the first U.S. boutique. (All images may be enlarged with a click.)
The first special piece is the Historiques American 1921 Boutique New York. It is inspired by an avant-garde cushion-shaped wristwatch that Vacheron Constantin produced in very limited quantities specifically for the American market in the 1920s, then reinterpreted in 2008. The re-edition was voted 2009 Watch of the Year in Switzerland.
The unique dial – exclusive to the New York Boutique limited edition – captures the vintage look this piece embodies. It sports beige Arabic numerals and a sandblasted finish with a black-painted “railtrack” chapter ring. The 40mm diameter case is in yellow gold, and the caseback is hand-engraved with the unique number of the watch as well as the inscription: “Madison and 64th”.
The watch is powered by the hand-wound Calibre 4400 developed and crafted in-house by Vacheron Constantin, which bears the Hallmark of Geneva. It beats at a 28,800 vibrations per hour with a power reserve of approximately 65 hours.
Water-resistant to 30 meters, the model is fitted with a hand-sewn saddle-stitched strap in dark brown alligator leather fastened with an 18-carat yellow gold pin buckle shaped like a half Maltese cross.
The Historiques American 1921 Boutique New York model is issued in a 64-piece limited edition and delivered in a special leather presentation box. Available exclusively at the New York boutique, the retail price of $31,500 represents a modest premium over the non-limited model.
The second special model is the Overseas Chronograph Perpetual Calendar Boutique New York. This is Vacheron Constantin’s first high complication in a steel Overseas case.
Calibre 1136 QP is an automatic-winding movement comprised of 228 parts. The balance oscillates at 21,600 vph with an approximately 40-hour power reserve. In addition to the hours, minutes and small seconds at 6 o’clock, Calibre 1136 QP includes chronograph functions as well as a perpetual calendar indicating the day of the week, the date and the month on a 48-month cycle complete with leap-year and moon-phase displays.
To honor the first U.S. boutique, the model bears red, white and blue colors. The 42 mm case is water-resistant to 150 meters. A soft iron cage within the case protects the movement from magnetic fields. The screw-down caseback is engraved with the inscription “Madison and 64th” – the boutique address – as well as the individual edition number. Each watch includes two straps: one in blue alligator leather with a red lining and the other in chestnut brown calfskin.
The 20-piece edition is exclusively reserved for the New York boutique and priced at $57,900.