Vacheron Constantin’s Les Collectionneurs Exhibition — a collection of (currently) 10 notable vintage timepieces from the Genevan manufacture’s 260-plus-year history, all impeccably restored and available for sale to consumers — is currently on display in New York, after its first two stops in Singapore and London. The watches, manufactured in a period spanning from 1928 to 1993, will call the brand’s Madison Avenue boutique home until August 17, 2018. Here is a rundown of the Collectionneurs pieces, from oldest to newest.
From 1928 comes the only pocketwatch in the collection, No. 11757, with a 46-mm, three-part platinum case and a minute repeater activated by a slide at 9 o’clock. The silvered dial has black enameled Arabic numerals, small seconds at 6 o’clock, and an old-school railroad-track minute circle. The historical-styled
oeil de perdrix hands are in blued steel. Inside the tripartite, bassined case is the manual-winding Caliber 17″20/12, with 29 jewels, a Swiss lever escapement, a flat balance spring, and a mainplate of German silver. Vacheron has priced the watch at $80,500.
One of two vintage chronographs in the collection, No. 10646, is a yellow-gold men’s watch with a round, yellow-gold case, measuring 33 mm in diameter and sporting two rectangular shaped pushers on the side. This model is notable for the cylindrical, double-gadroon lugs that are soldered to the top and bottom of the case. The movement is Caliber 13″‘295, manually wound, with a Swiss lever escapement, 21 jewels, a hairspring with terminal curve,
côtes de Genève decoration and that device most beloved of chronograph enthusiasts, a column wheel. The dial is an eye-catching two-tone gilt Champagne color, with gold Arabic numerals at 12 and 6 o’clock, baton indices, a 45-minute counter at 3 o’clock and small seconds at 9 o’clock, and a very subtle tachymeter scale on the periphery. Yellow gold baton hands point to the hour and minute, while blued steel hands count off the running seconds and chronograph seconds. The watch, made in 1941, is priced at $43,300.
The other chronograph wristwatch, this one in rose gold, hails from the following year, 1942. Watch No. 11526 has similar attributes to the earlier model — a bicompax Champagne-colored dial, Roman numerals, gold baton hands and blued steel subdial hands, tachymeter scale, and rectangular pushers — but it’s slightly larger at 36 mm and features a very different style of lugs, fan-shaped and soldered to the case middle. The chrono counter at 3 o’clock tallies 30 minutes rather than 45, and the indices are cone-shaped rather than baton-shaped. Inside is the 19-jewel Caliber 13″‘434, also equipped with the features listed for the previous watch, including the column wheel to control the stopwatch functions. The price is $42,500.
Rounding out the ’40s, we have a simple three-hand watch, made in 1945 with a case that was originally made to be both waterproof and magnetism-resistant. Its two-part 18 yellow gold case is very modest in size at 32 mm and features a flat bezel, a screwed caseback, and wire-like “half-drop” soldered lugs. Outfitted with the 17-jewel, rhodium-plated brass Caliber 9″‘466, the watch has a two-tone silver and satined dial and a combination of Roman numerals and cabochon indices for hour markers, along an inner minute circle with black lines. The baton hour and minute hands are gold, the counterpoised seconds hand is in blued steel, and the watch is priced at $12,800.
One of the oldest of five watches from the 1950s — the most well represented decade in the collection — includes a case element that probably many of us wouldn’t expect from a timepiece of that vintage: movable lugs. The rectangular yellow-gold case (37 mm x 27 mm) fits to the wrist with hinged lugs that have been soldered to the case middle. Composed of three parts, the case has a thin, inclined bezel and a square-shaped caseback with cut corners. On the silvered dial, 11 single indices and one double index, all in gold, mark the hours, while the seconds tick away on a small subdial. The manual-winding, decorated movement is Caliber 9″‘458/3B. The price of watch No. 10147, manufactured in 1951, is $16,100.
Also hailing from 1951 is the collection’s second-most-complicated (and second priciest) piece, No. 11761, an ultra-thin men’s minute repeater in a 36-mm diameter yellow gold three-part case. It has a thin, two-stepped bezel, half-tear-drop lugs, a pressed, flat caseback, and a slide at 9 o’clock to activate the repeater. Ticking inside the 5.25-mm-thick case is a suitably thin movement, Caliber 13″‘, manual-wound, with 29 jewels. The silvered dial has a guilloché-finished hour circle and external pearled minute circle, four applied Roman numerals and eight pointed, lapidated indices for the hours. The baton hands are yellow-gold and tipped. The price of this externally elegant, internally complex timepiece is $362,000.
Two classically elegant men’s timepieces, one with small seconds, the other with central seconds, trace their origins to 1952. Watch No. 11967, a yellow-gold gents’ piece with a large, bassined bezel and long soldered lugs, is noteworthy for its unusually large size for the time, 37.5 mm, and this reference (albeit not this actual piece) was known to be a favorite of 1950s Hollywood pop star Eddie Fisher, worn in a famous publicity photo. The dial has 11 rectangular lapidated indices in yellow gold, a gold Arabic numeral at 12 o’clock, and a small seconds subdial at 6 o’clock. A series of gilt cabochons makes up the outer minute circle. The movement is the 17-jewel Caliber 9″‘458/3B. The watch is priced at $18,200.
Slightly smaller in dimensions at 35 mm, the 18k yellow-gold three-handed model from 1952 (No. 11882) has a bassined case middle, a thin inclined bezel, and a large beveled, screwed caseback with 12 sides. Perhaps most significantly, it is the only watch in the collection with a self-winding movement, Caliber 12″-477/1. Equipped with a Swiss lever escapement, berrylium balance, hairspring with terminal curve, and other elements found in many of the manual-winding calibers represented here, the movement has an oscillating weight with bumpers, and
côtes de Genève on some of the rhodium-plated brass parts. The silvered guilloché dial, with four gold numerals and eight rectangular indices, cabochon minute circle, and gold pointed baton hands, proudly proclaims “automatic” above the 6 o’clock position. The price: $17,000.
The most unusually shaped case in the lineup belongs to Watch No. 11993, from 1957, a 38- x 24-mm “pressed rectangular” rose-gold piece with a thin bezel, straight lugs integrated into the case body, and a two-sided faceted crystal over the silvered, two-tone dial. Seven triangular indices (two at 12 o’clock) and six baton indices, all in rose gold, mark the hours. The hands are also in rose gold, and Vacheron’s famous Maltese cross emblem appears below the 12 o’clock position. The movement, Caliber 11″-435/3C, is also rectangular-shaped with cut corners to fit nicely into the case. The manual-wound, 17-jewel caliber counts
côtes de Genève and circular graining among its haute horlogerie decorations. This Art Deco-inspired piece is priced at $20,800.
Finally, we jump all the way to 1993 for the most complicated and most expensive of the Collectionneurs lineup, No. 11561, a platinum-cased watch with a minute repeater and perpetual calendar with moon-phases. The minute repeater slide is at 9 o’clock and the solid caseback has a decorative engraving; the half-teardrop lugs are soldered to the case middle. The white-gold dial is silvered two-tone, with four pyramid and eight baton indices. The baton hour and minute hands are also in white gold, while blackened gold is used for the subdial hands (for month, date, and day) and yellow gold and lapis lazuli for the moon-phase disk. Powering this grand complication is Caliber 13″‘3/4-1755QP, a manual-winding movement with a rhodium-plated German silver baseplate and 30 jewels. A striking watch in more ways than one, this model is priced at $412,000.
No. 11561 (1993) front (above) and back (below)
The watches in the Collectionneurs series have all been carefully hand-picked from private collectors, auctions, and the archives of Vacheron’s own Heritage Department; all have afterward been fully serviced and restored by the
manufacture’s “heritage specialist” watchmakers in Geneva. Each comes with not only a certificate of authenticity but a two-year warranty — giving the owner a chance to add many more years of service to a watch already steeped in prestigious history.