Over the past few weeks, we’ve taken an in-depth look at Les Cabinotiers, Vacheron Constantin’s bespoke watchmaking division. First, we highlighted a few of the most important watches that Les Cabinotiers has developed over the past few years. Last week, we took you behind-the-scenes of the elite watchmaking division and highlighted how the division’s approach has shifted under CEO Louis Ferla. In the final installment of this series, we sat down with Christian Selmoni, the Style and Heritage Director of Vacheron Constantin, to discuss Les Cabinotiers and how he’s seen the department evolve to become the pride of Vacheron Constantin over his 27 years with the brand.
How would you say that the Les Cabinotiers department elevates Vacheron Constantin’s standing in contemporary watchmaking?
Quite a lot because Les Cabinotiers is a fantastic tool to leverage our awareness, globally speaking. These watches are showcasing our mastery of technique and Métiers d’Art. I think it’s a great tool to leverage the expertise of Vacheron Constantin, its know-how, its ability, its capacity to create and to innovate.
How long does the typical Les Cabinotiers timepiece take from initial concept to completion?
I think what is important with Les Cabinotiers is that you can’t tell every client, “You’re going to wait four years to get your watch.” That was the main limitation to the bespoke part of Les Cabinotiers. that’s why we are preparing [some] watches in advance now. But usually the development for a committed timepiece, it wouldn’t be less than 15 months, maybe? Then, most of the watches would require 20 to 24 months [to build], and on super-complicated watches up to three years.
How does the demand for Les Cabinotiers-produced timepieces compare with how Vacheron Constantin’s other lines are growing?
I think we see a very important, very interesting development in Les Cabinotiers. Our idea is not at all to grow and to make huge quantities of Les Cabinotiers, but it seems that there is quite a lot of room for us to develop. I think the [number of] people that have the time and the financial means to [request] watches for themselves is quite high. I think there is still a lot of room for us to develop.
How important are Les Cabinotiers-produced timepieces to building awareness among the general consumer?
I think they are really important, for sure. We want to showcase that we are doing such watches, even if these watches are unique pieces. It helps grow our awareness, especially in the field of technical complications. And on that particular field, i think over the past five years we are doing great efforts to develop our visibility in this domain by doing some very serious watchmaking. Ref. 57260, then Armillary tourbillon, then Celestia symphonia, then Twin Beat this year. I think we are really growing in this direction, and we are getting credit for the efforts that we are doing. In the past, it wasn’t so evident. Not many people would consider Vacheron Constantin a technical and innovative brand, and these days more people would consider that, so this is thanks to the development of Les Cabinotiers, and also on the capitalization that has been made on the technical development, which we are associating with Cabinotiers.
Does the connotation of being one of the more historically important brands – part of the “Holy Trinity” of watchmaking – influence how Les Cabinotiers is managed?
No, I think the mission strategy is very clear, and is very consistent for the past two or three years now, in the sense that we want to develop our watchmaking expertise in many areas: simple watches, complicated, design, material and all aspects of our watchmaking art. What we need to maintain is our authenticity, that’s the keyword. It’s really important to have your own style, and we want to develop our technical know-how, so Cabinotiers is a driving force for this. But we want to remain an exclusive brand, so we don’t want to grow and do 100,000 watches in a year, that’s not at all the idea. The idea is really to grow, but more in expertise, and in the field of innovation. This is what we have done for the past four or five years. I feel quite optimistic about the future. I think people are looking for exclusivity, and authenticity, that’s why i think we are going in the right direction.