Vacheron Constantin, the virtuosity of a watchmaking monument


Vacheron Constantin is more than two hundred and sixty years of uninterrupted activity. Who can say the same? The manufacture with the emblematic Maltese cross would be the oldest in the sector… quite simply! This sign is a fine example of a heritage house whose motto can be summed up as follows: “ Do better if possible, which is always possible. In Plan-les-Ouates, on the outskirts of Geneva, Vacheron Constantin designs around 30,000 watches a year.

Manufacturing involves 90% manual intervention and the use of traditional tools. Today, the brand cannot increase its production because it cannot find sufficiently qualified craftsmen. A rare « commodity », and a situation that is not likely to get better anytime soon. Indeed, it takes between fifteen and seventeen years of training for a watchmaker to master the art of grand complications, an in-house specialty… By way of comparison, it takes « only » a dozen years to become surgeon. All is said.

Vacheron Constantin, timeless watches

 » Our current models are more timeless than average, because they carry a piece of history “, underlines Christian Selmoni, the director of style and heritage. Vacheron Constantin watches perfectly illustrate the formula  » we must create, but without destroying the heritage by Alain-Dominique Perrin, former president of Cartier.

 » This nevertheless leaves room for a twisted side on some of our creations. The Historic American 1921 collection is the most perfect example of this. “, welcomes Christian Selmoni. This original cushion watch is an icon of the Roaring Twenties. It is characterized by its diagonal reading of the time, its offset dial and its crown at 1:30.

To find inspiration, the brand often goes to the archive room. The 1950s were the golden age of Vacheron Constantin design. The Patrimony, launched in 2004, is derived from a watch from this period. However, the manufacture is not a follower of the facsimile.  » In fact, we are projecting an ancient model into modern times. In particular, we do a lot of work on the dimensions, explains the manager. We adapt the volume of the watch to make it change era. » Thus, the box of the Patrimony is 40 mm in diameter when that of its inspiration from the 50s did not exceed 34 mm.

Each watch has its own digital identity

It is sometimes tricky to know the exact route and provenance of a collector’s timepiece. It is in particular to thwart the pitfalls of counterfeiting that Vacheron Constantin offers an unforgeable digital certificate of authenticity for all its models. The wearer of a watch can prove that he is indeed its owner and present its life cycle.

All sales operations, repairs, declarations of loss or theft can be recorded. To do this, the manufacture has chosen the latest blockchain technology. The information collected can be consulted via The Hour Club, a dedicated Internet platform. The system, hitherto reserved for “Les Collectionneurs” pieces, has just been extended to all the brand’s new watches.

Well in its time

Those who have of Vacheron Constantin the image of an old lady knitting by the fireside are mistaken. The doyenne with a mind widely open to modernity and the spirit of the times. The collection Overseas fits in particularly well with its time. Moreover, it was immediately acclaimed. If you want to buy a Overseas blue background, it takes several years of delay…

Ah, the waiting lists… Still in range Overseassmall outdoor connotation with the very sporty definition Everest. This variant derives from the prototype worn by photographer-explorer Cory Richards during his ascent of Everest two years ago.

Photographer-explorer Cory Richards embodies the image of the Overseas collection.

Photographer-explorer Cory Richards embodies the image of the Overseas collection. VACHERON CONSTANTIN

Through his campaign One of not Many, Vacheron Constantin chooses a character with a unique character to represent each of its watch families. If the choice of the multidisciplinary and singular French designer Ora Ïto to embody the image of the collection Patrimony seems natural, that of Cory Richards for theOverseas looks bold. The iconoclastic young man with a passion for mountaineering is a rather rare kind of skinned man in the world of watchmaking!

Pioneer in collecting

A spirit of youth animates the factory. She was one of the first to grasp the importance of the vintage watch trend, a booming market today. From 2017, it offers, under the label « Les Collectionneurs », a selection of models for sale in its shops.  » We buy back significant vintage watches from the 1920s to the 1970s on the secondary market. We restore them in our specialized workshop, then we offer them for resale with a two-year guarantee and a certificate of authenticity. “, explains Christian Selmoni. These watches complement modern timepieces and allow the brand to keep an eye on its living heritage.

Key dates

• 1755: Jean-Marc Vacheron founds the firm in Geneva.
• 1790: 1st in-house complication.
• 1819: association with François Constantin, the brand becomes Vacheron et Constantin.
• 1880: adoption of the Maltese cross logo.
• 1906: opening of the historic boutique on the Island, in Geneva.
• 1940: new calendar wristwatches.
• 1996: takeover by the luxury group Richemont.
• 2004: Bernard Tschumi designs the new headquarters in Plan‑les‑Ouates.
• 2006: launch of the Historiques collection. Creation of the tailor-made Les Cabinotiers workshop.
• 2016: the sporty chic collection Overseas is completely overhauled.
• 2018: launch of the Fifty Six, more affordable entry level.

An exceptional building

Finally, in 2004, at the age when an old lady has been entitled to rest in a retirement home for ages, Vacheron Constantin, on the contrary, moved into one of the most modern and spectacular Swiss watchmaking factories. The new glass, wood and steel building brings together management, administration and workshops under one roof.

To support the growth of the activity, a second building came out of the ground in 2015 to house the production workshops. In both cases, it is Bernard Tschumi who is in charge. The famous French architect has chosen to go for simplicity, to eliminate the superfluous.  » The desire was to integrate classic, artisanal, authentic watchmaking into an ultra-contemporary and efficient universe. “, analyzes Christian Selmoni.

Photographer-explorer Cory Richards embodies the image of the Overseas collection.

Photographer-explorer Cory Richards embodies the image of the Overseas collection. VACHERON CONSTANTIN

To sum up, we can say that a Vacheron Constantin watch is aimed at collectors who appreciate authentic rarity. With an entry-level price of 15,000 euros, the brand does not intend to flood the market. A Manufacture timepiece is not a product to be consumed. It is a product to keep.

3 questions to Christian Selmoni

Vacheron Constantin watches the virtuosity of a horological monument - the good life

What is your job exactly ? The factory is uniquely fortunate to have colossal archives. They constitute an immense database, going back to the origins of the brand. They include drawings, gouaches, letters, photographs… but also 800 machine tools, workbenches and watchmaking tools. In all, this represents an area of ​​420 linear meters! Vacheron Constantin has also been able to keep all of its production records and accounting records including sales abroad, correspondence between associates, suppliers and customers, since its inception. Thanks to this, we are able to authenticate each watch manufactured. This is exceptional ! The heritage department’s mission is to conserve, preserve and enrich this extraordinary heritage.

Do you have a private collection? Vacheron Constantin began its collection of historic watches in 1906. A true pioneer. Today, this collection includes 1,400 pieces made between 1755 and 2020. We have an annual envelope to enrich the background of old watches. We buy at auctions, from merchants or on Internet platforms. My team follows around twenty specialized auction houses to unearth the rare bird. This monitoring also allows us to flush out certain counterfeit or stolen watches. When the case number does not match the movement number, there is something wrong.

How is your Les Cabinotiers department doing? This department builds unique and custom-made pieces. We can develop from A to Z the watch that a customer dreams of owning. We also design unique pieces that we sell afterwards. The workshop makes around fifty exceptional pieces a year. Prices start at 6 digits. And demand is growing.


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