Vacheron Constantin High Complication Pocket Watch 1901

How Vacheron Constantin Redefines The Perpetual Calendar

Founded in 1755, Vacheron Constantin is by far the world's oldest Swiss manuacture. Renowned and famous for their sleek style and grand complications. Among those, the perpetual calendar, which generates fascination to this day because of man's relation to the very universe which surrounds it.

By Benjamin Teisseire

Vacheron Constantin has a secular tradition in mastering astronomical complications which intrigue and make you dream. From the beginning of the 19th century, the brand's first calendar complications appeared with notably simple calendars in 1815. This tradition continues today.

The Accuracy of Vacheron Constantin Perpetual Calendars

It's worth noting, Vacheron Constantin was the first manufacture to develop a Perpetual Calendar obtaining chronometer certification of Class 1. Thanks to their in-house Heritage Department which houses nearly 3 centuries of history - the Geneva Manufacture was able to find one of the oldest perpetual calendars dating to 1884. This double-sided pocket watch, made in 18K yellow gold, compiles on one side an enamel dial with hours, minutes and small seconds at 6 o’clock; the other a perpetual calendar 48 months and moon phase.

This exceptional timepiece was awarded the Geneva Observatory Award for its timekeeping. At that time – well before the vertical integration of manufactures - the bridge between the city of Geneva and the Vallée de Joux was very common. It is now rare to find Vacheron Constantin movements in pocket watches. In fact, as early as the 19th century, the Geneva Maison made a name for themselves with complicated watches. In 1901, the Maison launched its own Grand Complication workshop.

The Art of Complication

From this workshop, the brand released an 18K red gold minute-repeating pocket watch, a single-pusher split-second chronograph, an astronomical perpetual calendar and the moon-phases represented by an extremely detailed engraving. All released in the same year, a great art indeed! No wonder customers have always rushed to create their own personalized timepieces. A century-old tradition that Vacheron Constantin still perpetuates today in their  'Les Cabinotiers' department.

A handwritten letter, dating from 1902, shows an ultra-precise request from an enlightened collector who knew exactly what he wanted: lists of the desired complications, the thickness of the box and even a sketch of the desired face.

Vacheron Constantin's tradition sets in and continues. Today, the collection “Les Collectionneurs” gives watch lovers the opportunity to acquire some of these historic pieces, genuine pieces of watchmaking history completely refurbished - and guaranteed for two years. Modernity can be found on a round gusset watch dating from 1932 which displays a tourbillon, perpetual calendar, single-pusher chronograph rattrapant, power reserve. The watch that won the first prize at the Geneva Observatory in 1934.

The reputation of Vacheron Constantin is such that the demand for pocket watches of this type keeps coming. Even with the invention of the wristwatch. In the 1950s, Vacheron Constantin's expertise is further demonstrated with more contemporary designs, as can be seen in this ultra-thin 18K yellow gold pocket watch that incorporates a perpetual calendar, silver satin vertical dial, eight applied gold Arabic numerals, moon phases and small seconds at 6 o'clock. A timepiece in the pure minimalist style of the Manufacture.

Modernity and wristwatches

This enthusiasm for pocket watches probably explains why Vacheron Constantin's first perpetual calendar wristwatch watches date back only to the 1980's. But the venerable Maison de Genève derives all its expertise in both design and the manufacture of complications, in particular, the introduction of the famous ultra-flat caliber 1120 QP in 1984. The series with models from 1983, 1988, 1992 and 1993 and expresses all of the Maison's horological excellence concentrated in these cases sized 32 to 38mm.

It is therefore natural that Vacheron Constantin added this leading complication in its iconic collections. The “La Traditionelle” adds a large gorgeous tourbillon at six o’clock. Finally, the Patrimony offers the perfect setting to reveal its intrinsic beauty, complicated but refined, strong but elegant character. The latest addition to the collection, the Patrimony Perpetual Calendar Ultra Flat, introduced this month, sports a sun-kissed deep blue dial that blends perfectly with the 18K 5N pink gold case.

The finesse of the gold hour appliques and the beaded timer is accentuated by the slight convexity of the dial. Every indication of sub-dials is of great legibility. And the moon phase made of a champlevé enamel offers a gold engraving of the moon, as a nod to the tradition of the QP pocket watches from the past.

A magnificent expression of this special know-how of which the Manufacture has become the specialist for all collectors looking for elegance and finesse. Vacheron Constantin perpetuates this tradition through its calendars, which are also perpetual, rare, and refined.

(Photography by Pierre Vogel)

And receive each week a custom selection of articles.