The Vacheron Constantin American 1921 Pièce Unique

Vacheron Constantin’s Latest Triumph: The American 1921 Unique Piece

The one-of-a-kind American 1921 watch is an exact replica of the original, and it took more than a full year to produce. Read on for the full details of this extraordinary timepiece. 

By Hyla Bauer
Contributor & Special Projects

It was a good year, 1921. The Great War was over, the 1918 flu had receded, and the Roaring Twenties was in full swing. It was also an exceptional year for watchmaking at Vacheron Constantin. As men’s wristwatches were gaining in popularity over traditional pocket watches, Vacheron Constantin created 24 watches in an unusual, groundbreaking design. This particular set of timepieces broke the traditional mold by shifting the 12 o’clock indication at an angle to the left, sitting just below the lugs on the left side. 

A Radical Shift from Traditional Timepieces

Traditional pocket watches had their crowns at the 12 o'clock position for easy winding and setting. The new timepiece, crafted to be worn on the wrist, also had its crown at the 12 o’clock position but was unlike any watch that had come before, pocket or otherwise. Theories about the watch being a suitable tool for driving can be understood given the watch’s left-leaning 12 o’clock axis. While driving, due to the angle of the driver’s arm, the watch would appear to be at its normal perpendicular axis. In any event, for this reason, or a myriad of others, a watchmaking star was born.
 

The era of the American 1921’s introduction is in some ways similar to our own in 2021. The global pandemic that has devastated every country on Earth is slowly receding. Moreover, some sociologists foresee a surge in social activities and celebrations in the near future, echoing the jubilant spirit of the 1920s.
 

Celebrating the American 1921’s 100th Anniversary

Let’s get back to the subject at hand, the American 1921 Pièce Unique watch. Celebrating the timepiece’s 100th anniversary, Vacheron Constantin introduced a new crop of American 1921 watches at this year’s Watches & Wonders fair – delighting collectors and press. And now, a pièce unique painstakingly crafted in the Vacheron Constantin manufacture has been unveiled.
 

The recreation took an entire year to complete, with Vacheron Constantin’s Restoration workshop and Heritage departments working hand-in-hand. Importantly, Vacheron Constantin has preserved watchmaking tools from as far back as the late 18th century, ensuring a rich supply of implements needed to craft the piece exactly how it was made in 1921.
 

Even so, some of the required tools also needed to be made. For example, “custom-made milling-cutters and riveting tools in line with those of the early 20th century, enabling the artisans to work in a manner attuned to that period and closely reproducing the operations and development techniques of the time,” according to the brand.
 

Watchmakers began the recreation process by disassembling an original 1921 timepiece from the Vacheron Constantin private collection. The brand stated that the “meticulous work of observation and comparison subsequently led watchmakers to make plans and mock-ups of the calibre, a particularly delicate task requiring extremely complex sizing calculations.” 
 

A Grail Watch for Connoisseurs 

To say that this timepiece is a collector’s dream is an understatement. Vacheron Constantin’s integration of original parts made a century ago, the pure hand craftsmanship, and attention to every detail make this watch an exceptional feat of fine watchmaking. Employing a spectrometer, the watchmakers were even able to create the case in the exact shade of rose gold as the original. 
 

Grand Feu enamel graces the watch’s dial with the original Vacheron & Constantin logo. Hand-blued open-tipped hands point to the vintage-style hour numerals, and the seconds sub-dial is an exact match to the original. 
 

The watch's drawbacks, if it has any, are all due to its faithful reconstruction. It is vulnerable to dust, water, shocks, and its sub-optimal timing reliability. That, however, was the reality of wristwatches made at the time which had to be handled with care. And, with a power reserve of only 30 hours, it will also have to be wound every day. 
 

Vacheron Constantin’s Spotlight of the Year

All of this surely will not be a deterrent for collectors hungry to own a piece of history. Before it makes it into the hands of the lucky buyer, the unique piece will travel to Vacheron Constantin boutiques across the globe. “The American 1921 will be in the spotlight throughout 2021,” according to the brand, and it should be. Catch a glimpse of it if you can. 
 

Learn more on Vacheron Constantin’s website.

(Images © Vacheron Constantin)

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American 1921 - Pièce Unique