Watches & Wonders: Vacheron Constantin Celebrates The Roaring 2020s With The Historiques American 1921
For the American 1921's 100th anniversary, the Geneva-based brand introduces the Historiques American 1921 in white gold and a limited edition in platinum.
A century ago, Vacheron Constantin introduced a cushion-shaped wristwatch with two peculiar design elements: a diagonal display and a crown at 1 o’clock. Exported almost exclusively to the American market at the outset of the “Roaring ‘20s,” the timepiece with the off-kilter appearance remained an historic icon until 2008. That was when the model, known as the American 1921, was redesigned for a new generation.
Now, for the watch’s 100th anniversary, the venerable Geneva watchmaker has introduced three variations of the American 1921 to its Historiques collection, which pays tribute to the most important timepieces in the brand’s history: two white gold models and a 100-piece platinum limited edition.
Reissuing a Classic Deco Driver’s Watch
The three new editions, all housed in the model’s signature cushion-shaped case, are faithful reinterpretations of the 1921 wristwatch, which itself was an enhanced version of the original timepiece introduced in 1919. And in keeping with Vacheron Constantin’s “classic with a twist” theme for 2021, the model captures the irreverent extravagance of the decade.
“It was a time of creativity and great experimentation,” said Christian Selmoni, Vacheron Constantin’s Style and Heritage Director, during a press presentation last month. “An era with two important design currents: art nouveau and art deco.”
At the presentation, Selmoni explained that the American 1921 was historically favored by gentleman drivers because – when the wearer placed his hands on the wheel at 10 and 2 – the skewed dial, positioned at a 45-degree counter-clockwise rotation, made it easy to read the time without removing one’s from the wheel.
He also said that the piece goes by the nickname “The Preacher’s Watch,” after Rev. Samuel Parkes Cadman, an American clergyman, newspaper writer, and early Christian radio broadcaster of the 1920s and 1930s who famously owned two American 1921 watches.
“Legend has it that on Sundays when he was preaching, he could discreetly look at the time using his American 1921,” Selmoni said.
Introducing the Historiques American 1921
The historic timepiece is now available in a 40mm 18K white gold case as well as a 36.5mm case (also made of 18K white gold) designed to fit “even the slimmest of wrists,” according to the brand’s website. Both versions – priced at $35,900 and $29,600, respectively – feature sophisticated, finely grained silver-toned dials with black Arabic numerals, black-painted minutes tracks, 18K gold Breguet-style hour and minute hands, and baton-type hands on the seconds counter. And both come on brown calf leather straps crafted in the Milan-based workshops of Serapian, an Italian leather goods company founded in 1928.
Meanwhile, the platinum version, the Historiques American 1921 Collection Excellence Platine, is a 100-piece individually numbered limited edition available exclusively in Vacheron Constantin boutiques for $49,700. Housed in a 40mm case made of 950 platinum, the watch also features a 950 platinum dial with a sandblasted finish and 18K white gold hour-markers, a platinum crown and buckle, and platinum silk thread stitching on its dark blue alligator strap.
All three models are equipped with the manual-winding Vacheron Constantin Calibre 4400 AS, visible through the sapphire crystal caseback. Developed in 2008, the in-house movement powers the display of hours, minutes, and small seconds and comes with a 65-hour power reserve.
But is the Historiques American 1921 a driver’s watch? On that point, Selmoni remained circumspect.
“A mystery,” he said. “It should remain a mystery.”