Hands-On with Vacheron Constantin’s Les Collectionneurs Collection
Vacheron Constantin brings an exquisite collection of rare vintage pieces to New York City.
It’s no secret that luxury watch manufacturers are getting into the secondary market. In January, Audemars Piguet announced plans to get into the pre-owned premium watch business. Smaller brands, including H. Moser & Cie and MB&F, have also expressed interest in the second-hand trade.
And while Vacheron Constantin has offered Les Collectionneurs, a selection of vintage Vacheron Constantin timepieces for ages, the company is upping its game with a travelling trunk show of rare retro watches that are also available for purchase. Now through August 17, 2018, 11 rare wrist and pocket watches will be on display and on offer exclusively at the brand’s New York City boutique located at 729 Madison Avenue.
Even if you are not currently in the market, if you are in town you should definitely take the time to get up and personal with these exceptional watches. Watchonista visited the collection to take pictures and provide notes on five of our favorites from various decades. Please note, that as the timepieces are sold, they will be replaced with other meticulously restored models.
ULTRA-THIN MINUTE-REPEATER POCKETWATCH
The Vacherons assembled in this touring show represent 100 years of fine watchmaking. Our favorite silver fox from Les Collectionneurs is this platinum pocket watch from 1928. It has a minimalist art deco look with a subtle repeating slide at 9 o’clock, which also makes it easy to use.
All of the timepieces assembled in the show have been carefully restored, which for those who are wary of investing in vintage means that you’ll get a working watch with provenance. You wouldn’t wear such a treasure into the ocean, but you can still feel extra security knowing that you can dress up your vest with a fine vintage treasure.
From 1942, this 30-minute counter chronograph is epitome of class. Every detail of this three-body watch is refined: a beveled bezel, a straight and high mid-section with integrated lugs, and a bassined and pressed case back all equal elegance and give the watch more presence than its 36mm size would otherwise suggest.
These aren’t the only details of distinction on the 4072. The pushers and crown lay pretty flush to the 18k yellow gold case. The two-tone champagne dial makes it easy to read the display. But the real star is Vacheron’s 13 434 chronograph caliber with a recessed escape wheel.
This retro piece smoothly suits the man or woman who appreciates something a little offbeat, but seriously luxurious. This time only watch is from 1951 and with its 18k yellow gold case, fancy, mobile lug, silvered dials and luxe alligator strap, it will make its new owner feel like a player.
Inside is a caliber 9 458/3B manual wind, rhodium-plated brass movement with a Côtes de Genève decoration. Simple but state of the art for its time, this Swiss lever escapement has a beryllium balance, a hairspring with a terminal curve and a simple regulator with eccentric screw for fine metering.
And unless your Grandfather was a member of Frank Sinatra’s Rat pack, you are unlikely to see a watch this fine in the flesh again.
One the most elusive of Vacheron Constantin’s rare birds, this ultra-thin yellow gold piece was only produced between 1944 and 1951. Incredibly, the brand made less than 40 of these timepieces. Making this model one of the last of its kind. It also comes with plenty of provenance with a history going back to before the day it was sold in Vacheron’s Geneva Boutique in 1951.
Inside, the manual winding movement is interesting in that it is exceptionally slender for its day. The big innovation being that it has a flat hairspring and the barrel is integrated into the main plate to allow for maximum thinness.
Fun fact: This heartbreaker is also a record breaker. A platinum version of the 4261 sold for $605,000 at Christie’s New York in 2016.
To be included in Les Collectionneurs, a watch must be at least 20 years old. The youngest timepiece visiting Vacheron Constantin’s Madison Avenue boutique is the platinum minute-repeater from 1993. Like other millennials it is super complicated with a 13 3/41755QP caliber with a perpetual calendar and moon phases indication.
Compare this to the 1928 platinum pocket watch and marvel at the advancements in miniaturizing a minute repeater movement in just under a century.
At 37mm, its size and tear-drop-shaped lugs give off a vintage vibe, although if you thought about buying this watch the first time around, it might make you feel a bit dated when we call it retro.
(Photography by Liam O’Donnell)