Angus Davies reviews the Vacheron Constantin Historique American 1921, a modern interpretation of the Art Deco original and part of the haute horlogerie brand’s Historique collection.


Vacheron Constantin Historique American 1921

America in the 1920’s was vibrant and enjoying a period of economic growth. The widespread availability of credit stimulated consumerism, and goods had to be manufactured necessitating employment. This type of Keynesian economics resulted in an economic reckoning in the 1930’s with the Great Depression. The 1920’s, however, were vibrant, vital and positive.

The new optimism in the 1920’s led to increased use of the motor car with beautiful models from Duesenberg and Packard. Indeed, James Ward Packard would become a famous lover of haute horology commissioning pieces from various watch houses including Vacheron Constantin.

America fully embraced Art Deco and this is demonstrated with the iconic Chrysler building in New York (construction commenced in 1928 and was completed in 1930). It is a piece of Architecture which has style and grace today and a timeless quality which transcends fashion.

New York in the 1920’s enjoyed Jazz with great exponents including George Gershwin with his classical composition; Rhapsody in Blue (1924).

The “Flapper” was a lady who abandoned the restraint of former generations and wore short skirts, had bobbed hair, listened to Jazz and embraced fun.

Vacheron Constantin clearly read the moment perfectly and the demand for the Avant-garde Stateside when it launched the Vacheron Constantin American which was solely for the American market.

Vacheron Constantin Historique American 1921

A cushion shaped case with an offset crown adjacent to the inter-horns and a dial at 45° to the vertical it was visually very different. Its dial was offset creating the perfect watch to wear when driving an automobile, as the dial could be read without the need to remove ones hands from the steering wheel.

Vacheron Constantin Historique American 1921

Vacheron Constantin have created a modern interpretation of the 1921 original with many faithful details. The American 1921 forms part of the Historique collection which allows the wearer to reminisce of another period, when wearing their delightful dainty.

The case and dial

The case is “cushion-shaped”, slightly square in appearance but with rounded edges to soften the form. The use of pink gold which I prefer is a departure from the original which had a yellow gold case.

Vacheron Constantin Historique American 1921

The inter-horns are short and draw the brown alligator close to the case.

Vacheron Constantin Historique American 1921

The dial is classical with a sand-blasted finish, 12 Arabic numerals painted in black and a minute track running around the perimeter of the dial. The hours and minutes are conveyed with Breguet style hands but in black, rather than the typical blued finish. Seconds are shown on sub-dial positioned between 2 o’clock and 4 o’clock, with a simple baton shaped hand.

In isolation the dial appears restrained and classical, but then the fun begins.

The dial is housed in a case, where it has been turned 45° to the vertical.

Vacheron Constantin Historique American 1921

The crown has been moved from the usual 3 o’clock position and located adjacent to the right inter-horn at the top of the case. The crown now resides effectively between 1 o’clock and 2 o’clock as depicted on a “normal” watch, but this is no normal watch, so it is located at “12” instead. It bears the Maltese Cross, the logo synonymous with Vacheron Constantin.

The original model in 1921 was offered with in left handed and right handed forms, but the “historique” piece, first launched in 2008 is offered only in right handed form.

The watch features sapphire crystal to the front with a slight convex profile with a slight departure from the original, a sapphire crystal back to admire the dandy within.

Movement

The movement is the modern manual-wound calibre 4400 launched in 2008. It was developed and manufactured by Vacheron Constantin and bears the Poinçon de Genève, the seal reserved for the finest watches produced within the Canton of Geneva.

As you look at the upper surface of the movement through the sapphire back you will see Côtes de Genève and some of the 21 jewels which feature on this calibre.

Hidden from view, the reverse of the plate is beautifully adorned with perlage and sits adjacent to the reverse of the dial within the case. The fine finissage alas enjoyed by the watchmaker alone.

No wire springs will be found in the case, a ratchet and transmission wheel will be used and finished with meticulous polishing.

The balance spring will be secured by a sliding stud cap, with round and head and neck, expedience is ignored and traditional craftsmanship observed.

Haute horology is seldom finer.

Conclusion

I am often asked by friends and acquaintances to justify the cost of a watch I have purchased and I then find myself launching into the merits of haute horology with evangelical zeal.

Remove the Vacheron Constantin Historiques American 1921 from your wrist, turn it over and show them the marvel that lurks within the case and words suddenly become superfluous.

When I look at this watch, I am driving a Duesenberg down Ocean Drive past the Art Deco influenced buildings, admiring the dial as the sun shines on the glinting case.

Sometimes its good to look back at history.

Technical Specification

  • Model: Vacheron Constantin Historiques American 1921
  • Model reference: 82035/000R-9359
  • Case: 18-carat pink gold; diameter 40mm; sapphire crystal to front and case back; water resistant to 30 metres.
  • Functions: Hours; minutes; subsidiary seconds.
  • Calibre Reference: 4400
  • Calibre: Manual Wound; Frequency 28,800vph (4Hz); 21 Jewels; Power reserve 65 hours; Poinçon de Genève
  • Strap: Hand stitched, saddle-finish, square scaled brown alligator leather with 18-carat pink gold deployant featuring half Maltese cross.

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