Vacheron Constantin Les Collectionneurs
Vacheron Constantin Les Collectionneurs offers connoisseurs the opportunity to purchase vintage pre-owned watches, procured, restored and warrantied by the esteemed Genevan maison.
This in-depth article includes some highlights of Vacheron Constantin Les Collectionneurs soon to be displayed at the company’s London Boutique. Prices are included.
There is a term in law which all consumers should know, ‘caveat emptor’, meaning ‘let the buyer beware’. Over the years, there have been many sad stories of individuals purchasing used cars only to later find out that the vehicle was stolen or the subject of an insurance ‘write off’. Additional horror stories such as ‘clocked’ mileometers, ‘cut and shut’ vehicles (the practice of welding two cars together) are enough to dissuade many would-be buyers from parting with their cash.
For many years, luxury car marques, aware of consumer anxiety, have offered ‘pre-owned’, ‘approved used’ products. Peace of mind is conferred with a factory-backed warranty, a comprehensive pre-delivery inspection, an extensive service history and the fitment of genuine manufacturer parts. This approach has led to improved residual values for many prestige cars. Moreover, it has provided an additional source of revenue for car retailers with sales volumes of used cars often surpassing those of new. The main motivating factor for choosing a pre-owned vehicle is that it will often prove cheaper than new.
However, the rationale for selecting ‘pre-owned’ may not always be to save money. Some scarce products are only available by paying a premium, sometimes referred to as ‘overs’ in the car trade. This has led to scarce, pre-owned V8 Ferraris selling for more than the recommended retail price of a new car. Alternatively, some vintage models, no longer in production, offer the period styling many connoisseurs yearn for. Again, ‘approved used’ products are available in order to sate this demand with Ferrari and Mercedes-Benz at the forefront with their ‘authorised classic’ products.
The reason for my octane-rich preamble is that for many years the watch industry has stood by and watched the independent, non-authorised sector service the needs of vintage buyers and enjoy the spoils this market offers. Conversely, some individuals who are attracted to the aesthetics of vintage watches have been intimidated by the idea of visiting an auction house or independent retailer. Clearly, some vintage specialists offer an excellent service, but it is difficult for the non-expert to be able to determine this. Don’t forget ‘caveat emptor’.
Vacheron Constantin, the world’s oldest watchmaking manufacture, has identified a horological niche. It has started offering vintage Vacheron Constantin timepieces, both pocket watches and wristwatches, with a level of reassurance only a manufacture can provide.
The Vacheron Constantin Les Collectionneurs vintage timepieces ‘have been carefully hand-picked from private collectors and at auctions’. These watches are returned to their spiritual home of Geneva and restored by the Maison’s heritage specialists. Each watch is accompanied with a certificate of authenticity which states when the watch was produced, its technical and aesthetic attributes along with details of any special restoration work, e.g. a repaired dial. After the watch has been cleaned and serviced, it is offered for sale with a factory-backed warranty.
There are approximately 20 travelling Vacheron Constantin Les Collectionneurs timepieces touring the globe, visiting the Maison’s sumptuous boutiques. These incredible vintage watches will be showcased at Vacheron Constantin’s London Boutique on Old Bond Street (4th June – 30th June).
Below I have focussed primarily upon two watches which will be on display at the London Boutique. In addition, I have shown two further watches which are offered for sale.
18-carat yellow gold pocket watch 1924, £50,700
This charming pocket watch is endowed with a split-seconds chronograph or rattrapante. The hand-wound movement housed within this watch will no doubt appeal to purists. A split-seconds chronograph is highly challenging to execute with the chronograph seconds and rattrapante hand in very close proximity. By positioning the two hands close together the likelihood of a parallax error is mitigated. It is the complexity of a rattrapante which leads some maisons to describe it as a ‘grand complication’. The hairspring features a terminal curve which enhances isochronism. The rate of the watch is adjusted using a swan’s neck micrometric regulator.
Black enamel Arabic numerals encircle the dial. Blued hour and minute hands proclaim the time wonderfully. Encircling the periphery of the dial is a ‘railroad minute track’. The location of the two subdials provides an exquisite symmetry to the dial. A small seconds is positioned at 6 o’clock, while a 30-minute chronograph register is located below noon.
Housed within a 44mm case, this 18-carat yellow gold pocket watch exudes a wonderful period charm.
18-carat pink gold chronograph gentleman’s wristwatch 1953, £35,500
I always find it hard to ignore a bi-compax chronograph and this watch proves no exception. Its 36mm case is small compared with watches of today, a fact that will certainly augment its appeal with some would-be buyers.
The case is beautifully designed. Fan-shaped lugs exhibit a sublime grace and poise. The pushpieces, located at 2 and 4 o’clock, are rectangular in form. The slender crown nuzzles the case-band conferring a sense of neatness.
The two-tone dial features baton indices, save for 6 and 12 o’clock where Arabic numerals are employed. The pink gold pointed baton hour and minute hands articulate the time with clear tone. Blued steel chronograph and second hands provide a flourish of colour, enlivening the dial vista. A 30-minute chronograph register is positioned adjacent the crown, while opposite, at 9 o’clock, the running seconds are displayed on a snailed subdial. Interestingly, the dial features both a tachymeter scale and a telemeter scale but remains clean and eminently simple to read.
Typical of Vacheron Constantin, horological propriety was upheld when this watch was made in 1953. The manually wound 13 ligne – Calibre 492 features a column-wheel, conferring an excellent feel to the push-pieces. Once again, the hairspring is fitted with a terminal curve.
Since its foundation in 1755, Vacheron Constantin has been an exemplar of haute horlogerie. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the movement on this timepiece is adorned with matchless Côtes de Genève motif.
Quite simply, this is an exquisite chronograph festooned with delightful touches and a mien which is easy to love.
18-carat pink gold gentleman’s wristwatch 1947, £31,300
Platinum open-face pocket watch 1931, £15,200
‘The Vacheron Constantin Les Collectionneurs includes pocket watches manufactured between 1923 and 1949, and wristwatches manufactured between 1927 and 1969’. This spectacular horological ensemble will be performing in London very soon. It is an opportunity any self-respecting admirer of high-end watchmaking should not miss.
Vacheron Constantin has shown great wisdom by offering a branded pre-owned product. While some prospective purchasers may take delight seeking a ‘bargain’ in the independent sector, or enjoy the thrill of bidding at an auction, there are many watch enthusiasts who feel intimated by such a prospect. For these individuals, Vacheron Constantin Les Collectionneurs may well prove a suitable means of acquisition.
Ultimately, I hope that more watch companies embrace the idea of offering pre-owned and vintage watches, providing prospective buyers with the same peace of mind that luxury car marques have delivered for many years.