Director of Style and Heritage for Vacheron Constantin, Christian Selmoni has a penchant for vintage Vacherons. In fact, he tells the story of how he owned and wore a 1945 triple calendar watch and how he would wind it every morning. “Every morning as I wound the watch, I was connecting to 1945. These vintage watches have the ability to let us travel through time.”
Earlier this week, Selmoni was in New York to showcase the nine watches that comprise the new series of vintage Les Collectionneurs pieces. The Les Collectionneurs series, which the brand started several years ago as a pioneer in the realm, is all about the brand acquiring great-condition vintage pieces from the 20th century, cleaning and servicing them and then re-selling them.
“For us, it is a way to communicate the great legacy of the Maison and to showcase the diversity from Vacheron Constantin in both design and complications. It is a testimony to Vacheron Constantin watchmakers,” said Selmoni during a private viewing of the vintage finds. “We look for watches that are in excellent condition, and we always want to have a mix of watches from the different decades, and of watches that are simple, have medium complications and high complications.”
Selmoni plays a very active role in sourcing these watches and this newest series meant for the American market consists of nine very special pieces. Most of which will be sold before their tour is even over. Here are some highlights, though, and all prices are on request.
Among the “simple” watches – simple in quotes because nothing is ever simple in luxury watchmaking – is the article 12372 – a sophisticated platinum cased watch from 1952. “The ‘50’s were a decade of extreme elegance and sophistication, and a gentleman would have multiple watches depending on the occasion,” says Selmoni. “I think this watch was the ideal tuxedo watch, elegant, discreet and romantic looking. In fact, the 34mm Reference 4667watch (an average diameter for the decade), houses the manually wound thin caliber 1001 inside the case that is just 7mm thick. The dial boasts diamond indexes and the bezel is inclined allowing for a better look at the dial.
A more recent piece with a complication is the 1996 Jump Hour watch. The brand had launched jump hours in 1994 – taking inspiration from a 1920’s pocket watch. Very few were made. They featured an onyx triangle minute-pointer, a beautiful hand-made guilloche dial, and double godroons on the case (a stepped case) that helped reduce the thickness of the watch. and made very view. Referred to today as article 12343, the watch is powered by the ultra-thin 1120HS automatic movement.
One watch that Selmoni says the brand was hunting for for a while is the Article 12393 skeletonized perpetual calendar from the 1990’s. “The years from 1985 to the late 1990’s was of the comeback of grand complications, but in wristwatch format,” says Selmoni. The watch up for sale is from the 1980’s and crafted in platinum. According to Selmoni, the brand was lucky to find this one – from the original owner and in mint condition. The movement is hand engraved and the lapis lazuli moonphase is the original. Only 150 pieces of this watch were ever made – making this the most expensive timepiece of the nine.
One of the more fun pieces – because of the era and the case shape and finish – is the Royal Chronometer referred to as article 12327. It has an interesting 1970’s cushion-shaped shape and a satin finish on the gold case. At the time, the brand was – like all watch brands – looking to find new shapes and new finishes. Vacheron Constantin had trademarked the “Royal” name in 1907 and used it on pocket watches, and since 1953, used it on certain wristwatches. The Royal on the dial signifies a robust movement. This watch from 1973 is powered by the caliber K1072/1 that is known amongst collectors as an iconic movement. In the center of the Maltese Cross logo on the dial, a diamond resides.
Dating back to 1941, article 12367 is a chronograph, Reference 4178 at its introduction, with a superb fan-shaped lug design. Well-known by collectors, the watch embraces the brand’s long-standing dedication to balance and harmony. It houses a column-wheel chronograph movement (caliber 434) and is crafted in 18-karat yellow gold. Just 250 were ever made.
On the high complications side, there is a 1910 minute-repeater pocket watch, Article 12169, that has a hunter case back with monogram that opens to reveal an exhibition crystal to view the movement. The resonance of this watch is extraordinary.
Other highlights include Article 12371, a watch made in the end of the 1940’s with hand-guilloche dal and stunning tear-drop lugs, a cushion-cornered rectangular watch, article 12399, from the 1970’s that boasts an ultra-thin movement and an onyx dial. And, because the first Overseas watch was released 27 years ago in 1996, there is a great Overseas watch in the mix. It is a 35mm piece with very stylized typeface for the numerals reminiscent of the pilot watches of the time. Article 12309 watch is all about travel, design and energy.