‘My highlight of 2016’ — A Vacheron Constantin 4261

‘My highlight of 2016’ — A Vacheron Constantin 4261

John Reardon, Christie’s International Head of Watches, recalls the exceptional discovery of a watch that had been left by its owner undisturbed in a drawer for years

‘When I first saw this platinum Vacheron Constantin 4261, I was immediately struck by its condition,’ says John Reardon, Christie’s International Head of Watches. Kept in a drawer by its owner in the United States, the watch represented one of the most exciting fresh-to-market Vacheron Constantin finds of the 21st century. ‘Forgotten, unworn and undisturbed for years, it seemed to come to life when it emerged into the light of day,’ the specialist recalls.

Engaging the minute repeater for the first time is a memory that remains fixed for Reardon: ‘It was an experience akin to turning the keys of a vintage sports car that had not run for years, only to hear it start flawlessly. First the hours struck, slowly but loudly, then the quarters, boldly and with perfect tone. Lastly, the minutes, which struck as rapidly and accurately as they did when the watch first left Vacheron Constantin in 1951.’

Vacheron Constantin. An extremely fine and rare platinum minute repeating wristwatch with silvered vertical satined dial. Signed Vacheron Constantin, Genève, Ref. 4261, Movement No. 451906, Case No. 318000, Manufactured in 1951. Sold for $605,000 on 7 June 2016
Vacheron Constantin. An extremely fine and rare platinum minute repeating wristwatch with silvered vertical satined dial. Signed Vacheron Constantin, Genève, Ref. 4261, Movement No. 451'906, Case No. 318'000, Manufactured in 1951. Sold for $605,000 on 7 June 2016

The 4261 is one of the most desirable references for watch collectors, with this edition being particularly impressive. Believed to be the first Vacheron Constantin 4261 ever produced, it is likely to be a unique example, featuring a sector-style dial thought to be the only one of its kind. Additional details, outlined in an accompanying certificate, include a vertical satined, circular ‘guilloché’ hour circle, 4/4 Roman numerals and 8 faceted and pointed indexes in white gold with an external pearled minute-circle.

‘Discoveries like this are what dreams are made of,’ says Reardon, ‘and they are as exciting for us at Christie’s as they are to the marketplace in general.’ The auction of the watch proved to be was as memorable as the initial discovery, producing a 10-minute bidding battle. ‘The new owner will treasure this watch for many years,’ says Reardon, who was on the phone with one bidder. ‘I will treasure the memory of this watch’s discovery, rarity, history and beauty.’