Faire Mieux si possible, ce qui est toujours possible
(François Constantin, 1819)
In 1832, Vacheron Constantin appointed John Magnin as its first North American representative in New York. Since that time, the longest continually operating watch manufacturer has expanded into a global force. In the United States alone their enterprise consists of six boutiques coast to coast and more than 40 authorized dealers. To achieve such horological prominence, Vacheron Constantin has consistently produced some of the most important and magnificent timepieces available. Their clientele list is a Who’s Who, with famed personalities such as president Dwight D. Eisenhower, corporate titans such as J. W. Packard, (Christie’s New York June 15, 2011, lot 100), and Kings such as Alexander I of Yugoslavia, (Christie’s New York June 17, 2015, lot 81). Their collections include something for every collector, from the athletic to the classic, and even to the unmatched jeweled masterpieces.
In 2015, to celebrate their 260th anniversary, Vacheron Constantin issued several new collections. These included The Harmony Collection which looked back to the golden age of watch making of the 1920s and 30s, the Métiers d’ar, Arca which introduced a series of 12 unique clocks, and finally Mécaniques Gravées with hand engraved movements. While each collection is produced for the present day and future, each looks to the company’s rich technical and artistic past for its inspiration. This fine selection of watches offered in New York is but a brief glimpse at the mastery begun by Jean-Marc Vacheron 260 years ago.
Founded in 1755, the firm we know today as Vacheron Constantin has been an observer to many of history’s most important moments, from the upheaval of the French Revolution to the industrial revolution and standardization and the end of World War II, to name a few. Jean-Marc Vacheron was a talented watch maker and remarkably his first known signed watch dates to approximately 1760. He became most known for high quality movements, finely detailed dials and early complications.
Jean-Marc’s son Abraham took over the family interests in 1785 followed by his grandson Jaques-Barthélemy Vacheron who was the first to export watches to Italy and France. In 1819, he formed a relationship with François Constantin, who opened new doors and broadened their growing horizons. François, a master marketer, expanded the brand with a global reach.
Another key addition to the Vacheron Constantin family was the arrival of Georges-Auguste Leschot in 1839. A highly skilled watch maker and innovator, Leschot interests lay in mechanization and standardization within the watch industry which ultimately lead to watch standardization. Moving from the old system of a hand cut and finished movement to a standardized ébauche enabled the firm to achieve greater quality control. Additionally, it allowed the firm to manufacture high grade ébauches which they supplied to other manufacturers, helping the company’s bottom line.
With these early inventions and thriving continued development, the firm, under the guidance of various family members, continued to grow and expand opening the first US agency 1864 and formally changing the name Vacheron & Constantin in 1877. By 1906 at the Milan International Exhibition, they were awarded the Grand Prix.
Today, as a brand under the Richemont Group, Vacheron Constantin continues to be a leader within the watch industry. Their current collections such as Les Historiques, Malte, Overseas and Patrimony apply to modern tastes and sensibilities and at the same time incorporate the brands classical vision. The brand offers complicated watches such as skeletonized tourbillon watches from the Malte Collection (lot 85), to the sports model of the Overseas Collection (lot 86), and the collaborative jeweled artistry of the Vacheron Constantin, Cartier retailed bracelet watch (lot 89) or the limited edition Sonder from the Patrimony Collection (lot 87). The new collections offered in their 260th year are sure to become classics befitting any collector.