With Vacheron Constantin Certificat d'Origine et de Garantie dated June 1990, sales tag and original fitted presentation box. Furthermore delivered with duplicata of the Neuchâtel Observatoire Astronomique et Chronomètrique Bulletin de Marche confirming that the present chronometer has participated at the 1961 timing contests as well as copies of the Geneva Observatory timing sheet and results of the 1968 Category A timing contest.
Since their introduction by the Royal Greenwich Observatory in 1766, also the foundation year of Christie's, Observatory Trials have been the ultimate test of chronometry. Movements of superior technical design, perfect finish and expert regulation were selected from inventory or manufactured for the purpose. The pinions and wheels were polished to exceptional tolerances, hairsprings were pre-tested and hand-picked, and the dimensions of shafts and bearings were perfectly machined.
Following 45 days of continuous testing in 5 positions and 3 temperatures (4C, 20C and 30C), the most precise chronometers were awarded honours for the year while manufacturers enjoyed glory and publicity for their brand. Competition timepieces were maintained by the best precision adjusters, or régleurs, known to every watch professional in the country.
Observatory Chronometer movements were kept by their manufacturers for years, even decades, and few were released for sale as complete watches.
The present watch is one of an exceedingly small number of such Observatory tourbillons made by Vacheron Constantin between the 1930s and mid-1940s, encased in the 1980s and 1990s and sold to an elite group of the firm's best clients - notably case no. 614'923 delivered to the celebrated house of Asprey and chosen to represent the company's achievements in tourbillons in "The World of Vacheron Constantin", p. 231, and, more importantly, the present watch.
According to our researches, only four of these exceptional timepieces have appeared in public in recent years, two in yellow gold cases with silvered dials and two in pink gold cases with pink dials, all with different reference numbers:
-movement no. 464'269, case no. 614'921, pink gold gilt brass movement engraved with vermicelli decoration, pink gold case, pink dial. Movement manufactured in the mid-1940s, encased and sold in 1983 under ref. 2231: The Art of Vacheron Constantin, Antiquorum, Geneva 3 April 2005, lot 127, CHF 303,250
-movement no. 464'271, case no. 614'923, in pink gold case, engine-turned pink gold gilt brass movement, pink dial: Movement manufactured in 1935, encased and sold to Asprey in 1990 under ref. 92243
-movement no. 464'273, case 558'109, movement manufactured in the mid-1940s, encased and sold in 1990 under ref. 92242: the present watch -movement no. 464'277, case 558'108, movement manufactured in 1946, encased and sold in 1983 under ref. 92231: sold in this saleroom on 10 May 2010, lot 291, for CHF105,000
It is interesting to note that the two yellow gold models are distinguished by their modernist, architectural cases and minimalistic dial designs whereas the pink gold versions feature the rounded, 1940s style cases and dials.
Purchased by its actual and first owner in June 1990 from one of Vacheron Constantin's distinguished retailers in Europe and kept in a vault ever since, the present watch impresses with its close to new condition and the presence of the original accessories.
The combination of the state-of-the-art movement, sumptuous case, private provenance and condition render it one of the most impressive tourbillon regulators by Vacheron Constantin and the ultimate trophy for any collector of exceptional timepieces.