Vacheron Constantin is famous among horological cognoscenti for being the oldest of the great Swiss watchmaking firms –in continuous operation since 1755, it’s been active in the United States since 1832, and over the years it’s counted among its fans the Wright Brothers (for whom the firm made the watch used to time the first powered flights in 1903) William James (brother of novelist Henry James) and financier Henry Graves, who owned a complicated Vacheron Constantin pocket watch which sold at a recent Christie’s auction for the princely sum of $1,762,500 –over twice the maximum estimate. And both Harry Truman and Dwight David Eisenhower owned Vacheron Constantin watches as well –the latter presented to Eisenhower in 1955, at the Geneva Summit.
With such a long rich history in the United States, it’s a wonder that it’s taken so long for Vacheron Constantin to open its own boutique, but as the recent debut of the firm’s first US boutique (at 729 Madison Avenue in New York) shows, sometimes good things come to those who wait. The good things in this case are of course the boutique itself (which is hosting, until October 30th, an exhibition of rare and historically significant Vacheron Constantin watches, including one made in 1935 for King Farouk of Egypt) as well as three limited edition watches in celebration of the boutique’s opening.
These three timepieces include a perpetual calendar version of the firm’s famous Overseas chronograph, and a special edition of its Patrimony Traditionelle Calibre 2755, which features a tourbillon, perpetual calendar, and minute repeater. But we think there’ll be a special place in the hearts of Vacheron lovers for the boutique version of its Historiques American 1921 watch, which is based on a driver’s watch originally made for the American market in very limited quantities in the 1920s. Talking points include the signature asymmetric dial (to make the watch easier to read when your hand’s on the steering wheel) as well as, in the boutique edition, large Arabic numerals with a generous helping of luminous material, and beautiful vintage style openworked hands that likewise are visible at night by their own light. Topping it off: the location of the winding and setting crown in the upper right corner of the case. It’s a near perfect reproduction of the original (an example of which can also be seen at the boutique until October 30th) and has a whiz-bang 1920’s retro appeal and carefully updated modernity that we think will make the limited boutique edition as much of a crowd pleaser as the standard model, which was a critic’s darling and a collector’s smash hit when it was released in 2008.
The American Heritage of Vacheron Constantin Exhibit is open to the public until October 30th at the Vacheron Constantin Boutique, 729 Madison Avenue at 64th Street, New York. The Historiques American 1921 Boutique New York Limited Edition will be made in 64 examples in yellow gold, and is available only through the New York boutique, $37,500.
Jack Forster is the Editor in Chief of Revolution Magazine, a quarterly publication celebrating the world of fine watchmaking, and he also manages Revolution Online www.revo-online.com the foremost information and discussion site on the internet for watch enthusiasts.