Buying myself a vintage chronograph

All the discussion about the vintage ref 4178 chrono brought back memories of searching one for myself back in 2002-2003 and thought I would share the story of its purchase.

WHAT?!!!! another new watch!! she yelled at me no sooner had I walked through the door proudly wearing my new watch.

" Well its not really new I lamely replied, its THE Vacheron Constantin of my dreams, a vintage tear drop lug chronograph dating from the 40s.

Well believe it or not, that did it, I took the watch off my wrist to show it to her and I was very sorry since she found it so beautiful that she wanted to wear it herself!

Lets go back in time. This is mostly Bill's fault! Bill is my friend Bill Lind the VC moderator on The Purists. He had posted scans of his beautiful VC 40s tear drop lug chrono on the net and after having exchanged private emails he had convinced me that my life would not be complete without a vintage VC chronograph.

Well, the hunt began but where the hell could I have found one of these watches? I hadn't seen a single one in vintage stores or even in auctions for the past few years!! Remember this is in 2002-2003 BEFORE vintage VCs came under the spotlight and not many appeared on the secondary markets.

I must admit that never had I searched so hard and avidly for a watch, I contacted every vintage watch dealer I knew, spent hours on the net trying to find vintage watch dealers who could help me and invariably the same answer it's a beautiful watch, very hard to find. Sorry we can't be of any help!

I couldn't believe this, was I doomed? Was my only choice sticking a scan of Bills watch on my wrist and running the risk of having the true time only twice a day?

To calm my hunger, that summer, I bought a simple three hand vintage VC with tear drop lugs, it was beautiful and gave me great pleasure to wear but it wasn't a satisfactory replacement. The hunger was returning and I needed that watch badly!!

On a trip to London that year the meeting I was to attend ended much earlier than expected, so I decided to go for a walk until departure time. While strolling the streets I noticed a vintage watch shop and walked in and instantly froze!!

There SHE was, waiting for me right on a tray: a yellow gold VC tear drop lug vintage chrono. I tried to spring on it but no sooner had I reached the counter that the salesman was showing it to a client.

I thought of my younger days when I practiced meditation and managed to stabilize my heartbeat, if not I think I would have had either a heart attack or would have been convicted of murder on both the salesperson and the potential client for having taken so long. Buying myself a vintage chronograph

Thank God finally the client walked away, nothing could now stand in our way, she would be mine and I would be hers!

Not trying to look too interested I used my most nonchalant manner and asked to see the watch.

not bad I told the clerk. NOT BAD? Have I gone mad? My hands were trembling and I was perspiring in anticipation. This watch was gorgeous, in absolute perfect condition and most of all a perfect 36mm diameter.

We negotiated the price and I got a very generous 0% discount (so much for my negotiation skills Buying myself a vintage chronograph but I just couldn't let her go. My credit card came flying out of my wallet without my having noticed that I had even reached for it!

The clerk thanked me and filled the necessary papers but needed a confirmation from the credit card company. After a few minutes of waiting on the phone the answer came: Refused!!

Oh God, please let me die, I cannot take this anymore. What have I done to deserve this?

try again I squealed through my teeth in a voice which reminded me of the girl in the Exorcists.

I'm sorry sir but it doesn't go through. Sorry ? I’ll show you what sorry is you ?$>&*`% twit once I eat your heart !!!! How could he remain so calm while I was burning in hell?

Finally he accepted to put the watch away for me and I would arrange for the funds to be wired to him.

The first thing I did when I got home was to call my bank and make sure that they wanted me to die in horrible sufferings due to my credit card catastrophe, then I asked them to wire the funds to the dealer.

After a couple of days (where I aged at least 10 years) the dealer calls me up and lets me know that the funds had arrived and that he would send the watch over right away.

He emailed me the tracking number an I think I spent over 5 hours on the FedEx web site just to follow the status of the package.

The next day the watch arrived and I literally tore the package apart to take out MY watch!! It was gorgeous, so perfect, so gentle, so harmonious.

6 years down the road it still is a watch which gives me immense pleasure. I don’t wear it too often but when I do it puts a great grin on my face. 

Buying myself a vintage chronograph

Buying myself a vintage chronograph

Buying myself a vintage chronograph
01/05/2009 - 13:52
I know the story since before, but it's a classic story. If you knew how many times I thought about this story, you wouldn't belive me Beautiful shots BTW Wonderful Alex, the story is YOU in all aspects Love you Doc
a watch cannot be more perfect than this deserves....
01/05/2009 - 14:14
a story like this. the discovery by chance of a grail searched in vain, the gush of adrenaline during transit of fedex, the questioning by spouse of another watch and finally the grail watch sitting in the watch box.  i can fully empathise and it's like a trip down memory lane for my acqusition of VC historique chronograph, though a lesser watch compared to the 4178. and despite current economic condition, i think my credit card still has allocation for if i can be so fortunate to find one in such good condition and at a reasonable price.  congratulations anytime for such a great looking watch, though belated and thank u for the dejavu of the joy of an acquisition. i am bitten by the 4178 bug over again. hopefully, a subsitute will come soon in the les historiques soon to soothe pain of wanting.
Wonderful story Alex.
01/05/2009 - 14:18
Many thanks for sharing it with us.  For me, it is alwats enjoyable to hear the backstory on the acquisition of a special timepiece.  You have both a watch and a story for the ages. Cheers, Duncan
Great story......
01/05/2009 - 15:32
and one that I had never heard before!  But, as much as I liked the story...I love that's gorgeous and looks wonderful in YG. Thanks for sharing both! Best regards, Tom
You're a great storyteller!
01/05/2009 - 15:42
Love your story, made me laugh so hard just imagining you in these situation (especially the credit card thing, it's a good thing you do not have a heart condition) And what an amazing watch... raaaaaa I love these vintage watches so much. Did your wife ever get to wear it? 
to have a happy marriage my watches stay on my wrist :-) (nt)
01/05/2009 - 17:18
Hilarious, Alex!
01/05/2009 - 16:17
That's a great story. But you left out the part about picking your tongue off the floor A gorgeous watch too! Best Wishes, Joseph
Oh Alex, been there....
01/05/2009 - 18:20
done that!  Hilarious and an experience shared by many here I'm sure.  I recall similar conversations with MY wife, almost word for word too, except I usually throw in a plaintive "don't you trust me?" as defense against a stare that could melt paint.  I haven't yet had to resort to tears  but would if necessary .
A real Beauty!! Congrats (nt)
01/05/2009 - 23:07
Great story Alex, interesting how the first photograph looks a little
01/06/2009 - 05:56
more like a RG alloy, very different from the last photograph, both beautiful by the way. Thanks for the story, really needed it tonight. Best, Tim
That is some story to tell us Loungers tonight.....
01/06/2009 - 05:58
Hi Alex, sounds like you need some of us to join you on these fun business trips, lol. You gave us all a fine story to read here. Your wife is a real trooper living with your passions as with some of our own households too. The watch is an absolute beauty and great photos too. Wear it in good health. Best wishes, Matt
Thanks for sharing
01/06/2009 - 13:45
Thanks you Alex for another great story of the acquisition of a wonderful watch. I am glad I am not the only person who has suffered through the indignation of a VISA card rejection (more than once I might add). My favorite part is where the sales-person inquires if perhaps one would like to use a different credit card, like I have a dozen cards with a five figure limit! I have found that the purchase of a vintage watch is so different from that of a new watch. The two watches that stand out in my mind are when I purchased an IWC 5251 and my own recent 4178 experience. In both cases I fell in love with the watch and each time I developed a certain fear and paranoia that someone else was trying to get the watch and if I did not act FAST a fellow watch-o-phile would land this big fish rather than myself. Just as with you Alex, my powers of negotiation demonstrated certain ineptitude with a 0% discount on both counts. I think these second hand dealers have radar that tells them they have a sucker...err, um I mean "potential client" who will pay full boat for the watch. My wife says I look like an eight year old boy with a brand new shiny red fire engine. I can only imagine the reflection of the watch bouncing off my dilated pupils telegraphing my intent to buy, BUY, BUY!!!!!  As with all 4178's I have seen they each have a unique character and quality. I very much like the different dials, marking and case color combinations. I love the telemeter on yours Alex and the two Romans with Batons look fabulous. I too have trepidation to wear my 4178 all the time but I am softening to the idea and am even considering wearing it to work this morning. I personally feel that watches only live on our wrists and not in our safes, desk drawers or on our winders. I love seeing a vintage watch on someone’s wrist. It is a great way to meet someone new and there is always a good story to go with it. Mike S.
Vintage should be worn...
01/06/2009 - 17:31
I know just what you mean and share the delight in seeing a vintage piece of any brand poking out from someone's shirt sleeve.  An instant conversation starter to be sure!
Typical European....
01/06/2009 - 16:14
blame the American for what happens......even if it turns out for the best! :-) Bill
01/06/2009 - 18:16

me. want. this. watch.

Great story Alex, and what a beautiful watch! nt.
01/07/2009 - 04:22
That's a story that never fails to make me laugh
01/07/2009 - 05:55
Thanks for reminding us of how most of us have felt at one time or the other. As usual, your story-telling prowess elevates the funny to Oscar Award-winning heights of hilariousness. I think it helps that we all see a little (or a lot) of ourselves in the story. Great photos of a beautiful watch too!  They don't make 'em like that anymore...or do they? I am sure there will be no 36mm chonos at SIHH, but I am looking forward to your report on the new... (okay, I am under oath to say no more). I hope you and your beloved vintage keep on ticking in the very best health, Jefe. Cheers! Kazumi
Ah Alex, I knew also the story, but
01/07/2009 - 14:27
it's always fun to hear or read it. Of course a good choice you made.