Fabrique Pour Vacheron & Constantin pocket watch from 1910.

When I bought this watch for my collection back in 2009, I made some mistakes with my conclusions.

The first problem is the two different serial numbers on this "Fabrique Pour Vacheron & Constantin" pocket watch.

Based on those serial numbers I concluded that it had to be an early versions of a watch where winding was done with the crown. Vacheron & Constantin made their first pieces with this function from 1855 (page 65 in “The Art of Vacheron Constantin”).
The numbers on the presented watch is 124438 for the movement (that would suggest a production year around 1869) and the serial for the case is 104059 (this would indicate a production year around the beginnings of the 1860s).

Before the beginning of the 1880s V&C watches would only have one serial number.

I have in my collection a V&C Half hunter pocket watch with double serial numbers; (Movement no. 261680, case no.160360). It was made in 1883 (confirmed by V&C). I have not managed to find much older pocket watches from V&C with double serial numbers, and I believe it to be among the first made together with these two pocket watches from V&C  (Movement No. 258175, case No. 152894 and Movement No. 263530, case No. 158257). I’m fully aware that there must be more watches with double serial numbers from those days, but I can’t get further back than 1882. Please write if you have seen pocket watches produced before 1882 with double serial numbers.
Before 1882, the custom was to have the same number engraved on the Movement, case and cuvette.  Strangely enough one can also find that practice (one number) on a lot of pocket watches produced after 1882-83 from V&C.

The problem with the “Fabrique Pour Vacheron & Constantin” serial numbers is that they do not follow the normal serial number line from Vacheron Constantin. My “Fabrique Pour…”  pocket watch was produced in 1910 according to the Archives at VC. However another second class product from VC, named  Abm. Vacheron Girod ( the brand’s second quality watches from 1822-????), follows the normal serial numbers by VC and can be dated from the normal serial number  line. Quite confusing.

The second problem was that I couldn’t find any information in the Vacheron Constantin books about “Fabrique pour Vacheron & Constantin. Then finally something happened here at THL (after I had bought the watch). Dean asked about “Fabrique Pour Vacheron Costantin”. Anyway help was on the way and here are the conclusions made in that thread thanks to Alex and the department at Vacheron Constantin:

The “Fabrique pour….”  watches were made by watchmakers from the Jura region selected by Vacheron & Constantin, and the watches were sold via the V&C boutique in Geneva. This practice probably started around 1906.

In 1917 Charles Constantin comments as follows on these watches in a letter “All our clients can not afford a Vacheron & Constantin watch, and not wanting to sell brands other than yours own, this intelligent solution has been to great service to us….”

The pocket watches were produced with different types of complications and quality according to my research of the “Fabrique pour….”.
1: Time, minute and seconds.  Gold case or silver case.
2: Chronograph with 30 minute recorder. 18 karat gold case.
3. Minute repeater in 18 karat gold case.
4: Quarter-repeater. Gold case. 18 or 14 k. ???
You will also be able to find some table clocks and travel clocks.

The levels of finish seem to differ, but when the quality is best, then it looks as if it is the movement that is the “second class level”.

The third problem was that I couldn’t find pictures anywhere of a V&C watch movement  from around 1855-1870 where the winding was done by the crown. I just couldn’t get into my head that a movement looking like the one in my watch could have been made in those years. It looked far too modern and of course it was. Anyway I bought the watch. It works very well, and since I still have this policy that I do not sell any of my Vacheron & Constantin watches, it’s a keeper.  I hope that you will enjoy the pictures and that they will give you a chance of evaluate the level of finish on the case, dial and movement.

My conclusions are as follow:

1: The case is gorgeous and is made in 14 carats of gold including the inner cuvette. I believe that the case is top quality and I can’t see any difference from a 1st class case. Diameter is 45 mm.
2: The enamel dial is good, but the numbers could have been drawn a bit sharper.
3. All the engravings are superb. It is the wealth of details that makes a master engraver, in my opinion, and what a lot of details this engraver has put into the monogram and the writing on the inner cuvette.
4. The thickness of the watch is fine (not super thin, but thin). When wearing this watch in a waistcoat it feels great. Not bulky in any way.
5. The movement has screwed gold chatons, geneva stripes and Vacheron & Costantin is written in gold, but the movement  looks a bit rough compared to a 1st class product and is not in the style of a typical Vacheron & Constantin movement from those days.

I think that this is a product of high quality considering that it is a second class product.

Please make your own decisions, but my advice is that you should stay away from Fabrique Pour Vacheron & Costantin  watches if you only want Vacheron Constantin 1st class products. However if the competition is another brand’s first quality watches, then a “Fabrique Pour Vacheron & Constantin” might be a serious contender.

Thanks to Alex and Dean for helping in my search for some answers through their posts on this subject.

Kent

Fabrique Pour Vacheron & Constantin pocket watch from 1910.

Fabrique Pour Vacheron & Constantin pocket watch from 1910.

Fabrique Pour Vacheron & Constantin pocket watch from 1910.

Fabrique Pour Vacheron & Constantin pocket watch from 1910.

Fabrique Pour Vacheron & Constantin pocket watch from 1910.

Fabrique Pour Vacheron & Constantin pocket watch from 1910.

Fabrique Pour Vacheron & Constantin pocket watch from 1910.

Fabrique Pour Vacheron & Constantin pocket watch from 1910.

a delightful read and bravo for the superb photos!
07/02/2013 - 12:21
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Re: a delightful read and bravo for the superb photos!
07/02/2013 - 17:09
Gorgeous pocket watch, congratulation !
Thanks il Segnatempo – Italy
07/03/2013 - 16:00
I think it is beautiful too. The engraving on the back is my favorite part of the watch. The engraver did an excellent job. The picture you have chosen underneath your THL name looks to be very interesting. May I ask what it is?   I wish you a nice day. Kent
Thanks, Alex, for your kind words.
07/03/2013 - 15:59
I do actually believe that in the specific case of the Fabrique Pour Vacheron & Constantin THL has proved it validation (as in many other cases). The research that was carried out because of Dean’s question was excellent and very enlightening. It means a lot to me that you give my photos credit. It makes me want to work even harder to accomplish more detailed and beautiful photos of my Vacheron Constantin watches. Thanks for saving my blunder in the article.   Best wishes Kent
Very nice Orion movement Kent
07/02/2013 - 17:14
There are tell-tales on why the movement is 2nd quality that your superb movement shots illustrate, but the workmanship is first-rate; the very reason why V&C used these suppliers for their Fabrique Pour timepieces yes.  Your advice re collecting them is reasonable but I find sellers add a premium for the mention of V&C on the case, often misrepresenting them as from the Manufacture.  IMHO, the challenge is to identify the original supplier and find a good example of their own branded work.
I'm glad to see that you have commented on this article, Dean.
07/03/2013 - 16:03
You and your inquiring mind is the reason that I became wiser on the Fabrique Pour Vacheron & Constantin. The main reason for me to write this article was to help people that consider buying a "Fabrique Pour…." watch and actually also sellers. I don't think that they necessarily list a "Fabrique Pour...." watch as a Vacheron & Constantin watch because they want to cheat. The more links that will pop up when searching the internet for information on Fabrique pour Vacheron & Constantin will help and guide sellers and buyers. Personally it was interesting for me to see that the Fabrique Pour Vacheron & Constantin pocket watches also were made with complications. I believe that information was the new thing in my article, but I may be wrong. For me there is only one brand, and that is Vacheron Constantin, so the “Fabrique Pour…”  fits into my collection. I have actually just bought a Abm. Vacheron Girod watch from 1839, but this time I’m fully aware of the quality it represents.   Mit freundlichen Grüßen, Kent 
Mathey-Tissot of Neuchatel
07/04/2013 - 18:41
Mathey Tissot made some nice pieces for V&C under their Fabrique Pour program, including travel alarms: and repeaters:
Thanks Dean.
07/07/2013 - 11:52
The finish on the movement on the repeater looks great. Is it a quarter repeater? It's super that you take the time to add these pictures. If you come around my post "Cal 453 and its variations" then please check out the last movement (453/3C) This must be the watch maker from hell. The man has engraved his service numbers on the movement. Not once surprise, or twice crying but three times angry   Cheers Kent   
Kent, Thank you for a fascinating piece of VC history!
07/02/2013 - 17:40
It's clear that even as late as the end of the 19th century, a "cottage industry" persisted in watchmaking. VC farmed off some of their production to produce "lower quality" watches for the "Fabriqué pour Vacheron-Constantin" and it appeard to be just luck in the level of quality one received. I have no doubt that sometimes the quaity was really first-rate and other times less so. With the end of the small cottage industry manufacturing, this type of production ended However, I think that trend persisted into the 20th century (in a slightly different fashion), with some other firms such as Omega/Tissot, Rolex/Tudor and even Breguet/Blancpain. However they did morph into something else over time, their own first-class brands. Nevertheless the small individual manufacturer has survived but as a first-rank producer, ie Philippe Dufour, George Daniels, Roger Smith and many more. Fascinating history, Kent! And thank you for the stunning photos. Best, Joseph
Thanks Joseph for taking the time to comment on this article.
07/03/2013 - 16:07
I really like the idea about the people sitting in their small cottages making ebauches in the long winters in the Jura region. It immediately evokes a lot of pictures in my mind. It is interesting that you refer to the "small individual manufacturer" that today would be the independent watchmakers. Every time I see the Philip Dufour's montre d'école from 1967 I think of the movement in my "Fabrique pour…."  The way the movement is built has certain elements similar to the Dufour watch and of course all comparison with that masterpiece ends here. Thanks for your kind remarks on my photos. I'm in a period where I really enjoy spending time on the photos and am practising  a lot to become a better photographer of watches.   With warm regards Kent
An update for you Kent
08/08/2013 - 03:11
I was once again admiring your wonderful timepiece (and superb photography) and noticed you posed a question that I'd entirely missed:I have in my collection a V&C Half hunter pocket watch with double serial numbers; (Movement no. 261680, case no.160360). It was made in 1883 (confirmed by V&C). I have not managed to find much older pocket watches from V&C with double serial numbers, and I believe it to be among the first made together with these two pocket watches from V&C  (Movement No. 258175, case No. 152894 and Movement No. 263530, case No. 158257). I’m fully aware that there must be more watches with double serial numbers from those days, but I can’t get further back than 1882. Please write if you have seen pocket watches produced before 1882 with double serial numbers.Before 1882, the custom was to have the same number engraved on the Movement, case and cuvette.  Strangely enough one can also find that practice (one number) on a lot of pocket watches produced after 1882-83 from V&C. You can set the clock back slightly with this ladies pendant watch of Mrs. Tick Talk, dated 1879 by VC. This transition from one to two numbers has an interesting genesis.  Following the Systeme Ancienne of Swiss watch production, basic components were sourced from contracted farmer-repassients of the Vallee de Joux, following V&C supplied specifications.  Once the components arrived in Geneva (perhaps bi-weekly and nothing all winter), a technician would set about to hand-make a watch.  Each component was filed and tuned as required to function properly and fit within the desired case.  Under this system each was was essentially a unique piece and parts were often not interchangeable without modification, if at all.  This was reflected with one serial number as the watch was made as a unit. It also meant that the repairs department was staffed by the most experienced watchmakers.  They had to know a lot about everything as they were often required custom manufacture any broken parts. This situation existed until Georges-Auguste Leschot developed mass-production machinery for V&C circa 1845, eventually allowing the technician to simply go to the shelves for a completed movement to fit the selected case.  Thusly, two inventory ledgers were required to track the independent processes of case and movement manufacture, and two serial numbers began to appear.   Now I don't anticipate we will find this transition occurred overnight as Leschot's initial employment contract, signed in 1839, allowed him several years to develop his machinery initially for the manufacture of escapements.  As experience was gained, he created equipment for other components but this took time, plus old stocks would have been used up and an inventory of stock parts manufactured beforehand.  I also wonder how far back the first two-number watch occurred as it would indicate V&C's transition, more or less, from the Systeme Ancienne to the modern era.  Let's keep this enquiry going yes.