a couple of days I asked you about the looks of a contemporary red gold buckle for my vintage Vacheron Constantin Ref 6268, made in 1958, which was, until few days ago, fitted with a modern, factory original buckle:
Now, this question was not without any concrete background or reason, and in this case I would like narrate the entire story, and hope you find it entertaining.
Back in Autumn 2005: The quest for the perfect watch karma - and then: nothing, but the money gone!
While I always liked the half-crossed shape of the modern Vacheron-Constantin tang buckles, I try, like a vintage car collector, to keep the appearance of a vintage watch as close as possible to the original one. Thus, my desire grew to try to obtain one of those elusive, vintage Vacheron Constantin buckles, which are reportedly so rare (even the venerable maison itself has troubles sourcing them, as only 10% of the vintage watches sent in for service still have their original buckle fitted!). But even without this personal obsession of mine, I would have started to look out for a very simple reason: the gold colour of the new buckles is slightly more red than the gold of the watch case. A small difference, but once you noticed, it bothers you!
I happen to witness strange coincidences frequently. In a positive way: once I laid my eye on something, an offer usually turns up. Just like in this case, where on the sales areas of one of the major internet watch fora (forgot which), a rather plain looking, well used, red gold buckle was advertised claimed to be an original Vacheron Constantin one.
Quickly some emails, the deal was settled and the money transferred to Canada end of November 2005. A few days later, the seller, whom for the sake of this article I shall call 'Larry', confirmed receipt and shipment.
Of course, Larry could not give me the tracking number...
So, nothing arrived even weeks later. Several reminders, email getting more tense in tone, still: no buckle! Sometime in 2006 I gave up and wrote off the 180 USD. 'sc*mb*g', I thought...
Fast forward, 26 May 2008, an email arrives, subject: 'RE: Vacheron Buckle'!!!
My heart stopped beating at the sight of this email (well ok, after I remembered there was an issue with a buckle...). Even more so after I read the text:
I totally forgot about this and assume you have the buckle. I found 2 in my box the other day & wondered why I still had two when I only had 4 to start with and sold 3. I came across your email and remembered there was a problem with one coming back to me. Did you get yours and if not Is your address the same? Funny, I am just leaving my wife for a sabbatical & I wanted to make sure all my affairs were in order and I came across an old email from you.
Is this real??? I could not believe this, but on the other hand, why should Larry try to resume this again? And right I was!
09 June 2008, a letter from Canada!
Yippee!! There I had it, the buckle, exactly as I have been promised:
Much plainer, of course as the modern sculptural accessories, but the watch now is totally back in its birth state, and even the gold colours of watch case and buckle match! I was happy (vintage buckle on the left, new one on the right. You may sense the slight difference in colour):
10 June 2008, fine, but is it real???...
Well, next morning, I looked at the buckle once again: wait, there are no Vacheron Constantin logos or markings (top modern, bottom vintage buckle)?
The damn thing looked so - generic! Quickly, after arrival in the office, a few nervous postings on this on the relevant watch fora. Several of you offered imediate help (thanks Alex, Paul, Bill and Rob!) - but I felt like a centre forward after having scored a brilliantly prepared goal in a football match, who shot from an offside position: While the shape of my buckle looks exactly like the ones that have been posted, again, mine does not - in contrast to the others - bear any VC hallmarks!
An the overall conclusion was: a genuine VC buckle should be engraved with the distinguishing hallmarks. If not, its likely the buckle being a fake!
Oh not, not this after all what happened before! I need, so I thought, lots of alcohol to digest this.
But still... The LAST resort, the authorities have to be called upon!
Finally, 18 June 2008: ’All's well that ends well!’...
Being uable to think of anything else, and torturing my girlfriend with this state of affairs, I worked up all my courage in the evening of the 17 to email Dominique Bernaz, Directeur "Maison" Vacheron Constantin, to inquire about the authenticity of my buckle. I did not forget to include two images. So, I though, this will be the final verdict.
The next morning, I had a reply, and it couldn’t be an clearer:
Hello, this is exactly the kind of buckle we used. The supplier with master stamp AW is among our suppliers.
Directeur "Maison" Vacheron Constantin
YES, I got full score! My watch feels so well, looks so beautiful and seems to be very satisfied that I took her history so serious.
I would like to thank:
- Larry, for being such a honest and integer human being and for going out of your way in your efforts to mail me the buckle;
- the Vacheron Constantin aficionados worldwide, for helping me so generously during this journey;
- Dominique Bernaz, for his very quick and clear answer. You made my day and provided the final, decisive element for full enjoyment of my Vacheron Constantin!
All the best and thanks for reading,