How do you Compare VC to A. Lange & Sohne, Patek?

We all can say that the Patek Philippe and Rolex crowd are the more normal and mainstream type of people, and I am not crazy for Ademars Piquet and Breguet.  That leaves Vacheron Constantin and A. Lange and Sohne as the alternatives to Patek Philippe.

Would you say that the A. Lange and Sohne crowd is different like Vacheron Constantin Crowd?  Are they similar to Patek Philippe, the A. Lange & Sohne Crowd?

Is A. Lange & Sohne to small a watch company and to insignificant to really give them any comparism with Vacheron Constantin and the normalcy of Patek Philippe and Rolex?  The Richmont Group owns vacheron and A. Lange & Sohne

02/04/2008 - 17:39
Doc
02/05/2008 - 00:04
Most crowds with Patek are more into showing off & money oriented.
02/04/2008 - 09:45

Of course, I am being general. Certainly NOT all are like that. People liking VC & Lange are probably more into the beauty of the timepieces themselves, care less about making a profit/flipping. I'd say they are more of a "purist".

IMHO...Quality wise, I think all are at the same level.

I'll keep my comments on the watches and not on the people who
02/04/2008 - 09:52

buy them.

As a caveat I have to say that I'm not a huge fan of Patek designs.

Vacheron, Patek and Lange are all very high brands and at this level its only details and personnal tasts that will make the difference.

Designs:

Patek and VC are typical of Genevan high watchmaking. Where Patek has a rather "Protestant" conservative and no nonsense designs you can feel the French design influences left withng VC after their amazingly creative partnership with Parisan casemaker/designers Verger Freres in the 20s-30s. Today watches such as the Mask collection, the Patrimony Bi-retrograde or Excellence Platine colection (to name a few) show the diveristy of the brand's styles.

Lange has a very Germanic, technical oriented, serious loking watches. For me the Lange 1 is one of the most beautiful watches ever produced!!

Movements:

This is where VC is behind the other two as Patek and Lange have almost exclusively inhouse movements where as VC launched its 1st inhouse movement only in 2001 and today a bit over 50% of its current production is houses inhouse movements

Finish:

Regarding movement finish IMHO Patek is behind the other two. Lange built its reputation on the amazing technicolor finish of Glashutte stripes, gold chatons and blued screws typical of Saxon watchmaking.

VC has typical Genevan movement designs with beautiful curves and angles, the finish is astounding on both visible and non visible components and for me (for my taste) it is at par or even higher than Lange due to the difficulty of beveling and angling inward and outward curves. Watchmakers such as Kari Voutilainen, Philippe Dufour and Roger Smith lauded the finish of caliber 1400 (manual-  even though Dufour found it too small) and 2450 automatic!

The only preoblem is that this amazing finish is appled to the inhouse movements, the other movements are very well finished but not to the same amazing level as the inhouse ones. 

Not sure I've answered your question here

VC movement finishing...
02/04/2008 - 18:15

Hi Alex,

In what way are the VC in-house movements, such as the cal. 2450, better in finishing than their out-sourced movements? Could you point out some specific details? Thanks!

Best,

Mike

Sorry for the confusion, I was talking mainly in terms of aesthetics(n
02/04/2008 - 19:05

nt

In-house calibre means in-house finishing....
02/05/2008 - 17:47

Hi,

For VC in-house calibre means obviously in-house finishing and the result is a superb finishing second to none.

Cal 1400 and the 2475 series show that, as the tourbillon and minute repeaters show such finish.

When VC uses outsourced calibres that means also outsourced finish on the calibre, i.e. GP finish on GP calibres (no GP calibre used by VC anymore today I think) , JLC finish on JLC calibres (like in the current Overseas), Lemania finish on Lemania calibre (the Malte Chronograph)! That's it.

In the fifties for instance VC was seemingly doing the finish work on the JLC base calibres it was using, like the 453. So the 453 finish was far superior to its JLC sibling. Today the JLC calibres 889 used in VCs have the very same finish as the ones used in JLCs. JLC has one level of finish for each calibre it produces and finishes, be it branded JLC , VC or AP!

Dje

um not quite sure I agree on that or maybe I'm reading wrong but when
02/05/2008 - 18:04

you say JLC finish on JLC movement and GP finish on GP movements that's not exactly correct since as you know these movements are delivered as a kit and the assembly and finish are done by VC. As an example the GP cal 3100 used by GP and by VC

On the  other hand the inhouse calibers have been designed in a way as to fully show and magnify the finish done by VC which was not the case with the ebauches used. VC had to settle with the way these movements were constructed (form of bridges, plates etc...)

That's the point....
02/05/2008 - 18:52

Hi Alex,

That's the point. You say that VC buys kits and assembles and finishes them but are you sure of that?

I'm totally willing to trust you of course but the two pictures you show do not mean that the VC branded calibre is finished and assembled by VC. In my respectful opinion these pictures show first and foremost that the photographer that took the VC branded 3100 was much more inspired or talented that the one who took the GP branded GP. If you except the gold outer part of the rotor and the brand name written, for me they show the very same finish.

In fact GP and JLC produce branded, finished and assembled calibres for other brands.

Lemania also delivers ready to case calibres, like it is the case for the VC Malte Chronograph models. That does not mean that the finish is not good. It is good, very good.

I agree totally on your second point. VC in-house calibres have a much higher degree of finish overall, but they also show a much more demanding and pleasing architecture that proves even more the higher finish. That's where they please Philippe Dufour among others. These calibres bring back the higher tradition of finishing when the recent decades have seen more the choice of an "easier" rounded and colourful finish.

As you wrote also in this thread, I too agree that it is somewhat difficult to state that a specific brand has a higher finish than another. We can compare one calibre to another, but IMVHO I don't see a single brand that has the same level of finish on all its calibres. Different finishes for different levels of positioning on the market. On that aspect too VC does great as they position the 1400 with the highest level of finish at nearly the entry price level!

Dje

You raise an interseting point. As far as I know and from what I've
02/05/2008 - 19:11

seen the assembly and finish of the 889 and 899 JLC base calibers as well as the Lemania chrono movement is done at VC but of course I am willing to believe the opposite, can you elaborate on this?

Why not?
02/05/2008 - 21:21

Hi Alex,

Were you with us in 2005 during the VC visit when a watchmaker said very clearly that VC was doing no work on the chronograph calibres delivered ready to case from Lemania? The only exception was the perpetual calendar plate built and added by VC watchmakers.

Something I'm more than ready to believe when I compare the finish on the manual wind  chronographs from VC and Breguet. They really look like being made at the same place. A very good Lemania finish apparently.

I own a GP cased GP calibre, another same GP calibre cased by Daniel Roth and have seen several VC cased same GP calibres. Again the finish is the same. The pics you post show the same finish IMO. My watches are in the bank tonight so I don't have them to take pics. Maybe Doc who owns several of them could take a pic for us?

Regarding JLC calibres 889 and 899 and the VC derivatives I've also seen several of them and they all showed the same finish. A very good finish by JLC standards and by my standards too, but not comparable to VC's finished watches IMO. The review made by Jack Forster on The PuristS of the current Overseas shows clearly the level of finish on the VC branded JLC calibre. And this is not just a result limited by the architecture of the calibre, it is also the result of simpler finishes.

By the way I'm tempted to return your question. I've never seen any evidence that VC does any finish on these calibres. I've never read anywhere that VC pretends to do some either. If VC wants to state that they do some, that should not be difficult to show us some pics of raw kits delivered to VC by suppliers and of the work done by VC. That would be a good subject to treat here in fact and I'd be more than happy to be wrong on that as I'm a great fan of VC.

Best regards

Dje

I can only say what my eyes have seen and what VC tells me and that is
02/05/2008 - 21:33

that all ebauches JLC, GP, Piguet or Lemania are delivered in a kit and assembeled and finished within VC.

As for asking VC to prove that they do not just recase preassembled and finished movements is pretty similar to having to prove once innocence!

I am of course more that ready to believe you as I have seen so many things within this industry that almosts nothing surprises me  but I have seen watchmakers working on and assembling movements based on JLC ebauches (this is back in 2000 or 2001) and it definately didn't look like they took the movement apart just for the show!

So if you've seen it I believe you!
02/05/2008 - 21:53

Hi Alex,

If you say you've seen it I believe you.

I'm surprised that they don't do better than JLC though, as they have a higher positioning and as the finishing could be improved as shown by the Overseas review.

Anyway it probably won't be long until they use only in-house calibres.

Cheers

Dje

Its the arrival of Lange which shook up the Swiss watch
02/06/2008 - 12:01

industry. The Big Thre had nice finish but nothing really to write home about, the finish was functional and the aesthetics OK. Comes Lange in 1994 with an amazing collection and a technicolor impecable finish which they based a lot of their communication on. Comapred to the Lange finish what was being made in Switzerland just didn't look the part. And to get a aesthatically eye catching finish the movement needs to be constructed in a way where such finishing can been shown off. Which is what Lange did from the start. There have been many discussions on the intrenet forums on the finish of Kari Voutilainen's Observatory watch and Philippe Dufour's Simplicity. Both have amazing finish but where Dufour conceived his movement as to show his finishing skills, Voutilainen uses a pre existing Peseux ebauch and had to make do with what was available. For a comparaison photo (taken from tempered-online)

Re: Its the arrival of Lange which shook up the Swiss watch
02/06/2008 - 18:28

Hi Alex.

Thank you for the valuable information.

I am always surprised at profound knowledge for the watches whole as well as your VC. I think the movement to be surely the one of the much examination factors of the watch purchase, but think that I cannot evaluate the watch with that alone. Finish of case design, dial and hand and a feeling of wearing. When it goes for work, it is a pleasant item sharing time that is longer than time when there is it with a family and a lover. We can obtain the information on the Internet immediately now.

I am splendid, but there is it, but on the other hand there is the pit, too. (sorry)

I go to the retail store as much as possible and I take the objective watches to a direct coupling and talk with the staff.

I think "the division of labor" to be the important factor that Swiss watch industry continued from the 17th century to today. and the heritage of VC is inherited now and intoxicates us.

Some people cannot see the wood for the trees.

Thank you.

V.Piguet

I must say that...
02/04/2008 - 17:39

all of the recent talk about what "type" of person wears a particular brand is becoming tiresome. Even if the questions or comments are qualified by "generally speaking", as is the case with 834's post, here is something worth thinking about:

If you are concerned about choosing a brand of watch because wearing that brand will imply that you are a member of the cognoscente, then by definition you are not!

You could, for example, do some superficial research,  go out and buy a superb, rare Alfa Romeo sports car, and drive it around thinking that it suggests good taste and rarefied knowledge. But really, at the end of the day, would you then be more impressive than the man driving the Corvette (and probably wearing a Rolex) with a motor which he rebuilt himself?

Every high-end brand, be it watches, cars, or whatever, attracts both owners who are connoisseurs, and those who don't understand or appreciate any of the fine distinctions between models or brands. There are plenty of V&C owners who don't have the slightest clue about their watches beyond the fact that they were expensive, and that they like the way that they look. And there are countless Patek Philippe owners who have more detailed knowledge about their chosen brand and model(s) than most of us can dream of.

The brand of watch which you choose tells serious people virtually nothing. How you go about choosing that brand (and model) speaks volumes.

Regards,

Tony C.

Well put and right on...
02/04/2008 - 20:39

...it would be hard to disagree with your post!

There is a way to generally categorize watch owners by brand
02/04/2008 - 22:12

There are two types of people: the people who know the brand they are buying and will usually be actively interested in watches and watchmaking in general, and the people who buy a watch simply because they think they want a certain type of watch (expensive, bling bling, James Bond's watch, ...).

All of these people buy mroe than "simply a mechanical watch".

I agree with your post when you say that for each brand there exists groups of people who would love the brand and know that brand. To each his/her own reasons for loving a certain brand and I will not judge anyone.

And now I come to a the second group, the ones we can categorize: these people are usually victims of the marketing and/or "branding" techniques of whatever watch manufacturer. Branding is extremely powerful and targetted people fall often victim to it. Branding involves associating products with lifestyles, ways of being, who you believe you are, who you want to be, how you want other people to perceive you, etc... Usually, the brand will focus on its perceived strengths.

For example, the clothes brand "Tommy Hilfiger" does not produce anything. They do not make clothes. They buy clothes from Pepe jeans and others and they "Brand" them. That is how powerful and important branding can be.

Each company has their own target groups on which they focus on. Are Lange lovers more into the technical aspects of the watches? Well, study their advertising campaigns and you will find that they are almost all about technical aspects of watchmaking, with pictures of small parts, etc... Who will be attracted to these?

Breguet? Culture, sophistication, history: ads with quotes of famous long dead French writers (no need to say "we are an old company" when people were writing about your brand 200 years ago).

Omega? Rolex? Patek, VC? Well, just study the marketing and the messages to find out who buys it.

If we had access to all the brands "marketing manuals", we could easily classify "geenral owners".

Below is an example for a brand I will not name.

The manual comes with chapters such as: - Qualitative target group description - Xname of product lineX, Men - Qualitative target group description - Xname of product lineX, Women - etc...

The definitions of target groups, attributes, etc... are very precise, from music likes to hobbies, family life, etc. Look at the examples below:

Nico I don't know wher you got hold of that chart but it speak a
02/04/2008 - 23:02

million words!

Sorry, but...
02/04/2008 - 23:17

I don't really understand your point, Nico.

Of course all companies (or "brands") target different markets, and yes, they have become very sophisticated in their efforts. And, as you point out, it is not difficult to recognize which "types" are being targeted by various watch companies. But I fail to see how such recognition makes it any more useful to generalize about who buys which watch, given that there will always be plenty of exceptions.

Understanding the subtle, and not so subtle marketing devices used by watch companies can lead to an understanding of what type of person is most likely to buy their products, but to what purpose? Unless one is actually working for a marketing department, why should this be of interest? If you believe that there is some point in classifying the target markets of individual watch companies, I'd like to hear what it is.

I have no problem with people who buy watches for superficial reasons, and couldn't care less whether or not they fall squarely into the demographic targeted by the company. I don't, however, have much patience for those who choose their watches (or cars, etc.) on the basis of which might lend the strongest impression of sophistication.

Regards,

Tony C.

Re: Sorry, but...
02/06/2008 - 23:33

Hi Tony, My point was that broadly speaking people buy a watch because either they love and appreciate the brand (and I'm not going to judge anyone's take on what they like), or they would usually be a victim of some kind of marketing target group for that brand (again, to me it doesn't matter what people do with their money, I try not to judge too much anymore). Two examples of the later category: my brother's mother-in-law who has a Rolex (she knew nothing of the history of Rolex, of mechanical watches or anything else ("if it stops running, I just need to shake it to make it work again"... she actually said that), and she would be a classical example of someone who had that watch because she fell in the target group). Second example: someone at work who has a PP, who also simply commented that "when it stops working after a few days, you just need to shake it to start again". He knew nothing of mechanical watches or PP. Once again, he most probably fell in one of PP's target groups. There was also some points of sarcasm in my post about attempts at classification as a way to "prove a brand better than another" or "make people feel better about their brand over the other one", etc. By using hard facts of companies' actual marketing materials, we can then objectively classify brand owners and be done with it. You said: "I don't, however, have much patience for those who choose their watches (or cars, etc.) on the basis of which might lend the strongest impression of sophistication.". Bravo. Nails my point of view also. I'd have to say I actually calmed down a lot with that view, but I do not seem to be able to shake it off completely. And believe it or not, that group of people is most probably one or several companies' target groups.

To compare is wrong !
02/05/2008 - 00:04

I think comparing brands, is like speaking about apples, pears or plums !

There are different sorts of each of them.

Some aples I like, but not all.

The reason why I'm concentrating on VC,

speaking for Doc only,

is that I, think they were the best inthat period,

I'm intersted in, Art Deco

To be honest, the new VC's I have no greater experience of,

my only modern VC is bought 2005 !

And I also have Girard_Perregaux, 4 pieces to be honest

They are nice variations of pears, of different reason

Any plums, I don't have

But to me as a history interested person since childhood,

Vacheron&Constantin, has something that no other brand can compete with,

253 years of continiously watchmaking.

And that, thrills me !

But my  for Vacheron&Constantin, I really can't explain,

it's so many factors, and we never can escape from that a WIS,

on whatever brand, that he knows a lot about is easily caught by it

Doc

When it compares two brands which Richmont Group owns,
02/05/2008 - 03:59

 wine and medicine.

Re: How do you Compare VC to A. Lange & Sohne, Patek?
02/05/2008 - 05:36

I think Patek has priced itself out of the market.  You cannot buy a patek at a discount like a vacheron or an a. lange and sohne.  For sure a Vacheron Constantin with a Geneva Seal is as good as a Patek Philippe.  Vacheron Constantin Watches certainly are the most beautiful watches and with more reasonable prices and the ability to buy a Vacheron Constantin at a discount is a good thing.  To pay full price for a watch is stupid.

This is shooting at a moving target.
02/05/2008 - 11:29

Sixty years ago, the "big three" dominated but they all bought ebauche movements and none of them had a clear advantage. I think most observers would agree that Vacheron made a plurality of the most beatiful watches. By the way, during that period Longines was was barely, if at all, below the level of the big three; also, when Cartier decided to do a nice watch, they were certainly in the top rank.

Forty years ago, Patek had decided to go with predominantly in-house movements and thus had become the clear leader. (Longines had moved down-market). I would say that Patek remained the clear leader twenty years ago.

Ten years ago, I don't think anyone could compete with Lange. Their standards were just too high. They truly changed the industry, forcing the "big three" to wake up and start improving.

Now, Lange has perhaps dropped its standards a bit (by recycling movements instead of keeping to its original one-model-per-movement approach); Patek decided (apparently correctly) that it could improve at the top end and that would make people continue to buy its lower-end models. Audemars, which had become highly reliant on sales of the Royal Oak (and JLC movements) has come out with some new movements and attempted to diversify its line. Vacheron, also highly reliant on JLC, has also come out with new movements and has been moving back to its old strengths in the area of elegant design.

Where will this lead? Well, so many other companies are introducing their own movements that Vacheron's and JLC's new movements are required to keep up rather than to get ahead. The old criteria for evaluating watches, such as timekeeping and reliability, have lost significance in the eyes of much of the buying public. Also, let's face it: any company that wants to make a beautifully-finished watch and is willing to devote the required resources can do so. Ultimately, then, leaving aside truly awful movements that simply don't work (and there will be some of those), the criteria for choosing most high-end watches will be aesthetics, perception of quality, and value in signalling status.

Aesthetics are a matter of personal taste; most of us reading this forum do so because we like Vacheron's. Vacheron's approach to perception of quality and signalling seems to be tied up in the "since 1755" approach, plus making and publicizing very high-end pieces. The brand has a big head start as one of the traditional "big three," but some other companies are taking the same approach (albeit with somewhat fictitious history). Consistent with its approach, Vacheron has largely resisted the "SUV-ization" of watches, continuing to make elegant watches of reasonable size. It will be interesting to see how this combination of actions serves the company when high-end watch supply outstrips demand and competition begins in earnest.

very well said but the most important factor as to what is high end is
02/05/2008 - 11:55

the "public's perception" and I think that in this field the Big Three still have a head start (I would also add Lange in here) just because during their whole history thay have always dominated the high spectrum of watchmaking. These brands are not trying to move upmarket like many brands today but started upmarket.