Until 2 years ago 1755 or 250 were just numbers to me.
And then came 2005 with Vacheron Constantin’s new add campaign depicting specific events or monuments and putting them in perspective with the foundation of the Vacheron Constantin brand (ex the first railway in the UK was launched in 1825 when the brand was 70 years old or in 1889 when the Eiffel Tower was built the brand was 134 years old).
When talk of the Quarter Millennium celebrations got out, that really started me thinking. 250 years is a hell of a long time! I mean these guys were definitely doing something right to still be around and to still be considered as one of the top watchmakers after all these years!
The long history of Vacheron Constantin has totally changed my perception of the brand. I am no longer only focused on the products but have a more global view which attracts me even more.
In an era where history can be bought and businessmen rival in ingenuity finding unknown watchmaker names (the oldest possible) and inventing a whole story behind it, its comforting dealing with the real McCoy and not some phoney wannabe.
When you buy an object which comes at a price (like VC watches) you buy an accumulation of historical elements which create value. And buying a Vacheron Constantin wrist watch involves, to a certain degree, an emotional parameter linked to the object’s past which in a manner comforts us in our acquisition by giving it certain credibility.
For me today brand history has become really important, its not the only criteria but I like the fact that my favourite brand has been around for over a quarter of a millennium and has gone through so many historical events; each time adapting to its epoch, grasping for survival in tough times and bathing in the limelight in more happy ones and still being present 252 years after its creation, still considered one of the best and most prestigious brands in the world with the ability to still innovate and surprise!
How important is brand history to you?
A brief overview of Vacheron Constantin’s history
It was in 1755 (note to Sofia Coppola fans: year of birth of Queen Marie-Antoinette) that 24 year Jean-Marc Vacheron borrowed 1000 silver pounds to install his ateliers in Geneva.
At the time Vacheron was one of 800 “cabinotiers” living off horological crafts. At the very beginning the elegance and quality of his timepieces attracted the attention of the Italian aristocracy.
The French revolution of 1789, the closing of commercial routes and famine had little effect on the 3 Vacherons: Jean-Marc and his two sons: Louis-André and Abraham.
On April 1st 1819 Jacques Bartelemy Vacheron (Abraham’s son) took a decision which would change the brand’s destiny by partnering with François Constantin. The partnership took the company to a whole new level, Vacheron concentrated on his watchmaking talents whereas Constantin tirelessly travelled across Europe on horseback (occasionally crossing swords with brigands and thieves and even duelling!) to show the treasures made by Vacheron to a new clientele.
Business was good and in 1839 the company made a new decisive step by hiring a mechanical genius in the name of Geaorges-Henir Leschot. The latter invented machines capable of producing standard and interchangeable movement components…in a way he created modern horology as we know it today.
In 1880 the Maltese cross symbol was adopted as brand emblem, this cross has nothing to do with the Order of the Malte Knights but rather takes its form from a gear that prevents over winding of the mainspring used in precision timekeepers at the time.
Fast forward to the 20th century where in 1911 Vacheron Cosntantin created its first lady’s wristwatch followed by two years later by its first gentleman’s wrist watch. In 1934 it completed one of its most complicated watches featuring a minute repeater, split seconds chronograph, perpetual calendar, moonphase and alarm was made for King Fouad of Egypt was sold at auction by Antiquorum in 2005 for over 3 million Swiss francs!. In 1955 to celebrate its bi-centenary the brand presented the slimmest manual movement (1.64mm) followed by the slimmest automatic movement (2.45mm).
In 1938 the watch was bought by the Ketterer family the then owner of Jaeger LeCoultre, almost 50 years later the brand changed hands and entered those of Sheik Yamani (former head of OPEC).
In 1996 the brand is bought by the Richemont group, in 2002 they present their first 100% manufacture calibre: cal 1400 followed by the inhouse calibre 2450 in 2006.
A quick look at the 250th anniversary where the (then) most complicated wristwatch with 16 complications was presented and sold by Antiquorum for a record breaking 1.87 million Swiss francs making the Tour de l’Ile the most expensive modern wristwatch ever!
In 2007 Vacheron Constantin launches 2 new automatic calibers 2460 and 2455 as well as Cal 2755 its most complicated (non limited edition) wrist watch with Perpetual calendar, tourbillon and minute repeater