The Jubilee Watches of 1935 and 1955

A THL friend recently asked about V&C's Jubilee watches and after a few back-and-forth emails it dawned on me that this subject may be of general interest.  I hope you enjoy!

1935 was a challenging time for Vacheron & Constantin.  The Great Depression was, just perhaps, beginning to loosen it's grip around the throat of the Manufacture.  V&C was under the belief that the year 1785 was their founding date (1810 had previously been favored, but that's another story) so 1935 would mark their 150th Anniversary; surely a time for celebrations, however discreet.

Preparations began the year before, in 1934.  Here I'll borrow from the Annales of Charles Constantin:

"1934.  This year is like the previous one.  The volume of business was not sufficient to cope with general expenses.  Manufacturing moved along with extremely reduced personnel.  The work was all paid for piece by piece.  We seized the opportunity of our hundred and fiftieth anniversary to create a selection of Jubilee pieces.  The round gold or steel wristwatch for men, with the crown in the lugs, had great success with a price of 100 Francs in steel and 200 Francs in 18 carat gold.  For this result we used about 300 11-ligne Lepine movements with the seconds opposite the stem - not following the concept of a wristwatch.  From then on, the workshops were very busy forty hours a week.

1935.  The year of the Jubilee!  A very anxious year for the leaders of our company, as the outlook did not seem to be improving at all.  In spite of the legitimate desire to mark this anniversary by some special event, with the future still very dark, with reduced personnel, finances to deal carefully with, all this forced us into silence.  The selection of our round men's wristwatch called the Jubilee was supplemented by some rectangular steel and gold watches, jewelled, using old movements without seconds, that we could move out on sale for 100 and 200 Francs respectively."


So there we have it; the nadir of despair yet always moving hopefully forward.  In the archives for 1934 appears Photo Reference 3425; the watch described by Charles Constantin "with the crown in the lugs".

The Jubilee Watches of 1935 and 1955

The Jubilee Watches of 1935 and 1955

The Jubilee Watches of 1935 and 1955

We are also familiar with another model from 1935 using the old-stock Lepine movements, this one with the crown positioned at the conventional 3 o'clock position and the sub-seconds directly opposite at 9 o'clock.  Although I've searched diligently, there doesn't appear to be a Photo Reference for this version.  While neither watch was dedicated with a special inscription, it may be that the true 1935 Jubilee model was only as Constantin described, "with the crown in the lugs."

The other Lepine-style wristwatch
The Jubilee Watches of 1935 and 1955

Sometime during the late 1940s a new document was uncovered in the archives of the City of Geneva which established the date of 1755 as the earliest beginnings of the Manufacture.

The Jubilee Watches of 1935 and 1955

Of course, this new date provided an opportunity to celebrate a fast-approaching 200th Anniversary in 1955.  This time, finances were more secure and resources were allocated to mark the occasion with two special models.  The Model Reference 4600 with caliber 453 was selected to represent manual-winding wristwatches.  This Reference was available before the anniversary date and continued to be offered afterwards, but  the 1955 edition would carry a special Jubilee inscription on the back cover and appropriate designation on the Certificate of Origin.

The Jubilee Watches of 1935 and 1955

The Jubilee Watches of 1935 and 1955

The Jubilee Watches of 1935 and 1955

Collectors need to distinguish between this 4600 Jubilee and another offering of 1000 pieces manufactured to celebrate the Anno Santo (Holy Year) declared by Pope Pius XII in 1950.  These have also been referred to as Jubilee models by dealers and auction houses, as have normal production 4600 watches.  You can be guided by the serial numbers and case inscription if papers are not available.

Representing automatic wristwatches for the 1955 Jubilee was the Model Reference 6038 with caliber 1019.

The Jubilee Watches of 1935 and 1955

The Jubilee Watches of 1935 and 1955

The Jubilee Watches of 1935 and 1955


The Jubilee Watches of 1935 and 1955

As with the manual-winding model, this Reference was also available in non-Jubilee years so care must be taken to confirm its true status.

Vacheron Constantin continued to mark anniversary dates with special editions such as the 222:

The Jubilee Watches of 1935 and 1955

Anniversary 230:

The Jubilee Watches of 1935 and 1955

Jubilee 240:

The Jubilee Watches of 1935 and 1955

Anniversary 247:

The Jubilee Watches of 1935 and 1955

the Jubilee 1755:

The Jubilee Watches of 1935 and 1955

and the Geneva Boutique 100 Anniversary:

The Jubilee Watches of 1935 and 1955

Thank-you for your time and please feel free to join in with questions and clarifications :-)



08/30/2013 - 20:01
08/30/2013 - 20:02
08/30/2013 - 18:30
08/30/2013 - 20:17
08/30/2013 - 20:18
08/30/2013 - 19:45
08/30/2013 - 20:00
Edu
08/31/2013 - 01:43
08/31/2013 - 02:22
09/01/2013 - 00:53
08/31/2013 - 15:37
09/01/2013 - 03:12
JB
09/01/2013 - 00:47
09/02/2013 - 15:10
KBS
09/02/2013 - 15:26
Great post TIck Talk, and this time I pronounce your screen
08/29/2013 - 21:26
Name correctly. Amazing insight into VC history.
LOL, thanks much kk
08/30/2013 - 20:01
nt
That's what friends are for...
08/30/2013 - 17:47
Dean - thank you for the research and compilation of this most interesting feature. An enjoyable and informative read laced with excellent graphics and photographs. Many thanks Tony
My pleasure Tony
08/30/2013 - 20:02
Have a great weekend smiley
Don't forget the little ref 47245
08/30/2013 - 18:16
Which can out in 2000, for the 245th anniversary. It is the pre-cursor to the 247 you mentioned. Great post Dean, thanks!
Thanks for filling this in Dan
08/30/2013 - 20:16
Funny though, one can manufacture an anniversary model for any year but IMHO "Jubilee" editions should be restricted to multiples of 50 years.  This appears to have been accepted for 1935 and 1955 at any rate.
Totally agree: there is a difference between Jubilee and Anniversary!
08/30/2013 - 23:44
Some include 25 year intervals as Jubiiee as well.  Others include 60 and 75 years.  But I see Jubilee associated mostly with 50 years. BR, Dan
Fun with semantics
08/31/2013 - 03:49
LOL, I used to tease the kids when they were getting excited about an approaching birthday.  "Sorry, you only had one birthday and it's over.  No more!"  When their faces dropped, I'd let them in on the fact that we could still celebrate the anniversary of their birthday devil.  I suppose they've had the last laugh, as by common agreement we celebrate for an entire month! surprise
Very interesting post, Dean
08/30/2013 - 18:30
I will come back to this for a re-read this weekend.  Great topic! Best, Robert
Setting the stage
08/30/2013 - 20:17
Coffee, croissant, slippers and laptop on a Saturday morning...the perfect way to enjoy The Hour Lounge yes.  Enjoy!
Re: The Jubilee Watches of 1935 and 1955
08/30/2013 - 18:37
OMG, love this post, so many watches!!! :)
Cheers! nt
08/30/2013 - 20:18
nt
great pst: thank you
08/30/2013 - 19:45
I do own a ref 3425 very close to one you are showing. It is very original with the crown at 12'. It is a close cousin of Patek Philippe ref. 96 by its small size, but a man's size nevertheless in the 30ies. Today it would also perfectly fit a woman's wrist.
Killer watch Berny
08/30/2013 - 20:00
I'm glad to see this beautiful piece again heart.  It has a 30mm case, yes?  Can you also share movement pics?  Love the sword-style hands; a real 30s design element.  The crown is oversized on these models due to the position between the lugs which made winding a bit more difficult with the strap in the way.  FWIW, Charles Constantin mentioned that the design proved popular enough that they continued to offer a few Lepine-style watches after 1935, probably until stocks ran out.  I think it surprised him but the price was a real deal!
Fun-tastic read, Dean. Wish this 222 would one day be released in
08/30/2013 - 20:59
a Historiques collection with the current size preference ;-)
My friend, I share that wish
08/31/2013 - 01:49
and with the right movement enlightened 
Fascinating post
08/31/2013 - 01:43
I really enjoyed this Dean. One question - that Lepine,movt wasn't representative of VC movements in general at the time, was it? Looks pretty industrial to my not very expert eye but maybe I'm missing something. The hand wound 453 is beautiful Ed
Interesting question Ed
08/31/2013 - 02:22
It doesn't look much different than their movements from 1910 but was a typical V&C small calibre of the period.  Ch. Constantin said they had some 300 of these tiny 11-ligne, 15 jewel pocket watch movements in stock (smaller than the 453 dedicated wristwatch calibre), likely accumulated over several years.  The situation is somewhat parallel to the re-purposing of unsold Chronometre Royal movements as desk clocks in 1937, if you recall that story. The quality is there but V&C had a very traditional approach to their movement architecture so the appearance didn't change much.  And let's face it, they weren't about to re-tool during the Depression.  Capital was abysmally low and it was their inability to modernize that led to an invitation for Jaeger-LeCoultre to join just 3 years later.  Truth be told, if it wasn't for a charitable trust set up by the widow of Managing Director Jules Weiss in 1929, they would have gone under years earlier!
A postscript
09/01/2013 - 00:53
This is a closer look at the Jubilee movement shown in my first post which you can enlarge to examine at your leisure: Its a 15-jewel gilt movement which features a straight-line lever escapement with clubfoot escape wheel, cut bimetallic balance wheel with gold poising screws, and a blued steel balance spring with adjustable stud; nothing exotic but well crafted and measuring less than 24mm across!
Re: The Jubilee Watches of 1935 and 1955
08/31/2013 - 05:35
Outstanding post! Thanks much for your time and effort. As a related aside, I wish that I had been able to find more than a fraction of that information when I wrote up a post on one of Gübelin’s Jubilé models. Unfortunately, the company was not eager to help. It is to V&C's (and Alex's) great credit that they are so forthcoming with historical information. Regards, Tony C.
Agreed Tony. A great deal of credit
08/31/2013 - 06:58
for making V&C's past accessible should also be accorded to Charles Constantin.  Born in 1887, he was the great grand-nephew of Francois Constantin.  He wrote and privately published the Annales de la Maison d'Horlogerie Vacheron et Constantin, covering the period from 1785 to the merger with JLC in 1938.  A copy is available in the Geneva Library, accessible by appointment.  This document has been relied upon by serious scholars of VC, authors and auction houses. Charles Constantin, 1887 to 1954
Insightful as usual
08/31/2013 - 15:37
Thanks Dean Great post
You'll enjoy these Hamish
09/01/2013 - 00:38
Of course you will recognize this earlier example of a Lepine-style pocket watch movement into a wrist watch case from 1921: Here are some wonderful examples from Antiquorum's catalog of 1935 Jubilee watches with colored dials:
Thanks Dean
09/01/2013 - 03:12
I love the sword hands and the 1921 is sublime!!!
Thanks, Dean
09/01/2013 - 00:47
A very interestng bit of history!
I'm so very pleased to respond
09/01/2013 - 01:01
to you Joseph for this special post!  And on my birthday too angel.  IIRC you have or had an Anniversary 230 with the gorgeous teardrop lugs?
Well, Happy Birthday, then!
09/02/2013 - 01:19
I did have a 230 and a 240 Anniversary watch, but they have found new homes. But, I still own the 250 Best, Josephth anniversary 1755 in platinum which I wear fairly regularly.
happy belated birthday and thank you for a thoroughly researched and
09/02/2013 - 11:53
interesting post which has gone straight to the Recommended Threads section
Thanks Alex, I'm working on the next article
09/02/2013 - 23:55
and it has proven to be a great deal of fun to research, being about a city that is becoming our favorite destination angel
Great article Dean !
09/02/2013 - 15:10
A pleasure to read ! I really like the 4600, very nice vintage :) cheers Francois
Agreed Francois, the 4600 is iconic
09/02/2013 - 23:58
even though many people won't know the reference number, I think it is this style that comes to mind when many think vintage V&C.
Thanks Dean,
09/02/2013 - 15:26
for writing this excellent article. I have really enjoyed to read it.   Best Kent
That's wonderful Kent, thanks (nt)
09/02/2013 - 23:59
nt