I am very pleased to be able to share this wonderful watch with my fellow THL'ers after posting some teaser shots a few weeks ago .
Many vintage Vacheron & Constantin watches are referred to by a nickname which reflects their dominant design characteristic. Every so often a single piece will draw togther a range of features which represent several genre's most adequately.
Such is the case with this 1950-manufacture Ref. 4536. As one of the so-called XXL models, it measures an astonishing for the time 38mm across and 47mm lug-to-lug. Yet it's depth of 10mm still provides a proportionately elegant profile.
Contributing to the watch's heft are the sold and massive claw lugs that characterized another Vacheron & Constantin design family. Their sharp edges and the deep, crisp hallmark signify a refreshing absence of the polisher's wheel.
The dial draws the eye most hypnotically with it's magnificent display of hand guilloche, made all the more difficult by the presence of a raised name cartouche. A pleasing variety of lapidated triangular, hexagonal and Arabic indexes are applied to a flawless original surface.
Within resides a 12 1/2 ligne calibre 454/5B 17-jewel manual movement, fully decorated to the high standards of Vacheron & Constantin. Technical excellence is reflected in it's use of a beryllium balance, shock absorber, self-compensating balance spring and swan-neck micrometer regulator. A VXN export code signifies a component watch destined for the North American market. Originality is confirmed by the numerals "505" on the inner rim of the main body which match the last three digits of the case number as stamped on the case back.
Alas, all good things come at a price. My first Vacheron, a fine little calibre 1003 Patrimony, was sacrificed to obtain this piece. But really, it's lack of "&" made this inevitable....
So true that vintage V&C selection is very much about the "feel" of the piece. With the knowledge obtained from THL and other forums, plus several reference books and having handled many good and bad examples, I trust my instincts more....but still verify all the smallest details too . And the outside is only half the story! V&C movements deserve their moment in the sunshine too. For example, the provenance of this watch began with the JLC cal. 449 ebauche: It's first V&C iteration was the cal. 453 with sub-seconds: Further refinements, including the addition of a swan-neck fine balance adjustment, created the 453/3B, /3BW and /3C: The move to center seconds resulted in a designation change to 454 and its related sub-calibers: It is confusing enough to sort out the variations of V&C sub-calibers as Dan's earlier post illustrates, which puts the collector at a disadvantage when trying to ensure originality. Take this K454/3BW: Notice the absence of the swan-neck and EXU import code on the balance cock? This suggests a non-Vacheron replacement part, which should be marked VXN. Unfortunately, I cannot find a record of the importer for the EXU code, so any insights would be appreciated.