In the Leschot thread below Dean made an excellent comment on the identity of VC watches and I was wondering what the Loungers' thoughs were on this issue.
Alex, your comments on Georges-August Leschot prompted me to go into a few books to research this remarkable gentleman. While reviewing a book called The Classic Watch (1989 Wellfleet Press), I came across this description of the company Vacheron Constantin:
Then, as now, the company's policy was based on small production numbers and the highest quality. Movement thinness and classically elegant dials were the outstanding features, and the company's traditional aims were well-known and secure as the dawn of the wristwatch era arrived.
VC certainly maintained those two values of thinness and classic dial design into the 20th century. The 1003 and 1120 were world-record thin calibers. This no longer appear to be the case now, but I'm not sure that the "new" look has been adequately defined in the minds of consumers.
The VC website states their "distinctive values" are, Technology, Design and Finishing. I'm concerned these are not specific enough to create a picture in the minds of people as to what a VC is and what it should look like. When one thinks Patek, the Calatrava comes first to mind. Royal Oak for Audemars. The same visioning exercise for Vacheron produces a very scattered montage in my mind...
As much as I agree to the fact the VC was the champion of slim calibers that for me doesn't give the brand a specific identity as many other brands (Piaget, AP...) also used extra flat calibers. Furthermore, I agree that saying that "our distinctive values are, Technology, Design and Finishing doesn't really teach you anything on what the brand's products should look like. However there is an important word in there and it's Design. The only way to create brand identity and immediately recogisable watches is via design, that's why watches such as the Royal Oak, the Lange 1 or Journe's Resonance are immediately recognised as being their's.
VC during the 80s-90s brought out many different models with apparently no related distinctive design elements other than the name on the dial. Many collectors today find this a negative point as no specific model could be pointed as saying that it has the typical VC genes.
In the past years VC has tried to recenter its designs on visually recogisable elements but only time will tell if a Malte or a Patrimony Contemporaine will be immediately recognized as being a VC. I do have the gut feeling however that the Quai de l'Ile will be one of those watches which will become immediately iconic and associated for ever to their maker.
However, recently speaking to a few collectors on VC's decision to create immediately identifiable collections they felt that by doing so they would loose their creativity as the brand would close many doors experimenting with shapes (cases, lugs) and dials.
So what is your opinion: do you want to see designs immediately recoignisable as being VC but with the possibility of having less choices in designs or do you prefer the designers to have free reigns but with no specific brand identity element?
PS: Going back to Dean's post I don't think the Calatrava can be considered as a typical Patek design which is immediately recognisable. The Calatrava designates a round watch and looking at PP catalogues of the past years there are many models which other than being round don't have much in common. However, once again hats off to PP as practically everyone states the Calatrava as being an iconic design without this design beeing recognisable and consistent throughout time
PPS: Charly Torres in a Watch Time interview (check the Press Corner) stated that the Cal 1003 and 1120 would be produced inhouse by VC in the near future which is great news.