a lack of identity?

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.

Dean's post:

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 a lack of identity?

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.

There is both good and bad...
05/28/2008 - 13:12

to having so-called instantly recognizable or iconic watches.  Admittedly, I am a fan of AP's Royal Oak and Offshore.  One only needs to look at my collection to see various examples.  However, I have long held the view that AP has been a victim of their own success and that their other pieces were becoming marginalized since people were so preoccupied with the ROs and ROOSs.  Thankfully, I believe that AP has recognized this situation and has worked hard to broaden the visibility of their other lines.

Regarding VC, I agree that they are somewhat lacking in that singularly iconic model that instantly says "VC"!  Furthermore, I share your feeling that the Quai de l'Ile might change that as it is visually and technically unique and distinctive.  I foresee it becoming the manufacture's "signature" piece but I hope that it does not take on all of the same characteristics of AP's Royal Oak collection.

It helps the brand to have that immediately identifiable watch but it becomes a negative when the other lines are relegated to being an afterthought in the minds of the community.  There is a fine balance that needs to be found and maintained and for Charly and VC, this is a rather new challenge for them to undertake.

We certainly want Quai de l'Ile to be a resounding success and in fact Alex, I think you and I both expect it to be such a success.  It is just my hope that if it becomes such a runaway success then that it does not becomes unmanageable for the brand.

Furthermore, I would not expect VC to become overly reliant on the Quai de l'Ile to the detriment of new designs and innovation.  Similarly, AP has still progressed and evolved with a level of innovation in parallel to enjoying the continued success of the Royal Oak pieces.

Just my 2 cents worth...  This topic provides good food for thought and discussion.  Thanks Alex for raising it here.


Re: a lack of identity?
05/28/2008 - 13:37

Looking back at the histroy of VC there have been very few watches that one could easily identify as VC. From a business point of view it makes sense to have that "flag-ship" which people know and aspire toward. The Rolex president being and example to the average Joe.  Personally I like the fact it does not, it goes with their history.  You'll be hard pressed to find another company with such a catalog of different styles and designs. With the Calatrava I think it's the name not any particular model for  PP that's iconic like Hoover is synomomous for vacuum

05/28/2008 - 19:44

Exactly right Mario.  Regardless of what image comes to mind when we hear the word Calatrava...it registers as Patek.  The name Calatrava has become generic for a certain style...clearly a branding success just like Hoover, Coke and Kleenex.

Chronometer nominates the Chronometre Royal as distinctively VC and I agree that success was achieved with the term...but not the design.  As we know, they have been all over the map trying to exploit the Chronometre Royal (or was that Chronometer Royal?) label with inconsistent themes and movements...some of dubious merit IMHO

Okay, enough of looking backwards.  Forward, I can see great merit and risk in the QDI.  Merit for a great design concept but risk if VC doesn't exercise the discipline to evolve consistently over time.  As introduced, the QDI is radical and attracts attention.  Over time, however, a successful design will moderate it's radical effects to create wider appeal while imprinting the key design elements until...you have the Calatrava

Hm...I do think any watch from the Malte series
05/28/2008 - 15:53

is distinctively VC's. AP is very recognisable with its RO/ROOF or Rolex is directly identifiable only by looking at its oyster/jubilee bracelet or the crown bezel, but I do think Malte can be considered as VC's iconic design.

Patek also IMO doesn't have a specific design that says Patek. Calatrava looks just like a regular dress/classic watch. Many dress watches from the 60's, for example, all look alike whether they were from VC or Patek or AP.

Have you seen this?
05/28/2008 - 16:00

The new Patrimony looks (almost) like the exact copy of this vintage model. Photo courtesy of Paul Boutros.

definately inspiration. VC does claim that the Patrimony
05/28/2008 - 16:27

Contemporaine is directly inspired from is watches from the 50s.

The one in Paul's scans even has the same markers!!

Same dial, same markers...almost identical.
05/28/2008 - 18:40

At least what I wear now is not new creation but a "re-edition" of a vintage model. Beautiful!

Just perfect ! nt
05/28/2008 - 16:34


Just the way you like it Doc...
05/28/2008 - 18:43

V&C, Geneve...

Hey, this is my 300th post!   

Congrats Rei now to celebrate you need to
05/28/2008 - 18:49

buy yourself a new watch

On Lounger's account? Hahaha...
05/28/2008 - 19:24

Kidding Sir. Well...just wait for a while. Let me enjoy my Patrimony a littl longer before I get a new watch.

Congrats ! nt
05/28/2008 - 19:37


+1, just perfect! ....
06/01/2008 - 17:18

I don't find that there is a lack of identity, far from there!

The Chronometre Royal may not be an iconic design as there have
05/28/2008 - 19:08

been quite a few variation but it certainly is an iconic name.

I agree with Duncan and Alex on the QDI which is now immediately recogisable as being VC and hope that even though this new collection will be a successful one it will not parasite the other offerings.

Re: a lack of identity?
05/28/2008 - 20:06

I think VC is known as a watchmaker with free choices in relation to its design, and for this reason I prefer VC to PP.

There is also the quality of the moviments, but in th level where both manufacturers are, it is crystal clear that their watches are top of range.

VC should continue developing inovative designs, but it is important to have a recognisable feature, and I belive this already exists within the collections (and it is my favorite design characteristic in VCs): the lugs in the Malte watches! They are just amazing, and VC should keep producing watches within the collection with those same lugs.

The criticism that VC do not have in its past a distinctive design identity is not completely true, because people know that VC has always led in design, and therefore watches such as the Cornes de Vach, with distinctive design features were instantaneously recognised as VCs.

Thank you

                                       Rolando Figueiredo

Re: a lack of identity?
05/28/2008 - 22:28

I believe you have a very good point but there are some exceptions. Some that come to mind is the Toledo, very distinctive and very V&C.

Another would be their chronographs. When I look at the fortys and fifties, then jump to the 1990's & 2000's, also very distinctive and very V&C.

One big difference that I see is in quantity. When you look at the Calatrava, PP kept with the similar case style of molded lugs and sharp edges along the bezel and case body. They kept this style beginning with the ref 96 in the 40's up through the 2526, 570, 5196, 5296, etc etc etc right up to today.

My point is perhaps the QdI is the future but do not forget the past. I hope that the historique line continues going forward. It gives us the best of both worlds one looking forward while we have the heritage of the past.

Mr L

Mr L you are killing me :-) nt
05/29/2008 - 01:05


I agree with Mr. L
05/30/2008 - 03:40

Hi guys.  I am late to join the party as usual...

As Alex mentioned, the Calatrava watch is iconic more as a name than as a watch model.  Compared to AP's RO (and ROO) which is a real iconic model, the Calatrava line includes many designs which are not really as coherent as AP's RO line.

I agree with Mr. L that, more than the Calatrava line per se, I think what people mean when they say Calatrava are the ref. xx96 series of simple dress watchs.  By maintaining the basic design of the ref. xx96 line over the years, PP has managed to imprint the image of the simple Calatrava watch into the minds of most WIS.

As for VC, I also agree that the Toledo and the chronographs with fan-shaped lugs are very VC.  However, they were not really produced constantly and in volumes that were sufficient to imprint them as "iconic" designs as far as the average WIS is concerned.  Both the RO and Calatrava ref. xx96 lines have been in constant production for several decades now.  I am not sure if there is a VC which has been produced constantly and with more or less the same design features.  As already mentioned, the Chronometre Royal rings a bell but aside from the name and the technical prowess behind it, there is really no coherency in design (which is not a flaw per se, just a disadvantage with respect to "recognizeability").

The patrimony Contemporaine is starting to stick, but even it has a very shallow background.  The watch posted above really reminds us of the heritage of the Patrimony but that is just it.  We need to be reminded or shown where the design came from.  This is because of the gaps where VC switches from one design to another.  Can't have an iconic watch if the design is not maintained long enough for people to remember them.  Personally, I love the Contemporaine design features and I hope that VC develops and sticks with it.

As for the QdI, I hope it will be a success for VC.  I must admit that the design itself is quite modern for a VC (known for more classical lines) but such breaking of new grounds is also a necessity for a brand such as VC to reach and cultivate a wider and younger market for the coming years.  Of course, I agree with everyone that there should be a balance for all of VCs watch lines so that it does not turn out like AP, a.k.a. "the Royal Oak factory".

Just my two yen.