My vintage triple date 4240 disaster story

My vintage triple date 4240 disaster story

JohnLy's post about his beautiful triple date model (click link below to read) got me thinking of my story with a similar model a rather funny one looking back but definately the pits back then!


Who hasn’t ever dreamt of THE impossible find?

Who has never been to the flea market in hope of coming face to face with a 1940s Vacheron Constantin minute repeater of which the seller knows nothing of and agrees to sell for the price of a pint of beer at your local pub?

Please bear with me while I narrate my quest for the 4240.

Let’s rewind back to 1998 where I bought my first vintage Vacheron Constantin, it was an automatic rose gold model with opaline dial dating from the 60s which I later sold and kick myself everyday for having done so ever since. 1998 is the year I was bitten by the VC bug and even more by the vintage bug.

Ever since, I have been trying to pick up vintage VCs to complete my (never ending) collection.

One piece I had been looking for was the ref 4240. A few aesthetic details attracted me to this watch: triple date without moonphase and the absolutely stunning pear shaped lugs. One must remember that in the 40s (when this watch was produced) the wristwatch had just become an ordinary accessory and the brands were starting to test new designs and shapes and Vacheron Constantin were one of the more avant-garde brands with some really zanzy lug designs!

Vacheron watches from that era were mostly with teardrop lugs and a triple date without moonphase was something of a rarity since the taste at the time (seems like the market taste for moonphases has not really changed in the past 60 years) collectors preferred having a moonphase display if the watch also had calendar functions.

The hunt for a 4240 took many years. I was not avidly seeking one but always had an eye and ear open.


In December 2002 a garage sale was organized in my neighborhood. I had been to one before sometime back and apart from some old LP records I had never found anything of interest but the search for THE impossible lead me to go see what I could find.

One Sunday morning I wrapped myself up in coat and scarf and headed in the cold weather to the area where the sale was taking place. Needless to say that very few people were there due to the lousy climatic conditions.

I stopped at every stall which looked as if something of interest could be found: some torn paperbacks, video tapes of a long forgotten film (which probably never hit the theaters), posters of Iron Maiden or CDs were my food until I stumbled on a booth (more like a table on the sidewalk) held by a very charming young woman in her 20s.

I would be lying if I told you that the watches and jewelry on the table were the only reason I stopped to look. Among a few broken down Le Coultres and Lip watches I saw IT: THE impossible deal: a VC watch and what looked like a triple date no moonphase watch.

I asked the woman behind the table if I could look at the watch. With an absolutely gorgeous heartwarming smile she handed me the timepiece. Now my hands were trembling and heart beating fast and this time because of the watch: the 4240 I had been searching for.

I tried not to show that I was interested in the VC and spent sometime looking at the others. Off handedly I asked her why she was selling her watches and she replied that her parents were changing neighborhoods and were selling some of their old “stuff” (that’s the word she used: I could almost hear Jean Marc Vacheron turning in his grave!) but she had no idea what was what since she was only helping out.

I picked up the VC once again, the month disc was crooked, when wound I could hear a grinding noise and the dial was probably done by a 3 year old child with no artistic talents whatsoever: absolutely horrendous! Furthermore, the crown was not the original one but replaced by a Büren crown. I opened the case back and the case and movement were both signed. I still wanted the watch, if I was to get a good deal I would take it to a watchmaker and have it cleaned.

I asked her what she wanted, she gave me a pretty low price (I’m talking ridiculously low), I tried to haggle a bit just for the fun of it, but she told me the watch was 100% gold and very precious and knocked off a little to make a fast deal.

I paid, put the watch in my pocket danced a little jig right there and then and hummed the music of Indiana Jones and the Lost Grail all the way back home!

That evening I was really excited, the watch was not in great shape but what the hell, all she needed was some loving and taking care of and she would soon be purring happily on my wrist.

But this is where all the fun begins…if you’re a masochist!


I have an excellent friend who is a vintage watch dealer but also has one of the better known watch repair ateliers in town, well guess what? I didn’t take it to him, don’t ask me why, but to someone else I vaguely knew.

I dropped the watch the next day asking for a complete overhaul and if possible to have the dial redone. The clerk told me that it would be no problem since he has an excellent dial restorer in Hong Kong who performs miracles but one should be patient. No problem with that sonny, I was as patient as a hibernating bear. I wanted my beloved 4240 to be perfect.

A few weeks later I passed by to check on my new baby and see how things were advancing. I was told that the watch had been cleaned and the date disc was now functioning perfectly. The dial had been sent to Hong Kong but had not yet arrived.

I call a week later inquiring about the dial. Still not arrived.

I called another week after. No dial

I called almost every week for 2 months and still no dial!! When asked if the dial had been sent by registered post the answer was no but if it would make me feel better, 7 other dials had been sent before mine and they had not been received either!!

I was as close to a nervous breakdown as you can get. My 4240 was now an opendial watch!! Needless to say that by March (over 3 months after the purchase) we called it quits and I picked up my watch, walked out of the shop never to return again.

I debated on calling Vacheron and humiliate myself with the story or try to figure out if I could have a new dial made. I finally decided on going directly to the source and called up the head of VC in my town and after the traditional greetings I explained the situation and our conversation went like this:

VC: Why did you not bring the watch to us in the first place?

Me: mumble mumble mumble

VC: You know that we are the only ateliers outside of Geneva who can work on vintage pieces?

Me: OH really mumble mumble mumble?

VC: How the hell did you manage to loose a dial in the first place?

Me: Oh Lord please have the earth open right now so I can fall in.

Anyway, after our discussion I took the 4240 to the VC ateliers and see what could be done. I re explained the situation to the head of the after sales department who with a smirk (which I probably only imagined but I could almost hear the watchmakers in the back laughing out loud too!!) told me that he was aware of the situation and would see what he could do. Finding an original dial was close to impossible and making a new one would cost a lot and he was not sure if VC would actually accept.

I left him the watch and he told me he would call me if he had any news.

I called him regularly to check on the situation and invariably got the same answer: “nothing yet, but its not good news if it takes so long”! About two months after having taken the watch to VC I called the after sales department and got this answer which was music to my ears : “you may be lucky, we have found an original dial but need to have it sent to us to check if it fits the watch”. I could not believe my ears!! God is a WIS and he is on my side My vintage triple date 4240 disaster story

A week after I get a phone call from VC saying that the dial had arrived and it fit the watch!! In fact Vacheron had checked with all their agents and dealers around the world and it just happened that an old watchmaker from Amsterdam had this dial in his stock!! Lucky me.

There was only one catch: the movement was in a sorry state, it had been fiddled around by what seemed to me more of a butcher than a watchmaker and many of the components needed to be remade since VC did not have the spare parts. Two problems: it would take an extra 4 months to redo everything (this was in May) and it would be quite costly.

With a feeble voice I asked how much and the quote I got almost knocked me off!!! Over twice what I had originally paid for the watch!! I got a detailed explanation of all the new parts that needed to be redone, I accepted the quote and patiently awaited September.


In September I got a call from the head of VC after sales department: “Mr. G , your watch is almost ready, we need to change the seconds hand which is not original and it will take an extra month, furthermore the head of the ateliers would like to change the day/month discs since their color do not quite match the color of the date indication, they are not quite the same red!” hey who cares? At this stage I didn’t even remember what the watch looked like!

Finally on Friday 7 November, 2003 at 10.00, 11 months after having purchased the watch I pushed the doors leading me to the entrance of the Vacheron Constantin ateliers to pick up my precious.

The 4240 indicates the day and month through 2 apertures in the top center of the dial, the date is printed on the periphery of the dial and indicated by a red tip pointer. Seconds are at 6

My vintage triple date 4240 disaster story

The dial is two tone, with 5 applied Arabic numerals at 10, 12, 2, 4, 8 and 6 pyramid shaped indexed in between

I think I got quite lucky since this dial layout was more often found in the ref 4241 which is the same with tear drop lugs. The 4240 usually came with Roman numerals and baton indexes.

My vintage triple date 4240 disaster story

The case is 36mm in diameter, stepped sides and down turned lugs which enable the watch to sit perfectly on the wrist:

My vintage triple date 4240 disaster story

The snap on back is decorated with perlage on the interior:

My vintage triple date 4240 disaster story

The movement that ticks inside is the caliber 485, which beats at the leisurely rate of 18000 VPH and beautifully decorated with Geneva stripes

My vintage triple date 4240 disaster story

My vintage triple date 4240 disaster story

This whole adventure has taught me a few things that I would like to share with you:

1) Never buy something just because the seller looks like a model from Elite
2) Find a good watchmaker and stick to him, in the long run it will cost you less
3) A good deal doesn’t exist
4) A good deal doesn’t exist especially if the sale takes place under conditions described in 1

I wonder what I will find in this year’s December garage sale?

What a beautiful watch
11/26/2007 - 15:20

I'm impatient to see it a day !

Some stories like these. hummmm. again please !

NOTHING beats this story,
11/26/2007 - 17:08

Write it out on a page,

sit down whit a drink or a cup of tea,

because otherwise you will fall down on the floor.

This is a true CLASSIC !

Love it,

and also it where one of the reasons,

why Alex and became close friends !

It's just fantastic,

and we all recognize something of ourselves,

in this story !

But Alex just made a masterpiece


Beautiful watch Alex...
11/26/2007 - 17:42

I am very happy that your story had such a happy ending! Enjoy your gorgeous piece.

Best Regards,


11/26/2007 - 19:25

Alex don't worry, I never made, and will never make such errors: I never buy something just because the seller looks like a model from Elite, I only buy something when the seller is a Elite or other Top agencies models! LooooL

Really nice watch Alex! Congrats!! :) Thanks for all these pictures and this story ^^

Very Nice Pics Alex, could your just
11/26/2007 - 19:53

explaine if this dial and form was usual as I saw once :

or :

triple date models were quite fashionable in the 40s-50s and
11/26/2007 - 23:34

almost every major brand had a model.

Thanks Alex
11/26/2007 - 23:47


Alex,really great story, hard lessons but truly>>>
11/26/2007 - 21:13

this is a great deal of what real watch collecting is all about. Thanks for a great piece of collecting history and also excellent advice! Best, Tim

Wow Alex, what a story...
11/26/2007 - 21:20

And what a watch! I am sure you're gonna love it to death once the restoration is completed :-)

I have no experience with vintage VC watches hunt but I am sure it will hit me one day.

Your story is a true learning experience.

When do you expect the watch to be fully repaired? 

um Radek....
11/26/2007 - 21:42

I got the watch back in Nov 2003 , it was just an old story which I thought I'd share with the Loungers after seeing JohnLy's photos.

sorry must have missed it along the read ;-(
11/27/2007 - 00:03

anyways, great watch, isn't it?

:-) sure is!! (nt)
11/27/2007 - 14:32


love story
11/26/2007 - 23:01

I bet you will never sell this one

What a story!! There is alwaysa beautiful girl in the middle.

Your watch reminds me a lot one Jaeger I got from my brother from his friend who was jeweller in Lisbon and have it still new in it's original box: I think, it's the same mouvement base.

Beutiful design and a very calm watch!


Re: My vintage triple date 4240 disaster story
11/26/2007 - 23:34


Your are a very bad boy!!  LOL!

But you got lucky... I don't know how. Fortunately, it was a comparatively inexpensive lesson.

Mais, quelle histoire!!

I wasn't sure whether to shake my head or laugh out loud.

But its a stunning watch, nevertheless. Congratulations!


Re: My vintage triple date 4240 disaster story
11/27/2007 - 13:46

This is a classic story that wants to make you cry and laugh at the same time. For collectors that like the vintage watches its a very familar story and possibly we can all find parts of us in there. The watch is gorgeous, and the dial I especially like. I think your summary in the end should be the 4 commandments of WIS...dom. With that said part of the enjoyment/thrill is finding that perfect watch lying on a table at a yard sale at some unbelieveable price....having the pretty girl is icing on the cake. Great story and many thanks for sharing it with us.


LOL! That is a good story!
11/27/2007 - 23:34
Good one Alex! You must have a WIS Guardian Angel: you tried to pull a fast one on a beautiful (and innocent?) girl, and trusted your prized possession to a dodgy dealer (?????? I know you asked us not to ask you what prompted that decision, but I still have to ask!!!), and in the end you did get your fav watch... Don't feel bad about the final bill - I won't tell you that the watch is worth it (it is, I just do not want to mention the obvious...), the story itself is worth it!! Cheers, Francois
I wouldn't reall call it a disaster, Alex.
11/28/2007 - 03:38

Think of someone who has to go through all the necessary troubles to finally win a girl's heart. The girl will be precious all of his life till the day he dies. Eventually, they live happily ever after...

LOL! Sorry it took me so long to read this (didn't really have time lately) but it really is a nice story about watch collecting is all about. And btw, we may have the same taste in music too

I wouldn't be surprised! What are you listening to lately? (nt)
11/28/2007 - 09:52


Well, I started with the usual heavy metal back when I was
11/28/2007 - 17:27

11-12 years old after listening to my sis's pop tapes...then it went on to heavier metal during high school days (trust me, NOBODY thought, thinks & will think I am into metal from my look - ALL think I am into dance/pop/techno kind...YUCKS!). College days, I drifted into J-pop and some Canto pop and the metal started to decrease little by little. Then, after marriage I also listened to Jazz/Fussion. Now, after 2 kids (I am 36 now and some call me "uncle" now), I am back to metal and funny thing, it got HEAVIER! Things I couldn't even listen to when I was in high school. I listen to mostly European metal (influence from world of horology? ) metal bands...oh, they are so good. Some female soprano singers, some death growls, etc. I am buying CDs again! Do you really want to know the artists? Well, from After Forever/Epica/Within Temptation to extreme ones (but GOOD) such as Ensiferum, Finntroll, Wintersun, Tyr, etc. Some I just found out with the help of modern day internet. They are all Europeans by the way.

By the way, where do you live Alex?

LOL Rei who would think that of a family man wearing VCs? :-) But hey
11/28/2007 - 17:38

I follow you 100% even though I'm not much into the North European gothic metal scene (Mercator on the otherhand is a big fan!!)

I love the saturated guitars punky sound, and right now I'm more into Queens of the Stone Age, Muse, Placebo, The Gossip and even back to basics with the 1st Metallica albums, Faith No More (Angel Dust is one of my all time favorite albums) or Pearl Jam. My eldest son (4 years of age) is into Kiss!! Go figure?

Exactly! That's what I mean.
11/28/2007 - 17:54

Can you imagine logging into watch forums or going into watch boutiques peeking at Patek, Vacheron, etc. while listening to extreme metal with my Sony Ericsson mobile phone? My friend tells me, "Hey! Your taste in watches is superb, your taste in music is disturbing indeed"...LOL!

Kiss? Wow, impressive. Are they still around? They are really fat & old now. Maiden still rocks though!

Btw, back to watch, I am missing my Patrimony. Still undergoing "surgery" in Geneva. Hope all's well with you, Alex!

Hey you bet they're still around. I think that their US tour last year
11/28/2007 - 18:11

was one of the biggest successes ever! Anyway they put their make up back on to cover the wrinkles .

When did they say you would get your Patrimony back? Mine is getting one hell of a lot of wrist time! Anyway you'll soon have your own Lounger's watch...

They said something like 3 months.
11/29/2007 - 03:52

R/e the lounger's watch, we don't know what will be decided on yet...what if some people dislike it? Or love it but have no budget now to acquire the watch (sure it won't be cheap)? hehe...just some thinking.

I wish I were in Europe so I could enjy what I love the most, watches & metal