A question about VCs production of steel dress watches.

I know that during World War 2 there was a shortage of precious metals and I am guessing that most of VCs steel dress watches were made during and immediately after that era. (I imagine the total quantity of these non-precious metal watches isn't too high to begin with).

I have a steel, ultra-thin, VC that was made in 1978 and the case is not "old stock". 

I just started thinking about it and was wondering what inspired VC to use steel in the late 1970s for a dress watch?  Was it related to the quartz revolution?  A fashion trend?

A question about VCs production of steel dress watches.

A question about VCs production of steel dress watches.

04/24/2014 - 23:32
Water resistance? General strength to thinness relationship?
04/24/2014 - 09:50
It is much more practicable to make a steel watch water resistant (over the long term) than a gold one. I should think a steel watch could also be slightly thinner than a gold one of equivalent strength.
Good points, thanks!
04/24/2014 - 10:02
These advantages of steel make a lot of sense.  But I wonder if they were the primary factors?  VC used precious metals for their ultra-thins before and after this period in the 70s...so I'm curious about why they decided to make these. I don't see that many steel VC dress watches from this time period, and definitely nothing "recent".   Maybe moving into the 80s, the luxury market dictated that dress watches should still be made from precious metals? Best Regards, Dan
Re: A question about VCs production of steel dress watches.
04/24/2014 - 10:38
Could also be that President Nixon took U.S. off Gold Standard in1973. Gold prices went very high along with inflation. By 1978 gold was around $500usd per ounce. VC may have used steel as a hedge against ever rising gold prices. Maybe just marketing. Anyway thats a nice time only watch..All the best.   Joe
Thanks for both the insights about that time period...
04/24/2014 - 10:44
AND the nice words about the watch. Best Regards, Dan
AP launched the Royal Oak in 1972
04/24/2014 - 19:15
although I believe the concept was on the drawing boards a year earlier.
but at the time the RO was as expensive as a gold watch!!!
04/24/2014 - 19:27
e
Apparently the RO prototype was in gold!
04/24/2014 - 20:28
according to a very informative blog Time and Watches, the prototype RO was done in white gold as they couldn't justify the new machinery required for precision steel manufacture until it was approved... The 222 launched in 1977, so we see a lag time of some 5 years for VC's foray into steel sports watches.  Dan's ref 7592 doesn't appear in any of my pricelists and I'm very curious to see what it retailed for in comparison with the similar size/shape gold-case, non-screwback "dress" models with the cal. 1120. There was the "chubby" cal. 1071/1072 screwback series in steel, the ref 6562 of the late 1960s, and there were steel versions of other references such as the 6394 "linen bezel" also from the 60s.  So, in answer to Dan's question, "what inspired VC to use steel in the late 1970s for a dress watch?", I'm inclined to say they were inspired somewhat earlier.  My theory is that small production runs were continuously inspiring the designers towards incremental changes such as dials, indexes, and case materials within the same model reference and steel was in the mix along with precious metals.
Ref 6562
04/24/2014 - 20:39
photos courtesy of Antiquorum This steel Ref 6394 was spotted in for restoration during SIHH 2011.  By coincidence, I was wearing a PG 6394 and the technicians were very interested in examining its "linen" bezel texture as a guide to their work. Thanks for bringing forward this fascinating discussion, Dan yes
Thanks Dean for your insights
04/25/2014 - 04:03
It would be quite interesting to think that steel was considered just one of the metal options for cases during that time period, and therefore "thrown into the mix" as a normal operating practice to create more variations within a Ref. #.
Found the catalog listing
04/25/2014 - 20:34
for the 6562, available only in steel.  1967 retail was $395 which puts it $200 less than a similar gold auto, like the ref 6727.
I think the idea of dress vs sports watches is a rather recent
04/24/2014 - 19:54
phenomena (15-20 years) and vrabds decided to reserve steel for their sports collection and precious metals for their dressy pieces. However, in the 60s-70s such a thing didn't really exist and most case designs came from the case makers rather than the brands themselves. I would guess these are mailnly just tests or watches reaching out to markets/clients with a lower price range
Thanks Alex, I used the term "dress" watch to try and differentiate
04/25/2014 - 04:12
these watches from the (at that time), "new" steel, luxury, sports watches  i.e.  the Genta collection and Hysek's 222. I didn't know that the case designs were not neccesarily designed by the brands, but by the case makers themselves.  Do you know if it was like this from the 1920s-1980s, or during a shorter time span, say the 60s-80s? One of the things I love about VC's watches is variety of lugs and case designs.  I always assumed they came from VC - as the designs that other brands used during the same time periods don't attract me as much.  VC has a really sharp eye in selecting from the available designs! I always like learning at least one new thing a day, and you've allowed me to do that first thing in the morning!  Merci! BR, Dan
I don't know when this started or exactly how long it lasted but
04/25/2014 - 13:58
from 30s-60s you often see watches with similar cases and dials but different brand names, that is because case and dial makers had a selection from which brands chose from.
Thanks Alex, my bias is really showing now...
04/25/2014 - 15:41
As I love VCs from the 30s-60s, and I still get the feeling that VC's designs during that period talk to me more than other Brands, blushangel
there were nevertheless specific and exclusif case designs for brands!
04/25/2014 - 17:37
s
Here is a great example...
05/12/2014 - 23:00

This is the very familiar Chronometre Royal manual ref 4838:

Here is a great example... Here is a great example... 

 

and here is a similar manual-winding watch from Ditisheim Solvil:

Here is a great example... Here is a great example... 

 

The responsibility mark on each caseback is the same; "Key #5", which is for the case maker Genevor SA.

You should put your Sherlock Holmes avatar back! Thanks for the find
05/12/2014 - 23:20
Photo links are gone
06/06/2014 - 22:20

here they are again...

Photo links are gone

Photo links are gone

Photo links are gone

there are some before too :)
04/24/2014 - 23:32
Nice, have you shared this one before?
04/25/2014 - 00:55
What year, Francois?  It appears to be the WWII vintage that Dan mentioned.
Hi dean, I suppose so but don't remember if I made a specific post
04/25/2014 - 13:15
It is a 4073 that I got from Dje. I don't know exactly the year. (end 40s, beginning 50s) I want to get the papers for my watches, but I would prefer to get them directly in Geneva and talk with people from the archive if possible than getting it from a boutique here. I have to organize myself a bit for a trip in Switzerland and Alex but I have no time at the moment. cheers François
Very nice Cisco, I like the RG hands and hour markers
04/25/2014 - 04:14
The 2-tone look on vintage watches is really attractive to me.  BR, Dan
Dan, I think that combo
04/25/2014 - 07:16
of steel with gold hands and indicies was much more common from about 1945-1960 than it is now. It's a very nice look IMHO Joseph
I believe you are correct about it being more popular in the 40s-60s
04/25/2014 - 16:29
It is also one of the reasons that the new 1972 sticks in my head so much, :-)   BR, Dan
Re: I believe you are correct about it being more popular in the 40s-60s
04/25/2014 - 17:12
I agree, Dan. I found the combination in that watch very attractive. Joseph
It's a delicious combination, no?
04/25/2014 - 18:11
wink Best, Robert
Re: It's a delicious combination, no?
04/25/2014 - 21:23
Yes!! Excellent, I had forgotten that photo. Thanks for reminding me. Best, Joseph
Thanks Dan
04/25/2014 - 13:15
:)
Re: A question about VCs production of steel dress watches.
04/25/2014 - 19:23
Dan I was thinking this for a few years as I also have a stainless steel dress watch reference 6561. I was guessing if this is due to competition patek also produced stainless steel watch at that time. Terence
Hi Terence, thanks for the info!
04/26/2014 - 15:28
I know you are a white metal fan (your T-Bird is stuck in my head).  It's great to hear that you also have a steel Ref. 6561.  yes As Dean mentioned, in the 1967 VC Price List, there is a Ref. 6562 in steel for $395.  (about $200 cheaper than a similar watch in gold). It's interesting that Patek (and others) had steel models around the same time, so it must have been an industry trend. BR, Dan
dan - it was just my guess without solid industry info
04/27/2014 - 15:34
As i am not a vintage patek guy. Still, this could be the only reason for me to believe why VC has stainless steel dress watch.
Thanks Everybody for all your input!
04/26/2014 - 15:41
If I put together all the bits, I get a picture that: 1.  During the late 70s the economy was in a state where gold prices were (relatively) very high and rising 2.  Steel models were offered, though not in high volumes, at lower price points than gold (it is interesting that today, these vintage steel versions may actually cost more due to their rarity) 3.  Many cases and dials were "shared" among various brands as they were designed by the independent case and dial manufacturers. 4.  This seemed to not be VC specific, as other high-end Brands were offering steel watches as well. 5.  From a technical/materials point of view, steel offers benefits that gold cannot - and at a lower cost.
Thanks to all of you for valuable information. nt
04/27/2014 - 14:18
smiley