A Typical Watch Investigation

We often discuss the signs to look for when "investigating" a vintage V&C watch.  Having just concluded a small inquiry, I thought others might like to follow the trail....

A Typical Watch Investigation

Here we have a very attractive silver-cased pocket watch attributed to Vacheron & Constantin circa 1900, as offered on a well-known internet auction site.  The style, particularily the hands and heavily engraved case, shout that it was manufactured for the German market.

A Typical Watch Investigation

Examination of the hallmarks confirms this theory, as both Swiss and German (crescent/crown) markings are present.  This was the practice to ease entry across the border.

A Typical Watch Investigation

The case and movement number were submitted to the Heritage Department who, in their usual wonderful manner, confirm a legitimate marriage in 1903.  However, the records are silent on this movement having achieved a chronometer rating.

A Typical Watch Investigation

The style of the engraved "Chronometre" is unusal for V&C with the elongated R and there is even a hint that the accent on the E of Geneve is at a different angle.  I'm now suspecting that "Chronometre" was a later addition to the cuvette.  This may still be a legitmate exercise if the watch was submitted for independent testing by the retailer which was uncommon but not unknown.

A Typical Watch Investigation

The movement is clean but not what I would expect of a chronometer-grade movement from V&C.  Quite ordinary, actually, but with careful adjustment it might just pass a 45 day observatory test with a lower score.  Verifying it's chronometre rating is essential given the questions arising.

With the French spelling of "Chronometre", the obvious source to check for independent testing is the Geneva Observatory and, after a week or so, they respond that their records to not identify this movement number.  Some research into German chronometer testing of that period reveals the only facility was the Norddeutsche Seewarte in Hamburg, which was devoted to marine chronometers.

The seller indicates the watch is from an estate and has no information except to reassure that it came from a collector.  While there is no definative smoking-gun, I'm not willing to risk purchasing this watch.  As attractive as it may be, it just doesn't feel right!
Interesting to hear your thoughts (nt)
11/03/2010 - 22:39
nt
Re: A Typical Watch Investigation
11/04/2010 - 05:40
Great investigative work Dean! I've been tracking another pocket watch with "Chronometre" engraved on the inner back cover, at a familiar auction site as well.  Similarly, VC has confirmed that the movement and case number match to 1912, but no records of it being sent for Observatory trials - let alone trial results. I'm watching the auction but have decided not to participate, a little too risky for me. BR, Dan
It depends what the appeal of the watch is Is it the style? especially
11/04/2010 - 10:14
considering that silver cases are rare and were  mainly used for the Corps of Engineers but here the lavish engraving on the case back indicates that this watch is neither utilitarian nor lower end. Or were you looking for a Chronometer? in that case then I inderstand your reluctance to purchase. In any event your avatar has never been more deserved?
Defaced
11/04/2010 - 16:15

I agree with your points Alex...it is an attractive watch.  BUT, having false provenance as a Chronometre engraved on it is akin to defacing the piece and it makes me want to cry!  With V&C's deep history of observatory testing, and the value accorded such pieces, it would be an embarrassment to own such a poseur .

touché :-)
11/04/2010 - 16:23
r
LOL, kinda like having the Mona Lisa...
11/05/2010 - 20:26
when someone has painted a moustache on her .  Its still the Mona Lisa, but I'd keep it in the closet.
Dean, very intersting.
11/09/2010 - 11:05
Here is another cieseled and it's movement No sign of chronometre... It must be added later. Otherwise a very nice watch, as all Vacheron&Constantin are Climb carefully! Doc