The unknown aluminum V&C

Those of you with a copy of the Assouline publication "High Society, The History of America's Upper Class" by Nick Foulkes for Vacheron Constantin, should run to the shelves and turn to pages III and IV of the preface.  There you will find pictures of a disassembled V&C aluminum pocket watch from 1938.  This picture has been a puzzle for me since I received the book a few years ago.

Why these featherweight aluminum beauties have been a personal favorite was documented some time ago here: My First Pocket Watch.  The watch featured in that post had the familiar caliber 439 aluminum movement that I thought was exclusive to this model.  

The unknown aluminum V&C

But then that Assouline book came along to mess things up.  You see, the disassembled aluminum movement they presented is a completely different caliber!

The unknown aluminum V&C

Probably a prototype, I thought, as this style of movement could not be found in any other reference materials.  But then something interesting was spotted at a recent online auction and before you know it I had the mysterious item in hand.

The unknown aluminum V&C

Yes, indeed, there were two versions of the fabled aluminum caliber.  This early model from 1938 was patterned on an existing pocket watch movement.  There were subtle differences in the case and dial; however, it was absolutely V&C.

The back had a dedication for 25 years good service with the Saguenay Electric Company of Canada.  Unfortunately, the inscription was dated 1932, which was several years before the aluminum watch was actually in production.  Furthermore, the Saguenay Electric Company was had only been in operation for five years by 1932.  A more significant hitch was that the case and movement numbers, although correct for the aluminum series of watches, did not marry-up in VC's archival records.  

Alas, it had to be returned crying.  Although I believe there are plausible explanations for all these difficulties, without the possibility for a Certificate of Authenticity it was just an expensive curiosity.

Still, I was able to study the piece and confirm the existence of a previously unknown-to-me V&C aluminum watch...a worthwhile adventure yes.  


The unknown aluminum V&C



a mistake worth making! Thank you for the heads up, interesting find
07/10/2013 - 11:24
n
Re aluminum calibres
07/16/2013 - 21:06
Sorry for the late reply but I've just returned from a canoe trip.  My records agree with yours mostly, although there were both V439 and 439-marked aluminum movements along with 439/6 and 439/7 (all 17 jewels) and this early 17-ligne unmarked calibre with 18 jewels.  Your photo reveals the base movement and they would have used the same dies to punch the aluminum blanks.  None have the Geneva Seal.   The base ebauche for the 439 series was from LeCoultre and their version had 15 jewels.