Vacheron Constantin Caliber 1003 and the Geneva Seal

I was looking at a Vacheron Constantin watch described as a "tank," and so I looked up the movement, VC cal. 1003 on the main Vacheron Constantin site. To my surprise, they are still using the same caliber albeit as 1003/3. Even better, it carries the Hallmark of Geneva. I learned that after the initial build of the movement, it was revised with a "shock absorber,--without increasing its width" and the original 1955 c. 1003 was the smallest and slimest caliber of its kind. (The 2013 version of the Prestige of 1972 runs on the 1003/3.)

In a 2007 discussion on The Hour Lounge Alex solves the mystery I encountered, but after nine years, I think it's an interesting story; approached from a slightly different direction. As I said, I found a watch I liked and so I began investigating its background. I found a 1003 movement, but it did not have the Poinçon de Genève as did the 1003/3. I just assumed that by the third version, it has been upgraded to meet the Geneva Hallmark standards.

Vacheron Constantin Caliber 1003 and the Geneva Seal

Calibers 1003/3 and 1003

So I did some more searching and shortly I found two more caliber 1003 (version 1) with the hallmarks.

Vacheron Constantin Caliber 1003 and the Geneva Seal

Caliber 1003 with Poinçon de Genève

So my first assumption was that there was some monkey business going on. I assumed (wrong I learned) that the 1003 without the Poinçon de Genève was a fake and the counterfeiter screwed up and didn't know enough to add the Geneva Hallmark. The older 1003 movements have the tell-tale "&" between the Vacheron and Constantin, and the original 1003 certainly had that (even though the 1003/3 has a Maltese cross instead).

Vacheron Constantin Caliber 1003 and the Geneva Seal

Original 1003 and Geneva Seal

However, since the 1003 image without the seal was from The Hour Lounge, I was pretty sure that someone had a question about it. Sure enough there were some questions, and Alex learned from VC that back then (1955...) the seal was not seen as a big deal, and sometimes it was added to a bridge on the movement and sometimes it wasn't.

My grail watch is still the Overseas 4500V/110A-B128 with the caliber 5100 movement (which does have the Geneva seal), but since my other two VCs are both based on other ébauches (c. 1311: Girard-Perregaux 3100--OS1; c. 1050: JLC + Patek), it's be nice to get a VC with the 1003...while I'm saving up for the 4500... The only brake on my passion is...

Vacheron Constantin Caliber 1003 and the Geneva Seal

...the mighty rolling pin.

Re: Vacheron Constantin Caliber 1003 and the Geneva Seal
04/30/2016 - 16:59

Hi Bill,

As you found, that discussion about the Geneva Seal and VC is interesting.  VC did not promote it as much as PP did (as a marketing tool), and so VC did not have a policy of using it on all their movements back then.  Several calibres can be seen both with and without the GS, and it was often a specific client request that caused VC to include it.

Personally, I feel the VC name on the front should be more of a quality marker than a GS seal...and that will be determined by the commitment of the Brand to horological excellence now and into the future. smiley  (VC...are you reading this?  angel)

I appreciate the in-house movement "movement"/trend/expectations that started with the renaissance of the mechanical/luxury watch market over the past 20-30 years.  It is today's buyer that looks at things through their POV, and it is no longer a trend but in fact a requirement of the day for haute horology. 

But this vintage lover does not require an in-house designed movement.  It is the antithesis of the historic/traditional Swiss watchmaking tradition.  I love history and appreciate how Swiss watches have become so can I appreciate 260 years of wonderful acheivements but not accept the standard practices over 240+ years that were used to acheive that status/reputation? indecision

Cal. 1003 is an amazing movement and an important part of the history of VC and Swiss watchmaking in general.  But even the newest iteration, Cal 1003/3, can only be described as "in-house production", and not technically a totally in-house movement (which would include design, development and production).  JLC still gets the recognition for designing and developing this beauty.

Now the cal. 5100 is another story, In-House and "new" GS (which has much harder requirements to achieve than the "old" GS).  Hope you can get your grail sooner than expected, but alway be careful to avoid the mighty rolling pin! devil

The Poinçon de Genève and the future of Vacheron Constantin
05/01/2016 - 00:03

Hi Dan,

Naturally I agree that Vacheron Constantin should be the first reason over the Poinçon de Genève to get a VC, but just the same, it's nice to see that it has a relatively rare hallmark on a VC movement's bridge,( especially now that Patek Philippe has its own seal of approval --PP) ) . At one time over 90% of all of the GS marks went to Patek Philippe, but now that they have moved some of their operations out of Geneva, most of their watches are inelgible. (Poor Audemars Piguet could never get one since they're located in Le Brasses located in vallée de Joux, well outside the Canton of Geneva.) Besides VC and Chopard, I'm not sure how many companies have watches with the seal.

I also wonder if a Patek can be denied a PP seal...and still be produced by Patek. Sort of a dumb idea to have your own seal of approval.

The awards from Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève may become more important in some respects (broader and beyond the Swiss border--never mind the Canton of Geneva)--, and maybe they'll issue their own poinçon. VC has won the grand prize there twice and has won a total of 7 Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève prizes (less only than Audemars Piguet and TAG Heuer; more than Patek Philippe.)



Re: The Poinçon de Genève and the future of Vacheron Constantin
05/01/2016 - 00:39

Thanks Bill,  the Grand Prix may be interesting and I count some of the judges as personal friends...but I don't really care who wins.  Its just a competition decided by a panel of judges, and I don't take the award into consideration when I look at a watch :-) 

Remember, the Geneva Seal was originally created in large part to protect the Canton's overall watch industry - not just a few brands.  The way the horizontal manufacturing system worked...the "Big 3" became well-known because they were the last link in the long supply chain and the only name visible on the watch.  Therefore , they were the recognizable names to the customers.

BR, Dan 

You know the right people
05/01/2016 - 17:46

Wow Dan,

I didn't know you had friends on the Grand Prix judge panel. I've never been to Switzerland, let alone the Grand Prix or SIHH. Those events are on my to-do list. There's a IWJG show in July and later this month, I'll be at the Timecrafters show in NYC! (My first.) I did get a chance to see the auction watches and meet Alex at Phillips; so I'm making progress in this new field that has captured me hook, line and sinker! While saving for my grail watch (Overseas 4500), I keep finding other ones...what a way to live.

Kindest regards,