From Watches Wiki
Swiss watch manufacturer
Founded by Jean-Marc Vacheron
Jean-Marc Vacheron founded an own watch workshop in the Geneva district of Saint Gervais in the said year of 1755. In 1785 his son Abraham took over the then still small company. The manufactured watches were delivered to the nobility and clergy, as well as to wealthy merchants. With the French Revolution, the sales situation deteriorated dramatically and Abraham Vacheron found himself confronted with numerous problems. He married and attached to his name, according to tradition, the surname of his wife, thus also the name of the manufactory changed into Vacheron-Girod.
At the beginning of the 19th Century Abraham's son Jacques Barthélemy Vacheron took over the management of the company, which now carried the name Vacheron-Chossat.
On numerous business trips to Italy, France and Germany, he succeeds in finding new customers for its sophisticated products, namely for its collection of pocket watches with for that time very flat movements, game watches and minute repeaters, built into expensive and elegant cases. In 1819 he picks up the son of a cloth merchant friend, Francois Constantin, as a partner to support the distribution of watches, and the company is now called Vacheron & Constantin. Constantin had gained his first experience in the watch industry as a salesman for Jean-Francois Bautte. With his exceptional abilities and activities the then existing financial difficulties are soon overcome. Accordingly the sales figures rise significantly. From 1830 the watches of the company are sold in New York by Jean Magnin and in New Orleans by Brey.
Innovative serial manufacturing
To be still capable of meeting the growing demand, a rationalization of the production becomes necessary. Jacques-Barthélemy in 1839 finds the right man for the job in the Geneva watchmaker and mechanic Georges-Auguste Leschot, a brilliant designer. He invents production machinery, by which high-quality movement and housing components that were previously made individually by hand, can be automatically produced at least with the same quality. Through this novel series production of movements an enormous cost benefit is created, because the company can now produce quality watches at reasonable prices in a much higher number. In addition Leschot puts great importance on the interchangeability of components - another factor to reduce costs and economize the production.
After the death of Abraham Vacheron in 1843 the manufactory relocates its headquarters to the Tour d'Ile in the center of the city, where the Rhone flows into Lake Geneva. César, the son of Jacques Barthélemy, takes over the management of the company. In 1845 Leschot and the manufactory is awarded the coveted "Auguste de la Rive" by the "Geneva Societé des Arts" as a special prize for pioneering achievements in the field of watchmaking.
The manufactory expands abroad: So agencies establishes company branches in Rio de Janeiro (1849), Dutch East Indies (1847), Calcutta (1850) and New York (1864). In the same year, the manufactory is produces also cheaper, not quite as high-quality watches, under which in addition to the normal pieces there are also first-rate copies bearing the signature of Abraham Vacheron and have the trademarks Abm. Vacheron Geneve and Chossat & Cie.
Under the leadership of two widows
1869 dies César Vacheron, and his son Charles again changes the name to Charles Vacheron & Cie. When Charles also dies at the age of 25 years, the manufactory comes into the possession of the widows. Catherine Etierinette Vacheron, then eighty years old, and Laure Vacheron Pernessin give the company now the name V.ve César Vacheron & Cie.
1872 the watches are awarded by the observatory in Geneva for their high quality. In 1875 Philippe-Auguste Weiss is engaged as a director. Jean-Francois Constantin returns to the executive level of the manufactory, and the company's name is again Vacheron & Constantin. The company moves into the vicinity of the Quai des Moulins. In 1880 Vacheron Constantin registers brand name and logo. So from now on all products of the house carry either the inscription "Vacheron & Constantin, Fabricant, Geneva" or "Horlogorie et boites de montres", and each time also the Maltese Cross, which is inspired by the appearance of the corresponding wheel of the balance wheel as a symbol of precision. Later it is later replaced by two intersecting segments.
Vacheron Constantin watches reap more awards and medals, so at the Swiss National Exhibition in 1896 and again in the same year at the Geneva Observatory with a first prize in the precision competition.
The first wristwatches
1911 in addition to pocket watches also wristwatches enter the collection. In 1918 the U.S. military issues a tender for 3000 pocket watch chronographs and finally Vacheron Constantin receives the production order.
Between 1920 and 1930 masterpieces are created, such as the Grand complication with minute repeater, rattrapante chronograph with counter, perpetual calendar, moon phases and alarm function or the rattrapante chronograph with power reserve, perpetual calendar and moon phase shown later at the show in Zurich. In 1938 king Farouk of Egypt orders a Grande complication which combines all the previous outstanding achievement in the art of watchmaking.
From 1938 the company works closely together with Jaeger-LeCoultre and used their ebauche movements. When thrown into a financial crisis, Charles Constantin decides to sell the majority of shares to George Ketterer. From 1940 this is the main shareholder of the company.
In 1985 the family Ketterer sells their majority shareholding to the former Saudi Arabic oil minister Sheikh Yamani. The company's management still remains in Swiss hands. The "&" has now been taken out of the company name. Later, the company becomes the property of the French Vendôme Luxury Group, to which also belong Cartier, Piaget, Panerai and Montblanc and which in the meantime - after acquisitions of other luxury brands such as Jaeger-LeCoultre, A. Lange & Söhne and IWC - is melted to today's Swiss luxury goods group Richemont.
The jewelry watch 'Kallista'
Among the jewelry watches, whose value is determined mainly by its gems, the Kallista is one of the outstanding models. It was completed in the late 1970s after 6,000 hours and sold for the incredible sum of five million dollars to an undisclosed buyer. Case and bracelet are made out of the solid material: the raw material was a 1 kilogram block of solid gold. 118 diamonds of 1.2 to 4 carats were used as paving , and the total weight of the diamonds was 130 carats. All jewels were provided with an emerald cut.
Les Complications, Les Essentielles, Les Historiques
Also in 1994, at the 400th anniversary of the death of the mathematician, philosopher, geographer and cartographer Gerardus Kremer (1512-1594), now better known as Gerardus Mercator, a jubilee clock is launched that looks unlike any previously known wristwatches. The enameled dial shows a map of Mercator with Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia, also there are two hands in the form of a card circle, which display the current time by retrograde hours and minutes. The production of these watches require an unusually large expense. Just for the enamelling process 35 heatings at 700-800°C are required. Meanwhile the various versions have become coveted objects and obtain high prices at auctions.
The series "Les Complications" contains a wealth of watches with complications such as perpetual calendar, tourbillon, power reserve or retrograde display - sometimes even in particularly complex skeletonized versions. The series "Les Essentielles" could be called as its simple counterpart because it is focused upon the essential: that is simple dial design, only two hands - "simple" would be correct, if not in another, profound way an impression of the utmost luxury and of extreme elegance would be achieved. These watches are held flat and provided with manual winding movements. As a third series there are the "Les Historiques" in classical design.
The sports watch 'Overseas'
To position the company as a manufacturer not only of classic and conservative models, but also in the area of the modern trend watch, the sporty model Overseas is created. Ingeniously here the angular shape of the bezel awakes echoes of the Maltese Cross, which is the company logo. The watch links exclusivity and stability of value: an unusual movement, refined with gold segment on the winding rotor, the finest detail and highest quality of workmanship, also at less visible aspects such as the rear side, where the elegant image of a sailing ship is embossed, as well as crown, bracelet and clasp. There is also a chronograph variant of the Overseas.
The 250-year anniversary
In 2005 Vacheron Constantin celebrates the 250th anniversary of the company, and at the same time being also the oldest continuously active watch manufacturer in the world. On the occasion of this anniversary three special watches and watch ranges are presented, including the Tour de l'Ile with numerous complications. It costs around 1.9 million francs, which catapultes it to the rank of the most coveted wristwatches the world. The grandfather clock "Pendule L'Esprit des Cabinotiers", an unique piece produced at the occasion of the 250th Jubilee, achieves a sale price of 2.206 million francs and thereby registeres a new world record in her class.
Current series and models
The most important recent series of the brand are called Malte (classic), Patrimony (elegant/simple), Overseas (sporty) and Historiques. With the new watches range Quai de l'Ile one dares the first step in the current avant-garde. These models are manufactured with a transparent dial. On the basis of two manufactory movements and with the three housing materials red gold, titanium and palladium 400 custom versions can be created.
The special edition Métiers d'Art attracted much attention. First four models were launched 2005 on the occasion of the jubilee, but now the three-year collection "Les Masques" and the collection Hommage to the Great Discoverers (Christopher Columbus, Marco Polo) are gradually added. Similar to the legendary, already mentioned Mercator here the highest state of the art of watchmaking is demonstrated by means of hand-made "masterpieces", both in terms of their appearance and their inner values in the form of sophisticated manufactory movements.
Vacheron Constantin, Branch of Richemont International SA
Chemin du Tourbillon 10
Case postale 95
CH-1228 Plan-Les Ouates
Tel. +22/930 20 05
Fax +22/930 20 06
Route du Canal 14
Case postale 319
1347 Le Sentier
Tel. +21/845 12 50
Fax +21/845 12 51
- Vacheron Constantin, official website