27 July, 2018

The History of Vacheron Constantin 

I've been trying to think of an analogy to describe the length of time Vacheron Constantin has been operating for. Usually, when looking for inspiration we turn to the stars so I decided to use Pluto. 

Did you know it takes Pluto 248 years to orbit the sun? It isn't enough because you'd need to add another month or so. Anyway, Vacheron Constantin first opened their doors in 1755. Yes, over 260 years ago! 

Do you know something which happened 260 years ago? We do! 

Over 260 Years of Vacheron Constantin 

In 1755, they were Vacheron at the time.

At 24, Jean-Marc Vacheron was a master watchmaker and took on his first apprentice whom he bequeathed his skills to and is generally regarded as the start of Vacheron. 

This became a tradition because the next generation of Vacheron took over the business and taught their son the craft of watchmaking. The company has included sharing as a core value of the brand which illustrates their commitment to preserving watchmaking. 

The World's First Complication

A complication is a function on a watch or clock which goes beyond telling the time in hours and minutes. An example of a complication is the chronograph complication which acts as a timer. 

Towards the end of the 18th century, the first complication came from Vacheron. It was a wall clock which showed the day and the date.

When Vacheron Met Constantin

Jacques Barthélémi Vacheron, the third generation of the Vacheron family, was in charge of the business. He met the astute business mind of François Constantin in 1819. They formed a partnership and the company became Vacheron et Constantin.

At this time, the company was looking abroad as they were making complicated timepieces. Expansions followed in new markets such as France and Italy which gained the attention of royalty who started to send orders for timepieces.

The company has become a symbol of excellence and the quality of Swiss watches. Their first calibre received a hallmark of Geneva stamp. Introduced in 1886, this certification preserved Geneva's watchmakers.

Trivia - Constantin coined the famous motto of “Do better if possible and that is always possible.”   

Vacheron Constantin Through Time

Vacheron is no stranger to breaking tradition, setting a record or two, three or four and generally showing how much they know about watchmaking. Take a look at some of their feats.

  • Tonneau Case - Different, barrel-shaped and a big hit. Released in 1912, it proved that you can be controversial and successful. This design still influences their watch designs today.
  • King Farouk's Watch - This was one of Vacheron Constantin's biggest challenges. Egypt's future King made this request in 1946 and 5 years later, it became real! It has 14 complications and 820 parts!
  • Kallista - Translated from Greek, it means 'Most Beautiful'. Created in 1979 and carved from a gold ingot, it included 118 diamonds and 130 carats. To match the emerald diamonds required 5 years, adding them to the watch took 20 months and making the watch took over 6,000 hours of artisan craftsmanship.
  • The World's Time on Your Wrist - In 2011, Vacheron Constantin did something special when they created the world time complication. This enabled the accurate time in 37 different countries!
  • Reference 57260 - The Most complicated watch in the world. Planned over 8 years, it houses an incredible 57 complications! it's a testament to the skills, knowledge and experience of Vacheron Constantin.

Take a look at this brief video which explains more about Vacheron Constantin.

Credit: Vacheron Constantin

Final Words

Their story is second to none. What they have done with watchmaking has etched them into its history for generations to come. Pursuing excellence has made them an example of the Genevan watchmaking we know today.

Geneva has been a symbol of watchmaking for over 400 years. The word 'Fabrique' described the different trades and artisans who sold jewellery, watches and objects made of gold.

This helped to shape Geneva into the watchmaking capital of the world. It peaked in the 18th century when up to 30 different trades were working in unison!

The story of Geneva is synonymous with the story of watchmaking and one of its biggest success stories is Vacheron Constantin. 

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Head back to The Journal for new content!

Luxury Watchmaking Spotlight: Vacheron Constantin
Luxury Watchmaking Spotlight: Vacheron Constantin
Luxury Watchmaking Spotlight: Vacheron Constantin
Luxury Watchmaking Spotlight: Vacheron Constantin
Luxury Watchmaking Spotlight: Vacheron Constantin