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Vacheron Constantin’s Historiques Collection: The Highlights

Vacheron Constantin’s Historiques Collection: The Highlights

23. December 2022

Belle Haute Horlogerie’ encapsulates what Vacheron Constantin has stood for ever since its founding in 1755: the pursuit of watchmaking in its highest form and the commitment to continually perpetuate the knowledge and know-how gathered by generations of master watchmakers. In its over 250-year history, Vacheron Constantin has unremittingly created not only fine timepieces, but also a considerable treasure trove of knowledge, historical writings, and the most exclusive of watches.

In order not to let the most significant creations of the horology house be forgotten, Vacheron Constantin launched the Historiques collection, in which new editions of the most exclusive models pay tribute to all the achievements of its long watchmaking history. The watches are usually strictly limited and intended only for a small circle of watch lovers. They are usually housed in platinum, rose gold or yellow gold case, while featuring complications such as annual calendars, moonphases or chronographs. Since founder Jean-Marc Vacheron had a special passion for calendar watches, the Historiques Triple Calendrier 1942 & 1948 were also introduced in 2017. We want to show you the highlights of the Historiques collection that arose in the last five years.

2017: Historiques Triple Calendrier 1942 & 1948

Soon after founding the manufacture in 1755, Jean-Marc Vacheron developed the first calendars and produced pocket watches equipped with full calendars or perpetual calendars. Although Vacheron Constantin presented the first calendar wristwatches as early as the 1920s, they did not experience their heyday until the 1940s – most notably the references 4240 from 1942 and 4240L from 1948. Calendar complications were en vogue in the 1940s, yet watchmakers did not have it easy at the time. Military watches with functional features dominated the scene, with elegant dress watches taking the backseat. Nonetheless, it was the calendar watches with the references 4240 and 4240L, of all things, that contributed significantly to Vacheron Constantin’s success in the 20th century.

Thus, in 2017, the manufacture dedicated two new editions to them: the Historiques Triple Calendrier 1942 with a stainless-steel case and the Historiques Triple Calendrier 1948 in rose gold. If you compare them with the originals, you will see how authentically the new creations have been crafted. The case now, as was the case back then, has a triple gadroon, meaning a rim decoration of the case. The ‘claw’ style lugs have been applied to the case as seamlessly as if they were fused together.

The hand-wound Calibre 4400 QC (Quantième Complet) features hours, minutes and small seconds on a subdial at 6 o’clock. The day and month indications in the double window below 12 o’clock are hand-painted in burgundy, or alternatively in dark blue. The dark blue version comes with a matching blue leather strap. The dial has been classically silvered, as was common in the 1940s. The center is in a fine satin sunburst finish.

The Historiques Triple Calendrier 1942 is worn on a brown leather strap (red calendar display) or a blue leather strap (blue calendar display) and costs 24,600 euros. The rose-gold version was limited to 200 pieces and is now sold out.

2019: Historiques Cornes de vache 1955 in stainless steel

Cornes de vache in English means something like ‘cow horn’. The name is not chosen by chance: it is the nickname of a particular watch from Vacheron Constantin, which appeared in 1955 as reference 6087. It got the nickname shortly after its introduction due to the lugs which evoked cow horns, and have since become a distinctive feature for this model. It was presented in 1955 as the maison‘s first waterproof and anti-magnetic chronograph, and has been enjoying a renaissance since 2015 in the Historiques collection. In 2019, a steel model appeared for the first time, which was unusual for the collection.

Historiques Cornes De Vache 1955
in platinum, pink gold and steel

The original model from 1955 is one of the rarest vintage chronographs of the maison: just 28 pieces were made in yellow gold and six in rose gold. The new edition with a stainless-steel case was a milestone in that steel had long been out of the question for dress watches from the watch manufacturer in this particular segment. In an interview, Christian Selmoni, Style & Heritage Director of Vacheron Constantin, told us, ‘Nowadays, people want to use their watches in a more versatile way. They don’t just wear them for a specific occasion, but prefer to be able to wear them for all their different occasions.’ Stainless steel is more robust and scratch-resistant than platinum or gold, making it a good fit for this new lifestyle, Selmoni explains.

The 2019 Cornes de vache 1955 has a shimmering grey-silver opaline dial with what Vacheron calls a ‘velvet effect’. A beautiful, intricately decorated hand-wound chronograph is revealed through the open caseback. To stay as close as possible to the original, the Cornes de vache 1955 has all the essential features of the Reference 6087: a traditionally kept double-pusher chronograph with 30-minute counter and small seconds, a tachymeter scale, Roman numerals at 12 and 6 o’clock, and the cow horn design lugs. True to the original, the central chronograph hand is in blued steel. Only the case size has been adapted as a result to the changing times and therefore the diameter has grown from 35 mm to 38.5 mm. Also inside the watch, due to the technical progress over the decades, a completely new movement is revealed. The calibre 1142 with manual winding offers a power reserve of 48 hours and reliable protection against magnetic fields.

The Cornes de vache 1955 in stainless steel is worn on a strap made of dark brown calfskin, manufactured by the “Serapian” leather goods company founded in Milan in 1928. It costs 48,600 euros.

2021: Historiques American 1921

Another model deeply rooted in Vacheron Constantin’s history is the American 1921, which, as its name suggests, was produced in 1921 in a small number of pieces exclusively for the American market. At the time, wristwatches were just becoming socially acceptable, and the Swiss horology house was already experimenting with different case shapes, inspired by the boom of the Roaring Twenties, which was characterized by a pioneering spirit but also a break with convention. The American 1921 stood out from the crowd with its cushion-shaped case and dial rotated at 45 degrees. When driving, the arrangement of the dial proved particularly useful, as one could read the time without having to take one’s hands off the wheel.

To mark the 100th anniversary of the American 1921, Vacheron Constantin presented three new models of the classic watch in 2021. Two of the three new variations are housed in a white-gold case that measures either 36.5mm or 40mm in diameter. To mark the anniversary, there was also a Historiques American 1921 – Collection Excellence Platine limited to 100 pieces, with a 950 platinum case. This was the successor of the Patrimony Excellence Platine launched a year prior.

The cushion-shaped case of the Historiques American 1921 is complemented by straight lugs and a crown between 1 and 2 o’clock. The dial, with a diagonal arrangement, is finely grained and silvered with black painted Arabic numerals and a black painted minute track. A small seconds hand is located between 3 and 4 o’clock. The Breguet-style hour and minute hands are made of 18-carat gold. On the limited Historiques American 1921 Collection Excellence Platine, the sandblasted dial, crown and lugs are made of 950 platinum.

The open sapphire crystal caseback reveals the manufacture calibre 4400 AS, developed by Vacheron Constantin back in 2008. The hand-wound movement has a power reserve of 65 hours. All three models run on the 4400 AS movement, which bears the Geneva Seal. The Historiques American 1921 in 40 mm costs 41,300 euros, and in 36.5 mm 34,100 euros. The limited edition Historiques American 1921 Collection Excellence Platine is already sold out.

2022: Historiques 222

When luxury steel sports watches with integrated straps suddenly appeared in the 1970s, it wasn’t just Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe that caused a stir with their Royal Oak and Nautilus creations. Just one year after the launch of Patek Philippe’s Nautilus, Vacheron Constantin launched the 222 in 1977, in stainless steel and gold, to mark the maison‘s 222nd anniversary.

But it was not Gerald Genta, the design genius who had designed the Nautilus and Royal Oak among many other watch icons, who was responsible for the design, but the designer Jorg Hysek, who was then just 24 years old. The 222 is considered the predecessor of the Overseas watch line, which today is one of the most popular watch models ever. This year, Vacheron Constantin has reissued the original model with the drop-dead gorgeous Historiques 222.

The 222 from 1977 was distinguished not only by the integrated bracelet, but also by the fluted bezel and the extra-thin 3.05 mm movement calibre 1121 (Jaeger-LeCoultre calibre 920), which had to be inserted from above into the one-piece case. Another striking feature: the Maltese Cross emblem of the maison on the case at the 5 o’clock position.

Now, after 45 years, a beautiful reinterpretation returns. Like its model, the new Historiques 222 has a diameter of 37 mm, a fluted bezel, a gold-colored dial, straight indices and baton hands, and an integrated bracelet with Maltese cross in polished white gold. The case is just 7.95 mm in height.

Inside ticks the manufacture calibre 2455/2 with a power reserve of 40 hours at a frequency of 4 Hz. The open caseback reveals the oscillating weight with an engraving of the original 222 logo. The bridges were decorated with Côtes de Genève stripes and the main plate uses perlage.

For us, the reissue of the 222 is the secret star of this year’s Watches & Wonders watch innovations. It simultaneously calls to mind that it was instrumental in the run for luxury sports watches with integrated bracelets in the 1970s. The Historiques 222 costs 77,500 euros and is available exclusively at Vacheron Constantin boutiques.