Timepiece

Vacheron Constantin remakes history with the American 1921 – FHH Journal


Cicero wrote that “History is the light of truth” – a belief in the wisdom of our ancestors shared by watch brands and which Vacheron Constantin took to heart. The Manufacture, created in Geneva in 1755, has embarked on an exciting, if not intimidating, project to recreate its American 1921 identically using the same tools and techniques as a century ago. This now iconic watch saw the light of day along with the Roaring Twenties and wonderfully exemplifies the company’s belief that classics should have a twist: in this case, a diagonal display and a displacement of the crown in one corner of the case. The honor of being the first to admire this recreation, and to compare it to the original, goes to Vacheron Constantin fans in the United States: the two pieces are in the spotlight in an exhibition on the occasion of the opening, in mid-June, of a new flagship product. on East 57th Street in Manhattan, New York. The brand has been present in the United States since 1831.

Unique American piece from 1921 (from 2021) and heritage piece from 1921 © Vacheron Constantin

Today, very few watch companies have the capacity to embark on such a project, if only because of the deadline. Think of the magnificent Birth of a Watch saga, led by Philippe Dufour, Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey who chose Michel Boulanger to build a watch from start to finish using only manual techniques and tools, in order to preserve these traditional methods. . . It took Mr. Boulanger six years to complete this gigantic enterprise and produce a prototype and then ten watches. Like Rome, an artisanal watch cannot be built overnight. Fortunately, Vacheron Constantin was able to count on the support of its Heritage and Restoration departments to support a project that Christian Selmoni, Director of Style and Heritage, describes as “a human and technical challenge” which gave those involved a first-hand experience of long forgotten techniques. .

Unique American piece from 1921 (manufacture of the movement) © Vacheron Constantin
Unique American piece from 1921 (manufacture of the movement) © Vacheron Constantin

The Heritage Department is the living memory of Vacheron Constantin in charge of managing the company’s archives. No other watch company has accumulated a comparable collection of documents in terms of scope or number. The department is also in charge of the Vacheron Constantin private collection which includes 1,400 vintage timepieces and 800 historic tools and machines that would be an invaluable resource for the American 1921 project – including an original 1921 American watch of the 24 that were made. in 1921. Less known to the general public, the 12 specialists in the Restoration service are “miracle workers” capable of repairing and repairing any Vacheron Constantin timepiece, regardless of its date of manufacture. It is home to a treasure trove of hundreds of thousands of original components that have been patiently categorized and stored decade after decade.

Unique American piece from 1921 (manufacture of the movement) © Vacheron Constantin
Unique American piece from 1921 (manufacture of the movement) © Vacheron Constantin

Along with the identification and categorization of the relevant documents by the archivists, the restorers are busy deconstructing the original watch, including the 115 components of the “Caliber 11 New Line” movement which are then modeled. This sent them on a scavenger hunt through the department’s inventory, sifting through countless small boxes for period components (mostly movement blanks) that could potentially be incorporated into the new movement ( their patience was rewarded, because only the mainplate and the bridges had to do from scratch). The next step was to finish and fit each component on old machine tools or using hand tools, ready to assemble – a process that brought its own challenges, such as jewelry setting or the creation of the “unique coast” decoration on the movement by reviving obsolete techniques. The machines were adapted and when the right tools were no longer available, they were manufactured. It took the patience of a saint, as well as four of the five component kits put in place for the project, to complete this American 1921. The main plate and bridges of the movement, the yellow gold case, the dial in Grand Feu enamel, the buckle and the bracelet have been recreated identically. Every other part is an authentic period element.

Unique American piece from 1921 (manufacture of the case and the crown) © Vacheron Constantin
Unique American piece from 1921 (manufacture of the case and the crown) © Vacheron Constantin

The entire process, from the compilation of the research to the actual manufacture of the watch, occupied the teams at Vacheron Constantin for a full 15 months and, despite the hundred years between the two, the finished piece is virtually indistinguishable. of his ancestor. Of course, the biggest beneficiary of this journey through time is the watchmaking itself.



Source link