Vintage Vacheron Constantin Wristwatches

Founded in 1755, Vacheron & Constantin is known for the consistent quality of its luxury and complex high-end wristwatches. Ironically for a company that is today associated with fine craftsmanship, it was Vacheron & Constantin — specifically, an employee named Georges-Auguste Leschot — who, in 1839, introduced the practice of mass producing interchangeable parts for its watches.

The move was widely derided by the traditional watch making establishment, but by automating the manufacture of interchangeable parts, Vacheron & Constantin was able to stay competitive and thrive. Several decades later, Leschot’s gambit caught the eye of Karl Marx, who credited Vacheron & Constantin with the industrialization of the entire watch making industry in Das Kapital.

Although the company made gold-and-enameled jewelry bracelets and gold-and-diamond brooches for 19th-century ladies, its first true wristwatches appeared around 1910. Men’s antique Vacheron & Constantin wristwatches from the early part of the 20th century are typically cased in gold, modest in size, and tend to be rectangular or oval in shape. Ladies watches from the 1910s, however, are still treated as pieces of fine jewelry.

Men’s wristwatches from the 1920s and 1930s are slightly more playful than the ones that precede them, but they remain formal and dignified in appearance. Some have dials that have been turned precisely 45 degrees to the left or the right, the better to be read by left- or right-handed wearers. Other antique Vacheron & Constantins from this period reflect the prevailing Art Deco aesthetic of the day.

Then there are the antique Vacheron & Constantin Montre à Volets wristwatches from the 1930s, with gold horizontal or vertical Venetian blinds on their faces that hide (or reveal) the dial below. Some of these mechanical shutters were opened and closed by turning a knob opposite the winding device. Others were operated by sliding a block along the case above or below the face. All are ingenious marvels of design and engineering.

A venerable vintage model from the 1940s and 1950s is the Cornes de Vache, which featured a gold or platinum case, a chronograph, and a tachometer. Other vintage Vacheron & Constantins from the post-war era had calendars in their dials or showed the phases of the moon. But the workhorse from this period and into the 1960s was the Vacheron & Constantin Chronometre Royal, whose plain dial and simple gold case belied the precision movement hidden inside.

Finally, like most manufacturers, Vacheron & Constantin produced any number of commemorative and special wristwatches . For example, the company gave one of its George V Royal Presentation Aviator’s Chronographs from 1926 to Admiral Byrd to mark his flight that year to the North Pole...

In 1955, Vacheron & Constantin made a wristwatch that was as thin as a toothpick — at the time it could claim to be the world’s thinnest wristwatch. At the opposite end of the spectrum is the Kallista, a late 1970s behemoth that featured 140 grams of gold (almost 5 ounces!) and 118 diamonds. With a price tag of $5,000,000, it was the most expensive watch ever made.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

National Watch and Clock Museum

National Watch and Clock Museum

This virtual museum, created by the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, lets you stroll through tim… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Vacheron & Constantin Vintage 1950 Tear Drop Lugs 18k Rose Gold Model 4014Vacheron Constantin Patrimony 18kt GoldVacheron Constantin Overseas White Face Mens WatchConstantin Weisz Panamerica Automatic Men's Watch Mother-of-pearl Dial 10n037cwArt Deco Mens Solid Gold Vintage Watch Vacheron & Constantin, Geneva From 1930Superb Original Condition Jaeger Lecoultre From 1956-serviced 480cw-vxn-vacheronRare Vacheron & Constantin Rare Antique Silver Watch Swiss 1900Vacheron Constantin Atr Deco 18k Solid Gold For RepairVacheron Constantin Watch Rare Authentic Antique Swiss High Grade 10 Jewels 1869Men's Vintage 18k Gold 17 Jewels Vacheron & Constantin Engraved Watch Vintage Vacheron & Constantin 18k Gold Buckle Very Rare Full-size 16mm AuthenticAntique Vacheron & Constantine Blue Leather Bound Pocket Watch BoxVacheron Constantin Black Leather Strap Used Size 19 - No ReserveVacheron Constantin Black Watch Service/travel Pouch/case, 100% Genuine Rare Vgc 2 Dials For Movement Of Vintage Pocket Watches Vacheron ConstantinVacheron Constantin Very Rare Steel And Rosegold Calatrava Case V453 Caliber Vacheron&constantinVacheron Constantin Geneve Depuis 1755 Black Leather Empty BoxVacheron Constantin Display Box W/ Travel Case & Outer Box & Sleeve !Early 0.935 Sterling Silver Vacheron Constantin Men’s Watch 16j MovementConstantin Weisz - Mens Watch W Open Back To See Inside Advertising Cardboard Box Case For Swiss Pocket Watch Vacheron ConstantinVintage Lds 18k Gold Vacheron & Constantin Je Caldwell 16 Jewel Wrist WatchConstantin Weisz Automatic Skeleton Rhinestones Gecko Watch 10q039cw 15700133