Vacheron Constantin – “Historique Ultra-fine 1955” and “Historique Ultra-fine 1968” – Re-Editions

Legendary Swiss watch maker Vacheron Constantin revives some of the finest moments in the quest for ultra-thinness. The Geneva-based manufacturer has indeed been closely involved in the epic milestones of this distinctive form of expertise, such as in the 1950s and 1960s when Vacheron Constantin introduced the world’s thinnest wristwatches.

Vacheron Constantin is enriching its “Historiques” collection with two new creations directly inspired by its heritage, each imbuing one of two legendary calibres with a new and distinctively modern touch.

While the first ultra-thin Vacheron Constantin calibres were produced in the 19th century, the manufacturer became most prolific in this speciality during the 20th century, which is generally considered as the ultra-thin “golden age”. It was indeed in the early 20th century that wristwatches began to gain popularity, and weight and thickness thus became crucial factors in ensuring the wearer comfort of such models.

The Vacheron Constantin heritage comprises extraordinary ultra-thin creations and a succession of slimness records.Right from the start of the 19th century, the Vacheron Constantin archives (including a letter written by Jacques-Barthélémi Vacheron to a certain Mr. Girod in Paris, dated May 18th 1912) feature references to thin watches. Another letter dated January 28th 1829 and written by Jacques-Barthélémi Vacheron to François Constantin also mentions the production of “a few thin pieces”.

Vacheron Constantin’s historical records for 1911 also include three 8,9 and 10-ligne calibres, each measuring 2.82 mm thick. The remainder of the century witnessed an impressive number of ultra-thin calibres, representing impressive horological feats and becoming ever slimmer over the years: 2.25 mm in 1917, 1.88 in 1924. Some were used to create such extraordinary models as a rock crystal watch presented in 1926 and equipped with a 2.63 mm red gold movement.

Vacheron Constantin - “Historique Ultra-fine 1955” and “Historique Ultra-fine 1968” - Re-Editions
Vacheron Constantin “Historique Ultra-fine 1955” and “Historique Ultra-fine 1968” Re-Editions

In 1931, Vacheron Constantin set a new world pocket-watch record with a mechanical movement measuring 17 lignes 5/12 in diameter and less than 1 mm thick – exactly 0.94 mm to be precise.

Ultra-thin movements continued to inspire the Geneva-based manufacturer, leading it in 1981 to present the “Structura” collection, which set a highly original stage for one of these movements by reversing it and fitting the hands on the bridge side, thereby enabling connoisseurs to admire the full complexity of its structure.

Vacheron Constantin Ultrathin Pocket watch Circa 1931
Vacheron Constantin Ultrathin Pocket watch Circa 1931

In 1992, Vacheron Constantin confirmed that its expertise in the field of extreme slenderness also extends to Grand Complication movements by presenting the thinnest minute repeater wristwatch movement to date, measuring 3.28 mm and earning the Geneva-based manufacturer set another record. Nor was Vacheron Constantin lagging behind when it came to self-winding movements.

From 1945 onwards, it began developing ultra-thin self-winding movements such as the 477 9/12 which was to be the first of an entire generation : the 498 in 1951, the 499 and the 1019 in 1953, followed by the 1071 in 1958.

The world’s thinnest mechanical movements are developed in Vacheron Constantin’s historical L’Ile premises. Within this impressive legacy, one particular hand-wound movement continues to attract the attention of specialists and collectors. Work on its development began in 1952 in L’Ile (the building on the Rhone River ‘island’ that has housed Vacheron Constantin’s historical premises since 1875) and it was presented for the brand bicentenary celebrations in 1955 under the name Calibre 1033.

Its 9-lignes or 21.05 mm diameter and 1.64 mm thickness have made it the world’s smallest mechanical movement on the market. By way of comparison, this micromechanical masterpiece composed of 120 parts is about the size of a small Swiss 20-centime coin.

This now legendary calibre (of which the excellence was to be confirmed by the subsequent orders placed by other great names in fine watchmaking) was used to equip three round watches that set a new record as the world’s thinnest watches measuring just 4.54 mm thick. These three timepieces have forever imprinted on people’s minds the image of the archetypal Vacheron Constantin watch: round, classic, ultra-thin and extremely reliable.

Now, Vacheron Constantin pays tribute to this legendary calibre by housing it within a reinterpretation of one of those three watches: the “Historique Ultra-fine 1955”, currently the world’s thinnest watch measuring just 4.10 mm thick. The development of Calibre 1120 began in 1966 and production began at the end of 1967.

It too attracted the notice of specialists and collectors and was ordered by other great names in fine watchmaking.  In 2010, Vacheron Constantin has also chosen to pay tribute to this equally legendary calibre by housing it within a reinterpretation of the vintage ultra-thin watches: the model now called “Historique Ultra-fine 1968”.

These two timepieces will find their natural place within the “Historiques” collection, specifically created to bring back to life the various designs and movements that have shaped the finest hours of Vacheron Constantin.

A collection composed of watches intended for watchmaking collectors, connoisseurs and devotees, for those with a taste for discreet and elegant models, as well as purists.

It features models such as the Chronomètre Royal 1907 presented in 2007 to mark the 100th anniversary of the original, and the amazingly daring Historique American 1921 model reinterpreted in 2008 and which was named “Watch of the Year” in October 2009 in Geneva.

Vacheron Constantin “Historique Ultra-fine 1955” watch

For Vacheron Constantin, celebrating the 55th anniversary of the birth of the ultra-thin Calibre 1003 provides an opportunity to revisit its heritage, as well as to highlight its ultra-thin expertise in a period when this term tends to be somewhat overused.

Considered by many experts to be one of the most beautiful and refined ultra-thin movements on the market, Calibre 1003 has been defying mechanical laws for over 50 years. It is extremely complex to produce and its adjustment calls upon the full measure of expertise cultivated by a fine watch manufacturer.

Vacheron Constantin has chosen to present a redesigned version of this movement, while its 1.64 mm thickness – still a market slimness record – and its 21.10 mm diameter remain unchanged. Its finishing is however even more refined, since the bridges and mainplate are now crafted from 18-carat gold. Its 117 parts enable it to beat at a frequency of 18,000 vibrations, and endow it with an over 30-hour power reserve despite its tiny size.

The decoration is extremely meticulous: Côtes de Genève, bevelling and chamfering, and drawing the steel parts with a file are all performed by hand. This exceptional degree of finishing earns the new version of Calibre 1003 the prestigious Hallmark of Geneva, an independent and sovereign certification awarded by the State of Geneva which thereby guarantees the origin, precision, durability and fine craftsmanship of models from a handful of Geneva-based watch companies.

For its 2010 re-edition, Calibre 1003 is presented in a round watch in 4N 18-carat pink gold measuring 36 mm in diameter, inspired by one of the three historical models introduced in 1955, reference 4961. The latter has been selected because of a design that already embodied a decidedly modern touch at the time of its launch.

The reinterpreted version in 2010 magnifies the aesthetic qualities of the original without betraying its spirit. It also features further enhanced technical characteristics on a par with today’s tastes and expectations: water-resistance to 3 bar, equivalent to 30 metres; an exhibition caseback fitted with a transparent sapphire crystal; a titanium casing circle contributing to the overall rigidity; and an even slimmer 4.1 mm case making it currently the world’s thinnest mechanical hand-wound watch.

The result radiates an aura of uncluttered, pared-down restraint and purity. Its fascinating aesthetic features – the slender bezel; the distinctive lugs, each shaped like an arm of Vacheron Constantin’s Maltese Cross emblem; its solid gold opaline silver-coloured dial adorned with baton hands marking the hours and minutes – combine to endow this watch with a rare breed of elegance stemming from the compelling strength of sheer simplicity.

Vacheron Constantin “Historique Ultra-fine 1968” watch

Vacheron Constantin has chosen to make 2010 a tribute year to its ultra-thin timepieces by reissuing, again within its “Historiques” collection, a square-shaped model dating from 1968 and equipped with the famous ultra-thin self-winding Calibre 1120.

In revisiting this watch, the Manufacture has adopted an extremely distinctive style: that of the 1960s. This 4N 18-carat rose gold timepiece creates a striking contrast between the strict square dial opening and the slightly curving case flanks. The resulting design exudes an impression of elegant understatement, further accentuated by a vertical-brushed silver-coloured dial adorned with simple and geometrical hour-markers.

The pared-down lugs lend a pleasingly strict touch to the overall effect, while the sapphire crystal that is bevelled all around further underscores the ties between this watch and the non-conformist period when it was first launched. Everything about the design echoes the legendary Swinging Sixties through an original model that has in time become a great classic.

Compared with the original 1968 watch (reference 7614), the watch now presented features updated technical characteristics in tune with modern times: water resistance to 3 bar, equivalent to around 30 metres; a sapphire crystal, and a clipped-down solid case-back exactly like the original model.

Despite such improvements, which generally tend to increase bulk, this watch measuring 35.2 mm along its sides is even thinner than its historical predecessor: 5.5 mm compared with 6.52 mm, making it one of the thinnest watches in its category.

Like the 1968 model, the contemporary version is equipped with the ultra-thin self-winding Calibre 1120. This exceptional movement driving hour and minute hands has powered some of the most prestigious ultra-thin self-winding watches in horological history.

Despite its apparent simplicity, it features a sophisticated construction that called for some unusual technical solutions. For this re-edition, the Manufacture Vacheron Cosntantin has rebuilt the calibre: although its dimensions – 28 mm in diameter and 2.45 thick – remain unchanged, it is now equipped with an 18-carat gold oscillating weight bearing the Maltese Cross system. It offers an approximately 40-hour power reserve.

Stamped with the prestigious Hallmark of Geneva, its exceptional finishing features Côtes de Genève, bevelling and chamfering on all parts, and hand-drawn flanks.

By way of conclusion, Vacheron Constantin has chosen in 2010 re-issue two ultra-thin watches that have made their mark on its history, duly christened “Historique Ultra-fine 1955” and “Historique Ultra-fine 1968”.

By choosing to equip them with the same legendary vintage calibres – the 1003 and 1020 rebuilt for the occasion and now bearing the independent and sovereign Hallmark of Geneva certification – the Manufacture is showcasing its peerless creativity in the field of exceptional classic watches.

Technical details

Vacheron Constantin Historique Ultra-fine 1955,  Reference: 33155/000R-9588

Calibre 1003 – Rebuilt in 18-carat gold for its 55th anniversary in 2010
Developed and manufactured by Vacheron Constantin
Stamped with the Hallmark of Geneva
Mechanical, manual-winding – The thinnest in the world at just 1.64 mm thick
Thickness of movement: 1.64 mm
Diameter of movement: 20.80 mm
Jewels: 18 jewels
Frequency: 18’000 vibrations/hour
Indications: Hours, minutes
Power reserve: More than 30 hours

18 carat 4N rose gold
Diameter: 36.00 mm
Thickness: 4.1 mm
Water resistance :3 bar, equivalent to 30 meters

18 carat gold, silvered opaline
Mirror-polished Maltese Cross and indexes

Black hand-stitched, saddle-finished, Square-shape scales alligator leather.
Clasp: Buckle in 18 carat 4N rose gold, polished half Maltese Cross

Vacheron Constantin Historique Ultra-fine 1968, Reference : 43043/000R-9592

Calibre 1120, Vacheron Constantin, Stamped with the Hallmark of Geneva
Energy: Mechanical, self-winding
Height of movement: 2.45 mm
Diameter of movement: 28.00 mm
Jewels: 36 jewels
Frequency: 19’800 vibrations/hour
Indications: Hours, minutes
Power reserve: More than 40 hours

18 carat 4N rose gold, Square-shaped
Diameter: 35.2 x 35.2 mm, thickness: 5.5 mm
Water resistance:3 bar, equivalent to 30 meters

Silvered, 18 carat black finished indexes, Mirror-polished Maltese Cross

Black hand-stitched, saddle-finished, Square-shape scales alligator leather.
Clasp: Buckle in 18 carat 4N rose gold, polished half Maltese Cross

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