Founded in 1755, Vacheron Constantin is the world’s oldest watch Manufacture in continuous production for over 260 years, faithfully perpetuating a proud heritage of watchmaking excellence and stylistic sophistication through generations of master artisans.
At the pinnacle of high horology and understated elegance, the Maison creates timepieces with unique technical and aesthetic signatures, as well as an extremely high level of finishing touches.
Vacheron Constantin brings to life unparalleled heritage and a spirit of innovation through its key collections: Patrimony, Traditionnelle, Métiers d’Art, Overseas, Fiftysix® and Historiques. It also offers its discerning clientele of connoisseurs the rare opportunity to acquire unique and bespoke timepieces by means of its “Les Cabinotiers“ department.
Over the centuries, through skilfully interweaving tradition and innovation, it has acquired and nurtured the technical, aesthetic, artistic and human means required to express its vision of time. Whether setting off to conquer the skies or following in the footsteps of great travellers, the Maison takes up every challenge involved in telling its miniaturised stories on a dial or at the core of a mechanism. Human beings play the starring role in this epic saga. A love of fine craftsmanship and a deep-felt attachment to shared values motivate the teams and define the everyday life of the Manufacture.
Vacheron Constantin has won over an ever-increasing circle of initiates and collectors who are passionate about Fine Watchmaking. They sense a natural kinship with this discreet elegance, with this thirst to know rather than show, this inherent sense of natural refinement. Having remained firmly attuned to – and often ahead of – its times, Vacheron Constantin is eager to meet the demands of these discerning individuals by creating timepieces tailored to modern life while remaining true to its identity and its exacting standards.
The Manufacture located in Plan-les-Ouates near Geneva is Vacheron Constantin’s international headquarters. It encompasses the administration, design, R&D, Heritage, Customer Service and Restoration departments, as well as training. Production is organized around dedicated workshops: adjustment, casing-up, complications, chronograph-tourbillons, Grand Complications, Métiers d’Art (engraving, enamelling, gemsetting, guillochage), Les Cabinotiers, as well as testing and certification.
Created by French-Swiss architect Bernard Tschumi, the building was completed in 2005 and then enlarged in 2015, two milestones corresponding to the 250th and 260th anniversaries of the Maison’s founding.
It was in 1755 that a brilliant master-watchmaker named Jean-Marc Vacheron opened his workshop at the heart of Geneva. An open-minded and scholarly individual inspired by the humanist current of thought, this “cabinotier” – as the Geneva watchmaking craftsmen were called at the time – soon began making exceptionally finely fashioned watches that were to earn a reputation that spread well beyond national borders. He was to transmit his talent, his knowledge and his sense of excellence to numerous generations of his descendents.
A seasoned businessman and a peerless salesman, François Constantin joined forces with the heirs of Jean-Marc Vacheron in 1819. Displaying tremendous energy, he travelled the length and breadth of Europe for decades, opening up numerous markets to the marvels of ingenuity emerging from the workshops of a House now called Vacheron et Constantin.
In 1839, the history of watchmaking and that of the company were marked by the hiring of a brilliant technical director, Georges-Auguste Leschot. This inventive, visionary engineer developed and produced the first machines enabling series production of movement components, and in particular a device called a pantograph. Until then, no constituent part could b e substituted for another, given the inevitable irregularities of their entirely hand-made production. By associating the machine with the human hand, Vacheron Constantin thereby revolutionised production, enabling a considerable acceleration in the marketing of watch products.
In 1880, Vacheron Constantin registered the brand’s “Maltese Cross” symbol. It is in fact based on a small component of the barrel-cover, which was formerly used to limit the extent to which the mainspring could be wound, thus enhancing the rate of the watch. Throughout the 20th century, Vacheron Constantin has pursued its in-depth exploration of its art through stunning creations intended for an increasingly large number of clients. Year after year, Vacheron Constantin reinforces its reputation based on its know-how and on its sense of technical and aesthetic innovation.
Vacheron Constantin combines age-old know-how and ultra-modern equipment to produce ever more sophisticated timepieces. The brand thus offers an entire range of movements, from the simplest – indicating the hour, minutes and seconds – to the most complex, such as the perpetual calendar, chronographs, moon-phase or jumping-hour models and tourbillons, and on to extremely clever minute repeaters.
As the world’s oldest watch Manufacture, Vacheron Constantin has never stopped creating and innovating. Drawing its inspiration from an existing wealth of successes and from its own traditions of excellence, it is able to create watches with exemplary lines and volumes, in harmony with the most authentic contemporary spirit. Down through changing eras, the shapes and decorative motifs are consistently aimed at achieving a universal, timelessly refined aesthetic appeal that is never ostentatious.
The finishing testifies to the efforts expended on technical and aesthetic levels to give exceptional value to each watch emerging from the workshops. It is the care devoted to each detail that makes a Vacheron Constantin so clearly recognisable to connoisseurs. This quest for perfection constitutes the genuine signature, invisible yet very real, of the master-watchmakers of the House.
When Jean-Marc Vacheron founded Vacheron Constantin in 1755 the ways of doing business were very different to today. To become a master watchmaker had taken him time and the ability to demonstrate great skill and commitment to the art of watchmaking.
Typically he had first to find a place for his atelier where he could also house both his family and his apprentices. Geneva watchmakers, or cabinotiers, tended to settle in the Old Town of Geneva, and given the tall buildings which lined the streets of this area, the watchmakers generally chose to have their workshops on the top floor of the building – this way they were able to take advantage of every second of daylight.
In the 18th century customers would visit the workshops directly to discuss their orders and check on the progress of their custom-made watches at the various stages of completion. Inevitably, as business developed, it became less and less convenient to have clients climbing to the top of the building and eventually ‘client reception areas’ were created on the first floor. Here clients came to discuss their timekeeping needs in privacy – a situation which was greatly appreciated by clients, particularly those wishing to discuss some of the original and more valuable pieces being created for them by their master watchmaker – an intimacy and privacy which still exists today.
In 1843, after several years working near the Quai des Bergues in Geneva, Vacheron Constantin moved to the Tour de L’Ile, the remains of an ancient 13th century fortified palace built by Bishop Aymon de Grandson to control this natural crossing point of the River Rhône.
A famous Geneva landmark, the Tour was also a tribute to the clock-making industry of Geneva with its clock tower, which had for centuries been crowned by a great clock. Here the firm was able to rent considerably more space than it had had previously, including three floors for workshops as well as the first floor apartment. In the style of the day, the first floor apartment became the clients’ reception area for private consultations with Vacheron Constantin sales personnel and master-watchmakers, here long hours were spent discussing the creation of special pieces, viewing bespoke watches, and negotiating contracts.
Eventually the headquarters in the Tour de L’Ile became too cramped for the ever-expanding business and Jean-François Constantin commissioned the architect Elysée Goss to create a purpose-built headquarters for Vacheron Constantin at 1 quai des Moulins on L’Ile, just a stone’s throw from the tower. It was completed in 1875.
Business flourished and over the years many of the rich and famous climbed the stairs to the first floor of Vacheron Constantin’s headquarters on L’Ile to discuss their watchmaking needs. The clientele included important members of Europe’s aristocracy, the cream of world society and world famous personalities.
Innovative as always, Vacheron Constantin decided that it was evidently more practical to welcome clients at ground-floor level. So, in 1906, in order to sell and display their mastercrafted creations in an appropriately splendid setting, Vacheron Constantin decided to engage the architect Bettinger to create their first Boutique in the rue des Moulins premises. The shop was opened on 1 August 1906 and now Genevans and tourists alike were able feast their eyes on the superb Vacheron Constantin creations arranged in the elegant ground floor window displays. In just a little more than 150 years since its inception, the company had established one of the very first watch boutiques in Geneva.
Throughout its 100 years of existence the Boutique has embraced the fundamental changes taking place in society. It has seen a fascination develop for overseas travel and exploration and its inherent need for precision timekeeping, the formation of the United Nations, turning Geneva into a truly international center playing host to diplomats from around the world.
Naturally many of these, along with their visiting Heads of State have found their way across the hallowed threshold of Vacheron Constantin’s stylish Boutique – King Farouk of Egypt, the Aga Khan, the Maharaja of Patiala, the Maharaja of Baroda, Edward Prince of Wales, are among those choosing the brand. Watches have been ordered for aviators and military men alike, to commemorate events, feats of prowess and new world records.
In 2004, the headquarters and manufacture of Vacheron Constantin moved to state-of-the-art premises designed by Bernard Tschumi Urbanistes Architectes, in Plan-les-Ouates, Geneva, while the architect Eric Maria was commissioned to completely restore the historic cradle of the Maison Vacheron Constantin, at rue des Moulins on L’Ile, in the heart of Geneva.
The Boutique – an intimate calming environment where clients can view the current Vacheron Constantin Collections, incorporates on the first floor the splendors of the Vacheron Constantin Heritage Center – here visitors can participate in the full Vacheron Constantin experience with archival exhibitions, an opportunity to view tools and watches from 1755 to the present day, gaze in awe as master-craftsmen restore antique watches, leaf through the comprehensive Vacheron Constantin library or watch detailed video footage of many of the artisanal techniques and master crafts used in the production of Vacheron Constantin watches.
Today the Maison Vacheron Constantin continues to draw watch aficionados to its doors – not only to appreciate the superbly crafted watch masterpieces on sale in the Boutique, but also to delve into the 250 years of history of the brand and to experience at first hand the pleasures of watching the master watchmakers’ every attention to minute detail as they work at the benches in the Heritage Center on the first floor of the historic Maison Vacheron Constantin en L’Ile in Geneva.
Patrimony: Finely balanced proportions, taut curves, pure lines and a slender case. A minimalist aesthetic inspired by 1950s Vacheron Constantin models.
Traditionnelle: A tribute to craftsmanship and to the Genevan art of watchmaking passed on from generation to generation.
Overseas: Launched in 1996 and reinvented in 2016, Overseas asserts its modern, chic & sporty, practical & comfortable style, complete with interchangeable bracelet/straps and buckles. This automatic watch is dedicated to traveling and openness to the world.
Fiftysix®: Unveiled in 2018, Fiftysix is attuned to the cosmopolitan spirit of casual elegance, suited to modern living and designed to be worn in every circumstance. Inspired by certain aesthetic codes of a 1956 model, it comes in gold or steel versions equipped with simple or complicated movements. Visible through a transparent sapphire crystal caseback, its original oscillating weight in open-worked gold is adorned with the emblem of the Maison, the Maltese cross.
Historiques: Contemporary reinterpretations of archetypal Vacheron Constantin models paying homage to the technical and aesthetic expertise of the Manufacture.
Métiers d’Art: Exceptional models highlighting the traditional decorative techniques passed on between generations of master artisans: enamelling, engraving, gemsetting, guilloché. Various themes are explored across the years: Aérostiers, Mécaniques ajourées, Villes Lumières, Sphères célestes… Playing on materials and colours serves to create spectacular effects.
Harmony: Vacheron Constantin’s technical and aesthetic excellence embodied in a reinvented cushion shape. Its curved caseband, square bezel and round crystal a reminiscent of a 1928 chronograph. A collection equipped with original and innovative calibres.
Malte: Recognisable by its tonneau shape and inspired by the Maltese cross, it illustrates the profuse and multi-facetted creativity of Vacheron Constantin in designing its timepieces.
Heures Créatives: Time in the feminine mode: precious, glamorous, daring and adorned with diamonds, these creations are reminiscent of certain iconic models from the Maison dating back to the 1920s, 1930s and 1970s.
Quai de l’Île: Named after the Maison’s historical birthplace in Geneva, it perpetuates the tradition of horological excellence cultivated by the 18th century master cabinotiers by personalising watches at customers’ request.
1972: These asymmetrical, offbeat collection models flaunt a fanciful, alternately jewellery-oriented or dandy-style personality.
Les Cabinotiers: This collection is consistently enriched with one-of-a-kind models offered to the Maison’s clientele of connoisseurs, or bespoke watches made to order, all endowed with a rare degree of technical and aesthetic complexity.
Vacheron Constantin History in a nutshell (1755-2005)
- 1755: Jean-Marc Vacheron opens a watchmaking workshop in the Saint-Gervais district of Geneva. He creates his first models there, heralding an impressive production, and founds a dynasty that will shape the destiny of one of the greatest names in watchmaking history.
- 1819: At the end of the Napoleonic Wars, François Constantin joins the company. For decades, he travels tirelessly the length and breadth of Europe, opening up all the markets of the era to the marvels of ingenuity carrying the Vacheron Constantin signature.
- 1839: A mechanical genius hired to manage production, Georges-Auguste Leschot revolutionises watch production by developing the first machines capable of making interchangeable parts.
- 1875: Now somewhat cramped within its historical premises on the Tour de l’Ile, the Maison moves to the nearby Rue des Moulins, where the company headquarters, museum and boutique are still located to this day.
- 1880: Adoption of the Maltese Cross as the brand symbol, derived from a component that used to be fixed to the barrel-cover in order to prevent excessive winding of the mainspring and thus to enhance the rating precision of the watch.
- 1906: Inauguration of the Vacheron Constantin boutique on the Rue des Moulins, at the heart of Geneva.
- 1911: Vacheron Constantin makes its first wristwatches.
- 1955: Celebration of the company bicentenary with the development of the world’s thinnest mechanical movement: just 1.64 mm.
- 1979: Sculpted directly from a gold ingot and then set with 130 carats of emerald-cut diamonds, the Kallista watch by Vacheron Constantin immediately asserts itself as one of the world’s most dazzling watch creations, the result of no less than 8,700 hours of meticulous workmanship.
- 1992: Launch of the Vacheron Constantin 1755 (minute repeater) and 1760 (tourbillon) movements.
- 1994: Inauguration of the Vacheron Constantin private museum, a faithful reconstitution of an 18th century cabinotiers workshop.
- 1996: The Manufacture launches its Overseas sports collection.
- 1998: Integration of the Haute de Gamme movement workshops in the Vallée de Joux, with which the company has enjoyed a long-established partnership and increasingly close ties.
- 2000: Launch of the Malte Collection, characterised by its resolutely contemporary spirit, and is emblematic shaped Tourbillon.
- 2004: Inauguration of the new Manufacture. Launch of the new Patrimony en hommage aux grands explorateurs, which perpetuates the art of enamelling.
- 2005: Vacheron Constantin celebrates its 250th anniversary.
- 2015: Celebrates 260th anniversary.
- 2018: Launch of the Fiftysix® Collection.
Official website: www.vacheron-constantin.com