Vacheron Constantin, the world’s oldest watch Manufacture in continuous activity since 1755, is celebrating in 2019 an important milestone in its history: 200 years of presence in Russia. The Maison’s exceptional archives reveal that the first watch sale to a Russian client occurred in 1819. This date marks the beginning of the story between Russia and Vacheron Constantin.
First Russian Customer: Duke Potemkin
July 9th 1819. Duke Potemkin purchased a Vacheron Constantin minute repeater watch during his trip to Geneva. To clarify, this was not the famous Grigory Potemkin (1739–1791), a Russian military leader and favourite of Catherine the Great, but instead an individual possibly related to his family.
1822, Italy. A letter sent from Villa Palmeri, Florence speaks of Count Buturlin, owner of a fabulous Vacheron Constantin timepiece. Count Dmitry Buturlin (1763–1829) was the son of the senator Pierre Buturlin and godson of the Russian empress Catherine the Great (1729–1796). He moved to Moscow in 1793 and started a book collection. His library consisted of over 40,000 volumes, which entirely burned during “the great fire of Moscow” in 1812. He moved to Florence in 1817 and started a new collection of over 30,000 volumes. In 1839, his collection was transferred to Paris and sold the same year.
His Imperial Majesty The Grand Duke Vladimir Of Russia
1868, the Winter Palace, Saint Petersburg. Georgy Boch, the Admiral of His Imperial Majesty Alexander II (1729–1796) placed an order for his Imperial Majesty the Grand Duke Vladimir of Russia (1847–1909). It took 18 months to produce that timepiece. The case of its minute repeater was adorned with the Russian coat-of-arms. The watch arrived in a box of black wood lined with scarlet corduroy. In April 1870, the watch was delivered to the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg, just a couple days before His Imperial Majesty’s birthday.
Below is an abstract from Georgy Boch’s letter to Charles Vacheron, dated April 8th 1870: ‘Sir, I would like to express my gratitude for receiving such a wonderful watch shipped here at my request for Grand Duke Vladimir of Russia. It has just arrived and their Imperial Majesties (Emperor and the Empress) have kindly agreed to present as a gift to my Master for his birthday’. (His Imperial Majesty the Grand Duke Vladimir of Russia was born on April 10th 1847)
C. De Hoeltzke
1898: H. de Hoeltzke, personal consultant of his Imperial Majesty, ordered a red gold pocket watch with a blue enamel monogram on the back.
W. A. Bolin
In the early 20th century, the Maison supplied substantial numbers of watches to the famous jeweller’s W.A. Bolin, which had several boutiques in Moscow and Stockholm. Until 1917, the Maison regularly shipped to Russia its most beautiful jewellery timepieces and unique men’s watches made from rare precious materials.
Countess Lobanova of Rostov
1915. Grand Countess Lobanova of Rostov, collector of art objects, ordered a watch bearing a small enameled medallion depicting one of her dogs. She also placed an order for a clock with alarm and striking mechanism. ‘It will ring when the button is pressed, so I can tell the time at night without turning the lights on. It does not have to ring on its own’. She also requested three enamelled medallions with depictions of her trusty companions: two fox terriers and a pug. The Countess ordered them in 1916. In 1920, her jewellery was sold at auction at the Lausanne Palace Hotel, Switzerland.
Great Four Watches 1955, Geneva
The Palace of Nations hosted a meeting of four governments: the Soviet Union, the United States, the United Kingdom and France. The agenda included the issue of allocating military power in the world.
To commemorate this event, a group of Geneva residents asked Vacheron Constantin to create a dedicated model. The letter accompanying each watch reads as follows: “May this watch always symbolize happy hours for yourself, for your people and for world peace”.
Boutique Openings in Russia
2001, Moscow. The first Vacheron Constantin boutique was opened in Russia. It was the second boutique in the world, after Geneva. In 2014, the grand opening of the 352m² boutique was celebrated in Berlin House. Later, in November 2015, a second Vacheron Constantin Boutique opened in the GUM department store on Red Square.