Vacheron Constantin: strengthening its codes

April 2006

Juan-Carlos Torres took over the reins of Vacheron Constantin at the beginning of this year, following the festivities that marked the 250th anniversary of the oldest watch manufacture in the world. A weighty heritage? Europa Star went to visit this venerable company to better understand its views for the future.


Platinum case (37 mm) equipped with a Calibre 1755 SQ extra flat, manual winding movement. Hours, minutes, repeating hours, quarters and minutes on demand, 34-hour power reserve, sapphire glass dial, metallic deposition rose indices, 18 carat oxidized black gold hands, alligator leather strap with a platinum buckle. Limited Edition of 15 pieces.

"Vacheron Constantin is a brand that can be very creative, but one that does not allow any deviation.” Right from the start, Juan-Carlos Torres sets forth the two sides of the equation that he has been called upon to manage. His advantage is that he knows the company well, having been impregnated with the brand’s DNA since he joined it 25 years ago! We can therefore be certain that he will look after it attentively, making sure that no ‘deviation’ will occur. The other side of the equation, ‘creativity’, implies steering this heavy flagship vessel, which is loaded with the weight of its history, with a good deal of flexibility and delicacy.
“Under the pretext of innovation, and we must constantly innovate, we cannot, however, do just anything for the sake of doing something. The Vacheron Constantin client expects something in particular from us, something that we can call ‘respect.’ This means ‘respect’ for the highly technical nature of our product, which goes hand in wrist with the ‘respect’ for its high level of aesthetic quality. These two notions ensure a central element of our brand: continuity. Innovation must go together with the assurance of continuity that our products offer.” And, in terms of continuity, Torres wants to emphasize, in passing, that Vacheron Constantin is able to repair, restore, and maintain all of the products that the brand has produced during its uninterrupted 250 years of history.

Controlled creativity
The creativity that the brand intends to demonstrate reveals, in this context, that it “…is a much more delicate exercise than being able to work with no constraints. Among the brand’s constraints, one is still proving especially difficult: simplicity. This is because our style is essentially one of great purity. And purity is the most difficult to master here, as in all other art forms. But it is also in this regard that true creativity is judged. We must let the form evolve, while keeping in mind the original form, the patrimonial form, with a respect for our codes. Better yet, we must call attention to these codes.”
With these remarks, Juan-Carlos Torres touches on one of the major issues of the Vacheron Constantin brand. Although it is recognized and admired as much for its heritage as for its current creations, although it enjoys an image of excellence and has become a standard in the industry, Vacheron Constantin does not have an iconic product that is readily identifiable with the brand. When asked about this, Torres adds, “This identification is at the core of our current efforts. The codes of Vacheron Constantin are there, and we must make them more noticeable. We must emphasize them, but without exaggeration. That would be too simple and too crass. Visually, Vacheron Constantin must be instantly recognizable. Moreover, this effort is global, and, using the product as the source, it must also pass by the brand’s communication.”


Platinum watch (38.5 mm) equipped with a Calibre 1226QPRD self-winding mechanical movement. Hours, minutes, perpetual calendar with retrograde date indication, day, month and leap year indications, 38-hour power reserve, double sapphire crystal transparent dial displaying the hand finished movement, blue alligator strap wit 18 carat white gold clasp.

Platinum watch equipped with a Calibre 1141 hand-wound mechanical movement with a 48-hour power reserve. Hours, minutes, seconds indications with chronograph seconds hand and 30-minute totalizer, platinum dial with micro-grain finish and guilloché centre, blue alligator strap with platinum buckle, water-resistant to 30 metres. Limited Edition of 75 pieces.

Platinum watch (40 mm) equipped with a Calibre 1400SS hand-wound mechanical movement 2.60 mm thick. Hours and minutes, micro-grain finish platinum dial with cambered border, water-resistant to 30 metres, blue alligator strap with platinum buckle. Limited Edition of 150 pieces.

Making the brand an ‘icon’
This ‘effort’, which must be accomplished with care and refinement, and therefore geared for the long term, is even more complicated because Vacheron Constantin is now, and intends to remain in the future, a ‘multi-dimensional’ manufacture.
Therefore, the brand cannot simply wager on one recognizable form, but rather on a large ensemble of products, which are easily recognizable, whether they are grande complications, such as the recent Tour de l'Ile, or timepieces from the sporty Overseas line (joyfully and elegantly redesigned for its tenth anniversary), or the Malte de Haute Horlogerie, or even a quartz jewellery timepiece.

The role of a passeur
At the centre of his concerns, Juan-Carlos Torres has, however, a capital ‘asset’ to which he accords a great deal of importance: the gesture of the hand, the gesture of the watchmaker, his craft, his savoir-faire, of which the manufacture is a living reservoir. In this respect, Torres sees his own role and that of the brand as being that of a passeur. “Ideally,” he says, “it should be the watchmaker who gives the watch directly to the client. The brand is there only to ensure this transmission.”
“We have largely proved our mastery over the crafts and skills involved in the art of timekeeping, and, of course, in the domain of Haute Horlogerie, of which we are one of the founders, in fact, even the principal initiator in the historic sense of the term. But now, we need to take a leadership role.”
By emphasizing still more the “combination of technique and design,” Vacheron Constantin will succeed in gaining a superior position. “We are going to bring originality into this domain,” insists Torres, “but always with useful functions. We are not interested in making anything gratuitous, such as, for example, an additional display.”
After the flurry of complicated watches produced for the 250th anniversary of the brand, Vacheron Constantin intends to return to this particular terrain starting in 2007, and to make a bouquet of “… simpler products that are directly derived from the company’s research into very high level of complications.”

Platinum excellence
In a concrete sense today, while waiting for an important launch this autumn, Vacheron Constantin is presenting a very particular collection that augurs well for the future: the new Platinum Excellence Collection. With a Malte Chronograph, a very innovative Perpetual Calendar with an ‘Openface’ retrograde date, a limited edition Patrimony Contemporaine, and a marvellous skeleton Minute Repeater Maîtres Cabinotiers, Vacheron Constantin is firing an auspicious salute to success.
This is something to be watched very closely.

Source: Europa Star April-May 2006 Magazine Issue