Vacheron Constantin in Beijing: The Encounter between two Chapters of History

September 2004

A pink gold ultra-thin watch on the wrist of the last living representative of the final imperial dynasty.

Vacheron Constantin was in Beijing at the heart of the Forbidden City from September 19th to 23rd, for an exhibition organised by Richemont Haute Horlogerie and entitled “Montres et Merveilles”. On this occasion, the world’s oldest Manufacture of Haute Horlogerie had the privilege of presenting a watch to the exhibition’s and China’s most renowned calligrapher: Pu Ren, brother of the last emperor of China and the last remaining representative of the Quing dynasty that reigned over the Middle Empire for 268 years.

Swiss watchmaking and China enjoy longstanding and extremely close ties, enriched by multiple exchanges and a mutual fascination. The Richemont watch brands, some of them well known in China for an extremely long time, wished to celebrate the time-honoured links between traditional watchmaking and China: the “Montres et Merveilles” exhibition, held in the Tai Miao Temple at the heart of the Forbidden City in Beijing, hosted the brands from September 18th to 23rd.

Within this prestigious setting, Vacheron Constantin, the world’s oldest watch Manufacture in uninterrupted activity since 1755, enjoyed the legitimate privilege of symbolising the strength of the ties binding watchmaking history as a whole to a nation with thousands of years of history behind it. This homage took the form of an ultra-thin mechanical hand-wound Vacheron Constantin watch carrying the Poinçon de Genève quality hallmark, presented to Pu Ren, brother of the last emperor of the Quing dynasty and the last representative of the family that reigned over the country for 268 years until the dislocation of the empire.

Vacheron Constantin’s presence in China goes back a long way: the Geneva-based Manufacture began trading with the Middle Empire in 1820, supplying the Court with richly ornamented creations. These initial business relations were pursued throughout the century, culminating in the orders placed by the Emperor in 1846 for a series of finely enamelled watches set with pearls on the case-middle, in keeping with the customs and taste of the period. In 1865, the Imperial Court ordered a diamond-set enamelled watch from Vacheron Constantin. These commercial exchanges have been cultivated over subsequent decades right through to the current era despite the vicissitudes of history, thereby perpetuating the values of extreme refinement that Vacheron Constantin shares with Chinese culture.

At the dawn of the 21st century, the links between Vacheron Constantin and China are as strong as ever. A recent survey conducted in China by the IPSOS market research institute clearly shows that Vacheron Constantin is the number one watch brand in the country, in terms of both global appreciation and attributed value. This observation naturally testifies to the wealth of history shared by China and Vacheron Constantin, as well as bearing witness to the traditional Chinese cultural receptiveness to the refinement that is lavished on a watch, perceived as a genuine objet d’art. This reality was confirmed by Pu Ren’s visit to the Vacheron Constantin stand in the company of CEO Claude-D. Proellochs: the brother of Pu Yi, the last emperor, was especially impressed by the enamelled watches that remain one of the Vacheron Constantin specialities, just as he particularly appreciated the work performed by the brand’s watchmaking craftsmen.

After visiting the booth, Pu Ren was welcomed by Dr. Franco Cologni, Senior Executive Director of Richemont and the mastermind behind the exhibition organised in Beijing, as well as by Francis Gouten, CEO of Richemont for the Asia/Pacific zone. After receiving the watch engraved with his name from the hands of Claude-D. Proellochs, Pu Ren paid tribute to Vacheron Constantin by embellishing a brand catalogue with the calligraphic mention of his official name as a member of the Chinese Imperial family: Ai Xin Jue Luo Pu Ren.

Photo caption:

1. From left to right: Claude-D. Proellochs, Franco Cologni, Pu Ren and his wife.

Source : Vacheron Constantin Press Release

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