When modest watchmaker Jean-Marc Vacheron invented the most complicated timepieces, he couldn’t have visualised it would lead to the establishment of luxury brand, Vacheron Constantin. Founded in 1755, the brand survived the French Revolution, and both world wars, making it the longest standing watchmaker worldwide. Its most exquisite watches are handcrafted with gold, diamonds and platinum, making them not just timepieces or jewellery, but wearable art.
Vacheron Constantin was founded in 1755 by watchmaker Jean-Marc Vacheron in Geneva, Switzerland. In 1770, he created the world’s first horological complication, and nine years later, designed the first engine-turned dials. His son Abraham took over the family business in 1785 and kept the business afloat despite the French Revolution and the occupation of Geneva by the troops of the French Directory. Following the lead of his father, he taught the trade to his son, Jacques, who later helmed the company and initiated exports to France and Italy. During this time, the company also manufactured more complicated timepieces, such as musical watches.
In 1819, Vacheron collaborated with François Constantin and renamed the company Vacheron et Constantin. François had a keen eye for business, establishing new markets during three decades of travel. In 1833, they hired Georges-Auguste Leschot, who was the first person to standardise watch movements into calibers. In 1844, Arts Society awarded Rive Prize’s gold medal to Vacheron and Constantin and G.-A. Leschot for ‘the discovery of the most value to the Genevese industry.’ Following François Constantin’s death in 1854 and Jacques-Barthélemy Vacheron’s death in 1863, the company was helmed by their heirs. In 1869, Vacheron Constantin entered its watches in chronometry competitions at Geneva Observatory, winning distinctions. In 1877, the company was renamed Vacheron and Constantin, Fabricants, Geneve. Three years later, it began using the Maltese cross as its symbol. In 1887, Vacheron and Constantin was reorganised into a joint-stock company. For its achievements, Vacheron and Constantin was awarded a gold medal at Swiss National Exhibition in Geneva in 1887. And at Milan International Exhibition in 1906, Vacheron and Constantin presented such beautiful watches that the jury awarded the company its Grand Prix.
Vacheron Constantin began getting orders from Queen Mary of Romania, Henry and William James and Prince Napoleon, grandson of Jerome Bonaparte. To display its luxury watches, Vacheron Constantin inaugurated its boutique on August 1, 1906. The following year, the maison presented its first Royal Chronometer; its legendary durability, reliability and accuracy were appreciated particularly in harsh climates. During 1914-15, the maison created a small oblong movement, le tuyau. This caliber was used in a curved version for a stunning wristwatch handcrafted with gold, platinum and diamonds. It was commissioned by Sir Bhupinder Singh, Maharaja of Patiala. In 1929 the Swiss residents of Egypt presented a timepiece to King Fuad I that combined a chronograph, perpetual calendar, minute-repeater and grand small-strike clock-watch. Enamelled royal arms decorated the caseback of the yellow-gold pocket-watch with a silvered dial, Arabic numerals, an aperture for the days and dates, a sub-dial for the months and years, a thirty-minute counter and the ages and phases of the moon. During the Great Depression, Vacheron and Constantin found itself in hot waters. In 1940, Georges Ketterer acquired majority stake of Vacheron and Constantin from Charles Constantin. In 1946, the brand created one of its most complicated watches with fourteen complications. for King Farouk, son of King Fuad I of Egypt. Sadly George Ketterer passed away in 1969 and his son Jacques succeeded as the head of Vacheron and Constantin. In 1970, the company was renamed Vacheron Constantin.
In June 1972, the French government awarded Vacheron Constantin Diplôme du Prestige de la France. When Jacques Ketterer passed away in 1987, Vacheron Constantin changed hands. Sheik Ahmed Zaki Yamani, former Oil Minister of Saudi Arabia, became the company’s majority shareholder and folded Vacheron Constantin into his personal portfolio of holdings. The illustrious Richemont Group acquired Vacheron Constantin in 1996 and continues to lead the company today. In 2001, Vacheron Constantin won the “Aiguille d’Or” -the first Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève- with Lady Kalla jewellery timepiece and in 2005, with its tour de l’Île timepiece. That year, Juan Carlos Torres was named CEO. On its 250th anniversary in 2015, the maison produced its most remarkable watch with fifty-seven complications. and was awarded Grand Prix de l’Horlogerie de Genève Jury’s Prize. Since, Vacheron Constantin continues to break records. In 2019, it introduced a tourbillon and ultra-thin perpetual calendar. The following year, it released Traditionnelle Twin Beat Perpetual calendar, which features an impressive two month power reserve!!
Today the company is an active member of Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry and produces about 20,000 timepieces each year. Vintage or modern, Vacheron Constantin is considered an excellent investment in terms of complications, design, craftsmanship and heritage.
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I worked with Condenast India as Digital Editor and launched Vogue India’s portal. Four years later, I turned entrepreneur and launched my luxury portal www.explosivefashion.in. Perhaps it’s my vision and exclusive content that’s placed Explosive Fashion at the forefront of luxury: reporting from fashion weeks, collaborating with luxury brands, presenting royal families’ vision, championing talent, reviewing hotels and restaurants, writing on travel, heritage. My editorial is of a storyteller, the story of the person behind the brand.