Les Collectionneurs, a unique collection of vintage Vacheron Constantin timepieces sourced from auction houses, private collectors, and the watchmaker’s own archival department, has landed at the Swiss watchmaker’s Madison Avenue boutique. The collection is part of a traveling offering of timepieces that has already touched down in Singapore and London and recently at Manhattan’s luxury retailer Material Good. It will continue to travel around the globe in key cities after it departs from New York. As the timepieces are sold in each market, Vacheron Constantin works to replace them with new offerings for each location. The recently revamped New York boutique at 729 Madison Avenue currently has 13 vintage timepieces for sale that range in years as early as 1928 up to 1993, and in price from $12,000 to $500,000 for minute repeaters. Each piece has been fully restored and serviced by Vacheron Constantin’s heritage specialists in Geneva, and all come with a certificate of authenticity from the manufacture and a two-year manufacture warranty—which is not something available to collectors when purchasing through vintage dealers or retailers.
Both the vintage and pre-owned markets are hotter than ever in watchmaking, with big-name brands and independents beginning to try their hand in the market, but Vacheron Constantin was early to the game. “We began to sell vintage Vacheron Constantin timepieces some 10 years ago,” says Vacheron Constantin style and heritage director Christian Selmoni. “However, we did it with a very limited focus and external communication behind it.” Selmoni says that the watchmaker has now changed its vintage-timepiece pace from “passive mode” to “push mode.” And while Vacheron Constantin boutiques won’t constantly stock vintage timepieces for sale, the global traveling offering will be ongoing, with dedicated events around the collections for each market—and there will be plenty to go around. “Vacheron Constantin started to create its own collection of vintage, historical timepieces in the early 20th century,” says Selmoni. A small selection of the timepieces do, in fact, come from the brand’s heritage department.
The criteria for inclusion in the Les Collectionneurs range is that the timepieces offered must be produced 20 years ago or more; however, the core of the collection is made up of timepieces from the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s. Designs from the ’50s and ’60s remain the most popular among Vacheron Constantin’s collectors. “There is a strong desire for legendary Vacheron Constantin designs from the past, such as the Chronomètre Royal, the “Cioccolatone” model, and the famous chronograph reference 4072,” says Selmoni. “We also offer some very rare minute-repeater wristwatches from the ’40s to the ’60s—in particular the reference 4261, which is to me the most exceptional design of Vacheron Constantin from both an aesthetic and technical angle. The 4261 from 1951 in yellow gold is a sublime example of Vacheron Constantin watchmaking art.”
Selmoni says that each acquisition is both a challenging and fascinating experience and that he is continuously on the hunt for rare finds. He is currently on the hunt for a single-button Vacheron Constantin chronograph from the ’20s—in excellent condition, of course. And he has some tough clientele to please. “The passion from Vacheron Constantin collectors is absolutely amazing,” says Selmoni. “Their deep knowledge of our vintage creations is at times even challenging for me!”
The selection of vintage timepieces will be available at Vacheron Constantin’s boutique on 729 Madison Avenue now through August 17. The collection will move to Japan after it leaves New York.