Claude-Daniel Proellochs talks about Vacheron Constantin's Quarter Millenium

Rev. 1a
by AlexG
© Oct 2004

In 2005 Vacheron Constantin will be celebrating an anniversary no other brand in the history of watch making has celebrated until now: a quarter millennium of uninterrupted existence. Claude Daniel Proellochs shares his views with the PuristS on the events highlighting the coming year.

The Purists (TP): The Vacheron Constantin Museum will be opening on December 8. Why did you wait so long before opening this museum and what is Vacheron’s goal in this?

Claude Daniel Proellochs (CDP): The museum already existed, but when we decided to transfer our offices to Plan-les-Ouates to centralise production and administration we decided to use the new available space in our historical building in Geneva for a living concept, light years away from a melancholic and dusty museum. The goal is to have in the same location the brands past (museum), its present (the boutique) and in a certain manner its future since our custom made watch ateliers will also be there. The museum will be evolving with different exhibitions. Thus, a person who comes to see us a few times during the same year will probably not see the same watches each time.

(Vacheron Constantin building in Geneva)

TP: Will the museum be open to the Public?

CDP: All you will need to do is enter the boutique and ask for an appointment! For organisational reasons we cannot have the museum permanently open, but the system we offer enables a personalised guided tour, which seems to me to be more interesting for the visitor.

(view of the previous museum)

TP: How may pieces will the Museum feature?

CDP: Today we have about 650 pieces which represent the different epochs of the brand. These pieces are part of Vacheron Constantin’s history and have particularities in their design, complications or historic significance. We are still looking for exceptional pieces, but the problem is that we are not the only ones and it’s not easy!

TP: Will the custom watch ateliers also be open to the public?

CDP: Yes of course. The visitor can see how an atelier of haute horlogerie is organised and functions.

TP:Will Vacheron Constantin be able to respond to any and all demands regarding custom made time pieces?

CDP: If it was the case we would all be in heaven! It will take time and patience. What is possible is currently done and the impossible will take a bit more time (laughs).

(Grande Complication pocket watch circa 1928–scan courtesy of Antiquorum)

TP:On April 3, 2005 will take place the Antiquorum thematic auction for Vacheron Constantin’s quarter millennium.

CDP: This was Antiquorum’s idea, but we will participate in putting for auction a few pieces made specially for the 250th anniversary.

TP:How do you explain the fact that collectors, finally, are getting interested in Vacheron Constantin watches?

CDP: Sometimes we look around but what we are looking for is before our eyes. It is sometimes the case with our own wife! I think that for many collectors the brand was well known but the attraction came a bit later. The 250th anniversary also created a certain momentum.

TP:Aren’t you afraid that this new attraction may be short lived and only linked to the 250th anniversary celebrations?

CDP: This could happen if our watches were not authentic, which is not the case. This attraction in the auction markets will not be a fad because Vacheron Constantin does not make fashionable watches, and I believe that collectors who are looking closely at the brand now know what they are doing.

(carré curvé triple date moonphase from 1950–scan courtesy of Antiquorum)

TP:There was already a thematic sale held by Antiquorum in 1994 but we can’t really say that the prices of vintage Vacheron’s increased from there on.

CDP: I do not completely agree with your analysis. A pocket watch sold for over a million Swiss francs, which means that there was at least one passionate collector. However it is true that prices increased slower than what we have seen during the past two years.

(Vintage chronograph circa 1950)

TP:During some recent auctions, contemporary pieces (limited editions or models no longer in production) did not raise the same attraction.

CDP: I’m not worried; the time factor has not yet played. We make excellent watches but the weight of history has its force and if a 1940s chronographs and a contemporary chronograph are offered for sale the collector will always go for the vintage model.

TP:Do you think that the good results of recent sales will have a positive impact on the pieces of Vacheron Constantin’s current collection?

CDP: We can already see it! The client who buys a branded item may it be from Vacheron Constantin, Patek, Hermes or Vuitton buys an accumulation of historical values which create value. When you spend a certain amount of money for these products there is very often an emotional parameter linked to the item’s past and which in a certain manner comforts us in the acquisition by giving the item a particular credibility.

(Minute repeater circa 2000)

TP: Will you be supporting the prices for vintage pieces at auctions?

CDP: No! We are not image makers. It’s the collectors who will decide if its worth it. They are the ones who decide and if they think that vintage Vacheron Constantin’s are worth “fighting” for at auctions then it will be an image accelerator for us and a stronger credibility for the brand.

TP: Tell us a bit about the 250th Anniversary.

CDP: The goal is not to create fireworks which, once finished, will leave nothing but smoke. Celebrating our 250th anniversary is before all a pleasure in sharing an anniversary with the public, but also a tribute to all that has been done previously. In 2005, we will not only be presenting special anniversary timepieces but also new regular production models.

TP: How many Anniversary models will you be presenting?

CDP: Aha (laughs)!! When you celebrate your wife’s birthday, I am sure that she asks you how many presents she will have but you never reply because you want it to be a surprise. You’ll see, we’ll surprise you!

TP: Will the watch produced as a unique piece present a world novelty?

CDP: You will find out soon enough and you’ll be pleasantly surprised! During 2005 we will organise an itinerating exhibition with all the “250 Anniversary” pieces to enable all the aficionados of the brand to see them in the flesh.

TP: Will one need to have very deep pockets to buy one of these pieces?

CDP: Without being arrogant Vacheron Constantin watches are expensive. Not from a desire to exclude but simply because each piece represents a lot of work. The prices of the anniversary pieces will go from CHF 30,000 to X.

TP: Thank you.


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Copyright OCT 2004 - Alex Ghotbi and - all rights reserved