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Write up on The PuristS trip to Vacheron Constantin Oct 17-19

October 21 2005 at 7:09 AM

alex  (Login argg)
Industry Chat

On October 17 a group of 17 Purists from around the world gathered for an in depth visit of the world of Vacheron Constantin, something even more exciting as we reach the end of their quarter millennium celebrations.


During the day, groups had formed to visit the Journe or Dufour workshops whilst others toured the Geneva watch shops. However, almost everyone met up at the local Starbucks (once you’ve tasted Swiss coffee, Starbucks is gourmet!!) for a quick drink before freshening up for dinner which was to be held in one of the Hotel du Rhone’s private salons and where we had the chance to have actually the 2 CEOs of the company: Messrs Proellochs (who will retire end of the year) and Torres (who has been named as of Oct 1), other attendees from Vacheron were Pascal Brandt (head of PR), Marc Gutten (head of sales) and Julien Marchenoir (head of communications and marketing).

(from left to right: Lawrence Cohen, Greg Emi, Bill Lind, Ian Skellern, Paul Butros, Alberto Schilleo, Spiros Kleitas,Max Hellicar, Felipe Jordao, Fotios Delistathis, Allen, Michel Weiss, Suitbert Walter and Jerome Berder)

The main goal of having a rather informal diner was to have the guests mingle with the brand representatives and ask all questions. But first a few drinks:

(Charlie Torres, Allen and Bill -no he’s not sleeping)

(Marc Gutten, Claude-Daniel Proellochs and Julien Marchenoir)

Diner was preceded with the traditional speeches and a unique sculpture by artist Fotios Delistathis was presented to Vacheron from ThePuritS. I would like to take the occasion here to thank Spiros who was in contact with the artist and who made this possible.

(Claude Daniel Proellochs)

(What’s in here?)

(C. Torres and CD Proellochs admiring Fotios’ work)

We did have a few drinks but needed to be in bed early for a long day ahead of us.

(Francesco doing some explaining to Mr. Proellochs and Paul)


Tuesday Oct 18, we set of to Plan les Ouates which is to watches what Sillicon Valley is to high tech: the Mecca, for a visit to VC’s new state of the art facilities. An absolutely fascinating architecture in the inside: an 18m tall atrium in the entrance, and all made of wood, glass and concrete.

(the entrance)

(Mats Rosen listening to Mr. Proellochs)

(only Lawrence and Greg are paying attention!)

We started by going into a room where all of VC’s modern collections were presented. We were told that for the sake of consistency the Royal Eagle line will be merged into the Malte line and be called from now on Malte Tonneau.

Here are my favourites:

(perpetual calendar minute repeater)

(open work perpetual calendar in platinum)

(Ian S our intrepid photo man)

On our way to the ateliers we dropped by to say hello to Aude Pittard, who works in the PR department and who had organised the trip for us. Thank you Aude.

(Aude Pittard)

(Felipe, Greg, Spiros and Bill who still hasn’t woken up!)

In the entrance of the ateliers there is a small room depicting the “cabinets” the workrooms where the cabinotiers used to work in the 18th century

The first workshop was the training room. Each year VC takes into training 4-5 young students in watchmaking school to give them a practical approach while in school. The need for watchmakers is extremely important and once they graduate these students can immediately start working in the Vacheron ateliers.

This is what they work on…lucky goats! Vacheron Deck watch:

To enter the assembly, regulation and finishing areas we needed to put on special overalls and shoe covers as to avoid bringing dust and dirt in the work areas.

(looks like a surgeons’ congress)

We were shown how watches were assembled and regulated but the most extraordinary sections were the skeletonising and the grande complications departments.

(cover of a mainspring barrel)

(a gorgeous model of the 1400 caliber)

The grande complications department was horological Vallhala; we were all like kids running wild in Disneyland….uncontrollable!!

(Saint Gervais, tourbillon, perpetual calendar with 10 day power reserve. Made for the brand’s 250th anniversary in 55 pieces)

(skeleton minute repeater in rose gold)

(dial side of a minute repeater, the chimes were amazing)

(perpetual calendar minute repeater in yellow gold)

(top plate of the Malte tourbillon)

(back plate of the Malte Tourbillon)

(modern perpetual calendar, made on special order)

(under dial of the Mercator)

(the gorgeous Hommage aux Grands Explorateurs)

That ended our visit to the workshops. Next step was a visit to a department that Vacheron normally keeps secret: The design and conception. As soon as we entered the room there was a flutter while computers were turned off and sketches taken off the walls!

The presentation was made by Messrs. Selmoni and Kauffmann which head the Design and Creations department.

(Mr. Kauffmann)

(Mr. Selmoni)

We talked about the future of VC designs and were shown the A-Z of a watch design. In fact the designers are quite free in exploring new paths and presenting them to the brand.

It all starts with a hand drawn sketch:

Which is then translated into a 3D image:

And finally the cases are made from wax then metal to get an idea of the final shape. Often in these dummies a drawing of the future dial is inserted to get a better idea of the finished product:

(the case designs of the anniversary pieces)

It was then time for a wonderful lunch joined by Oswaldo Patrizzi of Antiquorum where the participants openly asked questions about the brand’s collectability and future in the auction market.

(Messrs Patrizzi and Vuillomenet- head of Vacheron Constantin Patrimony)

(Max H thinking of his next acquisition?)

The cutlery and plates all had the Maltese cross emblem, I wish I could have walked out with them but my pockets were too small to fit a plate! Imagine a WIS dinner back home with these!!

(the coffee was really good, a perfect espresso)

Some of the watches worn by the participants:


It had been a long day but not over yet. We were to visit the Maison Vacheron Constantin which houses the boutique as well as what VC calls their patrimony, which consists of VC’s historical pieces which are displayed in thematic exhibitions.

We were extremely lucky to have seen in avant-premiere the exhibition on calendar watches (from 1850 to end of the 20th century) which will be officially inaugurated in 3 weeks.

We split up in 3 groups of 6 to have a presentation of the exceptional pieces shown, a few of them were recently bought by VC at the Antiquorum Quarter Millenium auction in April.

(Jean-Marc Vacheron’s work bench)

(letter from the Canton of Geneva dated September 1755 acknowledging Vacheron’s setting up as a watchmaker)

(clock from circa 1850 in form of a Maltese Cross)

(pocket watch circa 1880 with central hand for date indication)

(perpetual calendar, split seconds, minute repeater)

(grande et petite sonnerie, split seconds, perpetual calendar, minute repeater)

(circa 1927 unique white gold triple calendar)

(reference 222)

(rare reference 333 with date on the left side of the dial)


(Extremely rare left hand Overseas, only 3 were made)

(functioning constant escapement tourbillon model from 1930)

(Mr. Vuillomenet surrounded by curious Purists)

Before leaving the Maison we could not resist and asked to see some more watches…no we never have enough!

That ended our day


The last morning of the trip was reserved for a visit to VCVJ (Vacheron Constantin Vallée du Joux) which is VCs development and production centre. This is where the calibres 1400 and 2475 were conceived as well as the ultra complications such as the Tour de l’Ile. Certain tourbillions and minute repeaters are also assembled here.

(our guide Mr. Kircher in front of the entrance)

(WHAT?! How much did you say it costs???)

(Spiros who doesn’t want to loose any time and reads watch magazines while waiting for the tour to begin)

The aim of the visit here was to see the evolution of a movement from conception to creation.

The movements are first created using extremely elaborate computer programmes which enable the conceptors to get a pretty good idea of the final result. Once the movement has been finalised prototypes are made and tested.

Next step is the actual production necessitating heavy machinery. These machines cut and mill to the required specifications. An oily liquid is used to prevent over heating and to facilitate the cutting operations:

Once the components are ready they are tested. 100% of the components for new models are tested and about 20% of those for existing movements. The failure rate is under 5%.

Once the components have been tested they need to be hardened and therefore undergo heat treatment in an oven in temperatures between 800-1000 degrees Celsius. This is a very delicate operation because the parts can be over cooked or undercooked which would lead them to be unusable.

The components are heated a second time at lower temperatures and for a longer period of time (between 2-3 hours) to give them a bit more elasticity to avoid breaking.

Certain components are also finished at VCVJ, may it be perlage, Geneva waves or angling. Vacheron’s new policy is to have the same finish on visible and non visible components for its in house calibres.

(circular graining of a bridge)

(unfinished and finished skeleton bridge of the Malte Tourbillon)

(finish of the tourbillon cage)

(I do think that’s a tourbillon my dear Thompson - Don’t be ridiculous, Thomson it’s a tourbillon)

We got to see some very interesting things in the last room we visited which seems to be the room where all tests are undertaken.

Not only did we see an extremely rare and probably unique wall clock:

But also the prototype of the Jubile 1755 in a Malte case used to test the movement!

Unfortunately all good things have an end and we needed to free our hosts. We gathered together one last time for an excellent lunch at the Hotel des Horlogers in the Vallee du Joux; drove back in thick fog back to Geneva and started heading our separate ways.

It was 3 days of great fun, I’m starry eyed from seeing so many beautiful things and talking about watches 24hs a day is a rare experience  but most of all it was great to see some familiar faces and meet new ones.

Thank you all who attended and most of all a big thank you to the VC forum community members who make this forum so special.

One last thanks to Pascal Brandt and his team for organising this trip.

(the gang in front of the building)

PS: All those who attended please don’t hesitate to post your photos



This message has been edited by thepurist178 on Oct 21, 2005 4:56 PM

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