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Please enlighten me!

November 22 2006 at 5:32 AM
PeterS  (Login TimeBuff)
AP Discussion Group

Dear VC experts,

after checking/trying out all kinds of brands over the last 2 years, and discovering the abundance of new brands popping up, dead brands reanimated, fashion companies making tourbillions, quartz-based firms going mechanical and established brands offering models adapting in design and size to the booming and ever younger market segments (all this without condemning or praising, just noticing), I have decided for myself to concentrate on the traditional Swiss (certainly arguably for many) "Big Three": AP, PP, VC.
As a result, having bought an AP and expecting a PP before Christmas, I am now in a process of learning more about VC and its fascination. I really like the aura of history around this brand, the enthusiasm of its fans, the traditional and subtle iteration of models, yes, even the logo/symbol and the sound of the name
Now, surfing the forums and visiting ADs I have the impression that compared to AP and PP, the newer lines of the brand are not really that popular. Many posts and acquisition reports are concentrated on vintage models, full of praise and admiration (and I agree with them), whereas posts on new models seem to be in the minority. Are VC fans really mostly collectors of the vintage pieces or is my impression wrong? What makes the vintage pieces so much more desirable than the new ones?
Furthermore, it seems to me that VCs strategy with new models is mainly focussed on very expensive models (I am thinking about the 250 years anniversary pieces and the recent platinum range) whereas it is difficult for me to identify a real signature model or "cash cow" like the RO for AP and the Calatrava for PP. Is this intentionally so or is a unique line yet to come? BTW, how many pieces does VC produce per year, and, how is the company doing in sales? Does the commercial success justify their model line-up? Is the relative quietness perceived by me around VC really true, and if so, intended in order to reserve exclusivity?
Looking at various posts where people ask if they should buy an RO or an Overseas, the RO usually gets more votes. Looking at chronographs, ever so often somebody shows his new 5070 whereas it is hard to find acquisition posts of the VC counterpart offering (yes I know just recently somebody preferred the VC:-), actually I also like it better.)

Please see this post as a request for explanation and information. I am so new to VC that I realize that my impressions are probably completely wrong. Looking forward to your comments, I would really be very interested what makes VC different and sets it apart from the rest, in your opinion!

Thanks and regards to all,

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(Login argg)
Industry Chat

Great questions.

November 22 2006, 6:29 AM 

I'll try to answer your questions the best I can and hope other forum members will join in to help.

True that many discussion here on the forum are on vintage pieces but that's mainly because many of the forum regulars (including yours truly) are great vintage fans. This is certainly subjective but VC not only has probably the greatest diversity in terms of designs for their vintage models but also these pieces are the most beautiful available (for some examples check the photo gallery)

The modern pieces are extremely popular and if you read past posts you will see that there has been many discussions on current models.

VC's strategy is not based mainly on really expensive pieces but by essence their watches are expensive. An entry price Patrimony small seconds is approx euro 8000 which is in line with the other Swiss houses you mention. There may be no signature model like the Royal Oak or the Lange 1 (I prefer not to mention the Calatrava which in my opinion cannot be considered as a signature model since the name just refers to PP's round timepieces) but for some the lack of a signature piece is detrimental to VC while others state that it is a good thing since it gives more freedom to the brand and does not make it dependent on just one model (imagine what would happen to AP or JLC if the RO or the Reverso stopped being fashionable!!)

VC as of today makes about 15000 pieces a year which is way under what the other two great Swiss houses produce. I don't know about sales but if the CEO is still in place then the sale figures must not be too bad

I agree with you that there is much less noise about VC than AP or PP but I like to think of VC as a sort of old English gentleman's club where with a slight nod of a head you recognise a member. Something like you have to be in the know to appreciate one .

VC certainly does not have the Patek mystique because to say it bluntly PP has been working on creating the image they have today over 20 years ago, they supported auction prices (to a point where unfortunately when you read the PP forum most questions are on investment value but not on the watches themselves, many of which by the way I like a lot), creating a museum and generally creating the impression of extreme rarity for certain pieces (for me this is unimaginable: but if you want to buy a complicated Patek you actually have to send a motivation letter to Mr. Stern asking him to sell you a watch!!)

Why do I like VC today? Well, one thing is that even though they are 250 years old they try to come out with new designs and models (even though they don't always get it right ) and not just copy past creations resizing them to today's tastes. I like owning a watch by a brand who has been around for a quarter of a millennium (on this note I admit I love their current add campaign, puts everything in perspective), I like the fact that they still use almost disappeard art forms such as enameling, engraving and skeletonising, I like the fact that they will be launching in the next months a custom make atelier where you can commission anything from a different dial for your Patrimony to a Grande Complication, I like the aura of the brand, I like its mystique and in a way I like the fact that it is less talked about than other brands... call it snobbery

This message has been edited by argg on Nov 22, 2006 6:40 AM

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(Login TimeBuff)
AP Discussion Group

Thank you very much...

November 22 2006, 6:44 AM 

...for this answer and the time you took for writing this detailed reply.
I like the gentlemen's club parallel!


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(Login argg)
Industry Chat

oh one last thing

November 22 2006, 7:29 AM 

Amongst others...VC were the first to use platinum in a wrist watch and they were also the first to use a retrograde function in a wrist watch...back in 1933.

The photo hereunder is of a model from 1936 with perpetual calender and minute repeater

Hosting provided by FotoTime

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(Login powin)
PP Discussion Group

Simply the best!

November 22 2006, 6:43 AM 

Vacheron Constantin has made watches for 251 years.
The name Vacheron has always been on their watches,
since 1819, Vacheron&Constantin.
They had made watches 90 years before PP started.
and 126 years, before AP was created.
In those 251 years VC have made less then 50%
of what PP has done in nearly 100 years shorter time!
Perhaps that's why the history plays such a big part,
among us, admirers of VC.

Why we are some vintage collectors,
that are very enthusiastic,
me for example,
and often buy what we can get,
this simply because:

Beautiful watches, in every sense!

Few watches made, some years during the 30s,
300-500 watches a year,
we are talking about the whole production!
As late as 1950, VC wrote to their AD's,
" Please rember, that we never do more than 24 pieces of each model" !

Still extremely low auction prices,
which makes me and many other "fans" pleased

In mine and many other's, not only VC friends,
opinion was VC the absolute leader in design,
during the 30s - 50s.
That's why we keep coming back,
and you must admit that they are outstanding!

There production volume today,
is about 18.000 watches a year,
but as late as 20 years ago, about 3.000!

I think they have many very nice watches in production,
last year I bought a Malte DTR YG,
the same as a famous movie star, see post below

What you always know, is when they make a new model nowadays,
they have the ambition that it shall be unchanged for 10 years.

Why we, often it's Doc himself, demands more and more daring design,
is only normal, from an enthusiast!

We chastise those whom we love

Wellcome onboard!


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(Login TimeBuff)
AP Discussion Group


November 22 2006, 6:53 AM 

Thank you very much for the welcome and the facts and figures, next to the emotional enthusiasm! I slowly start to understand and appreciate.


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(Login TripleTea)

Apart from alex's and Doc's impeccable words, there are 2 more to be added here...

November 22 2006, 7:48 AM 

from a couple of very old ads released from V&C:

"Do better if you can. It's always possible."

"A debt we acknowledge with pride."

Buying with your heart will never fail yourself:)


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(Login powin)
PP Discussion Group

Advertising and Vacheron Constantin.

November 22 2006, 9:54 AM 

Let me qoute Alex's post:
"PP has been working on creating the image they have today over 20 years ago"
I'm the first to confirm this.
Through the history PP always known,
that they are the small brother.
VC never advertised until rare times in the 40s.
After that, no really avertising until the last years,
even though really nothing,
compared with all the other Brands...
PP has over the last years used a very substantial advertising,
with a certain message, copied from VC's catalogue from 1950 !

This is the difference.
Being first, but not loudest.
That's what we like about VC,
they represent something that no other company,
how hard they try,
ever can reach.
Oldest and the class,
exactly what Alex says so elegant with,
an old English gentlemen's club.

We enjoy being members of it

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(Login Wootichai)
AP Discussion Group

Things that make you go hmmm....

November 22 2006, 7:16 PM 

Thank you, Doc, for the excerpt from VC's catalog in the 50s. I can see, esp. in the last line, how those words may spark an advertising creative idea and tagline for PP. Hmmm....

Nevertheless, it's ungentlemanly to bash other brands. So, let's just say "We know" and smile.


P.S. All this VC brand talk is giving me the itch to acquire a VC. I still very much like the les Historique Chrono!

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(Login powin)
PP Discussion Group

Sometimes you have to tell the true story,

November 23 2006, 4:33 AM 

and when you read those lines from 56 years ago...

With a smile

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(Login mkvc)
PP Discussion Group

Subtlety and harmony of design are out of fashion.

November 22 2006, 2:41 PM 

Patek Philippe and the Royal Oak Watch Company have indeed put a lot of effort into building their images. They have also gotten slightly (in the case of AP) and considerably (in the case of PP) ahead in terms of "manufacture" status. VC's strength has always been in subtlety and harmony of design.

In the past few years, we have experienced an "SUV-ization" of watches. Much of the market is demanding big, flashy pieces. AP has (from my perspective) sold its soul to provide them, and Patek is certainly trending that way. VC has to a considerable extent resisted the trend; while it is making some bigger watches, they still are not flashy.

This has happened before. If you look at watches from the late '60s and early '70s, you will find some truly god-awful specimens of fashionable excess. They were not made by Vacheron. There certainly are Vacherons that are obviously from that period, but Vacheron generally showed some taste and self-restraint, as a result of which its watches, even when dated, are aesthetically pleasing and quite wearable. I predict that in ten to twenty years many of the more outlandish watches we are seeing now will be relegated to drawers, while the current Vacherons will be worn and prized.

One other point about Vacheron watches: they work. I have noticed far fewer complaints about mechanical issues on the Vacheron forum than on the PP and AP fora.

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(Login TimeBuff)
AP Discussion Group

Thanx a lot again to all for your kind replies! (nt)

November 23 2006, 1:07 AM 


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(Login argg)
Industry Chat

A recent book on watches and

November 23 2006, 1:14 AM 

watch collecting called "The Watch" by Gene Stone features a vintage VC chronograph on the cover...I guess it says a lot about VC designs (even 60 years old) still being contemporary

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(Login powin)
PP Discussion Group

It is not any watch, it's Paul's !

November 23 2006, 4:31 AM 

For you who remebered,
and for you who didn't know,
here is the post,
when Paul received that amazing VC!


Since then he changed to a strap,
and recently Paul Boutros told me,
that not only the front cover of the book,
is decorated by his marvellous VC,
also the back cover is illustrated by,
another of Paul's watches,
a Rolex!

Beat that

Yes, it should of course have been a VC,
on the back too..


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miki 5747
(Login miki5747)
PP Discussion Group

What could I possibly add...

November 23 2006, 10:07 AM 

in addition to the intelligent responses you have already recieved? Between Alex and Doc there's not much more to know.
At least for me, no matter how hard I try to stay away from them, VC's talk to me the most.
I have learned from this site that whatever watch speaks to YOU the most, is the one to buy.
Additionally I believe the desire for vintage VC's is their long history and unique beauty.
Happy Thansgiving-one and all! Miki

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(Login SvenBj)
PP Discussion Group

What an excellent thread, Peter

November 29 2006, 11:53 AM 

Thanks for starting it. I must admit that it has turned my priorities. The brilliant posts in this thread have made me reconsider the Contemporaine and the whole idea of acquiering a Vacheron Constantin. The aura of this brand is growing in me. A couple of years ago I wouldn't even consider a VC. Since then, and since my discovery of the Contemporaine, a new perspective has been opened to me.

So big thanks to you and certainly also to the other contributors in this thread.


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