Vacheron Constantin celebrates their creativity with Melbourne exhibitionZach Blass
Vacheron Constantin is one of the oldest manufacturers still producing watches today. A known member of the holy trinity, their timepieces have captured the eyes, hearts, and wrists of the world’s foremost collectors due to their distinct designs and exquisite finishings. Many brands have a tagline that sums up their manufacture, but Vacheron’s motto “one of not many” truly goes beyond a marketing department boardroom. Their haute horology designs leverage unique Art Deco aesthetics that convey a timeless elegance even to this day. One such watch, the American 1921, is celebrating its 100th birthday this year and as a result Vacheron Constantin wanted to take a moment to celebrate the milestone with enthusiasts and collectors of the brand through an exhibition in their Melbourne, Australia boutique.
Running from July 12th to July 25th, Vacheron is hosting the Classic with a Twist exhibition that chronicles their creativity and boldness of the brand as the wristwatch era arose in the wake of pocket watches. Initially considered exclusively as a feminine accessory, wristwatches would later capture the interest of men worldwide – leading to a new revolution of designs beginning in the 1910s and taking stride during the roaring 20s. Therefore the exhibition hosts eight gorgeous and rare timepieces central to the brand’s history, displaying designs that range from the 1910s to the 1930s.
Vacheron Constantin explains: “Classic with a Twist is first and foremost a story of freedom, the tale of a singular style that emerged in the context of the roaring twenties and the Art Deco movement through a daring variety of shapes, designs and geometrical figures: atypical shapes, strict squares and surprising lozenges, elegant cushions, as well as a few examples of special displays and off-centre indications. The Classic with a Twist exhibition bears witness to the creative energy expended by Vacheron Constantin between 1910 and the end of the 1930s: an exhilarating period conducive to making daring moves, flouting convention and opening up to all kinds of stylistic fancies.”
The exhibition really serves as a reminder of the innovative and forward-thinking mindset that Vacheron Constantin maintains. Many of the avant-garde case shapes we perhaps consider exotic today are echoes and re-interpretations of designs that ushered in their initial timepieces for the wrist. On that note let’s dig into three pillar forms of their initial designs: cushion, barrel, and lozenge.
Probably one of the most familiar Vacheron Constantin design frameworks of the three, to modern enthusiasts of the brand, is the cushion shape. The famed Historique 1921 collection is rooted in this form, and the above ref. 10479 from 1920 marks a precursor to the iconic asymmetric driver’s dial layout collectors calmer after today. Interestingly the ref. 10479 above is cased in a lesser seen silver cushion form, the white enamel dial with black Arabic numerals conveying a timeless aesthetic all generations of watch buyers have loved.
The tonneau or barrel shape has had a resurgence as of late, with brands like Richard Mille popularizing it in a sportier form. But Vacheron was way ahead of the fame, opting for a dressier and more elegant barrel form. Probably the most intriguing aspect of the watch is its Grecian frieze motif bezel, the Ancient Greece pattern formed from white enamel set within the yellow gold bezel. Contrasting the white enamel of the bezel are black enamelled Arabic numerals set against a superb silver backdrop. I mean how cool is that! If Vacheron Constantin were to ask me what design should be revitalized for the current collection, I think I would have to nominate the ref. 10347 with its highly artisanal design.
Probably the least encountered form today, the lozenge style that is effectively a remix of the barrel form represents the risks taken in the early eras of wristwatch making – embodying the flair and panache of Art Deco. The 18K yellow gold ref. 11551 watch features a silver-toned dial adorned with stylised blue enamel Roman numerals that stretch to follow the lines of the case, paired with blued steel Art Deco hands to indicate the hours and minutes.
To get a bit more intimate with the three watches, along with the other five that are equally worth a trip to the Melbourne boutique, we highly encourage you to visit the Classic with a Twist exhibition to get a closer look.