Vacheron Constantin: Les Cabinotiers – Récits de Voyages
Since very early on in its history, Vacheron Constantin has taken an interest in new Mediterranean markets, becoming familiar with the particularities of Ottoman culture by trading with Turkey from 1817 and subsequently with those of Arab culture through its exchanges with Egypt as of 1865. By this time, the Maison has been established in New York since 1832, a city that would soon be home to Art Deco skyscrapers. Les Cabinotiers Minute Repeater Tourbillon – Tribute to Art Deco style and Tribute to arabesque celebrate the distinctive architecture of these destinations. Both are powered by in-house Calibre 2755 TMR featuring two major horological complications: the tourbillon and the minute repeater.
Les Cabinotiers Minute Repeater Tourbillon – Tribute to arabesque
Vacheron Constantin’s relationship with the Middle East began in 1817 with Turkey and its cities of Smyrna and Constantinople, then at the head of the centuries-old Ottoman Empire. It continued with Egypt, still under Ottoman influence, from1865 onwards. The proximity of these markets and the historical depth of these commercial relations form a chronology punctuated by exceptional creations from Vacheron Constantin, whose reputation for highly complicated watches has earned it orders for timepieces that are now part of watchmaking history.
These include a watch, made at the request of the Swiss community in Egypt, which, according to a letter preserved in the Manufacture’s archives, was to “contain the pinnacle of the watchmaking art”, and was gifted to King Fouad 1 of Egypt in 1929; as well as a watch delivered to his son King Farouk in 1946 which represented the world’s the most complicated model at the time. The ruling families of the region, led by Saudi Arabia’s King Abdelaziz Ibn Seoud (1876-1953), were among the Maison’s regular customers.
The design of Les Cabinotiers Minute Repeater Tourbillon – Tribute to arabesque watch is devoted to the architectural wealth of the Muslim world with its pointed arches, domes and mashrabiyas. The engraving work took three months and required extremely meticulous care in making certain tenth-of-a-millimetre incisions.
The motifs chosen to decorate this watch were modelled on those of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, the largest in the United Arab Emirates, built between 1995 and 2007, in which arabesque and floral patterns are omnipresent on the 82 domes and four minarets. The engraver has reproduced these organic volutes using line engraving on the various case parts, while opting for a more geometrical pattern on the flange. Applied with a burin to the canvas traced by a drypoint, this intaglio engraving technique lends a light, graceful touch to a model that asserts its personality through black and white contrasts.
The dial is an artwork inspired by mashrabiyas. An openworked and engraved white gold “lattice-work cover” sits atop a black background, finely chased to give it a matt grained texture. Here too, the master artisan used the line engraving technique; and in some areas, where the motif required more depth, it resembles a bas-relief process. Given the intricacy of the ornamentation, the thinness of the surfaces to be engraved as well as the slenderness of the white gold plate, this engraving work, which took a month to complete, represents a rare feat of dexterity.
Bearing the Hallmark of Geneva, Les Cabinotiers Minute Repeater – Tribute to arabesque comes in an 18K white gold case measuring 44 mm in diameter and 13.5 mm thick, fitted with an alligator leather strap secured by a white gold folding clasp engraved with arabesques.
Les Cabinotiers Minute Repeater Tourbillon – Tribute to Art Deco style
Across the Atlantic, the Americas became a favourite destination for Vacheron Constantin. From the 1810s onwards, the Maison increased its trade, particularly with the United States. In 1832, Geneva watchmaker Jean Magnin, by then based in New York, had an assortment of Vacheron Constantin watches with enamel paintings sent to him through brokers in Le Havre. Jean Magnin and his successor Ferdinand Thieriot represented the Maison until 1848, gradually opening up the market to encompass the country’s major cities. By the early 20th century, the Maison’s presence was already well established in America, notably among the country’s eminent families, whose representatives wore Vacheron Constantin timepieces. Among them were the Rockefellers, Henry and William James, as well as car manufacturer James Ward Packard.
Given the small size of the city, it was at this time that these business tycoons decided to give their New York headquarters an increasingly vertical appearance. From the 1920s onwards, Manhattan began to bristle with skyscrapers in the Art Deco style, such as the Chrysler Building. Built between 1928 and 1930, it was the tallest tower in the world at 319 metres high and is best known for its terraced crown composed of seven arches clad in silvery metal.
The Les Cabinotiers Minute Repeater Tourbillon – Tribute to Art Deco style watch celebrates this unique architectural splendour through wood marquetry, a technique inspired by cloisonné enamelling in this instance. Created on two levels to accentuate its depth, the upper flat part of the dial features a radiating motif reminiscent of the interior decorations typical of the Art Deco period.
For the first time, Vacheron Constantin has produced a dial combining wood marquetry and champlevé . To create this dial, the marquetry craftsman had to take extra care when cutting the 110 small wood veneers, a process that had to be extremely accurate to ensure they fit perfectly into the tiny alveoli. The marquetry specialist begins by drawing his canvas, deep-staining and then sanding the pearwood and tulipwood to obtain the desired shade of black and blue for the model. It took the master artisan a full month’s work to create this work in metal and wood, a nod to the gleaming spire of the Chrysler building as well as the wood inlays adorning its elevators.
This high-precision craftsmanship is surrounded by a ‘pearl’ minutes track, punctuated by 11 facetted diamond hour-markers that are progressively slimmer as they approach 12 o’clock so as to accentuate the vanishing line. In addition to the marquetry and gemsetting work, the watch is also engraved: the model’s 18K 5N pink gold case is entirely adorned with herringbone motifs created using the technique of line engraving on the case middle, lugs and bezel, thereby enhancing the allure of a timepiece embodying the creative momentum typical of the Roaring Twenties.
The Les Cabinotiers Minute Repeater Tourbillon – Tribute to Art Deco style model bears the prestigious Hallmark of Geneva. It comes in an 18K pink gold case measuring 44 mm in diameter and 13.5 mm thick, fitted with an alligator leather strap secured by a folding clasp engraved with geometrical motifs.
A complex mechanism: in-house Calibre 2755 TMR
The manual-winding 2755 TMR movement combines the musical charm of a minute repeater with the timekeeping precision of a Maltese cross-shaped tourbillon regulator. Designed to compensate for the effects of the Earth’s gravity, this mechanism operates at a low frequency of 2.5 Hz (18,000 vibrations per hour). This enables its complexity to be fully appreciated – especially as it is the only mechanical element visible from the front, with the 58-hour power reserve displayed by a hand on the back of the watch. The only sign of the minute repeater’s presence is the slidepiece on the case middle.
To create this on-demand striking mechanism, one of the most delicate horological complications due to its melodiously audible nature, Vacheron Constantin’s engineers and master watchmakers drew inspiration from the work carried out on the La Tour de l’Île anniversary watch in 2005 and notably its strike governor. This system enables the duration of the musical sequences to be perfectly timed in order to obtain a distinct and harmonious sound from the notes played for the hours, quarters and minutes by the hammers striking the two circular gongs. Calibre 2755 TMR features High Watchmaking finishing including meticulously hand-chamfered bridges adorned with a Côtes de Genève pattern, a circular-grained mainplate and a beautifully rounded-off tourbillon carriage bar.
Les Cabinotiers Récits de Voyages
Vacheron Constantin’s vocation has always been to perfect the art of watchmaking in Geneva while remaining open to the world. The founder’s grandson Jacques-Barthélémi Vacheron (1787-1864) was the first to criss-cross the roads of France and Italy, followed by his partner François Constantin (1788-1854), a tireless traveller who oversaw the commercial development of the Maison. He established commercial relations with Central Europe, South America, Scandinavia and Asia, during a period in time when Vacheron Constantin was also gaining a foothold in the United States and China, as well as in Brazil, Hong Kong and Cuba.
François Vacheron’s correspondence stretching over a quarter of a century paints the portrait of a Manufacture that was open to a Europe undergoing major restructuring in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars and the Congress of Vienna. This scope and reach continued to expand as the Vacheron Constantin name crossed borders and conquered new markets. Since that time, the very notion of travel has been inherent to the values of the Maison, an integral part of the human adventure characterising its nearly 270-year history. Following in its founders’ footsteps, the Maison offers these Récits de Voyages series as a watchmaking odyssey through the world and its wonders, applying craftsmanship and mechanical art as its means of expression