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Vacheron Constantin puts vintage classics on sale

HighLifeChannel August 2, 2018

For a watch brand to highlight its history by  showcasing vintage and antique models is hardly surprising, particularly when these have inspired modern interpretations. However, the collection of classic pieces on show this month at Vacheron Constantin’s Old Bond Street store has an unusual distinction: the watches are for sale.

Grouped under the title Collectionneurs, the range includes pocket watches from between 1923 and 1949, and wristwatches from 1927 to 1969. Each piece has been serviced and restored by Vacheron Constantin’s own watchmakers, while a certification for authenticity is provided, along with the same two-year guarantee the company offers for its new watches.

“The idea is to offer a selection from across the 20th century,” says the brand’s style and heritage director, Christian Selmoni, who highlights early chronographs from the 1920s and 1930s as especially choice picks, along with some stylish 1950s models. “That was a period of really elegant design for us,” he says.

The Collectionneurs selection also includes examples of watches that inspired recent additions to the brand’s vintage-linked Historiques collection, such as a complete calendar from 1947 (above), revived in Historiques form last year.

“There’s an important demand for middle complications  like calendars and chronographs,” says Selmoni. “These are quite difficult to find, and take a lot of restoration. Because we’ve done this ourselves, we know they’re in pristine condition.”

Vacheron Constantin’s initiative is one further example of the increased influence the vintage marketplace – and the specialist collector community that fuels it – has been exerting upon the contemporary watch business.

Amid skyrocketing auction prices and an ever-more-vibrant scene online and in social media, vintage aficionados have moved from fringe figures in the watch world to  become important arbiters of taste and credibility for brands. Marques including TAG Heuer, Omega and Tudor have courted this community avidly, supporting collector events and creating new models designed for their approval. Breitling CEO Georges Kern has also broadcast his interest in vintage models via his Instagram feed, and involved influential collectors in the brand’s relaunch in February.

While many brands have been active buyers behind the scenes – the Collectionneurs range, for instance, comes from an archive of some 1,500 vintage pieces acquired over the years – a brand dealing in its own history is unprecedented.

Arguably, though, it is a canny move for a historic brand widely seen as significantly undervalued at the vintage level, to engage this network directly, and to be seen as the ultimate arbiter of quality in a market that is continuing to grow.

“We want to show the vitality of the designs and the quality of our craft historically,” says Selmoni. “That link is crucial to us. And slowly but surely, the value is rising.”

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