Geneva, May 25th 2021 – To mark the 100th anniversary of the American 1921 watch, Vacheron Constantin has delved into its archives and its horological expertise to offer a faithful reproduction of the timepiece emblematic of an era. Stemming from an impressive technical and human epic saga pushing the limits of fine craftsmanship excellence, the creation of the American 1921 Pièce unique watch mobilised the remarkable expertises of the Maison’s Restoration workshop and the Heritage department for an entire year. This approach might be a first in the watch industry, reflecting Vacheron Constantin’s commitment to the conservation, transmission and continuous enrichment of its heritage and of traditional skills.
Only 24 pieces of the reference dated 1921 were originally manufactured. Today only one of them is part of Vacheron Constantin’s private collection, making it an extremely rare and sought-after timepiece for collectors and watch connoisseurs. Some watches tell stories, inviting us to travel back in time, to retrace origins and immerse oneself in bygone eras. Faithfully recreated as if in 1921, the American 1921 Pièce unique watch presented this year is a case in point, offering a journey into the creativity of the Roaring Twenties and reviving the beauty of artisanal skills as practiced a century ago. More than a jubilee watch, it is the fruit of a fascinating odyssey into the heart of the artisanal know-how cultivated by Vacheron Constantin for over 265 years.
Heritage and Restoration departments’ commitment to perpetuate the art of high watchmaking
When the idea of faithfully recreating an American 1921 model from the Vacheron Constantin private collection first took shape, the project looked set to be both exciting and ambitious.
A bridge between the past and future of the Maison, the Vacheron Constantin Heritage department has a place of its own within the Manufacture. Spanning an exceptional timeline that began in 1755, and overseeing a unique collection, it is anything but a dusty museum. The research and expertise of the teams working there on a daily basis are an inexhaustible source of inspiration for the creation of new collections and a masterful reference for the Restoration workshop. The department preserves 800 machine tools, workbenches and sets of watchmaking tools, along with substantial documentary and iconographic archives. No less than 420 linear metres are taken up by an infinite wealth of production and accounting registers comprising foreign sales, correspondence between associates, suppliers and clients, various documents and photographs. All contribute to shedding both historical and artistic light on Vacheron Constantin’s activity through the years and centuries. They represent a sum of written instruments serving to ensure the traceability of a creation since its origins, given that all the models produced are systematically referenced in the production registers. This unprecedent heritage helped retrace the history of the creation of the American 1921 and provided a solid basis for the Restoration workshop teams. The latter thus took up the authentic challenge of reviving some forgotten skills and combining today’s techniques with yesterday’s know-how.
Few Manufactures are able to restore all the watches that have come out of their workshops for centuries. That is why Vacheron Constantin makes it a point of honor to pass on this watchmaking know-how and to ensure that the great history of each of its timepieces continues. The skill and style of the Restoration artisans thus consists in showing respect for ethical considerations in their work. To achieve this, they can draw upon a substantial stock of components, adjust component blanks or entirely remake them – the latter being the most delicate task of all and calling for particularly complex size calculations. Experts in the art of maintaining Vacheron Constantin’s oldest timepieces without altering their nature, the Restoration workshop’s seasoned watchmakers are thus accustomed to combining a historian’s perspective with scientific analysis, but until now they had never undertaken to reproduce an antique watch in its entirety. This unprecedented work of reconstitution, respectful of ethics because it is faithful and precise down to the smallest detail, called upon the multiple competencies of these artisans, who pursued an empirical approach throughout this year-long project.
Several months of research in the Manufacture’s archives, weeks of reflection and observation, numerous experiments, as well as unsuccessful attempts and successful trials were necessary to produce such a work. The American 1921 Pièce unique will be in the spotlight throughout 2021 through prolonged exposure in Vacheron Constantin boutiques around the world.