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We unveil the process behind Vacheron Constantin's alluring new women's watch collection.
By Roberta Naas | October 6 2020
To true watch connoisseurs, Vacheron Constantin — the world’s longest continuously operating Swiss watch brand founded 265 years ago — is a ‘Holy Grail’ brand. Known for exceptional watchmaking prowess, and for building some of the world’s most complicated watches, Vacheron Constantin spreads its wings to reveal a new women’s watch collection, Égérie, that is a study in craftsmanship and horology.
The first step is always finding the idea: Since it is a women’s line, Vacheron Constantin put a female-led design team on the journey. For inspiration, the brand’s designers dug deep into the world of haute couture, finally focusing on the alluring, beautifully symmetrical pleats of women’s dresses and gowns to bring their dials to life. Every Égérie dial features a center sunburst pattern that fans out toward the edges with incredible pleating details — details that are in no way easy to make.
To emulate the pleats, Vacheron Constantin’s artisans developed a new technique using its century-old, hand-turned guilloche machines. The art of guilloche is such specialized work that there are very few artisans in the field. For this dial, the master artists studied historical tapestry techniques and applied them to metal to achieve the pleated effect.
Essentially, using one hand to turn the dial on a machine built in 1904, and the other hand to turn a crank, the draped pattern is engraved in miniature on the dial. It is incredibly time-consuming work, and a single slipup renders the dial useless and the artisan must begin again.
While the uniqueness of the pleats is entrancing, Vacheron Constantin also takes craftsmanship to new levels by adding an off-center subsidiary dial (between 12 and 3 o’clock on the main dial) with a small complication. This off-center dial concept is a signature of the brand, one employed in many of its very special watches. For Égérie, the watchmakers opted to offer the highly useful date calendar function, or the more romantic moon-phase display.
Every attention is paid to detail, with newly developed stylized Arabic numerals, leaf-style hands that resemble sewing needles, and diamond accents around the subsidiary complication dial. The beautifully rounded case also features a unique positioning of the crown (topped with a gemstone) at 2 o’clock, above the subsidiary dial, for harmonious appeal.
Always a master of the arts, Vacheron Constantin uses its centuries-old expertise in diamond-setting to further accent the watches. Most versions feature a single row of 58 diamonds on the bezel, but some feature full diamond dials and totally gem-set cases. One version boasts 1,345 diamonds weighing nearly 12 carats. Essentially, the smooth metal is totally worked by hand with special tools to open it, set the diamond, and then close the metal again so the diamond is secure. Depending on the model, it can take days or even weeks of fine craftsmanship to complete.
Vacheron Constantin doesn’t stop with the outside of the watch, though. Every Égérie is endowed with a mechanical movement — the heart and soul of the watch — worthy of the sophisticated case and ultra-feminine designs.
Each in-house-made, selfwinding movement consists of 164 finely finished components, and every piece is perfectly angled, polished and finished by hand, and is then hand-assembled — complete with a 22-karat gold oscillating weight in the likeness of the Maltese Cross (the brand’s logo). A transparent sapphire crystal back allows for viewing of the magnificent craftsmanship one would otherwise not be able to see.
Vacheron Constantin Égérie watches from $17,800 to $164,000, Vacheron Constantin in New York, +1 212 317 8964