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“As a Manufacture established in 1755, we have a...
Point of View

“As a Manufacture established in 1755, we have a responsibility”

Monday, 11 July 2011
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Michel Jeannot

“Eternity is a very long time, especially towards the end.”

Woody Allen

Michel Jeannot is at the head of Bureau d’Information et de Presse Horlogère (BIPH), a Swiss news agency working with a dozen media worldwide.

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4 min read

As the National Museum of Singapore hosts “Treasures of Vacheron Constantin – A legacy of watchmaking since 1755”, chief executive officer Juan-Carlos Torres talks about the wider implications of such an event.

What prompted you to choose Singapore for Vacheron Constantin's first exhibition?

Juan Carlos Torres: It’s a question of opportunities, people, and the interest which the National Museum of Singapore has shown for a number of years. This exhibition comes at the end of a long maturation, numerous encounters, and shared wishes. We also chose Singapore as neutral terrain with respect to the countries of Asia, where Vacheron Constantin enjoys an enviable position. Of course, they do say Singapore is the Asian Switzerland, which makes it quite the natural choice.

Why now?

After the astonishing recovery from the crisis of 2009, we thought it appropriate to take time to reflect. As a Manufacture with 255 years of savoir-faire to its name, of course we have a responsibility. It’s our responsibility to promote the métiers d’art and other skills which we have acquired and preserved in-house. It’s also our responsibility to imagine products today that will become part of history. A Manufacture such as Vacheron Constantin has a moral obligation to work for posterity. This is something we strive towards every day; it’s also the message behind this exhibition, to show that this is what we have been doing since 1755.

Clearly Vacheron Constantin is aware of the interest this type of exhibition can spark, and the cultural endorsement for the brand. When will the next one be?

An exhibition on this scale requires the total commitment of both the museum and staff at Vacheron Constantin. An exhibition such as this takes time to develop. We would need at least a year, possibly two, to stage and prepare the next one. Hence we won’t be announcing a new exhibition for next week, but we will be starting on one very soon.

Which cities or museums could host Vacheron Constantin's next public exhibitions?

Europe is an option. We’re particularly interested in Geneva, Paris or London. We have in mind the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire in Geneva, the British Museum in London, or one or other Parisian museums, which we’re in contact with. The United States have also played an important role in the history of the brand, so why not an exhibition in New York?

The Chinese hold Vacheron Constantin in exceptionally high regard. Isn't the country a priority for the brand?

Of course China is very important for Vacheron Constantin, and there are some fine opportunities for us there. But we have to make choices and, after this première in Asia, we wouldn’t want to neglect Europe and the United States. For two centuries, these two regions have made Vacheron Constantin. Without them, we wouldn’t be where we are today. Including in China.

What has this experience of developing a public exhibition with a museum taught?

Inevitably, a museum is a demanding partner, which is a positive thing. The work which our Singapore hosts and Vacheron Constantin’s heritage department accomplished together has been extremely edifying. It’s both a lesson in humility in relation to history, and an example of rigour, ethics and coherence.

So this is about taking a historical and cultural perspective?

Absolutely. From the moment you have the stamp of approval and the cultural implications of an institution such as the National Museum of Singapore, you have to rise to the invitation. One consequence is to take a cultural, not commercial, approach. In reality, this exhibition traces the history of watchmaking in Geneva, explains how it developed and what its achievements have been. Vacheron Constantin is a natural part of this, given its contribution to the development of Genevan watchmaking since 1755, and its constant defending of its values and professions. This was true yesterday, it’s true today, and will be true tomorrow.

The exhibition elaborates on the métiers d’art that are very much alive at Vacheron Constantin and a few other watch firms…

This is quite natural for Vacheron Constantin. We can proudly say we took the initiative to restore the métiers d’art to their rightful place in watchmaking. We owe this to Franco Cologni, our then Chairman. It was even our advertising tagline a decade or so ago. The métiers d’art are integral to Vacheron Constantin’s history, hence why it seemed so essential to present and explain them in Singapore, and to have artisans come here so they can demonstrate their expertise and share their passion.

Article published in BIPH

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