When it unveiled Reference 57260, the most complicated watch ever made with its 57 functions, Vacheron Constantin turned a most flattering spotlight on Les Cabinotiers, the department behind this “little” gem. That was in 2015 for the brand’s 260th anniversary. Since then, barely a month goes by without news of this entity, which specialises in personalised and one-of-a-kind timepieces, in the grand tradition of eighteenth-century watchmaking in Geneva. The latest illustration to date is the event which the brand hosted in Singapore, last December, on the theme of “La Musique du Temps” or music in time. In other words, chiming watches. This is familiar territory for Vacheron Constantin. The first entry in its archives for this type of piece, a gold minute repeater pocket watch, dates back to 1806.
The sound of music
The presentation in Singapore was further opportunity for the company, established in Geneva in 1755, to show off the full extent of its expertise as a maker of complicated watches – an expertise that commands respect, and all the more so when it takes the form of such extraordinarily beautiful pieces. Minute repeaters are, of course, at the forefront of this “musique du temps”, including four fitted with the in-house Calibre 1731, a particularly thin movement at 3.90mm high that provides a more than comfortable power reserve of 65 hours. On one of the watches, a perpetual calendar module has been added. Another of the movements in the spotlight, Calibre 2755, is also a minute repeater. It combines with a tourbillon and a sky chart on the aptly-named A Celestial Note, and with a tourbillon on the Four Seasons interpretations whose bas-relief engraved and enamelled dials depict spring, summer, autumn or winter.
The métiers d’art are, as one can see, beautifully represented, including by La Caravelle 1950 with its cloisonné enamel dial and by the Openworked Tourbillon High Jewelry, two watches that make symbolic reference to music. When it comes to these coveted crafts, however, the star of the series is The Sixth Symphony, whose case is engraved with notes from the score of Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony. The movement, Calibre 1860, is a grande sonnerie movement, a complication which chimes the hours and the quarters in passing and is rarely seen in a wristwatch. For good measure, Vacheron Constantin has added a minute repeater.
True to tradition
Needless to say, every one of the 13 unique pieces presented in Singapore is testimony to a rarely encountered expertise and an exceptionally resonant history. They are, as such, a showcase for the Manufacture. “Les Cabinotiers was set up in 2006,” explains Style and Heritage Director, Christian Selmoni. “Over the years, the department has gained in importance in terms of development and now represents a full-fledged product line, like our other collections. This gives greater visibility to the department, which benefits from its own creation and production structure. Each year we show its work at special events.” The first of these presentations took place in Tokyo in 2017. This was followed in 2018 by “Les Mécaniques Sauvages” in Paris, then by “La Musique du Temps” in Singapore.
Les Cabinotiers is proof of the care and attention Vacheron Constantin affords to collectors, always in search of the ultimate watch. “By creating these one-of-a-kind pieces, you could say we are reviving a tradition from a past era,” adds Christian Selmoni. “There was a time when the most dedicated collectors would commission bespoke watches directly from the Manufactures. This type of personalisation is now a marked trend in luxury products. We responded to this demand with Les Cabinotiers, and did so quite early on.”
These watches represent the pinnacle of technique. Looking back, one of the major Vacheron Constantin watches to have recently come up for auction, Reference 3620 “Don Pancho”, was already an extraordinary challenge, made to order for its future owner. A minute repeater wristwatch with day and retrograde date, it was delivered in 1940 and took four years to complete. True to this tradition, the Les Cabinotiers department continues to push the limits of what can be achieved with each new theme… always with elegance, the prerequisite of a Vacheron Constantin watch.