The emergence of Calvinism in Geneva in 1541 effectively turned the city into a refuge for Protestants who flocked mainly from France, Germany, Italy and parts of Switzerland. The conservativeness of Calvinism led to the banning of popish idolatry which had been so central to the Roman Catholic faith – the dominant religion at the time in the aforementioned countries. Those who had previously been craftsmen of these objects of worship in their homelands thus became unemployed in Geneva under Calvin rule. As a result, these craftsmen were able to refocus their intricate skills on watchmaking, thus developing the watch industry the city is famous for today.
It was in 1755 that 24-year-old watchmaker Jean-Marc Vacheron signed his first apprentice. Though he had been producing mechanisms before this, the company states themselves that Jean-Marc’s action of hiring someone to learn his work signified the official birth of the brand Vacheron. This makes Vacheron the oldest ongoing watch manufacturer ever as stated in a brief history released by Vacheron on their website.
Impressively, Vacheron’s son and successor of 1785, Abraham Vacheron, not only continued the work of his father, but did so during the troublesome French Revolution and whilst Geneva was occupied by the French Directory troops. In turn, Abraham taught the trade to his son Jacques Barthélémi Vacheron who took over in 1810. It was under his direction that creations such as musical watches gained the company a clientele of royalty like Prince Charles-Albert of Carignano, future king of Sardinia. He also oversaw the company’s first international exports to France and Italy.
Moreover, in 1810 Vacheron’s grandson Jacques formed the crucial partnership with fellow Genevan François Constantin, a knowledgeable businessman. It was because of Constantin’s sharp eye on his work-motivated travels that he found opportunities for the brand to expand. Constantin wrote what would later become the company’s motto in a letter to Jacques Barthélémi Vacheron in 1819: “do better if possible and that is always possible”.
This quote embodies the passion with which the company is run to this day, producing the most precise and high-quality movements and designs on the market. In 1872 the brand entered their watches in the first chronometry competitions at the famous Geneva Observatory where they won distinctions, the first of many more to come.
In 1889 Vacheron Constantin produced a lady’s wristwatch which was one of the first series-produced wristwatches. This was radical for the late 19th century since pocket-watches had been the norm until the early 20th century. Ever since the brand has continued to evolve, adopting new styles for their innovative watches which have proved a success; for instance the Tonneau case in 1912, the wristwatch inspired by and designed for the American market in the ‘Roaring 20’s’ (1921), and the popular curved square case in 1952 to name a few.
Here at Watch Collectors we offer Vacheron Constantin’s to suit everyone. If you are interested in viewing one you have seen on our website just give us a call and one of our experts can arrange a viewing for you in our Mayfair, London showroom. We also offer assistance over the phone with any inquiries you may have. Alternatively, you can buy one of our watches online and get it delivered straight to your door. We both buy and sell genuine used, preowned and unworn Vacheron Constantin watches, so if you own one you would like to sell contact us. If you are looking to upgrade your watch, we also offer part-exchanges for high-end watches and fine Jewellery.