When Jean-Marc Vacheron began designing and crafting watches in Geneva in 1755, the young and cultured entrepreneur may have wondered where the art and science of time would stand in 250 years. But he probably never imagined that his firm would be the world's oldest watchmaker in 2005 and would celebrate with an auction expected to fetch as much as $4 million for some pieces.
Slated for April 3 in Geneva, the auction officially marks Vacheron Constantin's quarter millennium. Collectors from around the world can place bids on a selection of limited-edition timepieces specially designed for the milestone. Lots include the Cabinotiers, a one-of-a-kind clock expected to sell for several million dollars; the Metiers d'Art, a set of four luxury watches; and a black-dial version of the Saint Gervais, a platinum watch with 411 individual components. Fifty-four Saint Gervais pieces with silver dials, including the one pictured, will also be sold at retail for about $329,000.
Rounding out the auction are the Tour de l'Ile and the Jubile 1755. The Tour de l'Ile is a large, double-faced wristwatch made of 18-karat pink gold. It required 10,000 hours of labor, and could be auctioned for as much as $2 million. The Jubile 1755, inspired by Antonio Vivaldi's Four Seasons concertos, is self winding with silvered dials, and is available in platinum, white, yellow or rose gold.
Like all of the luxury watches that Vacheron Constantin has created during its history, the anniversary timepieces were built under the credo Do better if possible and that is always possible. They are words that Vacheron's heirs have embraced, and the legacy that Vacheron forged with artistic and technical skill, and an adherence to integrity and quality, has thrived because of it. Over the years, Vacheron Constantin has defined and redefined the watchmaking industry, both aesthetically and technologically, and its watches are some of the most desired by connoisseurs and collectors.
Consumers who don't have the luck or the wherewithal to land a winning bid at the auction will find that the motto holds true for Vacheron's more accessible models, offered at prices starting at $6,600.