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The Once and Future King - a Chronology of
The House of Vacheron Constantin

ver. 2b ver. 2b
by ThomasM

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Key dates and persons

1755 Jean-Marc Vacheron hangs up his own shingle
pocketwatch from 1760 signed J.M. Vacheron
The company's own archives contain nothing about its first 60 years, starting as they do in 1810 with letters signed by Jaques-Barthelemy Vacheron. In fact, most of the information about the company from Jean-Marc Vacheron's founding in 1755 to 1810 are derived from referent secondary sources, including documents and references from the public record. For centuries, until the discovery of the Jean-Marc Vacheron contract of 1755, even the company itself held 1785 as its founding date.

The current official history dating to 1755 is based upon a copy of a public filing that was discovered among the records contained in the estate of a Geneva Notary. The public filing declared the official adoption of J.M. Vacheron as an apprentice to a Master Watchmaker in 1755, when Jean-Marc was 24 years old.

1785 company name ownership, name changed to Abraham Vacheron-Girod

1810 company name ownership, name changed to Vacheron-Chossat, under Jacques Barthelemy Vacheron

1819 critical event in the history of the company - Francois Constantin, previously with J.F. Bautte, joins the company in a sales and "marketing" capacity. He coins the phrase which becomes the company slogan, Faire Mieux si possible, ce qui est toujours possible - Do better when possible, and it is always possible!

During this time, there is a second quality range signed variously as Abm Vacheron a Geneve or Chossat & Cie; lesser models were signed Abraham Vacheron

1825 First Jumping Hour pocketwatch produced by Vacheron

1830 representation in New York by Jean Magnin; in New Orleans by Brey

1839 Georges-Auguste Leschot joins Vacheron, and begins design and development work on precision machines for production

1844 Cesar Vacheron joins the company

1845 Vacheron becomes an OEM manufacturer, supplying movements to other companies

1854 Jean-Francois Constantin took over as sales director after death of Francois Constantin

1864 Vacheron and Constantin agency opened in US

1867 company ownership, name changed to "Cesar Vacheron & Co"

1869 company ownership, name changed to "Charles Vacheron & Cie"

1870 Laure Vacheron-Pernessin, Catherine-Etiennette Vacheron take over running of the company, name changed to "Vve. Cesar Vacheron & Cie"

1875 Headquarters moved from the historic Tour de L'Ile to rue des Moulins, where it has remained to this day.

1877 The company name is formally and permanently changed by charter to "Vacheron & Constantin," regardless of ownership changes

1880 Maltese Cross logo registered; the origin of this symbol is the tension spring regulator

1906 Boutique opened in the rue des Moulins headquarters building

1910/1911 First VC wristwatch

1928 VC Grande Complication pocketwatch produced

1938 after years of close cooperation, LeCoultre takes a partial ownership position, and a Jaeger-LeCoultre marketing alliance is formed.
Jaeger's Swiss sales organization were moved into the VC business address in Geneva

1940 George Ketterer, through SAPIC, takes a majority shares position in VC. Ketterer was Managing Director at SAPIC, which was the holding company for Le Coultre, Jaeger-Le Coultre, and a majority shareholder of VC; he was also a Manager in VC. There was a Ketterer in charge at VC - either George or his son Jacques - until 1987.

1940-1950's VC's operational role became etablisseur to LeCoultre's manufacture

1944 The caliber 2003 is announced - 1.64mm thinnest manual wind in history - by AP, and VC participates in a similar announcement.

1946 AP ships the finished Ultra Thin based on the cal. 2003 (AP company literature, No. 1, 2000)

1950's US importer was VC-Le Coultre, which was itself a division of Longines Wittnauer Watch Co

1955 VC 200 year bicentennial -
VC releases Ultra Thin announced in 1944 as a 200 year anniversary piece. Vacheron claim several advanced features not claimed by AP for the cal. 2003, including unique escapement and regulator innovations, which allowed for the elimination of shock protection and the elimination of adjustment normally required after cleaning and lubrication.
VC presented to Bulganin (Soviet Union), Eden (Great Britain), Eisenhower (USA), Faure (France)

1965 George Ketterer left Jaeger LeCoultre and went to head VC, thus separating the LeCoultre ownership connection.

1967 thinnest ever full rotor auto movement of 2.45mm - 21 kt rotor mounted on beryllium-bronze rails that rested on ruby rollers on the outer edge of movement, rather than on a center bearing, allowing for less point friction and lower overall height. (AP also claims this milestone - ref: No. 1, 2000 - cal 2120)

Piaget produced the 12P at 2.3mm in 1959, but it was with micro-rotor.

1969 George Ketterer died, succeeded by Jacques Ketterer, his son

1979 Kallista - most expensive watch in the world - $5,000,000

1987 Jacques Ketterer died. Sheik Ahmed Zaki Yamani, former Oil Minister of Saudi Arabia, Harvard MBA, and avid watch collector, became majority shareholder, who then folded VC into his personal portfolio of holdings. There are those that would argue that VC stagnated during this phase.  As with any subjective generalization, this may not be entirely fair or accurate.

1987/88 Claude Daniel Proellochs becomes CEO

1994 Vacheron Constantin private museum opened, replicating a 1700's cabinotier's workshop

1996 Johann Rupert and his holding company, Compagnie Financière Richemont AG, through its 70% shareholding of the Vendome Luxury Group, takes over ownership of Vacheron & Constantin. The buyout is announced in 1997, preceded by the introduction of the Overseas, new luxury sport line

1998 HDG (Haut De Gamme) - a small specialist movement maker specializing in tourbillons and repeaters, wholly acquired to become an in-house manufacture for Vacheron Constantin

1999 Nov 22 - Press Announcement - "Vendome Luxury Group is wholly merged into Compagnie Financière Richemont AG"

2000 Dec 8 - Press Announcement - "Acquisition of Les Manufactures Horlogères SA Completed by Richemont", which includes JLC, IWC, and A Lange und Sohne (the 40% of JLC that was owned by Audemars Piguet was previously acquired in July 2000)

2001 March 23 - Formal announcement that "Mr. Günter Blümlein, previously Chief Executive of LMH, becomes Chief Executive of Richemont's new specialist Watch Division with responsibility for Jaeger-LeCoultre, Piaget, Baume & Mercier, IWC, Vacheron Constantin, A.Lange & Söhne and Officine Panerai.

Recognising the need to coordinate the strategic development of these respective brands, Franco Cologni becomes Executive Chairman of both Cartier and the newly formed Watch Division. "

At a dinner banquet the very night of the formal announcement, I congratulated Mr. Blümlein, while making a sincere plea on behalf of Vacheron & Constantin fans everywhere not to "orphan" VC for the glory of Lange. Mr. Blümlein was most gracious, and assured me that his intention is to make VC the greatest Swiss brand, Lange the greatest German brand, and only benign competition good for both Houses would be the result. Mr. Blümlein further quoted as proof of Vendome's commitment to VC the enlargement of dedicated production facilities for Vacheron in the new, state of the art production operation expanded a few years back, near the location of Patek Philippe's newest production facility.

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Copyright September 2000; renewed and updated March 2002 - - all rights reserved

This article was prepared from publicly available sources, without the express permission or approval of Vacheron & Constantin. It is written for non-commercial reference and entertainment purposes only, and no claims are made for historical accuracy, although considerable efforts have been made to ensure factual correctness. All trademarks and copyrights remain the possession of their respective registered owners.

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