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The World’s Oldest Watch Manufacturer Stays on Top by Constantly Innovating
One of the greatest joys in life is traveling. Opportunity to visit distant lands, experience new foods and drinks, experience rare cultures and meet local people is always rewarding. My most valuable experience when I visit new lands is modeling local products, making goods, and exploring local industries and businesses.
When I visit Geneva, Switzerland, I enjoy the opportunity to shop, research, and marvel at the amazing craftsmanship of exclusive watchmaking found in the city’s endless jewelry store. Geneva is the center of Swiss watchmaking and an array of high-tech watches and clocks on display, the ultimate in contemporary world art. One of my reactions to seeing a show festival in Geneva is always this: Who buys these watch models from a limited number of manufacturers at such an amazing price?
Obviously, the international demand for watches designed exclusively is growing and growing. Rolex, Piaget, Chopard, Audemars Piquet and other centuries-old exclusive watchmakers are headquartered in Geneva. The oldest and in many ways the most exclusive is Vacheron Constantin. This magnificent home provides a fine example of how a classic brand stands ahead of the competition, continues to self-regenerate and thrive through constant innovation.
Vacheron Constantin was founded in 1755 by Jean-Jacques Vacheron. Vacheron was a prolific jeweler and watchmaker as well as a thriving businessman. In 1770 his new company created the first “complex” and a few years later Vacheron invented and installed in his novel the “press machine”. Today.
After escaping the horrors of the French Revolution, Vacheron Constantin became the first watchmaker to export. First to France and Italy, and then most importantly to North America, the company was successful in the early 19th century among the new industrialists and nobles who sought exclusive craftsmanship and elegance in watches. The company’s motto, “Make it better if possible, and always be possible” was first used in 1819 and is still used today.
Vacheron Constantin was the first manufacturer to perfect the standard animation into “Calibers”. The Geneva Arts Association awarded the company a gold medal in 1844 for the invention of the “loudspeaker”, an invention that separated Vacheron Constantin from its production technology. In 1885, the company introduced pieces made by new non-magnetic technologies, including motion components made of palladium and gold.
In 1906, the first company-owned store was opened on Quai de I’lle, and the store remains in the same location to this day. During World War I, the Great Depression and World War II, the company struggled but was still able to cope by feeding conscious fashionistas with stunning new designs and styles. After the end of the war in Europe in 1945, the company immediately began to market new strategies and products to regain supremacy.
Then the “Patrimony” model was introduced. This is one of the most famous, exclusive and collectible watches in the world. “Patrimony” is the world’s thinnest watch with a thickness of only 5.25 mm.
The “Kallista” model was introduced in the 1970s. “Kallista” is considered to be the most expensive and exclusive watch in the world. Initially sold for $ 5 million, now for $ 11 million. “Kallista” is rich in 118 emeralds, requires more than 6,000 hours of watchmaker’s work and 20 months of fine jewelry detailing in Switzerland.
Today, after more than two centuries of production of the world’s most desirable watches and clocks, Vacheron Constantin continues to be very successful and the demand for products exceeds supply. The company, now a subsidiary of the luxury goods superpower Richemont Group, produces only 20,000 pieces a year. Exclusive pieces are sold in 16 company-owned stores and less than 500 carefully selected luxury retail stores in 80 countries. The Vacheron Constantin watch was worn by Napoleon Bonaparte, Pope Pius VI, Nicholas Sarkoszy, Harry Truman, Clark Gable and Duke of Windsor, just to name a few of the celebrities known for this classic brand.
Any research done on the history of watchmakers will reveal many brands that are not immune to competition, taste changes or technological advances. Vacheron Constantin not only survived but grew and became a handful of consumer products (think Ferrari, Dom Perignon, Brioni, Faberge, Chanel) that existed as genre icons. When modern people look for the best quality and craftsmanship in watches, they immediately think of Vacheron Constantin.
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