Best of The Hour Lounge: Vacheron & Constantin Wrist Chronographs

Sep 03, 2021,16:17 PM

Antiquorum image

Hope everyone had an enjoyable or, at least, eventful summer.  To kick off the fall, we bring you a much-anticipated edition of The Best of The Hour Lounge dedicated to wrist chronographs, in two parts.  Photo credit to Vacheron Constantin unless otherwise noted. 

In this page from a 1917 catalogue, number 165 illustrates an early wrist chronograph which was also known by its photo reference number 1441.

1917 Photo Reference 1441: crown monopusher (monopoussoir), 30 minute counter, 34.5mm diameter, Calibre RA 13''', white enamel dial. Although the first V&C wrist chronograph was produced in 1916, this is the first model to be photographed. 3 were made in yellow gold.

1920: crown monopusher, 30 minute counter, Calibre RA 15''', white enamel dial. 3 pieces of this design were made in yellow gold.  The first in 1916 with a 38mm case, one in 1917 with a 37.75mm case, and this example from 1920 with a 37.8mm case. 

1922: crown monopusher, 30 minute counter, Calibre RA 13''' from 1916, white enamel dial with multi-colour tachymeter scale. Made in 6 pieces of yellow gold, 33.5mm case.

1926 Photo Reference 2554: crown monopusher, 30 minute counter, Calibre RA 13''' in a cushion-shaped case. 3 pieces were made in 1926, 3 pieces in 1928, and 3 pieces in 1930 - all in yellow gold and one with a gold mesh bracelet.

1927 Photo Reference 3307: crown monopusher, 30 minute counter, Cal 13''', white enamel dial.  2 pieces were made in 1927 with a 36mm silver case, 18 pieces between 1928-1930 with 33mm yellow gold cases and 2 in white gold with 33.8mm cases.

1928 Photo Reference 3306: cushion-case monopusher with push piece at 2 o'clock, 30 minute counter, Calibre 13'''. This model was produced in several versions; with pusher at 2, with pusher in crown, and with two pushers.  One unique piece in a white gold case was made in 1928 with a case from 1923, another white gold case in 1929, 10 yellow gold pieces in 1929, and 3 more in 1931. 

1930 Photo Reference 2990: cushion-case crown monopusher, 30 minute counter, Calibre 12''' from 1906.  A unique piece in yellow gold.  A similar unique piece in platinum was also made.

1931 Photo Reference 3410: cushion-case monopusher with push-piece at 2 o'clock, 30 minute counter, Calibre 13'''. Enamel dial with pulsometer scale. Made in 3 pieces in yellow gold. 

1935 Photo Reference 3466: monopusher with push-piece at 2 o'clock, 30 minute counter, Cal 13'''.  33.5mm yellow gold case, made in 3 pieces. Between 1935 and 1938, other chronographs similar to the ref 3466 were produced with slight modifications to the case or lugs. 60 pieces were made in yellow gold and 7 in steel with either mono or bi-pushers and tachymeter, telemeter, or pulsometer dials.

1936 Photo Reference 3564: two oval-shaped pushers, bevelled bezel, Calibre 13'''.  Two pieces made with 1N pale yellow gold cases.

1937 Photo Reference 3768: cushion-shaped with two push-pieces and featuring a 45 min counter, Calibre 295.  Made in 6 pieces in 1N yellow gold.

Beginning in 1938, a system of model reference numbers was used.

1938 Reference 4072: One of Vacheron & Constantin’s most well-known models, made until the early 1970s.  Produced in a 34mm case with rectangular pushers and a bevelled bezel. Oval-shaped pushers or a flat bezel were rare exceptions.  Production as follows:
Yellow gold
Cal 13''' VZ 295: 24 pieces
Cal 13''' VZ 434: 285 pieces
Cal 13''' VZ 492: 214 pieces

Rose gold
Cal 13''' VZ 295: 3 pieces
Cal 13''' VZ 434: 252 pieces
Cal 13''' VZ 492: 108 pieces

Steel and Steel/Gold 
All steel: 213 pieces
Steel with yellow gold bezel: 24 pieces
Steel with rose gold bezel: 55 pieces

The 1968 catalogue mentions the Reference 4072 available in white gold but the production number is unknown. 

1945 catalog

flat bezel

bevelled bezel

1938 Reference 4075: 13''' Calibre 295.  First made in 1937 in 18 yellow gold pieces but only received a reference number in 1938 and was produced until 1939. 33.7mm yellow gold case with mobile lugs was made in 48 pieces, one piece in white gold from 1939, and two platinum pieces in 1939.

Rare 4075 with black dial and 45min counter.

1939 Reference 4111: two pusher cushion-shape with Calibre RA 13'''.  Made in only 3 pieces in yellow gold. 

1940 Reference 4082: 32.6mm yellow gold case with mobile lugs using Calibre 295.  Made in 9 pieces.

1940 Reference 4083: 33mm case with mobile lugs, using Calibre 295.  Made in 12 rose gold pieces and 6 in yellow gold.

Rose gold with silver dial

Rose gold with salmon dial

Yellow gold

Yellow gold

1940 Reference 4177: Similar to the Reference 4178 with more teardrop-shaped lugs. This model with 34.5mm case and Calibre 434, was made in 28 pieces in yellow gold and 24 in rose gold. 

1940 Reference 4178:  This iconic reference was made until 1964.  Production as follows:

Calibre 434: 231 pieces in yellow gold and 280 pieces in rose gold
Calibre 492: 114 pieces in yellow gold and 108 pieces in rose gold

The archives state 191 pieces in steel and steel/gold were made but with a 20% error margin.

1943 Reference 4305: This blurry image reveals Vacheron & Constantin’s first water-resistant chronograph.  Unique piece in a 35mm steel case.

1945 Reference 4367: based on the Reference 4178 and made in two pieces with 36mm rose gold case on rose gold mesh bracelet and Calibre 434.  Dial has a red tachymeter counter.

1950 Reference 4639: unique model with a 35mm yellow gold case housing Calibre 434, on yellow gold bracelet. 

1954 Reference 6026: Calibre 492 housed in a 36mm case, this model was made in 19 pieces in yellow gold and 6 pieces in rose gold for one year only. 

1956 Reference 6087: cow horn lugs (cornes de vache), round pushers and water-resistant 35mm case. This Reference was made until the mid-60s, although two platinum pieces with the same Calibre 492 movement but different cases were made in the 90s.  Reference 6087 was made in 28 yellow gold pieces and 6 rose gold pieces. It was also Vacheron & Constantin’s last chronograph model until 1989.

Antiquorum image

Reference 6087 from the 1990s, Antiquorum image

1915-1946 Chronograph Calibres 

Calibre 15''' used from 1915.  Base ebauche from Reymond Frères SA in Les Bioux.

Calibre 13''' used from 1916.  Base ebauche from Reymond Frères SA in Les Bioux.

Calibre 13''' used from 1927, base ebauche from Reymond Frères SA.

Calibre 295 used from 1937, with either a 30 minute or 45 minute counter.  Base ebauche from Martel Watch Co in Les Ponts de Martel.

Calibre 434 used from 1940, base ebauche Valjoux 22.

Calibre 492 used from 1943, base ebauche Valjoux 23.

Next month, Part II will continue the saga of Vacheron Constantin wrist chronographs from 1970 to 2009.

Tick Talk

  • The History of Vacheron Constantin Wrist Chronographs by Alex Ghotbi, Vacheron Constantin Community & Social Media Manager, The Hour Lounge internet forum 9 June 2009.
  • The World of Vacheron Constantin Genève by Lambelet and Coen, Vacheron Constantin/Editions Scriptar SA, 1992.

More posts: Calibres

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Comments: view entire thread


My pleasure

 By: Tick Talk : September 4th, 2021-00:22
hope you can hold out for Part II

Thank you! A great read!

 By: Reuven Malter : September 3rd, 2021-16:50

Thanks my friend

 By: Tick Talk : September 4th, 2021-00:21

Absolutely, great pieces Nico

 By: Tick Talk : September 4th, 2021-00:21
I still have a warm spot for the 4178 and enjoyed this one for a few years ...  

Also. A very nice piece, too.

 By: amanico : September 4th, 2021-06:41


 By: northcentralsouth : September 5th, 2021-00:52
Yep, it still burns. That watch is, for me, the one that got away, twice. Thanks for the stroll down memory lane. That article was the gospel on vintage Vacheron chronographs. Really nice to see the sandwich dials and swing lugs of the mid 1930's. I have ... 

Incredible reference post my friend!

 By: Mike H : September 3rd, 2021-18:04
I know the work that it represents and I am very thankful on behalf of the community Cheers and hagwe, Mike

Appreciate the support, Mike

 By: Tick Talk : September 4th, 2021-00:16

Amazing post and very nice 6087

 By: Jp75 : September 3rd, 2021-19:25
Very nice post and pictorial of historical VC. Really like the 6087, and it also shows clear lineage towards the CdV… Also the Production figures show also how the world has changed over last 50 years … Thanks again for sharing these insights ! Ps: These ... 

Can't go wrong with the CdV

 By: Tick Talk : September 4th, 2021-00:30
a much more accessible modern alternative

Hands: « batons » as historical choice for VC?

 By: Jp75 : September 3rd, 2021-19:41
Also while looking at the beautiful pictures, I noticed that the majority of the models seems to have been equipped with « batons » hands (not sure what the technical terms is). Is it so that it was always the standard mount for VC while PP was having mor... 

I don't see it that way

 By: Tick Talk : September 4th, 2021-00:16
Style of hands is one element that reflects the era of the watch quite closely. In this article we find Breguet, leaf, spade and sword hands featured before baton makes an appearance. The 50s will bring the dauphine style...

Time period rather than brand design

 By: Jp75 : September 4th, 2021-05:31
Thanks for the detailed reply; made me understand an interesting point for me (even if possibly obvious for other purists): the time period [during which the watch was created or that the new creation aspires to re-enact] drives more the selection of styl...  

Thank you for the scholarship

 By: boskomtl : September 5th, 2021-13:22
Wonderful post, very helpful!