Favorite Vacheron Constantin Movement

Sep 30, 2010,18:19 PM

I’ll need a few more words to help explain which is my favorite movement from Vacheron Constantin. There are many outstanding choices in this category, from vintage to modern and from simple to complicated, but if I could choose only one, it would be the caliber 453 “family” of movements.

This is the engine that powered much of Vacheron Constantin’s production through the 40’s and 50’s, and even in to the 1960’s. In its base form, as caliber 453, it was a three-hand watch with sub seconds.

Caliber 454 added indirect center seconds, and you can see the extra parts along the plate for this layout:

The base caliber 453 had seventeen jewels, was 28.80 mm in diameter, 4 mm thick, and beat at 18,000 VPH. There are examples that have 18 jewels and a stamped with the Geneva Seal. The addition of center seconds in the caliber 454 added 1 mm to the height of the movement.

Even more finely finished, and adjusted to 5 positions, was are the calibers 1007/BS and 1008/BS, based on the 453 and 454 respectively. These were exclusive to the Chronometer Royal family of watches. The “BS” is for “Balancier Stop,” which means the seconds hand stops when the crown is pulled out to set the time. The lever across the bridge is the mechanism by which the hacking function is affected.

This is the finest finished movement that Vacheron Constantin produced for a serially produced watch, and it is worth lingering over SteveG’s photo of it that I repost here from his gallery post on this watch (Steve, please post some more of your photos!).

Last but not least, the 453 served as the base movement for Vacheron Constantin much sought after vintage triple calendar watches, both with and without moon phase, the calibers 485 and 495.

If money were not an issue and I could only one Vacheron Constantin watch, it would be a vintage Cioccolatone with the triple calendar:

Though I do not have a photo of the works under the dial for the 485/495, I do have this photo from under the dial of a standard 453. The finishing of the keyless works and the application of perlage are both worthy of mention.

Many collectors, myself included, have been impressed with the quality and reliability of the 453 family of movements. Well-maintained examples can still be regulated to keep time to COSC specifications. There are not many mechanical devices almost 70 years old that can work as well today as they did on the day they were born. Indeed, the legendary Philippe Dufour based his Simplicity movement on the rugged and reliable gear train of the JLC ebauche upon which Vacheron Constantin built its 453 family of calibers, connecting this vintage classic to contemporary watchmaking.


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Well, as you no doubt know...

 By: watchme : October 1st, 2010-05:26
V&C began a "close cooperation" agreement with JLC in 1928 or so. Many times it wasn't simply ebauche supply, but outright full movement, though JLC would disassemble and send the kits to Geneva for V&C as well as PP to decorate and reassemble to ... 

The Greatest Automatic

 By: Tick Talk : October 1st, 2010-11:40
Oooh Bill, you certainly know how to provoke a response ;-) I wholeheartedly agree with your selection but would also advocate for the automatic tour-de-force that followed...the caliber 107x family. These 29-jewel masterpieces were introduced in 1959 as ...  

Great choice Dean...

 By: WHL : October 6th, 2010-07:39
That would be my choice as well had I preferred an automatic caliber. Vintage "grail" VC's with those movements include the Cioccolatone, Chronometer Royal (as in your photo), and the "Turnograph," which I believe you also once possessed. Not that choosin... 

Caliber 1071/1072 Reference Numbers

 By: Tick Talk : October 7th, 2010-06:05
Thanks for the reminder re Cioccolatone Bill. The model was launched in the early 1950's with the 477 bumper-wind movement, followed by the 499 rotor-winding auto and the caliber 1019 in 1956. It appears both the 1019 and 1071 were used for a period, then... 

Great choices Bill and Dean

 By: dshao1 : October 1st, 2010-14:44
May I add cal 1120 and the gilt pocket watch movements of the past? Posting from a mobile phone with no access to pictures that I can upload. BR, Dan

Hello Bill!

 By: blomman Mr Blue : October 2nd, 2010-08:59
Great selection of movements! Love the TD especially with the teardrops lugs! Hope you don’t mind me saying hello with a pair of JLC sisters! As Dean mentioned VC and JLC movement shared a lot back then. This pair has the JLC Cal 464/A. By the way, had th...  

Leave it to you, Blomman...

 By: respo : October 3rd, 2010-07:47
...to show with some beautiful vintage ladies and documentation to deepen the discussion. These history lessons are good for a neophyte like me to deepen my appreciation for these brands. I really like that 464/A movement photo. That is a great looking mo... 

Just pure luck!

 By: blomman Mr Blue : October 3rd, 2010-11:29
I found this movement catalogue just some weeks ago. Only reason I picked it up was because many of the movements/parts are the same as for JLC movements. Still have no VC in my collection, but if I would go for one, the 1921 is definitely on the top of t...  

It's funny what you say about this movement, Blomman

 By: respo : October 3rd, 2010-13:49
I was at an event a couple of weeks ago where the VC representative explained to me, in between wiping my drool from the watch, that VC made this new movement bigger just so that they could put it into bigger watches -- and yet it still seems too small to... 

Well, small is maybe not fair to say…

 By: blomman Mr Blue : October 4th, 2010-13:32
But compared to many other brands/watches the back crystal is quite small in relation to the case. It doesn’t have to be like the IWC’s Portuguese, but I do like when you don’t feel like a small peephole. Best Blomman

Hi Blomman

 By: WHL : October 6th, 2010-08:05
Those JLC triple calendar watches are one of the best bargains in watches. Yours look great! Regarding the American 1921, I have no problem with the size of the movement relative to the case, but I recognize that these things are for each individual to di... 

Thank you, Bill.

 By: blomman Mr Blue : October 7th, 2010-12:03
I love the TD’s. About the movement, as I wrote in my later comment, maybe I was unfair. When I saw your report of the 1921 I got really excited so my expectations were maybe too high and in the wrong direction. In my mind (from the look of the watc... 

Thanks, Bill

 By: respo : October 3rd, 2010-07:39
This is a great thread. The movement pics are wonderful to see, and I appreciate the history lesson from you, Dean and Blomman. I had not realized that there was a relationship between JLC and VC as far back as the '20s. You know, if I were really pressed... 

I understand what you mean....

 By: WHL : October 6th, 2010-08:11
and I wrote about those aesthetic considerations in a "Musings on the Caliber 4400" thread a while back, but I have since grown comfortable with the movement. I can't reduce a "Favorite Dial" post to one watch since VC has such a rich selection of outstan... 

Good idea, Bill

 By: respo : October 6th, 2010-08:34
I would love to see such a thread on VC dials. I, too, think I have grown comfortable with the c.4400. Only time will tell if it turns out to be a fine movement that serves VC well over many years. It is still in its infancy, I would guess. Thank you, Rob... 

Superb post, Bill.

 By: amanico : October 12th, 2010-23:49
How could I miss it??? If I remember correctly, the 1007 / 1008 were based on the JLC Geophysic movement, and finished within the VC standards. A superb movement, by the way. The VC triple date movements used indeed a JLC movement, too, finished by VC. In...