Vacheron Constantin: What makes a watch worth 2 million? As part of London Craft Week 2017 Gentlemans Butler was invited to a select breakfast with the luxury watchmaker and to discover the beautiful artisan skills of the watch engraver.
Vacheron Constantin London address: 37 Old Bond St, Mayfair, London W1S 4AB
Apart from the vital necessities of feeding myself and infusing my mind with some good quality coffee we were there to see their luxury watch engraver in action and to find out more about the skills of a company that is over 250 years old.
Luxury watchmaking or horology to give it its proper title is certainly a skill that the Swiss have mastered. Personally I think any watch that is mechanical in some way or another is pretty clever but when you look at a bespoke luxury watch it really is a work of art, and its that word art that I wish to expand upon.
Gentlemans Butler is focused on the emotional and sensual aspects of luxurylifestyle as its these that really add to your quality of life and indeed your happiness.
Vacheron Constantin watches start at around £15000 and go up to at present, a one off watch they had showing that is being sold for £2 million. I am told they have a buyer which is a shame but maybe I will get them to make me the iconic Gentlemans Watch for my birthday.
I was interested in what made it worth this amount. The answers were a list of technical, calendars, 24 this, unique timekeeping mechanisms that took years to research and much much more. Certainly impressive and I mean impressive but ultimately for me I buy things or like things usually because I like the look, and in doing so I feel an emotional connect somewhere.
During the morning I was speaking with Emmanuelle, the engraver who was demonstrating her skills. The more I found out and the more I watched it became clear that certainly for Vacheron Constantin watches, each one is unique and totally handmade. I asked about her interests, how she started and we started talking about art, which is her love… I asked about whether in her mind the skills of an engraver are similar to that of a sculptor….though we had a translator, my pigeon French and her broad smile confirmed that “exactly…. In fact at university we had a choice between sculpting and engraving” she went on to recount.
She spent 10 years including an education to get her to the stage of being able to conduct skills some might compare to being a cross between an artist and a surgeon. Her love is art and I gather she likes to listen to classical music whilst working away. The watch back that we were looking at would take her 160 hours to finish. And indeed, like with an artist who’s brushes are unique to them an engraver’s tools are unique to each of them.
Having spoken more with senior members from Vacheron Constantin, particularly about the history of watchmaking I left with the feeling that you are buying a piece of art but more than that you are wearing something that has an emotional attachment, in fact like a baby.
Well this little baby has been nurtured loved and educated so when it reaches you it’s a living unique entity. It certainly opened my eyes about some beautiful luxury craft skills still very much being used today.