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Heritage and history

Audrey Simon
Audrey Simon8/25/2020 2:57 PM GMT+08  • 8 min read
Heritage and history
For a maison that is 265 years’ old, Vacheron Constantin has constantly produced quality timepieces year after year.
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For a maison that is 265 years’ old, Vacheron Constantin has constantly produced quality timepieces year after year. Yet, the past is never forgotten as an exhibition is now on that features two centuries of feminine collections. Managing director for Southeast Asia and Australia Gaël Porte tells us more.

It would have been a gala dinner where media and guests would be invited to launch a very special exhibition that celebrates two centuries of women’s collections by Vacheron Constantin and to introduce a new collection, Égérie — a collection that is also dedicated to women.

Instead, an in-boutique exhibition is now going on at ION Orchard. Here, you will get to view a selection of haute couture watch models for women. Creating women’s timepieces is not new to the maison as it has been producing women’s watches since the turn of the 18th century.

Whether a huge event or a smaller one, the Covid-19 crisis has certainly made us relook things. Joining the Singapore office a few months ago as managing director for South East Asia and Australia is Gaël Porte who says that prior to the pandemic, large in-boutique events is definitely an important avenue for the maison to share its latest novelties, learn and engage with its clients, media partners and watch connoisseurs.

Says Porte, “Crafting a unique experience to preview the timepieces beyond the visual preview that digital and social media platforms offered, creates a more impressionable journey which we believe generated a stronger brand visibility.”

“This pandemic has definitely created new norms for all of us as we adapt and connect digitally to our stakeholders, as well as engaging with our clients on a more personal basis during face to face interactions.”

Porte had been with Richemont for 15 years holding various positions before taking on a business development manager role at Vacheron Constantin within the International Department based in Geneva in June 2016.

While on quarantine in Singapore, Porte replies to a few email questions put to him by Options.

A selection of unique pieces from “Les Cabinotiers”, including two extraordinary grand complication timepieces

Can you sum up what this year’s novelties are about?

Since its creation in 1755, dreams, vision and imagination have been at the core of the maison’s creations. Stepping beyond reality to create what does not exist yet is at the base of our founder’s philosophy: Do better if possible, and that is always possible. Even today, our most advanced innovations and crafts techniques are born from the imagination of our master watchmakers and artisans.

In February, we launched our new collection dedicated to women, Égérie. It symbolises the encounter of two worlds — haute horlogerie and haute couture — through the conjunction of craftsmanship, precision, excellence and beauty. This year also witnessed a trendy animation enter the Fiftysix collection; two models dressed with a refined sepia brown colour — on the dial and the strap. We also have the pleasure of launching our self-winding tourbillon calibre in two women’s models under the Traditionnelle collection for the very first time. And as every year, a selection of unique pieces from “Les Cabinotiers”, including two extraordinary grand complication timepieces.

Vacheron Constantin Tourbillon Chronograph, a highly technical watch based on the legendary Calibre 3200.

If there is one timepiece that surpasses expectations, what would it be?

Every year, Vacheron Constantin aims to offer new timepieces for a variety of usages and clients. This year is no exception. In my opinion, it will be the Traditionnelle Tourbillon Chronograph, a highly technical watch based on our legendary Calibre 3200, an in-house movement which was launched during the 260th anniversary of the maison. We have the tourbillon at 12 o’clock, with the tourbillon carriage perfectly hand-finished, with the addition of a single button chronograph which is a homage to the great tradition of Vacheron Constantin chronographs from the past.

Women’s watches are gaining popularity. Why do you think this is so?

Vacheron Constantin has always considered the women’s watch segment to be very similar to the men’s. When considering which watch to buy, our clients, both men and women, look for rarity, legitimacy, high quality, fine craftsmanship and perfect aesthetics. We see more and more women making these purchasing decisions and choices for themselves, therefore it made sense for us to introduce a collection dedicated to women, Égérie, with a strong focus on aesthetics and technicality. It is all about beautiful high-watchmaking. Women’s timepieces have always been a part of the maison’s DNA and we have an on-going exhibition dedicated to feminine creations across two centuries in our ION Orchard boutique from now till 31st August, to illustrate this fact.

Can you comment on Vacheron Constantin’s participation in this year’s Watches & Wonders in Shanghai?

Following on the success of the digital Watches & Wonders in April, I think it is great to have the opportunity again to be able to house many maisons physically under one roof.

It is definitely a unique opportunity for visitors to immerse themselves in Vacheron Constantin’s watchmaking excellence, to speak with our maison representatives and craftsmen, and to discover the new releases for this year. Our colleagues in Shanghai have put in place precautions to ensure the safety of our visitors as that is our utmost concern and priority.

How has Vacheron Constantin’s sports watches received during these challenging times?

To provide some early context, to create sports watches at the beginning of the 20th century, watchmakers had to deal with major technical and functional problems. Key aspects include water protection and making the watch crystal resistant to shocks. Fortunately, the watchmaking industry has access to the latest materials and manufacturing technologies from other industries like aviation and marine transportation as well as the latest scientific development.

Today, it is quite remarkable to see the impressive reliability of sports watches in extreme conditions. This can be seen in the success of our Overseas collection, which has been well loved by many of our clients for its design qualities rather than technical prowess.

Vacheron Constantin has been around since 1755 and yet it is still relevant today. Why is that?

Indeed, Vacheron Constantin is the oldest watchmaking manufacturer with uninterrupted activity for more than 265 years. At no time in its history has it ever stopped creating, enhancing and reinventing itself. Backed by the strong tradition of passing watchmaking excellence and stylistic ingenuity down generations of master craftsmen, the winning success has been to intertwine tradition with innovation to acquire the technical, aesthetic, artistic and human capital that shapes its vision of time. Everything we do is for our clients and we need to have a good listening ear and constantly adapt to our clients’ needs and expectations.

Fiftysix collection with two models dressed with a refined sepia brown colour on the dial and the strap

What is the maison doing to attract a younger customer base?

First of all, our aim is to continuously bring Vacheron Constantin close to all generations, present and future. Being 265 years old, we’ve crossed years and centuries by always placing our clients at the centre of our preoccupations and strategy. As such, our evolution is naturally led by the demands and expectations of our audience, but also by our DNA and our heritage. Interestingly, we see that our core values and our heritage are still universal and appealing across different generations and age groups — what evolves most is the format and the channel we use to reach people.

For example, two of our most successful initiatives amongst younger generations are based on our heritage: our Instagram “The Hour Lounge” account, which is 100% dedicated to vintage watches and the maison history, is a hit with our younger collectors and fans, with engagement levels up to 10 times higher than the category average, while our own and unique vintage timepieces offer “Les Collectionneurs” is seeing amazing success with the new generations. This proves that heritage and history are more relevant than ever, especially to young people who are particularly “hungry” for substance, authenticity and genuine stories. As Vacheron Constantin has done for 265 years, the maison will continue to place the expectations of its collectors and clients above all else, working on relevant innovations and channels to offer them the best products and services. In this context, digital channels will play a critical role to complete the product and boutique experience.

Where do you see Vacheron Constantin’s position today and where do you think it is heading in the future?

Our Maison tagline is “One of not many”. Every year, we do not launch or produce each model in large quantities and we remain focused on producing timepieces that are very well finished, and continue to push the boundaries of our imagination in an aesthetic and technical point of view. We continue to build on our innovations, digital presence and produce quality timepieces that last beyond lifetimes.

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