Three exceptional watches brought together and exhibited for the very first timeVacheron Constantin opened first US Boutique in New York
While the opening of the Vacheron Constantin boutique in New York is already an event in its own right, it takes on a unique and unprecedented character thanks to the special exhibition featuring three of the most remarkable timepieces in company history.
The launch of “The American Heritage” website enabling American collectors to present their Vacheron Constantin timepiece provided the means to unite these three pieces for the very first time. They may be admired until October 29th at the Vacheron Constantin boutique in New York.
New York, Madison and 64th: this prestigious address now hosts the first Vacheron Constantin boutique ever in the United States. To highlight the stellar nature of what represents a major opening for the Geneva-based manufacturer, the House has succeeded in bringing together for the very first time three models that are of capital importance within the Vacheron Constantin heritage. These watches respectively belonged to King Fouad and King Farouk of Egypt and to the American collector Packard. These three pieces, each stemming from private collections, had never previously been shown on any one occasion. Uniting all three and exhibiting them to the New York public is not only an absolutely unique and unprecedented event for Vacheron Constantin, but also a rare milestone in horological history.
The King Fouad watch
It was in 1927 that Francis Peter, president of the Cairo Joint Tribunal and a Swiss citizen, visited Vacheron Constantin’s workshop on the Quai de l’Ile in Geneva. He had been appointed by the Swiss community of Egypt to find a gift to be presented to King Fouad I of Egypt. Fouad was a known collector of watches – a passion he shared with his wife. He would indeed pass on his objects and his enthusiasm for horology to his son, King Farouk.
Vacheron Constantin had already begun working on an exceptional timepiece with an array of complications and eight hands. Once completed, it was destined to be the most complicated watch ever created by the brand. Francis Peter chose this movement and had it encased in yellow gold. Its case back was decorated with the royal coat of arms and its perimeter trimmed with diamonds. The watch featured the following complications: carillon minute repeater, Grande Sonnerie, Petite Sonnerie, split-seconds chronograph, alarm, power reserve for gear train and striking mechanism, perpetual calendar indicating the day, date, month and leap year.
In October of 1929 this timepiece was presented to Francis Peter, who requested that the day and month indications be changed from English to French, as this was the language the Francophile king would undoubtedly prefer. One month later, the timepiece was presented to King Fouad in a sandalwood box decorated with the royal crown and the king’s monogram in Arabic. Inside the box, the year 1929 was inlaid in gold and flanked by the Swiss escutcheon and the Egyptian royal coat of arms painted on enamel. The inside of the double back cover of the pocket watch was engraved with the following words: “A Sa Majesté Fouad 1er Hommage de la Colonie Suisse d’Egypte”, which translates as “To His Majesty Fouad I Tribute from the Swiss Colony of Egypt. The word “colony” actually meant “community” here.
The King Farouk watch
During a trip to Geneva in 1937, King Farouk of Egypt insisted on visiting the Vacheron Constantin workshops. Charles Constantin, acting as his guide on the tour, confessed his surprise at the breadth of the 18 year-old sovereign’s knowledge of watchmaking. "But, Monsieur Constantin," he replied, "I dismantled so many watches when I was a child...unfortunately for them...!" Thank goodness he did not dismantle the outstanding “Farouk” watch! This 80 mm behemoth, made between 1930 and 1935, is equipped with 13 hands and its movement houses no less than 820 components. It features the following functions: minute repeater, Grande Sonnerie, Petite Sonnerie, split-seconds chronograph, alarm, power reserve for gear train and striking mechanism, perpetual calendar indicating the day, date, month and leap year, and moon phase. This watch remained in King Farouk's collection until 1954 when it was auctioned in the Cairo sale of the Palace Collection.
The Packard watch
Made especially to order (delivered in 1918) for James Ward Packard, the famous American automobile manufacturer and devotee of Haute Horlogerie, this watch conceals an exceptionally complex mechanism beneath a deceptively simple exterior. This superb model, a worthy representative of the métiers d’art (artistic crafts) faithfully cultivated by Vacheron Constantin, was auctioned in New York in June 2011 for a sum of around 1,800,000 US$!
An exceptional result worthy of an exceptional creation: in addition to the hours, minutes and seconds displayed beneath the rock crystal watch glass, this timepiece also incorporates a personalized combination of complications including an hour, minute, quarter and half-quarter repeating, Grande Sonnerie and Petite Sonnerie, as well as a 30-minute chronograph register. The blue-enameled JWP monogram on the case-back was executed in Geneva according to a sketch made by James Ward Packard himself. This elegant watch is in impeccable condition, having emerged from the vault of a bank where it had remained untouched for 60 years.
The New York showcase
Thus united and displayed to the public for the very first time, these three exceptional pieces from the Vacheron Constantin heritage are on show until October 29th on the corner of Madison and 64th, the prestigious address housing Vacheron Constantin New York boutique.