Ever since its creation in 1755, Vacheron Constantin’s special vocation has been to produce custom-built watches, with its master watchmakers lavishing countless hours on determining the exact appearance of a model and on choosing its functions and its components. Extreme complexity or a poetic expression of time, guilloché or enameled dial, Roman or Arabic numerals, seconds in the center or perpetual calendar – anything is possible and no pains are spared to give a watch the character that will forever reflect the wishes of its owner.
Collectors of Vacheron Constantin watches are perfectly aware of this. Thus in the 1860s Tsar Alexander II and the Tsarina ordered a sumptuous timepiece for their son, the Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich. At the start of the 20th century Sir Bhupindra Singh, the Maharajah of Patiala, was one of the illustrious patrons of special watch orders. Both the well-known New York banker Henry Graves Jr. and his compatriot, the famous early 20th-century automobile manufacturer James Ward Packard, were also proud owners of unique timepieces created by Vacheron Constantin.
Today Vacheron Constantin’s “Atelier Cabinotiers Special Order” service perpetuates this tradition based on the free exchange of ideas and creativity.
Vacheron Constantin’s “Atelier Cabinotiers Special Order” service revives the spirit of 18th-century Geneva. At this period prestigious dignitaries from the various European courts came to order directly from the “Cabinotiers”, the watchmaking craftsman who had made the city’s reputation. To take advantage for as long as possible of the best midday light, these craftsmen preferred to locate their workshops on the top floors of the buildings. These workshops, often cramped and sometimes located in attics directly beneath the roof, illuminated by numerous windows, built a solid reputation for the quality of their work. They soon came to be called “cabinets”, and their occupants were known as “Cabinotiers.”
Today the Atelier Cabinotiers brings together professional watchmakers who combine the highest standards of excellence with a spirit of dedication. Together they strive to turn the wildest dreams into technical reality. Vacheron Constantin’s designers and Research and Development department make their contribution, before specially assigned teams take over the responsibility for the development and pursuit of the projects concerned. A special company representative assures permanent contact between the latter and the purchaser.
Added to this team, there are the extraordinary artistic skills of the master guillocheurs, enamellers, engravers and gem-setters, who are among the few remaining craftsmen to still master these traditional arts, proudly continuing age-old traditions.
From the hands of these artists come timepieces that are unique examples of their kind throughout the world, representing the pinnacle of Fine Watchmaking, and which will one day take their rightful place, as all the creations of the Manufacture have done before them since 1755, in the heritage and archives of Vacheron Constantin.
* Philosophia is the name given by the owner
This special order, named Philosophia* by its owner, is in itself a paradox. It combines brilliantly the concepts of Fine Watchmaking and approximate time. The original idea was based on the postulate that mankind does not need to constantly know the exact time to the nearest minute.
The Philosophia* conveys all of these things at once. Based on a model from the Patrimony collection, it has only one hand in the center, the hour hand, with a 24-hour display. If however the owner wants a more precise idea of the time at any given moment, he simply activates the on-off slide of the Philosophia*’s minute repeater.
Another sophisticated touch in the Philosophia*: is an opening in the dial at 6 o’clock that allows us to admire a tourbillon making a complete rotation once every 60 seconds. The commissioner of the piece, who also likes astronomy, asked for a custom-built precision moon-phase indicator. On the back of the watch, the power-reserve indicator bears a small plaque stamped with the intertwined constellations Ursa Major and Ursa Minor. Nearby, engraved in the 18-carat pink gold of the custom-built case, the identifying phrase “Les Cabinotiers” and the Atelier Cabinotiers coat of arms attest to the exceptional origin of this timepiece, which is also stamped with the prestigious Geneva Seal.
No fewer than 522 parts of the hand-wound mechanical movement make the Philosophia* tick. Thanks to its spirit, its aesthetic appearance and its exclusive mechanism it is a unique model that is an extreme example of a custom-built timepiece.
* Vladimir is the name given by the owner
Of Slavonic origin, this first name is derived from the ancient term Volodimir, which literally means “domination by peace” or “peace to all”. This superlative watch is quite simply one of the most complicated timepieces in the world. That is what its owner wanted, and Vacheron Constantin’s Atelier Cabinotiers gathered the resources to meet this extremely ambitious challenge.
The hand-wound mechanical movement of this unique Vladimir* watch drives no fewer than 17 complications. This exceptional movement, stamped with the prestigious Geneva Seal, has some 891 components, all hand-finished and hand-decorated in our workshops.
In order to meet the challenge that it had been set and to create this extremely complex and unique timepiece, the “Atelier Cabinotiers Special Order” service called on more than 20 experts and craftsmen. It is both a technical and aesthetic triumph that took four years to develop. It was a Herculean effort for a watch that is sure to join the legendary ranks of exceptional watchmaking.
The role of the “Atelier Cabinotiers Special Order” department is to perpetuate the unique expertise of our master watchmakers, who work in the great Genevan tradition of the Cabinotiers watch workshops. The Atelier Cabinotiers offers our clients a highly exclusive service: that of producing unique timepieces, entirely custom-made and created on an individual commission basis.
Our custom-made watches are surrounded by secrecy and confidentiality. Often embodying a dream or passion, they are an expression of aspiration, legendary because they are spoken of more often than they are actually seen.
No collections of catalogues here, only a listening ear. It all starts with a narrative: the client’s private story. A history fan might ask for the reproduction of a painting by one of the great masters in grand feu enamel on the dial; an aspiring Romeo might want his piece to chime once a year on his Juliet’s birthday; or a grand complications enthusiast might dream of owning a ground-breaking mechanical masterpiece.
All requests, from the most simple to the most ambitious, are meticulously examined by an ethical committee set up specifically to ensure that only projects that correspond perfectly with the values and traditions of Vacheron Constantin are approved; allowing the realization of a dream for the future owner.