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  • Manufacturer: Vacheron Constantin
    Year: 1932
    Movement No: 416'563
    Case No: 258'498
    Material: 18K yellow gold
    Calibre: Manual, cal. 19''', 21 jewels.
    Dimensions: 55mm. Diameter
    Signed: Case, dial and movement signed
    Accessories: Accompanied by Vacheron Constantin Extract from the Archives confirming production in 1932 and a copy of 1944 Geneva Observatory trial results.
    Literature: The present watch is illustrated in R. Meis, Das Tourbillon, p.355.

  • Catalogue Essay

    Chronometer competitions began in Switzerland in Neuchatel in 1866, and Geneva in 1873 (they ended in Neuchatel in 1975 and Geneva in 1967). Manufacturers would submit one or several specially prepared watches for competition. Interestingly, these watches were normally not meant for sale, the purpose of these trials being not only competition but also a testing ground for research on chronometry.

    Prior to being allowed to compete, entrants were tested, and those meeting the rigorous standards were eligible for actual competition. The watches were tested in 5 positions, 3 temperatures (4°C, 20°C and 30°C) and 8 periods for a period of 40 to 44 days. Each movement was graded on a performance scale and awarded a certificate with the final score and rating.

    Most often these movements did not have a particularly fine aesthetic finish but were technically the best of the best: the surfaces of pinions and wheels were highly polished with exceptionally even tolerances; springs were pre-tested and hand chosen and the dimensions of shafts and bearings perfectly executed.

    To make an easy comparison, these competitions were to watch brands what Formula 1 racing is to car manufactures: a laboratory and a perfect display of their knowhow and mastery.

    We are delighted to offer this incredible Vacheron Constantin Tourbillon, created in 1932 and submitted to the Geneva Observatory trials the same year where it obtained first prize, it was subsequently cased the same year. It is extremely rare to have an observatory movement cased at the time of its creation as these movements were not originally intended for sale. This movement was re-submitted to the Geneva Observatory trial in 1944 where it again obtained first prize with an impressive 786 points out of 1000 possible. The watch was later sold in 1946 to C.D. Wales as evidenced by the engraving in the inner cover.

    The superb tourbillon movement was regulated by one of Vacheron Constantin’s master watchmakers, Edmond Olivier (whose photo graced many Vacheron Constantin ads), he worked for Vacheron Constantin from the 1920s to 1950s and obtained the record at the Geneva Observatory trial for the adjusting of isolated pieces with 922 points out of 1000.

    The movement also features a Guillaume Balance, a balance made of steel and nickel alloy with anti-magnetic properties and un-affected by varying temperatures. An invention that obtained its inventor, Charles-Eduard Guillaume, the Nobel Prize for physics in 1920.

    The present lot with its incredible pedigree, superb condition and historical importance is a spectacular rare example of an Observatory trial tourbillon movement cased at the time of creation and having obtained First prize the two times it was submitted for trial.

    In 2015 Vacheron Constantin created 5 one off tourbillon pocket watches upon special order with vintage movements like in the present lot, proof of the rarity and desire of collectors to have a tourbillon made by one of the world’s most prestigious makers.

  • Artist Biography

    Vacheron Constantin

    Swiss • 1755

    The world's oldest watch brand in continuous operation since its founding in 1755, Vacheron Constantin was the first watch company to manufacture movements with interchangeable parts beginning in 1839. Vacheron's watches are admired for their Latin-influenced case designs, well-balanced proportions and exquisitely finished movements of the highest quality. The Geneva-based manufacturer is known for their highly complicated masterpieces, including the King Farouk Grand Complication made in 1935, the Tour de l'Ile that was the most complicated serially produced wristwatch when introduced in 2005 and the 57260 — the world’s most complicated watch — made in 2015.

    Key vintage models include minute repeating wristwatches such as the references 4261, chronographs such as the references 4178 and 6087 and the oversized Cioccolotone models such as ref. 4737. Collectors also appreciate Vacheron's Chronometer Royal pocket and wristwatches, as well as the '222,' the brand's first luxury sports watch produced from 1977 through 1984.

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An incredibly rare, attractive and historically important yellow gold tourbillon pocket watch with enamel dial and Guillaume balance awarded First Prize at the Geneva Observatory trials in 1932 and 1944

1932
55mm. Diameter
Case, dial and movement signed

Estimate
CHF60,000 - 80,000 
€55,600-74,100
$59,500-79,300

Sold for CHF87,500

Contact Specialist
Alexandre Ghotbi
+41 22 317 81 89

The Geneva Watch Auction: FIVE

Geneva Auctions 13 – 14 May 2017