Custodian to the world’s most historic watchmaker – Vacheron Constantin is the manufacture with the longest uninterrupted history – Louis Ferla has been the 263-year-old house’s CEO since April 2017, and he’s a man carrying a sizeable legacy on his shoulders. To no-one’s surprise, he’s risen admirably to this challenge and raised the Maison higher still.
Marking his first edition of SIHH with the Geneva and Vallée de Joux-based brand, he brought with him a handful of devilishly desireable novelties – each carving its own place in the latest chapter of an ever-extending history.
Firstly, let’s address the introduction of the FIFTYSIX – a modern interpretation of their iconic reference 6073, originally launched in 1956 and inspired by the Maltese cross. Importantly, Ferla is not presenting this new addition as a retro model, nor as a replica. His intentions are clear:
“Rather,” he says, “we took some of the ideas within the 6073 and reinterpreted them for today. What we’ve made here is a watch of its time – and the feedback on it has been exceptional.
“Vacheron Constantin has over 260 years of uninterrupted history, and one reason we’ve lasted so long is that we find a duality between history and innovation. What we’re showing with the FIFTYSIX is that we have a strong ability to innovate.
“I wanted to ensure we kept the DNA of Vacheron Constantin; we did this by basing it on a watch from 1956 – but we didn’t copy it, again, it’s a watch of its time.
“We want to be able share with everyone what it is that we do – create beautiful haute hologerie – but we need to deliver one or two entry doors for people to discover the world of Vacheron Constantin. This is another aspect of the FIFTYSIX”.
Today, and without exception, every brand must consider positioning its watches at the right price points and across various levels of the market.
“What makes Vacheron Constantin unique – and our clients and partners tell us this – is we are able to combine tradition and innovation. In the same way, our watches often appear very simple, but when you look more closely they are very complicated. We spare no effort in creating haute hologerie watches”.
Louis Ferla CEO, Vacheron Constantin
Still though, this product will be pretty rare on the market – Ferla is adamant he won’t produce many. He can’t – it’s hugely time consuming to make a Vacheron Constantin watch, and their production is already maxed-out.
“We don’t intend to increase our production levels. For the past two or three years we’ve maintained it at the same point. This piece is an add-on to our collection. We’ll reduce the production of other references.
Vacheron Constantin is a Maison for connoisseurs. We have every intention of keeping every model rare”.
Some, however, will always be rarer than others. Conversation turns to the new Métiers d’Art Les Aérostiers. A rarefied collection of five lines, with just five pieces per line. Twenty-five pieces in all. There’ll be few lucky owners.
“Here we have the most complicated pieces – we show months, dates, hours and minutes on four different discs. It’s a purely artisan-made model.
“Volume is not a talking point here. Achieving the best quality and finishing is”.
On the scale of a watch dial, the master engravers of the Maison also accomplish an authentic feat: faithfully reproducing in miniature the historical depictions of five flights undertaken in France between 1783 and 1785. Splendid hand-engraved and micro-sculpted gold hot-air balloons hover against a translucent plique-à-jour enamel background, while time is displayed to the beat of Manufacture Calibre 2460 G4/1.
Who’s wearing a Vacheron Constantin today? “I often say, you don’t buy a Vacheron Constantin by chance, you buy it because you’ve already made a lot of research. At the end you choose a Vacheron Constantin. We come at the end of a long learning process. This defines real luxury for the real connoisseur.
If you are confident to wear a watch that is not immediately recognised by everyone, then you know you’re on the right track as a connoisseur”.