1921 – 2021, 100 years of boldness and a playful twist.
Three watches celebrate a signature design
In 1921, Vacheron Constantin seized the powerful momentum of the Roaring Twenties to create a watch with an avant-garde design produced primarily for the American market. In 2021, the Maison is celebrating the anniversary of this icon, particularly appreciated by collectors and connoisseurs of Haute Horlogerie, with three new interpretations of the American 1921 model. A contemporary take on a legendary watch, honouring the visionary boldness of the Manufacture. These novelties presented at Watches & Wonders 2021, as well as the historical models epitomize the Maison’s ‘classic with a twist’ theme for 2021. They embody Vacheron Constantin’s creative energy, guided by an identity that celebrates heritage and dares to deliver the unexpected.
It is distinguished by its elegant and classic yet quirkily original appearance. More than just a watch, it is a symbol, an emblematic expression of Vacheron Constantin’s creativity. Introduced exactly a century ago, the American 1921 model is one of the most outstanding landmarks in the heritage of the Manufacture, which celebrates its avantgarde spirit through three new variations dedicated to vintage watch collectors and connoisseurs.
A cushion-type case, the diagonal display, the crown positioned between 1 and 2 o’clock are all visual twists testifying to an aesthetic that appeals as much by its offset design as its timeless nature. Three new versions of the American 1921 are presented to mark the 100th anniversary: two models in 18K white gold and a 100-piece limited edition from the Collection Excellence Platine, powered by the in-house manual-winding movement, Calibre 4400 AS. With its generous 28.50 mm diameter magnified by the transparency of the sapphire caseback, this calibre is offset from its usual axis, while its imposing barrel ensures an approximately 65-hour (three-day) power reserve.
A Roaring Twenties icon
The origin of the watch can be even traced back to 1919. At the time, the Maison experimented with numerous case shapes, always in small series. The wristwatch became then a genre in its own, which found its style notably in the shapes it adopted, especially the cushion one. Few pieces were manufactured in 1919. Two years later, Vacheron Constantin produced another small series for the USA, hence named American 1921, which defined the re-design of the current Historiques model.
Behind the unusual design of the 1920s creation lies the quintessence of the Roaring Twenties, which for nearly a decade brought a wind of renewal to the United States and Europe. Synonymous with artistic and cultural effervescence, the period was a time for boldness and overturning conventions. Economic growth was in full swing; a scantily clad Josephine Baker danced wearing a barely-there banana skirt; clubs and dance halls throbbed to the sound of Charleston dance music and jazz; the surrealists took centre stage on the art scene… In Vacheron Constantin’s workshops, the powerful inventive surge of these years also gave rise to new perspectives. At a time when pocket watches were beginning to give way to wristwatches, the miniaturisation of watch movements paved the way for a burst of creativity. All kinds of fanciful touches were permissible on the wrist, as witnessed by the vintage 1921 model, a clever blend of sobriety and irreverence in a classic with a twist.
A sought-after watch
The American 1921 model stands out first and foremost in terms of design, with an elegantly understated cushion-shaped case defining its look. It is also distinguished by a stage-setting approach to the path of time. Unexpectedly offset by means of a 45-degree counter-clockwise rotation, the calibre enables a diagonal reading of time, while the crown is placed between 1 and 2 o’clock in the upper right-hand corner of the case. The result is a watch that is as strikingly original as it is appealing.
The initial versions produced were notably appreciated by driving enthusiasts who could thus read the time at a glance without having to take their hands from the steering wheel. The perfect gentleman driver’s watch, it was also adopted by elegant and avant-garde circles. A look through the archives reveals that two such watches belonged to American writer and clergyman Samuel Parkes-Cadman. Renowned for his fight for racial equality and the struggle against anti-Semitism, the man was a pioneer at heart. He is notably known to have been one of the first to use radio to broadcast his sermons to several million listeners; and is thought to have opted for this watch because it allowed him to read the time easily and discreetly while preaching. One of the two timepieces he owned is now part of Vacheron Constantin’s heritage collection. This extremely rare model served as direct inspiration for the three new timepieces presented in 2021.
Historiques American 1921 – white gold 40 mm
With its 18K white gold case, offset dial and crown boldly positioned between 1 and 2 o’clock, this American 1921 model reprises the aesthetic codes first outlined 100 years ago in the Vacheron Constantin workshops. The chic retro look of this watch for the vintage-loving dandy adorns the wrist with its generous 40 mm proportions framing a finely grained silver-toned dial. This extremely pared-down face bears Arabic numerals and a black-painted minutes track, along with slender 18K gold Breguet-type hands and a baton-type hand on the seconds counter – all three in black. This distinctive appearance is complemented by a brown calf leather strap crafted in the Milan-based workshops of Serapian, the Italian leather goods company founded in 1928.
Visible through the sapphire crystal caseback, the manual-winding Vacheron Constantin Calibre 4400 AS is offset from its usual axis. This reliable and accurate in-house movement, developed in 2008, drives the display of hours, minutes and small seconds while ensuring a comfortable 65-hour power reserve. It is graced with hand-crafted finishes reflecting the noblest Haute Horlogerie traditions.
Historiques American 1921 – white gold 36.5 mm
With its 36.5mm case, the American 1921 fits even the slimmest of wrists. Sculpted in 18K white gold, its slender silhouette frames a grained silver-toned dial with black-painted Arabic numerals and a snailed small seconds counter with slender black 18K gold open-tipped hours and minutes hands. Adding a retro touch in tune with the original design, the circumference of the dial is accentuated by a minutes track.
Beating off the hours, minutes and small seconds, the manual-winding Vacheron Constantin Calibre 4400 AS is also offset from its traditional axis and extended by a crown positioned at 1:30 am. In addition to a comfortable 65-hour autonomy, this in-house movement features hand-crafted decorations visible through the transparent caseback and typical of Haute Horlogerie timepieces such as this new American 1921 watch. The finishing touch is set by two dark brown or burgundy straps in patinated calf leather, crafted by Italian leather goods manufacturer Serapian.
Historiques American 1921 Collection Excellence Platine
Entirely sculpted in 950 platinum, the American 1921 Collection Excellence Platine comes in a 100-piece individually numbered limited edition available exclusively in Vacheron Constantin boutiques.
The well-proportioned 40 mm case in 950 platinum frames a 950 platinum dial with a sandblasted finish, punctuated by applied 18K white gold hour-markers and a minutes track reminiscent of traditional watch designs. Sandblasting the dial is a particularly sophisticated operation on an inalterable material such as platinum. The crown and buckle also feature the unique brilliance of this rare metal, while the platinum and silk thread stitching on the dark blue alligator strap constitutes a final refined detail.
Behind the scenes, watchmaking sophistication is the order of the day with a manual-winding Vacheron Constantin Calibre 4400 AS which, in addition to driving displays of the hours, minutes and small seconds, offers a comfortable 65-hour power reserve. Visible through the sapphire caseback, this movement reveals delicately hand-finished details representing the unmistakable signature of an Haute Horlogerie watch.