REVIEW: The world of Vacheron Constantin

Richard Watkins

NAWCC Fellow
May 2, 2004
I simply could not resist!

Lambelet & Coen "The world of Vacheron Constantin", 1993, Geneve: Scriptar, 415 pp, 1956 ill, 134 plates, slip case, 33 x 24 cm

My grading: Poor (which is polite for bad).

The publisher’s opinion is: “Extensive history with technical and descriptive information of Vacheron Constantin watches. This lively and interesting book, beautifully and lavishly illustrated, retraces the history of the Vacheron Constantin firm from its beginnings in 1755 to the present day, drawing parallels between historic and cultural events and the company's development. A final section, taken from the Vacheron Constantin archives, illustrates several hundred watch models produced by the firm over the course of its history as well as watch movements and the dates they were in use. Specialists, lovers of fine horology, and the general public alike will find this a fascinating, useful, and enriching book.”

I think I must have read a different book!

This book is a jolly good story which provides a brief general and social history of the times, listing events that have nothing to do with watch making, but which provide colour and background. Unfortunately, there is almost nothing about watches and the book is more an historical novel.
There is a little bit of history relating to Vacheron Constantin, but it isn’t worth reading. This is partly explained on page 74 where the authors write, referring to the 19th century, “there is not much news from the Vacherons at that time”! Anyway, it seems the writers did not let facts get in the way. So on page 10, Vacheron’s masterpiece (to become a master watchmaker) is described as a repeater which “still exists”. Unfortunately the accompanying photograph is not a repeater!

The section “The Vacheron Constantin museum” provides colour photographs of watches in seemingly random order, although pocket watches do come before wrist watches. But there is simply no information at all, other than dates.

The following photgraphic essays are no better, some having basic information, but most having none at all.

I presume the authors know nothing about watches and watchmaking, so they wrote a book which is, quite frankly, the most irrelevant book I have ever read. Perhaps Lambelet and Coen are historians? I don’t know and cannot judge the quality of their writing. But then I am not interested anyway.
If you want to learn general history, then buy a history book by a reputable historian. If you want to learn about Vacheron Constantin, then buy any book so long as it is not this one.

Dr. Jon

NAWCC Member
Dec 14, 2001
New Hampshire
I agree except that I have yet to read a decent book about Vacheron and Constantin except for a few thematic auction catalogs.

Something about this company induces people to write bad books about it.

I suspect that it is because they have never opened their files to an outsider. Those who don't know write, those who do know don't seem to write books.
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