The Swiss watchmaking firm of Constantin and that of Vacheron were in business in 1785. The two became associated as Vacheron & Constantin (V. & C.) in 1819 (according to information on page 555 of the Complete Price Guide to Watches, No 24). A 1908 ad depicts the building in which the company started as well as the factory built in 1875 (and remodeled prior to 1908). The firm still continues today as Vacheron Constantin, a branch of Richemont International S.A.
North American V. & C. AgentsIn the mid-1880s, and into the early 1890s, Chas. Leo Abry, 63 Nassau St., New York, NY was the sole agent for V. & C. in the U.S. and Canada. Ads of that era, such as a May 1887 Ad offered V. & C. movements to fit American size cases and noted that private labeling was available "... without Extra Charge." By the mid-1890s, the firm of Edmond E. Robert, 3 Maiden Lane, New York, NY, had become V. & C.'s agent, an arrangement that lasted at least as late as 1910, if not much longer. With that transition, the ads showed that the watches are "... adjusted to Heat, Cold, and Positions."
Standard (Railroad) WatchesIn 1908, V. & C. promoted movements for railroad time service in ads such as were published in the trade press on June 10, 1908 and September 23, 1908. These movements met the usual requirements, being lever-set and adjusted to at least five positions (expressed on the movements as "Eight 8 Adjustments" - a term generally used to indicate adjustment to heat, cold, isochronism and five positions). That marking began to appear around the 1906-1908 period. That is when railroad time service rules started requiring more than the simple word "Adjusted," which had previously been used regardless of the level of adjustment. The marking "Eight 8 Adjustments" also appears on Longines railroad grade watches that seem to have been made in the `teens.
The practice of marking the total number of adjustments (as opposed to the number of position adjustments) wasn't used by the American watch companies until the 1940s when Waltham marked their No. 1623 Vanguard grade "8 Adjustments." Slightly later, Elgin applied the term to their No. 571 B.W. Raymond grade. After a few years, to clear up confusion as to whether it meant adjustment to heat, cold, isochronism and five positions; or temperature, isochronism and six positions; Elgin changed its marking to "9 Adjustments."
The V. & C. watches were accepted on those U.S. railroads which didn't require American-made watches. The Canadians, not having a domestic watch industry to protect, accepted Swiss watches as readily as it did American watches. To compete in the North American market, V. & C.'s watches were fitted with a lower center jewel (a jewel having only a debatable function and not generally provided on European-made watches), making the watches 17, 19 or 21-jewel, in lieu of the 16, 18 and 20-jewel watches marketed in Europe and elsewhere.
Vacheron Constantin Website
Vacheron & Constantin movements are pictured and described on Ranfft Watches' Pink Pages for Timepieces, organized by calibre number (once on the page, search for Vacheron).
A number of high grade Vacheron & Constantin pocket watch movements are pictured in a January 2011 Message Board Thread.
The following books are available to members on loan by mail from the NAWCC Lending Library, using the Lending Library Form.
Complete Price Guide to Watches, No 24, C. Shugart, T. Engle and R. Gilbert, Cooksey Shugart Publications, Cleveland, TN, 2004 (a new edition comes out each year in February. This book is available at libraries, most major bookstores and online at the NAWCC Gift Shop - ask about the current edition).
Categories: Category Swiss watch makers