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Vacheron Constantin Grand Complication, Movement No. 37555, Case No. 231922, pocket watch in 20-carat gold made for James Ward Packard in 1918 brought US$1,800,000 at Christie’s New York auction on June 15, 2011.

World's 1200 Top Watch Brands & Watchmakers: V

VACHERON CONSTANTIN is a Swiss manufacture of prestige watches and a brand of the Richemont group. It employs around 400 people worldwide, most of whom are based in the manufacturing plants in Geneva and Vallée de Joux. Previous Vacheron Constantin watch owners include Napoleon Bonaparte, Pope Pius XI, the Duke of Windsor and Harry Truman.

The company was founded in 1755 by Jean-Marc Vacheron, an independent watchmaker in Geneva, Switzerland. This makes it one of the oldest watch manufacturer in the world with an uninterrupted history. Besides being a young businessman, Vacheron was also a talented craftsman. In 1770 his company created the first complication, and nine years later he designed the first engine-turned dials. The son of Jean-Marc Vacheron, Abraham, took over the family business in 1785. During this period the company was able to survive the French Revolution (1789–1799). Later, in 1810, Jaques-Barthélemy Vacheron, the grandson of the founder, became the head of the company. He was the first to initiate the company's exports to France and Italy. Later, Jaques-Barthélemy realized that he was not able to handle his business alone. In order to travel overseas and sell the company's products, he needed a partner. Consequently, in 1819 François Constantin became the associate of Vacheron. The company continued its activity under the name Vacheron & Constantin. François Constantin traveled around the world and marketed watches. Thus he helped the company to open new markets. The main market was North America. The company's motto (which remains today), "Do better if possible and that is always possible," first appeared in Constantin's letter to Jaques-Barthélémy. The letter was dated July 5, 1819. The first boutique in Geneva was opened by Vacheron Constantin in 1906. This store can be seen today on Quai de l’Ile. During the Great Depression Vacheron & Constantin found itself in a difficult situation and the only one to bring hope was Charles Constantin. He became the head of the company in 1936 and it was the first time since 1850s that a representative of the Constantin family received the position of Vacheron & Constantin's president.

During World War II the company's sales decreased considerably. However, Vacheron & Constantin was able to come back on the watch market due to Georges Ketter. To outline the beginning of the 3rd century of its watchmaking the company created Patrimony—the world's thinnest mechanical watch at that time which was only 5.25 mm thick.In 1970 the "&" was dropped from Vacheron & Constantin. In 1979 Vacheron Constantin made Kallista, one of the most expensive wristwatches. Its initial price was $5 million, but today the watch is valued at about $11 million. Kallista had 118 emerald-cut diamonds. It took about 6,000 hours for the watch masters to make this watch and about 20 months for jewelers to enrich the watch. When Jacques Ketterer died in 1987, Vacheron Constantin changed hands. However its sales increased and today the company produces about 20,000 timepieces per year. In 1996 the entire share capital of the company was bought by Richemont Group.

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