Vacheron Constantin certainly cannot be accused of departing from the constancy that can almost (literally) be regarded as its middle name… Having just announced on November 18th a unique partnership with École Boulle in Paris, the Manufacture offers a timely reminder that the first agreement of this kind – with the Geneva Watchmaking School – dates back to the 19th century!
According to Juan-Carlos Torres, CEO Vacheron Constantin, “this type of partnership is not an option, it’s a responsibility. We owe it to ourselves to continue developing artistic crafts, but in a manner that is respectful of our history, since Vacheron Constantin has a proud and distinctive tradition in this field. In 1755, Jean-Marc Vacheron was already transforming existing models to make them even more beautiful”.
A breath of Parisian creativity
The Manufacture has long since proven its abilities in the realm of artistic crafts. It has indeed succeeded in occupying this territory so effectively that it can be tough for other brands to find their own place there. However, moving forward implies constant renewal and Vacheron Constantin is not averse to the idea of welcoming external inspiration. Such was the thinking behind its decision to reach out to the prestigious École Boulle in Paris.
In practical terms, Vacheron Constantin has entrusted several dozen first-year students on the DMA (Diplôme des Métiers d’Art) course with reinterpreting the dial of the “Fabuleux Ornements” collection presented in 2014. This implies respecting the models’ three inherent characteristics: graceful feminine watches combining several artistic crafts; an ornamental theme; and an off-centred time indication. The creative work will thus focus on the crescent-shaped space freed up by the off-set display. As one would expect with any academic project, students will have to work within a strictly regulated framework: the finished dial must cost no more than 10,000 euros, and the first creative ideas must be submitted by mid-December.
In taking on this partnership, Vacheron Constantin is relying on the support of its Institute, a kind of internal think tank comprising the respective managements of the crafts cultivated by the Manufacture. The new project is being steered by Samira Marquis, director of the Vacheron Constantin Institute. “With École Boulle, we are pursuing our mission to promote education and pass on the skills that are part of our very nature”, she points out. “Each year, we train around 30 watchmakers and watchmaking operators as well as 10 apprentices in the realm of artistic crafts (bevelling, guillochage, gemsetting, etc.). In 2013, we were in fact awarded the State of Geneva’s “Prix pour la Meilleure Enterprise Formatrice” for our endeavours in the area of training.”
So can we expect to see some co-signed “Vacheron Constantin – Boulle” models any time soon? “It’s too early to say”, comes the cautious reply from Juan-Carlos Torres, CEO. “The first proposals will be submitted in a few weeks’ time and we will decide by February 2015 where to go from there, based on the final plans”. In concrete terms, the Manufacture is under no obligation to pursue any of the creative paths explored by École Boulle. If it does decide to do so, the time required to turn them into reality will in fact depend on the techniques suggested by the students.
In parallel, Vacheron Constantin has also tasked some of the school’s students with creating a presentation box. In this instance, the chosen four are not in training for artistic crafts, but are instead enrolled in the BTS Product Design course. They will put forward two to four projects at most, to be finalised by June 2015. The one potentially chosen will be exhibited in the window of the Vacheron Constantin Boutique in Paris… before being handed over to the customer who acquires the model inside.