Vacheron Constantin Historiques American 1921 – 100th Anniversary Models (W&W 2021)

Vacheron Constantin has a large back-catalogue from which to draw inspiration for new models, having demonstrated this with their Historiques collection. In 2021, the dandy gentleman and the fashionista have even more choice from Vacheron Constantin, with a design coming straight from the Roaring Twenties – the Historiques American 1921, available in new colour and material configurations.

Exactly 100 years ago in 1921, Vacheron Constantin created a limited number of timepieces for the American market, that were designed specifically for the automobile driver. Reportedly, two different models were made, and only 12 examples of each watch were made. What made these watches peculiar compared to normal watches was that the dial, and indeed the movement itself was rotated at an angle. This enabled the driver to take a glance at their wrist for the time without the need for them to take their hands off of the wheel. 

The 40mm Rose Gold version of the Historiques America 1921.

The watch was truly a piece for the period – an oxymoronic, Gatsby-esque creation for the Roaring Twenties that conceived a seemingly useless solution that a gentleman automobile driver could never do without. In modern terms, it is rather like cup holders in the cars of today – it is so superfluous until you realise its utility and you could never imagine driving without it.

In 2021, the Historiques American 1921 celebrates its 100th Anniversary, and as such, Vacheron Constantin have decided to celebrate with three new models based on the relaunched model originally seen at SIHH 2009 – one in platinum and two in white gold.

Vacheron Constantin Historiques American 1921 Collection Excellence Platine

Commemorative models from Vacheron Constantin are often given the “All Platinum” treatment, and for 2021, it is the turn of the Historiques American 1921 to be given this treatment. Dubbed “Collection Excellence Platine”, this subset of the collection has much of the exterior components crafted from 950 Platinum. Its polished case and sand-blasted dial are made from this precious material, as well as the ardillon/pin buckle and even the strap stitching are hewn from Platinum.

The Breguet numerals and Breguet hands are crafted from 18k White Gold, and the seconds hand is made of blued steel for a small pop of colour on the dial. In addition, to further cement the “All Platinum” treatment, the dial is marked with Pt950 – the hallmark of a piece produced in platinum. All of this gives the watch a very sober look, however, it is all about looking at the finer details executed in platinum – from case, to the dial, pin buckle and the stitching of the strap.  

Befitting such an exclusive timepiece, the Historiques American 1921 Collection Excellence Platine will be limited to 100 pieces worldwide, and available only at Vacheron Constantin Boutiques.

Vacheron Constantin Historiques American 1921 in White Gold – 40mm and 36.5mm

40mm (left) and 36.5mm (right)

The collection sees a new case material variant added to the 40mm and 36.5mm models – 18k White Gold. The watches are given a silver toned dial with black Breguet numerals and minutes track, as well as blackened Breguet hands for the hours and minutes that are also made of white gold. The seconds hand is also similarly crafted of white gold, blackened and housed within a subdial with a snailed finish.

In combination with all other dial details, the dark details of the dial and hands maximises contrast and gives it a clear, readable look. Mounted onto both the 40mm and the 36.5mm models is a calf leather strap by Serapian, made in their workshops in Milan. On the 40mm model, the strap is brown with a faded patina effect, whilst the 36.5mm version comes on a burgundy-coloured strap with the brown strap included as an additional extra. 

40mm on wrist.

Whether you prefer the 40mm or the 36.5mm model, the new Historiques American 1921 in White Gold present a stealthier variant of a classic Vacheron Constantin model that has long been admired by enthusiasts.

36.5mm on wrist. Looks great for a more classic aesthetic.

Calibre 4400AS

Housed within the new collections is the Calibre 4400AS that has been lauded as one of Vacheron Constantin’s finest movements – by none other than the independent watchmaking superstar Kari Voutilainen himself, reviewing the movement in an archived post on The Hour Lounge in 2008. Boasting a power reserve of 65 hours, running at 4Hz and bearing the Geneva Seal, the manual-winding movement is finished beautifully, with precise anglage, well-defined Cotes de Geneve as well as perlage that is visible underneath the balance wheel. Voutilainen was particularly impressed with its logical layout and construction, as well as its fine finishing for a movement that has been deployed across much of the Vacheron Constantin collection. The Calibre 4400AS is therefore one of the finest movements that exists across the Holy Trinity of brands, and any watch that houses this movement is sure to remain strong and serviceable for decades to come.

The new models in the Historiques American 1921 collection, then, represents an evolution of a line that has evoked the Dandy Gentleman of the 1920s and the era of Art Deco. It also has something for the woman searching for a watch with horological prowess behind it, past and present. 

The 1920s was seen as a break from tradition, and the unorthodox design of the Historiques 1921 accurately reflects the ingenuity of the era. As such, the current and new models of the Historiques 1921 collection, then, are a pertinent reminder of the prosperity of the 1920s – with their pioneering spirit and fine craftsmanship ensuring Vacheron Constantin’s success as much then as it does today.