Not any brand can offer restored vintage timepieces from its distant past, but then Vacheron Constantin isn’t just any brand. The manufacture has been producing watches for an uninterrupted 264 years, and has a dedicated restoration department to repair and refurbish vintage Vacheron Constantin timepieces. Some of them then make their way to the Les Collectionneurs collection, which houses a constantly changing set of vintage watches that are offered to new clients. Think of this as an in-house preowned programme. Christian Selmoni, the brand’s style and heritage director, was in town to promote the latest iteration of the Les Collectionneurs collection. He shared more about it with us.
I imagine it isn’t easy to find suitable pieces to be restored.
Yes, one of our challenges is to find vintage Vacheron Constantin timepieces that are in good condition, and interesting from a storytelling point of view. Sometimes, I come across a very nice watch but it’s either in a very poor condition or damaged. In that case it’s very difficult for us to offer it in the Les Collectionneurs line because the cost of restoration will be very high. We need to find examples in good condition, and make sure that they can “restart” and continue with their “lives”.
Are the watches that you offer in the collection somewhat random then?
No, no. We build every set of the Les Collectionneurs line at the heritage department. There, I personally work with two experts to select the watches and ensure that the timepieces are relevant from both the historical and sales perspectives. As you know, these collections are showcased in different markets, and we do sell the watches. So, we need to “refresh” each set that goes out as its watches are sold. For logistical reasons, we maintain three different sets of the Les Collectionneurs watches, which we are always bolstering with new acquisitions. So when one set is in Singapore, for example, another may be returning from China or the US.
What happens when you have two customers who are interested in the same watch?
Oh, I’ll usually walk out of the boutique and leave it to my colleagues (laughs). What can I say? It’s always a tricky situation, and this is the very definition of the Les Collectionneurs. These watches are by definition unique pieces because there may be similar references, but they have their own stories. I think that if someone would like to have it, then he has to “catch” it before the next guy.
Have you identified a particular customer profile for the Les Collectionneurs collection?
Yes, and no. I would say that it’s becoming more difficult these days to identify a certain “type” of collector. Vintage watches are becoming increasingly successful. There used to be a category of collectors who would buy only vintage watches, and some of them would focus even further on just one brand. These days, I think everything has changed, because interest in vintage objects is high. It goes beyond watchmaking to other aspects of our lives. We now see people who were never interested in watchmaking approach us, because they were interested in the vintage element. Some of them are young people in their late 20s or early 30s. This is a relatively new category. The lines between “vintage” and “modern” watch collectors are blurring, so I don’t have an exact definition of who now buys from the Les Collectionneurs line.