Monochrome Watches
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Laurent Perves, CCO of Vacheron Constantin, Explains the Tribute to Great Civilisations Watches

Understanding the reasons behind this surprising partnership with Le Louvre.

| By Xavier Markl | 7 min read |

Once again, Vacheron Constantin has demonstrated its mastery of artisanal crafts with its Métiers d’Art Tribute to great civilisations, a dazzling collaboration with the Louvre. This quartet of limited-edition watches is inspired by emblematic masterpieces conserved in the Louvre, each representative of four great civilisations: the Persian Empire under Darius the Great; Egypt of the pharaohs from the time of the Middle Kingdom; the Hellenistic period in Greece; and the birth of the Roman Empire with the advent of Augustus. We sat down with Laurent Perves, Chief Commercial Officer of Vacheron Constantin, during the official presentation of the watches.

Xavier Markl, MONOCHROME – Why is this partnership with the Louvre so relevant?

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Laurent Perves, CCO of Vacheron Constantin – This partnership with the Louvre is all about the protection and perpetuation of craftsmanship, heritage and the promotion of culture. These topics are more than relevant for both Vacheron Constantin and the Louvre. We are both venerable institutions, very old Maisons with artisans working on the restoration, maintenance and creation of beautiful objects. On our side, of course, our artisans work with watches, but we have discovered many incredible similarities between the Louvre’s artisans and ours. The partnership is also about creating beautiful objects to move people emotionally. The Louvre is the biggest museum in the world and has outstanding collections. At Vacheron Constantin, we have always thought that revealing the beauty of the world and creating emotions are extremely important. So, this partnership with the Louvre is a natural move.

Vacheron Constantin Métiers d’Art Tribute to great civilisations

How do Vacheron Constantin’s artisans and the Louvre’s teams collaborate in the creation of these limited-edition watches?

It is a very organic process, very much oriented towards consensus and teamwork. Our teams from the Design and Product departments as well as our artisans from the Métiers d’Art workshop went to the Museum many times to exchange their savoir-faire and passion. There have been many engaging encounters. As it comes to the great civilisations’ theme, I would like first to remind that we worked on the Masques and on the Great Explorers Métiers d’Art timepieces, on Asian symbolism, on many topics and crafts related to cultures and history… The Louvre is a repository of priceless artefacts belonging to great civilisations with departments and collections that are unique in the world. We immediately agreed on the selection of iconic pieces made by the Louvre, masterpieces representing their respective eras and culture. Following the selection, we exchanged ideas regarding techniques and craftsmanship. How were these masterpieces crafted in their time, thousands of years ago? How can we best transpose this into our watches with the Métiers d’Art we practise? How can we push the boundaries of our savoir-faire?

What do these watches tell us about Vacheron Constantin and how you create watches?

They tell a lot… The Métiers d’Art are at the core of what Vacheron Constantin stands for. Of course, we are known for watchmaking, but our vocation is to elevate watchmaking to an art form. This is why we have in-house artisans in the four main segments of Métiers d’Art: enamelling, engraving, guillochage and gem-setting. After having presented countless complications, dress watches, historical timepieces and sports pieces over the past years, it was time to showcase again what we can create in the field of Métiers d’Art. Working with the Louvre is an incentive to do better and push things further. I think this can be seen in the way we have used different and rare techniques (stone marquetry, stone micro-mosaic) and how we have combined crafts. It is about trying to create the most beautiful watches possible, sometimes with complex handicrafts, but always with the sense of beauty and the idea of sharing that beauty.

Vacheron Constantin Métiers d’Art Tribute to great civilisations

Besides these limited-edition watches, what other initiatives are there with the Louvre?

It goes way beyond product. As mentioned, the relationship is very natural and more than relevant. During the first year of our partnership, we focused a lot on the exchange of techniques and practices in the field of craftsmanship. There is an anecdote I like to tell about our visit to the Louvre workshops located in the underground area of the museum. Here, artisans work on restoring masterpieces but also restoring parts of the museum itself. We soon realised that these artisans were doing a very similar job to our artisans. Some artisans at the Louvre adopt a very similar working position to our watchmakers. So we provide to offer them better ergonomics at their workplace… and their feedback was very positive!

During the second year of the partnership, we started to work more on education and communication about culture and craftsmanship. We did a series of films called Grandeur is Born of the Infinitesimal. It shows how, on both ends, the work of these artisans gives birth to beauty. During the pandemic, the Louvre also organized the auction Bid for the Louvre to support philanthropic projects, particularly “the Studio”, an initiative for children to discover art and history, and have fun while learning. For this particular incentive, we offered a watch for the auction. The idea was to create a unique bespoke Les Cabinotiers piece with the possibility for its owner to choose a masterpiece from the Louvre and have it reproduced on the dial. The buyer chose an absolutely stunning painting. I hope that we will be able to communicate about it later this year.

Vacheron Constantin Métiers d’Art Tribute to great civilisations

As with many of your watches today, the demand for these very exclusive 5-piece limited-edition watches will most likely exceed supply. How do you deal with the allocation of your watches?

It is a good problem to have, but it is indeed a problem. Other Maisons or other industries have to deal with similar situations. If you are looking for certain cars, or certain objects you have to wait to get the product if you can get it. We, at Vacheron Constantin, try to be as fair as possible, not doing bundle deals, ensuring that new clients can also buy our watches with equitable treatment. Of course, we are also trying to adapt our production to the demand, but since we are still a very confidential Maison in terms of production, our power is limited in this field. Not to mention that a watchmaker needs at least 10 years of training to master high complications… It is thus unfortunately difficult to follow the growing demand.

The Métiers d’Art Tribute to great civilisations watches were presented to the clients and press simultaneously. The pieces will tour around the world to ensure the press and clients can see them. From there, we will make sure that final allocations are made in function of the client’s desires, and also with a fair geographical split. 

What are your priorities regarding sales/distribution of the brand?

Taking care of our clients in the best way possible. We still have progress to make in terms of upgrading our boutique network. We are working to offer the best experience to clients. For example, we’ve opened new flagship boutiques in New York and Tokyo to fully reflect the evolution of the Maison and the evolution of our client’s needs with a more welcoming space, additional services of customization and education to complete the experience.

We are also working to ensure that we have an optimal geographic representation, upgrading our network by reducing it and focusing on our boutique network (Editor’s note: the brand has 106 boutiques today) to offer the best experience. 

There are still territories where we can improve. Japan and Korea, for example, Dubai, where we are restoring the Dubai mall boutique, which will be reopened in July, or the United States, where we are having great success. 

What are the main challenges for the brand today? 

As I mentioned earlier, despite the Maison’s success, we need to make sure that we offer our clients the best experience, constantly trying to improve our service and the way we welcome and treat them.

The second challenge is to stay true to our roots and heritage while being perfectly relevant today… and even anticipate clients’ needs in terms of complications, Métiers d’Art but also ‘every day’ watches.

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4 responses

  1. ‘Understanding the reasons behind this surprising partnership with Le Louvre.’

    Marketing, quite simply.

    “Upholding its cabinotier origins as a marketing banner, it appears to be abandoning cabinotier values, ethics, and vision.” Carlos Perez, 2002.

    They make a few of these (horrid*) pieces that wouldn’t look out of place in a museum giftshop as if to demonstrate some savoir faire ancien, so that it may give the average guy the idea that (VC’s real money-makers) the Overseas, Fifty-Six, Traditionnelle, Historiques – which are almost always technically inferior to their direct competitors’ equivalent models – are something special.

    *They didn’t always look this bad; some of the Metiers D’Art models from years past were beautiful. This is a definite low.

  2. Just to give a little substance to my experience of the corner-cutting I suspect rife at VC, I owned an Overseas 4500V a few years back which I was disappointed to find not only had a very ordinary, small, smooth index-fixed balance, but also a winding rotor that sounded like a clapped-out Valjoux 7750 – quite…embarrassing compared to my AP Royal Oak. The crown also wouldn’t screw in properly, and I would’ve requested a refund had it not been for the extreme kindness and helpfulness of Saam, who I believe works under you now, Laurent.

  3. To put it mildly, not very pretty.
    Would you have one of these or a Tudor Black Bay or even an ORIS Big Crown Pro Pilot??

  4. all the fuss on the watchface so that you need glasses to read the time?

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