It won’t be the first time we say it: buying vintage watches can be risky. If the trustworthiness of the seller has already been established, one’s attention has to be turned toward the authenticity of the watch itself. By that, we mean verifying it has the right pieces, the right hands or dial and not replacement ones – or even worse, pieces from another reference. In order to define what a genuine (and amazing) vintage watch is, we went to the Vacheron Constantin boutique in Paris and got our hands on a 1940s chronograph that made us fall in love.
Usually, the three ways to buy a vintage watch are through auctions, specialized shops and forums (we won’t mention here a certain auction website that everyone knows to be dangerous). These were really your only options until a few months ago, when Vacheron Constantin created a true collectors’ club (TheHourClub) and decided to sell some of their historical pieces inside their own boutiques (Paris, Geneva and New York only), after being restored at the manufacture. As a result, you have access to a truly reliable service, a valid identification of the watch, assurance that all parts are original and a 2-years warranty. This is a very interesting initiative that allowed us some wrist time with one of these beauties, a vintage Vacheron Constantin chronograph ref. 4072 in yellow gold, which we are proud to show you here.
A bit of history first. The reference 4072 was in the catalogue for many years, from 1938 to the early 1970s. Under this single reference, we can find several watches, sharing the same specifications but with various designs. These bi-compax chronographs were available in yellow gold, pink gold, stainless steel and a combination of steel and gold. Pushers could be both rectangular or (rarely) oval-shaped. Finally, the bezel could adopt a bevelled or a flat design (though the flat design, like the oval pushers, was also rare). This is quite an uncommon watch, as production of all the editions was limited to 1178 pieces, and only 285 were this yellow gold version with the calibre 13’VZ 434 (source: The Hour Lounge).
Usually a Calibre 13’VZ 434 ticks inside this chronograph (some have a Cal 13’VZ 492 that shares the same base but with minor variations). This movement is based on a Valjoux 22, but has undergone the specific (very high) finishing standards of Vacheron Constantin, meaning bevelled angles of the bridges and levers, straight graining on the flat surfaces of the levers and polished screw-heads and countersinks (since the watch has a closed caseback, we can’t show you the movement).
The Vacheron Constantin vintage chronograph ref. 4072 that we had the chance to handle presents an off-white dial with black printed markers and digits (for the 6 and the 12). Some of the 4072s feature applied indexes in gold. The hour and minute hands are classical batons in yellow gold. The small second hand, as well as the chronograph hands (30-min counter and central hand), is made of blued steel. They still show an outstanding and very deep colour. Even if showing some signs of use, the dial and the hands are in amazing condition and show the skills of VAC watchmakers.
The ref. 4072 comes in a 34mm case, here in yellow gold. The bezel on this one is beveled and finished in mirror polish. Sides of the case are brushed and the top and lugs are polished. This version features the very rare oval-shaped pushers. As expected, the case is also in mint (if not new) condition.
Having such a piece of history on the wrist is always fascinating, mainly because of what the watch represents. Of course, don’t expect a contemporary size here. It’s clearly small on the wrist compared to modern timepieces, even dress watches such as a Vacheron Constantin Patrimony. But it has something more: a soul! And knowing that it’s in immaculate condition, but also clearly belongs to a bygone era, makes it a very compelling object. Add to that the pedigree of the brand and the certainty of its origin and you might have the perfect 1940s chronograph. This watch is for sale at €.38.100-Eur.
If you want to see this watch and the rest of the vintage collection, make a stop at the Vacheron-Constantin boutique in Paris (2 rue de la Paix, 75002 Paris, +33 1 40 20 17 55), or in a few weeks at the Geneva Boutique (1, Place de Longemalle, 1204 Geneva), which will reopen at the end of summer.