Watchmakers today often release recreations of vintage timepieces, or new models that incorporate aesthetic details from their forebears. Usually, these watches are some combo of old and new—throwback designs with a modern movement, for example. But that’s not the case with the Vacheron Constantin American 1921 Pièce Unique. Created in honor of the 100th anniversary of the original American 1921 watch, it’s a faithful reproduction of the original—even including the tools and techniques used to make it.
A year in the making, the American 1921 was truly a labor of love, and it required combining the resources and expertise of Vacheron Constantin’s Restoration workshop and Heritage department. The original watch is itself a coveted collector’s item—just 24 were made—but fortunately, the watchmaker keeps one of them in its private collection. This proved to be a vital reference. First, Vacheron Constantin Restoration department set about analyzing the original timepiece, including using a spectrometer to identify the exact color of its gold case and measuring all 115 pieces of its 11-ligne Calibre Nouveau movement.
Once all the measurements had been taken, the next step was to build the watch—an archival process in itself. To build the American 1921 Pièce Unique, Vacheron Constantin utilized the same manufacturing processes and techniques used to build the 1920s original. That required diving deep into the company’s Heritage department, which contains hundreds of vintage machines and tools. Using archives, old stock components, and vintage equipment (some dating back to the 18th century), the watchmakers recreated the American 1921 Pièce Unique by hand.
The result? A watch that goes way beyond just a throwback; it might as well have been made in the ’20s. It wasn’t easy: The Grand Feu enamel dial had to be repeatedly fired in a kiln at 800 degrees Celsius, and the steel hands were hand-blued in the Vacheron Constantin workshop. All 115 components of the movement were either made from blank parts from the company’s archives or faithfully reproduced exactly like the originals. In other words, it’s about as close as you can get to the American 1921 without hopping in a time machine.
Even a century later, the American 1921 is still a standout design. With its rotated dial, crown placement, and squared-circle case, it looks like no other watch on the market. The smooth, polished gold case allows the intricate details of the enameled dial—from the bold numerals to the subtle blue hands—to shine.
It’s not just another watch; it’s a piece of history.[Price available upon request; vacheron-constantin.com]
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