Beloved by collectors for their classical approach to watchmaking, Vacheron Constantin is the most traditional of the three Holy Trinity watchmakers thanks to their old-time aesthetic, heritage-inspired design, and traditionalist view of mechanics. With this, some of Vacheron's timepieces offer a wonderful view of the timepieces that came generations before the modern watches of today, and the Les Historiques Chronograph Ref. 47101 that I have here is a beautiful example of that. Some of you may have noticed that we have sold quite a handful of Ref. 47101s in the past (they were all in 18-carat yellow gold), but mind you, this example here is not just any regular Ref. 47101s, this rare variant comes encased in platinum featuring a stunning salmon dial —an aspect we will delve into shortly.
For those who don’t know, the 1990s were an interesting period for watch collecting. It signified a radical change in the watchmaking industry as it gradually crawled out of its darkest days - the quartz crisis. Mechanical horology was regaining popularity and again, making a comeback. Now in 2023, watches from this particular 90s era, now known as “neo-vintage watches”, represent a significant shift in mindset for many luxury brands who were once again getting back into producing mechanical watches during that time.
The Vacheron Constantin Historiques Chronograph Ref. 47101 represented Vacheron’s way of kick-starting the 90s on a strong note. It was first introduced in 1989 as part of the brand’s Historiques collection as a tribute to the Geneva watchmaker’s archives (specifically the iconic manual-wind chronograph Ref. 4178 from the 1940s) and the majority of them were encased in 18-carat yellow gold. Returning to the unique configuration of our present example, scholarly sources suggest that only 300 examples were ever crafted in platinum, and notably among them, only a mere 60 pieces were fitted with salmon dials, making this particular example we have here extremely rare and highly sought-after.
Having a beautiful and balanced aesthetic is one thing Vacheron did right on the Ref. 47101, but I think what sets this one apart from the other examples is its pleasingly symmetrical and charismatic salmon dial with an exquisite guilloché. The dial layout incorporates two sub-dials featuring concentric circles, elegantly displaying the running seconds at 9 o'clock and the 30-minute counter for the chronograph at 3 o'clock. Despite the tachymeter scale being placed along its chapter ring, the Ref. 47101's dial remains clean and retains its legibility, as its applied hour markers and Arabic numerals contrast nicely against the striking salmon dial.
By looking over the images, I am certain that you’d be inclined to agree with us that the Ref. 47101 is, without a doubt, a perfectly elegant and dressy chronograph. When you turn the case over, you will see that it houses a highly finished Vacheron Cal. 1140, which was based on the legendary Nouvelle Lémania Cal. 2310 ebauche. The Cal. 1140 features 21 jewels, and comes with a self-compensating Breguet spring, a swan-neck regulator, and is adjusted to 5 positions. It fully displays Lemania's signature labyrinthine architecture with an array of Vacheron's emphatic finishing techniques on its bridges, baseplate, levers, and screws. A beautiful watch on the wrist and off it, the Ref. 47101 presents itself as a pure expression of classical watchmaking, long before the advent of modern manufacturing and flashy design.
As far as wearability goes, the 36mm case wears on the wrist very well. To some, 36mm may sound small on paper, but the teardrop lugs here perceptively increased the wrist presence of the case ever so slightly, which contributes to overall wearability. I must also emphasize that there is something about this watch that exudes a certain old-world charm that I haven’t felt with many other watches I’ve handled in the past. Its outstanding design and proportions make the Ref. 47101 a very attractive watch to reach for in the watch box regularly, even with its attention-catching salmon dial.
Although I've generally enjoyed my time spent with all the previously sold Ref. 47101s, there's a special sentiment attached to my time with this exceptionally rare Ref. 47101/3, and to be honest, bidding farewell to this piece will be somewhat bittersweet. The unique charm of a timepiece with a stunning salmon guilloché dial fitted within a hefty platinum case, as showcased here, is truly unmatched.
As part of the recent resurgence of neo-vintage timepieces from the ’90s, I am elated to see elegant and historically important dress watches such as this one come back to importance.