Exceptional horologic works of art

Hotel Noga Hilton, Geneva, Oct 11, 2003

LOT 134

Vacheron & Constantin, Genève, No. 408710, case No. 254197, made in 1914, sold in 1928. Exceptionally fine, highly important and unique large 18K gold hunting-cased, keyless, specially adjusted astronomical minute-repeating carillon watch, with Guillaume balance, triple train, split-seconds chronograph, 30-minute register, perpetual calendar, phases of the moon and alarm. Accompanied by numerous factory documents.

CHF 0 - 0

EUR 0 - 0

Sold: CHF 1,103,500

C. Five-body, massive, “bassine”, polished with reeded bezel edges, gold hinged cuvette. D. Matte silver, No. 254/97, upright black champlevé Arabic numerals, outer minute divisions, outermost chronograph track divided into fifths with five-minute/seconds Arabic markers, four subsidiary sunk dials for phases of the moon aperture with gold and enamel moon disc concentric with minute register, months of the four-year leap cycle, date concentric with subsidiary seconds, and days of the week. Blued steel Breguet hands, gold alarm hand. M. 47.37 mm (21'''), maillechort, “fausses côtes” decoration, 45 jewels, straight line calibrated lever escapement, anibal-brass Guillaume compensation balance with special alloy Breguet balance spring, special rare patented cam-type micrometric regulator, tandem winding, split-seconds mechanism set on the back plate, pin-set of both going and alarm trains, repeating on three gongs by three hammers through activating slide in the band, alarm by its own hammer striking on two gongs. Signed on dial, case and movement.Diam. 66.3 mm.

Click to full view

Grading System
Case: 2

Very good

Movement: 2

Very good

Dial: 2 - 01


This remarkable watch has 76 wheels and pinions, 41 bridges and plates, 305 screws, 70 springs, 107 other pieces and 11 hands, a total of 657 parts in all! It is ultra-complicated as well as being a precision watch. The alarm feature is very rarely found in complicated watches. Vacheron Constantin made only two of them, each one unique, this one and No. 415810, which has different complications (see Antiquorum, The Art of Vacheron Constantin, Lot 111). To our knowledge, during the end of the 19th century and the first quarter of the 20th century, Vacheron Constantin made only four other watches with alarm (346669, 348872, 365821, and 408270) in addition to these two ultra-complicated watches. These are either simple alarm watches or in combination with a chronograph.In addition to the complications, the company paid special attention to the timekeeping qualities of this watch, which has a superbly high finish, with special and very rarely seen regulator, gold and platinum screws in the balance, and a Guillaume balance. Complicated watches with Guillaume balances are extremely rare; we have seen only a few. Vacheron Constantin was very proud of this watch and put it on the cover of the book tracing the company's history - The World of Vacheron Constantin. On p. 383 of the book there is a photograph of the watch at the time it was made. Anibal (acier au nickel pour balanciers) : an alloy invented by Dr. Charles Edouard Guillaume, exhibits unusual properties, both in terms of thermal expansion and in changes in elasticity. These properties are very different from those of two other famous alloys invented by Guillaume, Invar and Elinvar. Around 1900 Guillaume attempted to eliminate the so-called Middle Temperature Error caused by the fact that the change of rate in a timekeeper with a steel-brass bimetallic balance is approximately a linear function of temperature, while the change of rate caused by change in elasticity of a balance spring is approximately a quadratic function. Thus, it equals zero at only two temperatures, causing secondary error. Countless attempts were made to eliminate Middle Temperature Error, usually by means of auxiliary compensation devices. In 1899, Guillaume noticed that steel with an addition of 44.4% nickel had a negative square coefficient of thermal expansion. This alloy, combined with brass in bimetallic lamina, makes its expansioclose to quadratiC. Balances with bimetallic rims made of anibal and brass are usually called Guillaume balances, or, as their inventor called them, integral balances. When combined with special balance springs, they exhibit remarkable temperature stability, on occasion not exceeding 1/50 second per day at 1oC.