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Thread: Vacheron Constantin aviatorís watch 1903 ???

  1. #1
    Grand Master abraxas's Avatar
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    Vacheron Constantin aviatorís watch 1903 ???



    Yesterday Rev-O posted a thread...

    Historic Watches on display at Oxford Museum Exhibition
    https://forum.tz-uk.com/showthread.p...eum-Exhibition

    The watch in question is labeled as:

    Vacheron Constantin - Steel aviator's watch, enamel dial – 1903

    The problem is that to me it does not look like a 1903 watch.
    New Rolex adage: The customer is always wrong!

  2. #2
    Grand Master abraxas's Avatar
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    According to the TZ article of 2014...

    A fascinating watch from Vacheron's extensive collection of historic timepieces, this is one of the very first watches used by aviators. It dates to 1903 - the same year Wilber and Orville Wright built and successfully flew their first powered airplane, the "Wright Flyer I"...

    According to the 2005 book, "Secrets of Vacheron Constantin" by Franco Cologni, the design was conceived by the Wright Brothers to be worn on the thigh during flight.

    According to Vacheron's Alex Ghotbi, the chronometer movement and dial were believed to be purchased by a Dayton, Ohio-based watchmaker who custom made its steel case for fitting a large strap to be worn around the thigh.

    Since the Wright Brothers were based in Dayton, Ohio during this time, the likelihood this watch was made for them is quite high.
    Quite possibly the world's first aviator's watch >>>
    https://forums.timezone.com/index.ph...=0#msg_6729879

    Orville Wright took off on the 17th December 1903.

    From what have I gathered the watch first appeared at the Vacheron Constantin Singapore exhibition of 2011 and according to the SJX tour the movement is 19 lignes (42.8mm) so it must have been a big watch around 52mm.

    A Tour of “Treasures of Vacheron Constantin”, An Exhibition Covering The History Of The Geneva Watchmaking (just after half-way down)
    https://watchesbysjx.com/2011/06/a-t...tchmaking.html

    Below a pocket watch of similar size:

    Vacheron & Constantin military chronometer (19 ligne mov. 52mm case)
    https://www.adamvintage.com/store/p3...onometer.html#



    The case is totally unlike anything around at the time. Look at the solid lugs whereas everything else had soldered-on wire lugs (for at least another 20 years). Look at the drilled lugs, implying solid-bars. And look at the grooved screw-down bezel. Unfortunately I haven't mananged to find any pics of the back or side views. I'd love to see the lug/case/bezel interphase.


    Left drilled lug hole


    Right drilled lug hole



    The Vacheron Constantin Overseas – Part 1, the Origins, the 222 and the Evolution of an Icon
    https://monochrome-watches.com/video...on-of-an-icon/

    The grooves on the bezel of the 1903 look quite similar to the grooves of the Vacheron Constantin 222 which was designed by Jorg Hysek in 1977. This is quite extraordinary. Did Jorg Hysek take note of the 1903... or is there something else afoot?



    Do you see a 1903 watch?
    Last edited by abraxas; 19th October 2020 at 15:24.
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  3. #3
    Master bobbee's Avatar
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    Nope.
    Is that stainless steel? If so, it wasn't discovered until 1913, and not used in watches until the 30's. It looks far too modern in design, and screw down cases were not used specifically on wrist watches until the 1910's.
    Far too many of the designs used in the watch look much younger than the 1920's let alone the 1900's.

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    Grand Master jwg663's Avatar
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    It looks like one of those Ukrainian 'marriage' watches (Note: I'm not saying that it is, but that's what it looks like!).

    If it is from 1903, it's certainly an anachronism.
    ______

    ​Jim.

  5. #5
    Grand Master abraxas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jwg663 View Post
    It looks like one of those Ukrainian 'marriage' watches (Note: I'm not saying that it is, but that's what it looks like!).

    If it is from 1903, it's certainly an anachronism.
    If I knew nothing about it, I would have also said a Ukrainian special. Especially with those red accents on the hands which are very un-VC.

    If I had to accept it as real, I would have said late 1920s.
    Last edited by abraxas; 23rd October 2020 at 14:27.
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    Grand Master jwg663's Avatar
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    If it wasn't for the claimed 52mm size, I'd have said that its configuration was similar to late 1920s/early 1930s drivers' watches.

    Google Images has a very similar Waltham (but with wire lugs & it's only about 33mm) from a WUS sales listing.
    ______

    ​Jim.

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  8. #8
    Grand Master Saint-Just's Avatar
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    Alex is an absolute reference on VC, and he has access to Vacheronís archives.

    However the story seems rather far fetched.

    Apart from the fact that it is usually accepted that the first aviator watch was designed by Cartier for his friend the Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos=Dumont, one has to wonder what use would a large watch like that would have been for a flight that lasted under 20 seconds. And what was VC doing over the last 100 years of allowing Cartier to take the credit for the first aviator watch?

    I understand there were powered lighter-than-air airships, but the pilot wasnít seated in a way that would make a watch worn on the thigh easily readable. That would come later with the B-Uhren. And in any case it wouldnít warrant the nameíaviator watch.
    'Against stupidity, the gods themselves struggle in vain' - Schiller.

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    Master unclealec's Avatar
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    This has reawakened my ownership of an an enigmatic Omega wristwatch supposedly from 1917, especially the phrase "Ukranian "marriage watch".
    Rather than hi-jack this thread I will start another. Look for "Ukranian "marriage watches".

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    Master bobbee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JGJG View Post
    Bloody plagiarising Jack Forster, I posted about the first springbars back in June 2015 at WUS!

    https://www.watchuseek.com/threads/v.../post-17381946

  11. #11
    Grand Master abraxas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JGJG View Post
    My feeling is that the VC has solid bars rather than spring bars. You can tell that by the large diameter of the lug holes.
    New Rolex adage: The customer is always wrong!

  12. #12
    I'm off to see in person on Tuesday and will chat to the experts there.

    Apparently it's not stainless steel, but will try and find out more.

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    Master bobbee's Avatar
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    I have found many images of early aviators wearing wrist watches over the years, some images even had them wearing on the thigh. But not one of them was a watch with lugs, every one was a pocket watch in a leather holder.
    The earliest was around 1911, as both below.




  14. #14
    Grand Master Saint-Just's Avatar
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    Vacheron Constantin aviatorís watch 1903 ???

    Yes bob that was my point. First airplane flight was December 1903 and lasted a few seconds. Lighter than air pilots were not in a position where wearing a watch on the thigh would be beneficial



    Add to that, I am not aware that they were called aviators.
    'Against stupidity, the gods themselves struggle in vain' - Schiller.

  15. #15
    Interesting thread.
    Look forward to an answer/resolution.

  16. #16
    Grand Master abraxas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bobbee View Post
    ...

    A watch on the wrist and a compass on the knee. Terrific pic!
    New Rolex adage: The customer is always wrong!

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    Grand Master SimonK's Avatar
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    Perhaps thinking about aviators as only people who pilot aeroplanes is too narrow. Manned balloons were used for military purposes from the middle of the 19th century onwards - by the French during the Franco-Austrian and Franco-Prussian wars (1860 - 1870) and by the British during the second Boer war at the turn of the century, there was even a school of ballooning at Chatham.

    It seems to me quite likely that the fellows manning these balloons wanted a timepiece to wear on their persons (as I guess their hands were full, with binoculars and the like) rather than carry a pocket watch. They were not pilots, but it is not too much of a stretch to refer to them as aviators, so an oversized aviator's watch from 1903 is not necessarily a fantasy.
    Last edited by SimonK; 26th October 2020 at 10:55.

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    Master bobbee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RAJEN View Post
    Interesting thread.
    Look forward to an answer/resolution.
    The collection has corrected the date of the watch to "circa 1930", much more realistic.

    https://www.idawatches.org/exhibitionlist

  19. #19
    Grand Master abraxas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bobbee View Post
    The collection has corrected the date of the watch to "circa 1930", much more realistic.

    https://www.idawatches.org/exhibitionlist
    VC must have been attempting to pull a Richemont as per Panerai. From sad to sadder.
    New Rolex adage: The customer is always wrong!

  20. #20
    Grand Master abraxas's Avatar
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    If the watch was really from 1903, then the next step would have been to identify the Dayton, Ohio, casemaker because the gentleman was a genius.

    According to Vacheron's Alex Ghotbi, the chronometer movement and dial were believed to be purchased by a Dayton, Ohio-based watchmaker who custom made its steel case for fitting a large strap to be worn around the thigh.
    New Rolex adage: The customer is always wrong!

  21. #21
    Grand Master Saint-Just's Avatar
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    Vacheron Constantin aviatorís watch 1903 ???

    Quote Originally Posted by SimonK View Post
    Perhaps thinking about aviators as only people who pilot aeroplanes is too narrow. Manned balloons were used for military purposes from the middle of the 19th century onwards - by the French during the Franco-Austrian and Franco-Prussian wars (1860 - 1870) and by the British during the second Boer war at the turn of the century, there was even a school of ballooning at Chatham.

    It seems to me quite likely that the fellows manning these balloons wanted a timepiece to wear on their persons (as I guess their hands were full, with binoculars and the like) rather than carry a pocket watch. They were not pilots, but it is not too much of a stretch to refer to them as aviators, so an oversized aviator's watch from 1903 is not necessarily a fantasy.
    Hello Simon
    As you probably know the term "avion" was coined by Clement Ader, based on the Latin "Avis" for birds. I believe it has only been used in the context of "heavier-than-air" flying machines, with fixed wings.
    "Aviateurs" and "aviation" are subsequent derivatives.
    The Lighter-than-air flyers were called "aerostiers".
    In any case, the matter seems to have been cleared, with an inversion of digits in the date.
    Last edited by Saint-Just; 26th October 2020 at 22:50.
    'Against stupidity, the gods themselves struggle in vain' - Schiller.

  22. #22
    Grand Master SimonK's Avatar
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    Apparently, according to Les Trťsors de la Langue FranÁaise, the term aviateur was first used in 1932 and the English 'aviator' derived from this. Prior to 'avion', which Ader used in a patent application, there was 'aťrostat' for tethered balloons and aťronef for a craft which was capable of being steered.

  23. #23
    I think the confusion over the age/date comes from the fact that there might be an older (possibly pocket watch, possibly 1903) movement inside which has been recased and repurposed for fliers.

    The exhibition is great btw. Well worth a visit

  24. #24
    Grand Master Mr Curta's Avatar
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    ca. 1930



    I wonder whether the confusion stems back to a simple typo, transposing the '3' and '0'.
    My old clock used to tell the time and subdivide diurnity; but now it's lost both hands and chime and only tells eternity. PH

  25. #25
    Grand Master Saint-Just's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Curta View Post
    ca. 1930

    I wonder whether the confusion stems back to a simple typo, transposing the '3' and '0'.
    I also think this is where it comes from.
    'Against stupidity, the gods themselves struggle in vain' - Schiller.

  26. #26
    Grand Master abraxas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Curta View Post
    ca. 1930



    I wonder whether the confusion stems back to a simple typo, transposing the '3' and '0'.
    Great pic, thanks. Still, the case construction looks exemplary. I wonder if the bezel turns. My feeling is that it does...
    New Rolex adage: The customer is always wrong!

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