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It was a fine summer afternoon in late June. A gentle sun shone on the squares and the boulevards of Paris. Tourists and locals alike strolled in the Jardin des Tuileries, sipping lemonade, the scent of roses and tulips rich in their nostrils.
Close by, on the Place Vendôme, a group assembled in a salon of the famous Ritz Hotel. This was where Hemingway drank martinis, where Cole Porter would pen “Let’s Do It” (with the charming couplet, “The world admits, bears in pits do it, / Even Pekingeses at the Ritz do it”), and where Coco Chanel lived for thirty years in Suite 302. In their business suits and ties, with the ghosts of those memories around them, the group seemed at home in the ornate setting in which they found themselves.
There, on June 23, 1972, they gathered to honor Vacheron Constantin, who was about to receive a high honor: the Diplome du Prestige de la France.
Amidst the clicking of camera shutters and a smattering of polite applause, Louis Christaens, the President of the Comité de Prestige et de Propagande Nationale, presented the diploma to Jacques Ketterer. Ketterer, the President and Director of Vacheron Constantin, had been in office since 1969. It was Ketterer who would guide Vacheron through the uneasy period following the introduction of the Seiko Astron and the beginning of the quartz revolution.
(It was also under Ketterer that the manufacture would lose the ampersand in its name, in 1973).
With the watch market being flooded with quartz watches from Japan, the presentation of the diploma to Vacheron proved that some people, at least, still appreciated fine mechanical wristwatches. The message was not lost. Shortly after the presentation, the manufacture released a wristwatch with an unusual asymmetrical case and called it the Prestige de la France.
1972 was the year that Audemars Piguet, another member of the horological "Big Three," released the Royal Oak. With the Royal Oak's distinctive eight-sided case and integrated bracelet, Audemars Piguet single-handedly created the genre of so-called luxury sports watches. While Vacheron wouldn’t throw their hat into that ring until the 1977 debut of the 222, the Prestige de la France’s unusual silhouette and stunning silver dial subtly foreshadowed what was to come.
Whether Vacheron created the Prestige de la France specifically to celebrate this diploma, or whether they bestowed the name to a watch that already existed, is unknown. But whatever its origins, the Prestige de la France stood out among the more traditional, round-cased watches that Vacheron offered at the time. It would comprise a part of Vacheron’s collections until being redesigned at the dawn of the 21st Century.
Even with such an unorthodox case shape, the Prestige de la France is mathematically perfect. Its proportions are in keeping with the Golden Ratio, which has fascinated mathematicians and artists for two thousand years. Powered by the Calibre 1050, the model is a true testament to Vacheron’s enduring legacy as one of the most prestigious manufactures in the world.
This particular example is a stunner in 18K white gold with a jet black dial, and has been recently treated to a full spa service. Coming complete with box and Extract Of The Archives from Vacheron Constantin, this is a special example of an already-special model.
18k White gold case is approximately 20mm X 46mm. Vacheron Constantin Reference 35202. Calibre 1050. Manufactured in 1973.
Overall Condition: Case is in great condition overall with light signs of use and wear. Black dial is in excellent condition with crisp printing. Unsigned replacement crown. Case back with Prestige de la France emblem is in very good condition with minor signs of wear.
Includes one 18mm Vacheron Constantin black leather strap.
Also includes box and extract from the Archives confirming production in 1973.