Vacheron Constantin - The Cult of Bespoke

Vacheron Constantin had cultivated a fruitful relationship with India's royalty in that glorious era which was defined by the royals' love for everything unique and custom-made. We have a small glimpse of those times and see the future trend as well...

By: Soumya Jain

Posted on: October 10, 2011

The lavish lifestyles and unique passions of Maharajas always make for a fascinating study. It’s always interesting to hear about the unique products they commissioned for from around the globe. Various legends abound when it comes to the relationship between international brands and our Indian royalty. But there are very few chances to actually know more about them – straight from the people involved themselves…

Vacheron Constantin watches for MaharajasOne such opportunity was an event by the prestigious watch brand Vacheron Constantin, in collaboration with Tasveer – an organization committed to the art of photography. While Tasveer had put up some fabulous images of India’s umpteen Maharajas in all their finery, Vacheron Constantin exhibited two fabulous timepieces which were owned by the colourful and much known Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala.

The elegantly framed black and white, sepia and two rare coloured photographs were line

d up on black walls. Dressed in varied attires as per their particular cultures, the Maharajas looked back at you proudly. “We got them from various collections, and we instantly fell in love with them. They are like little miniatures. The two coloured ones were hand-painted in karkhanas (studios) in the early 20th century as per the style of that era. So we acq

uired them in bits and pieces, got together this entire collection, and decided to partner with Vacheron Constantin for this,” said Ms Shalini Gupta from Tasveer.

The two historic timepieces, placed in two glass cases at the opposite ends of the room, claimed my undivided attention as well. One was a 1909 pocket watch with perpetual calendar. “It has an alarm, moonphase as a chronograph and a minute repeater too. It is a piece truly exceptional for its time. And it was made-to-order for Maharaja Bhupinder Singh. He wanted something unusual, so we had to combine all these complications together for him,” said Mr Yassin Tag, Brand Manager, Vacheron Constantin, Middle East and Subcontinent.

The other one was even more intriguing! It’s a ladies wrist watch, dated 1916, and a special order again by Maharaja Bhupinder Singh. He wanted a watch where he could see the time very discreetly. “Usually you have to lift up your wrist to see the time on your hand. But this is a like a bracelet, a piece of jewellery. And by just standing and looking down at your wrist you could see the time,” explained Mr Tag.

Vacheron Constantin watches for MaharajasMr Tag admitted to having many Vacheron Constantin watches in their archives which were owned by Indian royalty and have been brought back to the brand through either of the two methods. “Either when these watches are put on auction, we buy them back. Or sometimes, owners before going to auction houses, come to us and ask if we would be interested in buying it. If it’s an important watch in terms of history or complication, then yes, we acquire it from them.” He hoped to bring more such watches to India for an exhibition in the future.

But this exhibition of two heritage watches was organized at quite an opportune time. Vacheron Constantin’s bespoke department, called Atelier Cabinotiers, has debuted in India. “In Geneva we have a dedicated team that travels around the world to meet people who would like to order special made-to-order pieces. We have started this in India and so far we have got very good response from customers who want a special dial or special complication. So this was also a way for us to revive the history of bespoke watches in India,” said Mr Tag.

To add a conclusion, Vacheron Constantin is taking India very seriously. And to make a connection with India, among other methods, they are taking a historical route (which many other brands have used to their advantage – sometimes successfully). But more importantly, they are also bringing back the tradition of exclusivity and bespoke. And as far as we understand the exclusive group of India’s niche, mature luxury consumers, Vacheron Constantin should be inundated with even more orders soon…

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