Christian Selmoni
Vacheron Constantin

Interview & Photography by: Mart Engelen

Fiftysix day-date, Switzerland 2018
 

Fiftysix day-date


 
 

Christian Selmoni, Plan-les-Ouates, Switzerland 2018
 

Christian Selmoni, Plan-les-Ouates, Switzerland 2018

 
 

A conversation with Christian Selmoni, Style and Heritage Director of Vacheron Constantin, about the new Fiftysix Collection and how Vacheron Constantin has been able to renew itself at the highest level of watchmaking for more than two centuries.
 
 

Mart Engelen: How would you describe Vacheron Constantin and its collectors?
Christian Selmoni: Vacheron Constantin is the oldest watchmaking brand. Since 1755.
This is the key aspect. It’s a Maison that has been able to renew itself at the highest level of watchmaking for more than two centuries. I think it’s a great achievement. For me, Vacheron Constantin is one of the benchmarks of high-end watchmaking in terms of classicism and tradition.
ME: And its collectors?
CS: Vacheron Constantin’s collectors are people who are passionate about fine watchmaking. The great thing about Vacheron Constantin is that they are able to collect watches not only from decades ago but also from centuries ago. We see watches on the market from, let’s say, the early nineteenth century and can still find some very rare and interesting watches. A couple of months ago we found a chronograph from 1883. This notion of collecting through the centuries is very attractive for watch collectors. And Vacheron Constantin has always been creative in terms of design and shape. It’s a very interesting brand to collect.
ME: Can you tell me more about the new Fiftysix collection and the inspiration behind it?
CS: Fiftysix is a new collection and at the same time a tribute to the elegance of the 1950s. We found a lot of inspiration in the watches from the fifties by the design labels. As you know, the fifties were probably the apex of a certain elegance. If you think about the Hollywood stars of the time, they were especially elegant. Both the men and the women. So we decided to take our inspiration from a particular watch with the iconic reference 6073, launched in 1956 and inspired by the Maltese cross, for this new collection which is a contemporary collection that incorporates a little vintage touch from the fifties.
ME: Being Geneva’s oldest watch manufacturer, founded in 1755, how does Vacheron Constantin anticipate the fast and enormous changes in today’s society?
CS: When we look at our history, we have endured some very difficult times. I am thinking about the wars and revolutions in Europe. We were already there. So it is very important to be consistent in the way we do things overall. That’s probably the key for our long-lasting success. With this fantastic heritage of more than two centuries, we really have to make sure that we are able to transmit our values as watchmakers through our products year after year. It’s a challenging aspect of design since trends are changing, the world is changing, and we have to adapt. I would say we have to create new watches while still making sure that the new designs accord with the company’s roots. So I think consistency is the key aspect here.
ME: Does social media influence Vacheron Constantin’s business strategy?
CS: We have a business strategy which is very clear. Separately, social media is part of our communication strategy. Again, this is a matter of adapting to today. As you mentioned before, we are in a world that is changing all the time, we are in the digital age. We are observing this situation and are very “client centric” which means that we are really willing to get a connection with our clients. So social media is an obvious tool for us. For example, we have an Instagram account called The Hour Lounge, which is dedicated to vintage Vacheron Constantin, and almost every day we address some stories on that and get a very
good response.
ME: Does Vacheron Constantin have to deal with different customer demands nowadays?
CS: Well, that would need a long answer, but first of all we are a generalist high-end brand, meaning that we not only make masculine technical watches, we also make ladies’ watches, decorative craft watches and sports leisure watches. A lot of different kinds of watchmaking. What we see in addition is a very important trend: personalisation. We have developed a department dedicated to the creation and development of unique timepieces. This offer of unique timepieces is really growing alongside the collections of Vacheron Constantin.
ME: It’s quiet interesting that from one side there is demand from customers who want to have a unique personalised item and from the other side you have customers who can acquire a first Vacheron Constantin timepiece at let’s say a reasonable price.
CS: Yes. You can say that we have almost a kind of polarisation in the offer. Meaning that there is a great interest in let’s say entry-level watches but there is also a lot of interest driving unique, very high-end, sophisticated timepieces.
ME: #59 Magazine is a high-end art and travel publication. What role does art and travel play in your life?
CS: I am now Style and Heritage Director but still work half of the time on the product side.
But to answer your question, my previous job was Artistic Director so I was pretty much connected with what you are mentioning. For me the point is where do you find your inspiration when you speak about watches. We have a great treasure trove of inspiration from our heritage but it’s also important to think out of the box and make sure that your inspiration comes from beyond your watchmaking brand. So I love to travel and I am also interested in art but I mostly like the emotion of traveling, discovering new areas, cultures and being inspired by a new city or country. For example, out of this inspiration we are currently creating a series called Villes Lumière. The idea is to reproduce in a watch a city view at night as seen from the sky.
ME: How do you see the future of Vacheron Constantin?
CS: We have to be faithful to the roots of the company in terms of product design and watchmaking art. So again we have to continue along this path and maintain our craftsmanship, our technical know-how. Carrying on with mechanical watches made with a lot of craftsmanship because this is really the essence of our watchmaking. It would be foolish to lose that. Outside watchmaking I also think of this notion of the value of the hand. I would say the intelligence of the hand is highly important in the luxury industry. So it’s most important to maintain this vitality, this value added by the hand of the specialist.
ME: What are you proudest of at Vacheron Constantin?
CS: I don’t think it’s so easy to determine the style of Vacheron Constantin. This is a maison, a brand; the style of the product is classic, elegant, refined. And none of these are exactly tangible things. They are intangible and it has always been very important in my job that these values, even if they are not tangible, are still present in the products. And that is very challenging.
ME: Thank you for this conversation.
CS: Thank you.
 
—Copyright 2018 Mart Engelen

 
 

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Vacheron Constantin, Switzerland 2018