My First Vacheron
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  1. #1
    Sponsor thoth's Avatar
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    My First Vacheron

    I was set up at a local antique show and managed to snag this off another antique dealer. The dial does not suffer from chips or cracks which is great considering it looks like it saw lots of use.

    Serial dates it between 1915 and 1920. The watch is a contract watch for the US Army Corps of Engineers. The contract ran from 1918 to 1920 for 5000 watches. From what I have found on line they delivered under 4000 of them and the large majority was for the single button chronograph.

    As far as I can find the watch is 100% original and unmodified. I am interested in finding out more about the number on the back. I feel that there is some discrepancy in how the watches are numbered. While I understand there was a 5000 watch contract with V&C for Corps of Engineer watches there appears to be a letter requesting "half chronometer" watches from V&C in the total of 2000 as well. The letter states that they are to be numbered 10,351 up to 12,350. If the numbers on the cases on the image below are scrutinized there are cases marked with the same "property of Corps of Engineers USA" between 10,986 to 12,51X that are not V&C time only watches.



    Would the US Army request multiple companies to use the same numbers on multiple watches of multiple makes and functions? If these numbers were used to record the issue of a watch then you could have 5+ people with the same watch number. This seems very poorly recorded and tracked on the part of the US Army.

    What would have been meant by "Half Chronometer"? The time only models I have found do not have any fine regulation on the regulator. If anyone has any input on this please help a guy out.

    The watch needed some external and internal gentle cleaning. Ticking away happily on my desk.













    Last edited by thoth; February 18th, 2015 at 02:18.
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  2. #2
    Member Tick Talk's Avatar
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    Re: My First Vacheron

    If you've already reviewed Dr. Knirim's book, my blog here: V&C Corps of Engineers Watches - Blogs - National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors Message Board, and the article in the March/April NAWCC bulletin, then you have the most complete picture available. Please feel free to add your scholarship!
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  3. #3
    Sponsor thoth's Avatar
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    Re: My First Vacheron

    Thanks Tick! Your blog is where I have learned the most about the watch. Fantastic work!

    I guess the trouble I am having is understanding the case numbering. The fact that the military could have been using the same numbers on other watches.

    Let's say for example they ended up with a UN, V&C, and Zenith with all the same number. From a inventory tracking of issued pieces it seems sloppy. Modern issue military watches don't have serial number overlap to the best of my knowledge.

    I guess I figured they had to have some reason to specify the range they did when ordering.

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  5. #4
    Member Paleotime's Avatar
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    Re: My First Vacheron

    I can't add anything but...very nice grab - it looks great. An .800 silver case?

  6. #5
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    Re: My First Vacheron

    .900 My pics could be better. :)

  7. #6
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    Re: My First Vacheron

    Your new watch looks good. Enjoy it.
    Quote Originally Posted by thoth View Post
    I was set up at a local antique show and managed to snag this off another antique dealer. The dial does not suffer from chips or cracks which is great considering it looks like it saw lots of use.

    Serial dates it between 1915 and 1920. The watch is a contract watch for the US Army Corps of Engineers. The contract ran from 1918 to 1920 for 5000 watches. From what I have found on line they delivered under 4000 of them and the large majority was for the single button chronograph.

    As far as I can find the watch is 100% original and unmodified. I am interested in finding out more about the number on the back. I feel that there is some discrepancy in how the watches are numbered. While I understand there was a 5000 watch contract with V&C for Corps of Engineer watches there appears to be a letter requesting "half chronometer" watches from V&C in the total of 2000 as well. The letter states that they are to be numbered 10,351 up to 12,350. If the numbers on the cases on the image below are scrutinized there are cases marked with the same "property of Corps of Engineers USA" between 10,986 to 12,51X that are not V&C time only watches.

    Would the US Army request multiple companies to use the same numbers on multiple watches of multiple makes and functions? If these numbers were used to record the issue of a watch then you could have 5+ people with the same watch number. This seems very poorly recorded and tracked on the part of the US Army.
    I do not believe the Corps of Engineers would have requested or used duplicate
    serial numbers. Though ordered with a specified range of serial numbers, perhaps
    the watches were actually numbered by after shipment. That could explain why
    the property marks from different manufacturers look similar.

    Quote Originally Posted by thoth View Post
    What would have been meant by "Half Chronometer"? The time only models I have found do not have any fine regulation on the regulator. If anyone has any input on this please help a guy out.

    The watch needed some external and internal gentle cleaning. Ticking away happily on my desk.
    I am inclined to think there has been a mis-interpretation of the order.
    Absent the original document, we can only guess at the meaning.


    Thanks,
    rationaltime

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    Re: My First Vacheron

    Last edited by thoth; February 18th, 2015 at 04:45.
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    Re: My First Vacheron

    Thank you.


    "Ever since Thacker and Arnold, only precision marine and pocket watches which have a spring detent escapement or a pivoted detent escapement are called chronometers"

    "Precision and the chronometer escapement went hand in hand for the longest time. The separation of these two characteristics was first achieved in Switzerland, where the lever escapement was advanced to equal the chronometer escapement with respect to precision.

    First though, at the end of the 19th century, watches with precision lever escapements were referred to as "half-chronometer", when the equality of lever and chronometer escapements had been confirmed in observatory competitions. This term was primarily used in England: the term in Glashuette is "ankerchronometer" (lever chronometer) for pocket watches with lever escapements and especially large compensation balances, but it is not much better. Both terms do not make sense, because they are not logical: if the main characteristic of a chronometer is its precision, and the detent or detached detent escapements only has significance when it is responsible for such precision, then watches with lever escapement are full, and not half, chronometers, as soon as they reach that precision"

    The testing and certificates began about 1925.

    From "Wristwatch Chronometers" by Fritz von Osterhausen, Schiffer Publishing 1997, page 9.

    source


    Thanks,
    rationaltime
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    Member Tick Talk's Avatar
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    Re: My First Vacheron

    Re half-chronometer; this was strictly an English term for watches adjusted in positions. It wasn't even acknowleged by the Swiss chronometer testing facilities but used by some Swiss makers, including V&C, to market watches adjusted to a higher standard than their competition.

    My speculation re inventory numbering of these C of E pieces requires that one first appreciate that almost all Swiss makers contracted by the US Army sub-contracted some production to other Swiss companies to help them meet their quotas. I think that blocks of numbers were assigned by V&C, for example, to Moser and to Orion to use on their pieces made on behalf of Vacheron Constantin. FWIW, the inventory numbers were indeed engraved by the makers, not the C of E. There is still much more to learn about the Corps watches, unfortunately I haven't been able to pry anything more out of VC...yet
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  11. #10
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    Re: My First Vacheron

    Per Websters....

    half chronometer
    noun
    :a watch having an escapement compounded of the lever and chronometer escapements; also :a fine lever-escapement watch adjusted for temperature


    The fine lever escapement adjusted to temp seems to be the most likely.


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