Test of the Vacheron Constantin Historiques American 1921

Published by The Watch Observer

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Editor's opinion = 73/100

Take a classic watchmaker, entrust him to a neo-expressionist painter, and you end up
with the American 1921...
OK, I’m exaggerating slightly, but that not much!
Let’s review.

A Little bit of history

Vacheron Constantin’s Historical Collection revisits with joy the past history of this century-old firm.
The goal is not to copy an old model but instead to use it as inspiration to recreate an item that is decidedly contemporary.

The story begins in the 20’s, with two series of twelve watches, one of which is intended for the American market.
Their cases, cushion-shaped, have the peculiarity of a winding-mechanism axle shifted to one of the angles, resulting in a diagonal reading of the time...

This placement, though surprising today, was much less so at the time, when the wristband watch for men had just started coming out, and it was often easy to find models that were directly adapted from pocket watches, with the crown at twelve o’clock.

This particular positioning allowed an easier winding and a more modern diagonal reading, specific to the “driver-watch”.

A delight for the eyes

The contemporary model preserves this placement with a pink golden case, and a design that is much more complex than meets the eye: it in effect requires for each individual watch the manual adjustment, on the curves of the case, of the gold plate of the screwed flat bottom.

The cushion-shaped design fits very comfortably on the wrist, in spite of its 40 mm diameter, which is relatively substantial for a dress watch.

The blending of the inscribed curved lines in a square is a delight for the eyes, with the whole being emphasized by the slightly curved sapphire glass.
The shape of the lugs and the sprayed crown also contribute to the harmony reflected in the case.

The dark brown alligator strap is in perfect contrast to the pink gold of the case and the gorgeous Maltese Cross-shaped buckle.
Their generous size provides a good balance to the overall volume, and add great comfort to the wear.

A watch surprisingly easy to read

Contrary to my fears, it doesn’t take long to get used to the instinctive time-reading on a shifted dial.

The typography of the printed numbers reveals a small subtlety: the size of the 12, 6, and 9 is slightly larger than the other digits.

Another well-thought through shift: if the seconds hand is at a 90 degree angle with the crown (in the lower-right diagonal of the case), its markers are held on a vertical axle relative the watch’s case.

The result, while it could be thought of as off-balance, gives a vigor that is particular and enchanting.

Lastly, the simplicity of the sand-colored dial is reinforced by the black metal rail, the black oxidized gold hands, and the Maltese Cross positioned on 12 o’clock.


The new 28 mm 4400 AS caliber with manual winding, fits in without any difficulties.

Its dimensions are adapted to a modern case: it doesn’t float behind the sapphire back and isn’t surrounded by a ring acting as a life vest, as is unfortunately too often the case when the movement mechanism is not adjusted to fit the dimensions of the case.

Stamped with the Poinçon de Genève, it meets the rigorous standard of technical and esthetic excellence of this finicky regulation.

However, the connoisseur of the old fashion movement mechanisms will perhaps find its forms to be a little flat and the diameter of the balance a little too small.

But he will quickly find comfort in the opinion of Kari Voutilainen (currently considered one of the greatest independent watchmakers for his attention to high quality and finish) regarding, among other things, the perfection of its inward angles and the Côtes de Genève, as well as the established concept of the movement itself.
Such praise is worth all the marketing campaigns on the world!

The time required to do the first manual winding will surprise you, but only if you forget that you are providing enough energy to power the mechanism for 65 hours!

In any case, it’s hard to imagine an automatic movement on such a classy model.


Testing this Vacheron Constantin Historiques American 1921 will only confirm your favorable first impression.
This subtle cocktail of history and modernity, asymmetry and balance, with a slight touch of madness, brings total happiness.

The +:
• a gorgeous line that doesn’t leave anyone indifferent
• an excellent modern caliber stamped with the Poinçon de Genève
• an alligator strap that meets the challenge

The -:
• the case’s large size and angles, probably sensitive to shocks
• a price that can be considered excessive for a simple hour/minute/second model

Further information:
• journalist’s wrist = 17,5 cm

Published by The Watch Observer