Vacheron Constantin recreates American 1921 watch

The American 1921 Pièce Unique is a one-off to mark the hundredth anniversary of a classic watch. Produced using vintage and specially made tools, it faithfully captures the optimistic slant of the original

Two Vacheron Constantin watches with gold cases, one with brown strap and one with black
Vacheron Constantin American 1921 Pièce Unique with a brown strap, and the original American 1921, dating from that year, with a black strap
(Image credit: Vacheron Constantin)

Vacheron Constantin marks the centenary of its American 1921 watch with a faithful one-off recreation. The American 1921 Pièce Unique is an exact reproduction of the original, created using both historical and more contemporary tools.

The new watch adheres to the art deco design codes of the original, which was created mainly for the American market. Only 24 examples of the model were ever made, and just one remained in Vacheron Constantin’s private collection, adding to the complexity of the watchmakers’ task in reproducing it. Designed at a time when wearing a wristwatch was beginning to become more common, the watch encapsulates the brand’s ‘classic with a twist’ aesthetic in a teasing play on our perceptions. The unexpected placement of the numerals captures the optimism and experimentation that characterised the decade following the First World War. Coinciding with the release of more affordable cars, the offbeat placement was appreciated by drivers, who didn’t need to raise their hand from the steering wheel to view the time.

A Vacheron Constantin watch with a gold case and brown leather strap

(Image credit: Vacheron Constantin)

When recreating this piece, watchmakers in the brand’s heritage and restoration departments had to carefully adhere to the intricacies of the original, possible only with a return to the historical tools used then. The restoration workshop – an active department with more than 800 machine tools and watchmaking tools, all designed to bring the past back to life – worked on remaking the piece and keeping the original spirit. It marks the first time they have entirely reproduced an antique watch.

A facing lathe (to create a flat surface) from the late 19th century; an 18th-century upright drilling accessory to drill through the movement’s mainplate; and an early 20th-century staking tool used to set jewels were among the specialist vintage equipment utilised. Used in conjunction with contemporary tools created especially for this watch, such as custom-made milling-cutters and riveting tools, they ensured a faithful and detailed reproduction.


Hannah Silver is the Art, Culture, Watches & Jewellery Editor of Wallpaper*. Since joining in 2019, she has overseen offbeat design trends and in-depth profiles, and written extensively across the worlds of culture and luxury. She enjoys meeting artists and designers, viewing exhibitions and conducting interviews on her frequent travels.