Original 1955 Vintage
VACHERON & CONSTANTIN
Ultra Thin ref 4961
History About & Technical
The Year is 1952, Vacheron Constantin have been at the forefront of horological innovation for years it is at this point they took a decision that would change the perception of the brand for future collectors and become its signature even produced to this day : to make the world’s slimmest wrist watch movement. It was launched during the Basel watch fair 3 years after the project began for the brand’s bicentenary in 1955 under the name Caliber 1003. 21.05mm / 9 lignes 21.05mm diameter and 1.64mm thickness made it at the time the world’s thinnest manual winding movement on the market. It was housed in only 3 watches launched specially for the occasion this is the 4961
The thinness of the watch could possibly lead to it being bent if it was tied too tightly to the wrist and therefore to prevent such damage, 2 screws higher than the others acted as safety to prevent the case from coming into contact with the movement. At a later date the movement was placed in an inner titanium cage to avoid any tension and prevent any possibility of the movement being bent. This is correctly not evident in this model (orriginal 1955)
It is interesting to note that with the original caliber 1003 of 1955 the engineers and watchmakers had decided to do without shock protection on the escape wheel as to maintain the thinnest execution possible
To maintain limited thickness the pallet lever is on a lower level than the fork horn and as such the pivots and jewels are also on a lower level.
One surprising feature of the caliber 1003 is its large sized balance. Surprising, because a large balance uses more energy and slim calibers with the size of their mainspring barrels have shorter lasting power reserves and it would have been logical to have a smaller balance which uses less power however considering the difficulties of regulation of such a slim caliber the larger balance provides better accuracy.
Another modification as to keep the slimness of the caliber relates to the lack of impulse roller, the impulse jewel is placed directly into the balance arms.
Extra thin watches became not only a signature of Vacheron Constantin but almost a curse! The brand was only associated with round classical extra thin watches for decades. Imagine between 1955 and 2010 there were over 850 different references (pocket and wrist watches) using this calibre! But here we have where it all started Ref 4961
Solid 18ct Gold.
Small one would suppose by today's standards but not overly so. The watch is a respectable 32mm in diameter (excluding crown) 33.15 mm (inclusive) orriginal unsigned crown as is correct for this model. The watch is in its entirety approximately 4.5mm thick overall. It is difficult to convey just how slim this is to give you an idea The equally rare 1949 Hirsch genuine Elephant Hide strap attached is, in places, thicker than the watch.
Of all the watches to ever house the 1003 this is perhaps my personal favorite it radiates Swiss minimalism efficiency and style but minimalism by no means means minimal effort there is craftsmanship of the utmost caliber in this watch's case and design most noticeably the sleek and subtly elegant curve of the "Bombee" twisted Lugs
A classy crisp, minimalist Silver Satin dial with Large Gold indexes and crisp Black detailing. Extremely fashionable today where styles are, shall we say, taking a step back in time. The Vacheron & The Patek most notably the calatrava i similar "Time Only" wrist watch are today the watches that demand some of the highest values at auction.
We have taken the customer appointed title of "[are you the] Strap guys?" somewhat reluctantly but not disfavorably and if it means anything we would like to think we know a good pairing when indeed we see one. This we believe is the case when matching this (no later than 1949) Genuine Hirsch Genuine black Elephant watch strap. A strap as equally rare as unique and in keeping with the luxury style of the watch as it's possible to get. An added factor in choosing Elephant hide for this strap was to execute a definition of the wrist watch Its smooth highly polished finish a superb juxtaposition to the rough heavy grained appearance of the strap. Both Elements opposing and complementing in equal measure.
Thickness (mm): 1.64
Diameter (mm): 21.10 (9''' ¼)
Number of parts: 117
Number of jewels: 17
Frequency: 2.5 Hz ( 18,000 v.p.h )
Power-reserve (hours): 31 approx.
Indication: minutes, hours
Remarkably and we cant find another example anywhere to correctly identify this, tho it does seem to "fit the bill" so to speack is the watch is still in its orriginal vacheron constantin storage box This is indeed a rare addition and collectors would pay handsomely for this alone
Even today over 65 years after its development Vacheron & constantin Still develop the 1003
recently revitalised as HISTORIQUES
HISTORIQUES ULTRA-FINE 1955