Sandrine Donguy, Product Marketing & Innovation Director at Vacheron Constantin Discusses the Brand’s Latest Novelties

Lara Mansour   |   04-05-2022

Since the brand began back in 1755, Vacheron Constantin has continued to give its clients a reason to dream. By prioritising not just its products, but also the emotions and stories around them, it has allowed generations of watch lovers to immerse themselves into the Vacheron Constantin universe and discover the truly special story of this brand.

 

Over 265 years later and there are still a lot of stories to tell. With centuries of history and some of the most extraordinary timepieces ever to be made, in the Maison’s archives, Vacheron Constantin needs to look no further than its own legacy to find many of these stories today. Sandrine Donguy, Product Marketing & Innovation Director at Vacheron Constantin is tasked with sharing the history of some of the brand’s most iconic products but also balancing this with the innovation and technology that is required today to keep up with the ever-changing times. Today’s customers need more than just a product, and in fact, more than just a story, they want both, presented in the most exceptional ways. Before joining Vacheron Constantin in 2018, Donguy had over a decade of experience in marketing within the watch industry, from product development to 360-degree strategic management. Her current mission encompasses three activities: developing, enriching, and monitoring the brand’s watch collections, as well as pushing forward with all aspects of innovation. As Vacheron Constantin launches its 2022 novelties, we discuss more on this product development aspect as well as continuing the legacy of the watchmaker as the world continues to change.

 

Traditionnelle

 

Can you tell us about the novelties you are presenting today from your point of view? 

This year we have several topics to cover, and we are especially emphasising women’s and sports watches. I will start with the Patrimony. The Patrimony timepieces dating from the 50s had recognisable codes and when we were creating this new edition, the mindset was that it was to be a timepiece that was for both men and women. So, the question was how can we add some feminine touches to these timepieces? We made some slight adjustments – longer arms, a rounded crown, with or without diamonds, and we have introduced a gradient effect dial that comes in two different colours and is handmade and varnished. There are different layers to this, the initial varnish is done mechanically, and then our artisans will spray over it to appear darker on the edges and lighter in the centre. This is done by hand and therefore every dial is unique. In the market currently, most brands are doing dark tones and the idea here was to have something very delicate and feminine, matching the tones they display and the colour of the bracelet. The idea of this was to keep the spirit of the Patrimony collection but with some additional feminine twists. And the colour and shimmering effect of the strap are perfect, it works for everybody. The straps have the same wrist fit as Égérie, and the idea is that once a female client comes to us, even if she has purchased an Égérie watch, she can wear the same straps with both as they are self-interchangeable.

 

And the other topic we are focusing on is enlarging our offering of high complications for women as this was something we were missing. So, this is the first Perpetual Calendar we have created for women. From the front, it is very feminine with the mother of pearl, simple white or light blue dial. There is a diamond-set version with rose quartz for the crown and the bezel, and on the back is the extra-thin calibre. So, on the front you have these feminine elements and then on the back, you have this prestigious calibre. It has the same finish as we have on the other collections, and they all have a mark of certification from Geneva. It is only 36.5mm and it is only 8.43mm thick, so an ultra-thin calibre that is quite smooth. We chose to have bronze and white colours which are conventional and easy to wear, yet delicate. With Égérie we can express much more colourful straps and creativity, but here, we remain subtle.

 

Traditionnelle Chrono

 

When you decide to elevate or revisit an existing icon, what are the first things you take into consideration?

For me, it is the heritage, what the collection stands for and what was the source of inspiration at the time it was created. I begin by looking at the past. I look at the original design and think about the watch that was created and the era it was created in. Then the second facet is to consider what are people asking for today. We have conversations with connoisseurs, we get feedback from the boutiques, we have our networks and it’s important that we get our input from these and think about something that’s complementary to what we are already offering. We have the Overseas collection which is more sports-chic, with more of a bold design, we have Égérie which is more colourful, so between that, I consider who is the woman we want to attract with this timepiece? So, we consider the past, present and the expectations.

 

What are the other icons that we are revisiting now?

One of the most important icons we revisited is the 222 which fits perfectly for both men’s and women’s wrists. It was first launched in 1977, on the occasion of the 222nd Anniversary of the Maison. At the time it was during the trend of the Quartz segment, and for Vacheron Constantin in terms of heritage, it has very recognisable design features for the bracelet and the case. It was designed by Jörg Hysek, he was only 24 and he created this watch from his mind with no specific source of inspiration from Vacheron Constantin. Nevertheless, it has the Maltese cross, but it was a completely new design. Our connoisseurs asked for the relaunch of this watch many years ago, and now that we are in 2022, we decided it is the perfect time for the unveiling of this watch. It was a very complex revisit and I used to say it was a human adventure, because the starting point was to look at the historical timepieces and decide what the strengths were in terms of design and then look at where can we go further in terms of new features. Because it is a historical piece, but we want to please customers and abide by the trends of today. So, we have changed the calibre, we have improved the connection between the links, we have added a falling clasp for security, and we have opened the case-back. It is a 37mm diameter watch with a very slender case that fits perfectly on the wrist and has smooth integration between the bracelet and the case. The dial is a golden tone with the Maltese cross in white gold to stand out against the yellow gold. The case is a tonal round shape, and it was perfectly integrated with the bracelet.

 

Overseas Tourbillon

 

How often do you visit the archives, and how do you balance inspiration from past designs and the heritage whilst staying relevant and modern? 

Every time I start a new project, I revisit the archives. For me it is always a question of balance and proportion and depending on my collection, I must be as close as possible to the archival pieces with new features, and for the Overseas collection I experiment much more because I know there is a contemporary design and the expectation and meaning, of course, is different. Each time I think about the role that I want each product to play, and I completely agree that the past could be a strength, but sometimes it can be a weakness. It depends on the topic, but it is always a question of proportion.

 

What is the main challenge you face today in what you do? 

Being in charge of innovation there are two challenges I face. The first one is to make sure that I perpetuate the heritage but keep in line with trends and move forward because the Maison is transforming. My challenge is the quest for balance and each novelty is different and requires a different discussion with the designer – is it the right size? Is it the right tone? Do we go further? – with every product, we ask these questions. And my second challenge is sustainability. In luxury, we are selling dreams, and especially during the COVID pandemic it is super important that we continue to sell dreams, even if it is a huge price positioning for our clientele, but in the end, watchmaking is a craft, it is high watchmaking, and it is about using these crafts and the artisans that we have in our Maison and the value of that, and letting people transport into another universe. Nevertheless, the COVID-19 situation has placed focus on the importance of caring for the planet in terms of where the materials are being sourced from. So, it’s about raw materials, the supply chain, how we can reduce the emission of carbon, but also there is the huge topic of using exotic skins, and my challenge is to make sure that we are thinking about using alternatives but ensuring that there is no compromise on value and quality. Because at the level of our products we want to make sure that we remain at the top level in terms of appreciation of the products. This market is still quite new, but I have seen some interesting things, so we can stay tuned on this, but my challenge is to make sure that we don’t go too far to follow the expectations of the sustainability approach while keeping the appeal of the product high.

 

Les Cabinotiers

 

Today, what do you believe is more important, that the story comes first, or the product comes first, supported by the story?

Even though I am a product person, I believe that the story should come first because the product is a way to explain the story. If you don’t tell the story, the creation process, the element of human adventure around the product, how can you feel emotionally seduced by the product? Without the story, the product has no strength. If we want to differentiate or explain why we have been around as a brand since 1755, it’s all about the stories that we tell. Of course, the product must be strong as well, I love the products, but if you don’t have the touching points you can’t differentiate.

 

What would you still like to explore at Vacheron Constantin that you haven’t done yet? 

Jewellery and craftsmanship. When I revisited the archives, I found something completely out of the box, in terms of Métiers d’art jewellery watches and all the creative assets we can inject into this segment. In our archives, we have such delicate striking timepieces, and I was thinking about how to rejuvenate the striking market. The idea is not to copy anyone else but to stay faithful to our values. My first job at Vacheron Constantin was really to look at the archives and on the feminine segment mixing jewellery, enamelling, small mechanical timepieces, and believe me, there is so much to do in this segment. At the moment, my challenge is the mechanical calibre because we have to have such a small calibre, but I am sure we will go into this segment eventually.

 

Historiques

 

If you were to design a jewellery timepiece today what is the first stone, you would want to use and why?

I know there is a huge trend around semi-precious stones and I love these creative stones, but I remain very faithful to diamonds. For me there is a legacy about the appeal of these emotional stones, but why not mix them with other creations such as emerald or sapphire? What is important for me is the design of the timepiece that we are looking for. But I believe we should inject watchmaking into jewellery, because while other brands have their own territory, we are a watchmaker at heart and even at the starting point of the Maison, the first timepieces that we introduced for women were striking watches, and they were requested by women themselves. We had a rotating bezel, very delicate jewellery timepieces with mechanical movements inside, so I strongly believe that we can combine both, but it is a technical challenge for my colleagues.

 

If you were to describe each of these collections in one word, what would they be?

 

Patrimony would Timelessness.

222 would be creativity.

Traditionnelle would be legacy.

Overseas would be bold.

And Égérie is sophistication.

 

What makes an icon today?

A recognisable signature design. And you don’t know at the time that it is going to be an icon.

 

What would you tell our readers about what we can expect from your work in the near future?

More dreams.