During our Zoom interview with Christian Selmoni — a week before the commencement of digital watch fair Watches and Wonders — the always-dapper Vacheron Constantin heritage and style director was seated next to the brand’s international PR and corporate communications director, Anne-Marie Bubanko. With industry heads required to do countless video presentations and online interviews over the past year, we asked Selmoni if he had ever found it challenging to address an audience in front of the camera. There was a pause, before Bubanko interjected teasingly, “Not at all.”
Smiling, Selmoni answered modestly, “Funnily enough, I’ve always felt quite at ease in front of the camera. I like to do it. But on top of that, I’ve always had a lot of enthusiasm for talking about Vacheron Constantin and watches. I think that helps a lot.” Here, the industry veteran shares his thoughts on his favourite subjects.
1) What is Vacheron Constantin’s key theme for the year?
The celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Historiques American 1921 is big for us this year. Aside from that, we are celebrating the theme, Classics with a Twist, which is very important for Vacheron Constantin. It’s about combining timeless design with an element of fantasy to create something unexpected and surprising. The American 1921 with its off-centre dial is a good example of this “classic with a twist” spirit, but we are also showcasing new watches in important collections such as Traditionnelle, Egerie and Les Cabinotiers.
2) The anniversary editions of the Historiques American 1921 come in white gold or platinum. However, Vacheron Constantin has also created steel versions of certain historical timepieces. How do you decide which models to offer in steel?
In the case of the Historiques Cornes des Vache 1955 chronograph, it was a wink to the history of chronographs at Vacheron Constantin. During the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s, we made some of our chronographs in steel. It was not a matter of fashion, but because such watches were made for specialists in certain professions, such as scientists. So we made several of our classic chronographs in steel, and that was the inspiration behind the use of steel for the Cornes des Vache.
Another model, the Historiques Triple Calendrier 1942, is also offered in steel for a different reason. This model has its origins in 1942. During the Second World War, gold was difficult to obtain and that is why it was made in steel. We remade it in steel as a tribute to the original model.
3) What are your favourite novelties this year?
One of my favourites is the Historiques American 1921. I love the white gold model, because the white metal, paired with the light grey dial, creates a monochromatic appearance that is very stylish and modern, and gives this timepiece of vintage origin a special character.
4) The platinum version of the American 1921 is quite monochromatic as well…
Yes. But there are only 100 timepieces available and I didn’t want to take one away from that. (Laughs.)
5) How has production at the manufacture been affected by Covid-19?
During the first lockdown last year, it wasn’t possible for us to produce for several weeks. Now our watchmakers are back in the manufacture, but we have organised ourselves such that those who are not directly linked to watchmaking are working from home. We can come to the manufacture if we have a reason to do so. I work from home at least three days a week, but I come to the manufacture a couple of days a week.
There are some colleagues I haven’t seen since last February. But by doing so, we are taking the best precautions in order to prevent the transmission of Covid-19. We are adapting to the situation and protecting our watchmakers.
6) What are some of the important lessons the pandemic has taught you?
It has accelerated our digitalisation, and given us the opportunity to be more creative in this area. Digital technology has made it possible for us to get in touch easily with clients, collectors and friends of the press, and to maintain some sort of proximity, even if we are 8,000 km away from you right now. We have very much adapted to the pandemic, and have been working very hard to promote, in the best possible manner, our fine watchmaking, through our digital platforms.
7) Watches and Wonders 2021 marks the second virtual edition of the watch fair since last year. What will you be doing differently?
We are improving the level of what we are presenting online with better videos and so on. You cannot see it, but right now, I am surrounded by an impressive number of cameras and other technical equipment. We have become even more professional than we were last year. For us, it’s very important for us to improve and go beyond, because we want to be the best.