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A visit to Vacheron Constantin: Le Brassus | Page 2

Vacheron Constantin's watch components are produced in a modern facility located in Le Brassus, a village at the heart of the Vallée de Joux in the Canton of Vaud.


The building was inaugurated in 2013 to regroup the activities previously developed in three different buildings. What's more, the new building will allow Vacheron Constantin to support the continuous growth of the staff. Today about 220 employees – out of the total 900 currently working for the brand – operate in Le Brassus but the building has the possibility to accommodate over 350 workers.


The Manufacture in Le Brassus is exclusively dedicated to watch component production. Other tasks such as movement assembly, casing-up and final controls are handled in the Manufacture in Plan-les-Ouates.

Over 40 professions are now exercised within the 7,000 square-metre production area. From prototype-making to decoration as well as lab work, technological research and machining, the entire production chain for the parts required to create Vacheron Constantin mechanical movements is here represented.


The Vallée de Joux region has a long tradition in watch component manufacturing since the early 19th century. It is not by chance that several other brands have production sites in this area. The expertise and skills cultivated in the region explains why Vacheron Constantin loyally maintains its presence in this region.

Properly adapted to the specific requirements of watch component production, the Lean Manufacturing organisational system put in place in this facility focuses on production flows by process or by product line, considering the expenditure of resources in any aspect other than the direct creation of value for the end customer to be wasteful, and thus a target for elimination.

This management philosophy derives from the Kanban method which, inspired to the Toyota Production System (TPS), manages knowledge work with an emphasis on just-in-time delivery while not overloading the team members. In this approach, the process, from definition of a task to its delivery to the customer, is displayed for participants to see and team members pull work from a queue. It gives employees greater responsibility while improving overall quality and reducing transit times.

The beauty of this production site is that the most advanced and innovative methodologies and technologies are fully integrated with tradition and hand craftsmanship.

CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machining


Machine bevelling

In an age where computer aided design programs can create any type of geometry and shape, movement finish still represent one major differentiator. With the term 'finishing' we refer to the extremely time consuming manual embellishment of movement components which can actually represent one-third or even more of the time spent on making a timepiece.

In fact, here of Vacheron Constantin everything is still decorated by hand. Every single part of mechanical movements is manually decorated on all faces, even those that will remain hidden – such as the decorated faces of a bridge or a plate that are subsequently fitted together. Only a very small number of manufacturers still comply with such high-level finishing standards.

Walking through the finishing department it is possible to admire skilled artisans decorating the components with techniques like Côtes de Genève (Geneva stripes), straight-graining, perlage (circular graining), anglage (also referred to as beveling or chamfering) and several others. Operations that require great skills and lot of time.

Straigh-graining

Côtes de Genève

Anglage or chamfering

Just consider that the chamfering alone of the components of an openworked tourbillon requires over a month’s work by an experienced artisan. This technique consists of eliminating the edges between the surface and the flanks while forming a 45-degree angle. The surface of the angle needs to be regular and smooth with a constant width and parallel edges. Whether using files or grinding wheels, the beveling at Vacheron Constantin is only done by hand, relying on the experience and the touch of skilled workers.


Anglage of a tourbillon carriage inspired by Vacheron Constantin's signature Maltese Cross

Circular graining, also called perlage due to its resemblance to a row of tiny pearls, consists of applying a small overlapping circular pattern to surfaces that, often, are not even visible such as top or base plates. Done manually, the pattern must be perfectly linear on different rows. Over 1500 separate 'beads' composing the circular-grained motif must be arranged in perfect succession on the small surface of a self-winding movement’s main plate.

Perlage or circular graining

Since there are no official school courses that teach movement finish, Vacheron Constanti has set up in-house training programmes for its employees who perform these decorative operations. These internal courses take between 6 and 18 months. An apprentice needs 18 months of training before being able to work on interior angles. 

Unfinished and finished bridge

Once completed, the watch components are shipped to the headquarter in Plan-les-Ouates for movement assembly, casing-up and final controls, all under the same roof to comply with the requirements of the Poinçon de Genève certification. Ready to go to Plan-les-Ouates? Click here.

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Page 1: Geneva | Page 2: Le Brassus | Page 3: Plan-les-Ouates      
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Time and Watches | The watch blog: A visit to Vacheron Constantin: Le Brassus | Page 2
A visit to Vacheron Constantin: Le Brassus | Page 2
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