Vintage minute repeating wristwatches are amongst the rarest and most desirable trophies in the current collectors market. Due to the extreme cost and complexity of production, only an exceedingly small number of such horological masterpieces were ever made by an even smaller number of watch manufacturers.
With the creation of reference 4261 in the mid-1940s, Vacheron Constantin surpassed this technical challenge by adding yet another horological complexity: an ultra-thin caliber with a thickness of only 5.25 mm., thus combining two complications requiring special manufacturing know-how and tremendous skill.
Distinguished by its large, ultra-slim case and stylish tear-drop lugs, this exceptional timepiece is certainly one of the most elegant minute repeating wristwatches made in the last 70 years. In production until the mid-1950s, reference 4261 was made in two series: one fitted with a 12''' caliber movement, generally identified by the subsidiary seconds and a case with a diameter of 34mm or, such as the present watch, with the 13''' movement without subsidiary seconds and the thinner but larger 36mm case.
It is commonly believed that a combined total of approximately 40 reference 4261 were ever made, cased in yellow gold, pink gold and platinum, with a variety of dial colors and designs. However it would appear that less than a third of the entire production was finished with the 13''' movement and without subsidiary seconds, as the present watch.
Produced in 1954, this example is in remarkably well-preserved condition. The very attractive 'teardrop' lugs are especially notable, full and well defined, uncompromising of their intended shape. Upon closer inspection, one will notice the gold hallmark is still crisp to the side of the top left lug, a sign that this watch has been well cared for since it left the factory over 60 years ago.
The watch offered here for sale is one of the exceedingly few examples of this model to appear in public and doubtlessly one of the finest, outstanding for a variety of details: the stylish visual appeal of the large gold case combined with the silvered two-tone dial, its excellent overall condition, the superb repeating sound, and that it is offered with its charming original presentation box and Vacheron Constantin Certificate.
Two examples of reference 4261, however with subsidiary seconds, are illustrated in Franco Cologni's Secrets of Vacheron Constantin, p. 224.