There's not The Vacheron Constantin Teardrop Lug. It's a frame to build a beautiful story around. And if you ask me Vacheron really used it to its full potential in the 1940s and 50s. The timepieces appear playful, at times almost comical, due to the nature of the "bunny ears". Yet in other executions you'll find yourself embraced by a strong masculine claw of a watch. And isn't that versatility something you strive for as a collector?

July 18, 2023

A Vacheron Constantin Collector's Guide - Teardrop Lugs


Marcus Siems     Marcus Siems @siemswatches
    Collector, Author, Data Analyst


Lack of information? I ever so often want to do a major story about Vacheron Constantin but ultimately refrain from doing so because I simply can't find enough information to put together a comprehensive article (or is it just me?)... But the more I think about it the less it makes sense. Why wait for someone else to do the groundwork and get things going? So I finally decided to put together some background information on some of Vacherons finest vintage pieces starting with the "Teardrop Lugs".


Let's open our Vacheron Constantin vintage portfolio and get down to the nitty gritty of one of my favorite designs from the 1940s - Teardrop Lugs*. For me that's a signature design and a feature that probably most might know and even associate with the brand Vacheron Constantin.


Teardrop Lugs are the dramatic poetry to Vacheron Constantin's classic mid-Century design language. Yet, what do we know about these to-cry-for vintage beauties?


But that are the lugs, one detail... what watches have been sporting this dramatic exterior? It's the place I'd like to start my deep dive into the world of mid-Century Vacheron Constantin excellence. There's much more but we'll stay with the "bunny ears" for now and leave the rest for another time.


vintage Vacheron Constantin 4218 with linen dial standing in dramatic poseA pose as dramatic as the lug design... A 1950s Vacheron Constantin 4218 with linen dial from our archives.


1) The Case

Since that's where the lugs are attached, the case is the obvious place to start. It's the canvas for design, presence and the radiating flair of this Vacheron flagship. Predominantly these pieces come in 35.5mm diameter - excluding the crown. It doesn't sound large but the wrist presence is enormous: Due to the ultra-slim bezel and the vertical elongation from the visually very present lugs these pieces feel more like 37-38mm.

On the case-back inside you can often find the hallmark identifying the casemaker responsible for these pieces. In the case of the Teardrop Lug VCs that's mostly the Geneva key #1 indicating the renowned Wenger manufacture[1-2]. Interestingly, the very similar Jaeger-LeCoultre Teardrop examples appear to have been made by a different case-maker (Geneva key #3, unknown)[1].


vintage case-back inside hallmarks from Vacheron Constantin Teardrop Lug designsFour examples of Teardrop Lug Vacheron Constantin dress watches from the 1940s and 50s with clear Wenger casemaker hallmark (Geneva key #1). Photo archives.


And did I mention the crown? That's another highlight on his its own. I can hardly put the shape into words. Several of these pieces (mainly the time-only variations) come with a fluted yet at the same time raised crown, very much like a Cartier Cabochon but replacing the gem with solid 18k gold.


close up on a vintage Vacheron Constantin reference 4218 crown in rose goldA highlight on its own: the non-Cabochon crown in solid 18k gold. A masterfully executed detail found on several time-only pieces throughout the 1950s. Photo


2) Variants

Now that we know the canvas let's see what (sometimes literal) artworks Vacheron drew on them. In total we're speaking roughly about seven major references featuring the Teardrop Lugs - with four time-only and three complicated references. We're generally focusing on the time-only pieces in this guide but included the complicated references for completeness.


Reference Complication
Size Production
4126 sub-second 453 34-35.5mm 1939-52
4299 sub-second 453 30-31mm 1948-54
4218 center-second 454 35.5mm 1946-54
4412 center-second, enamel 454 34mm 1943/1953
4241 triple calendar, (moon-phase) 455 & 485 33-36mm 1942-48
4261 minute repeater 13''' JMV 34-36mm
1942-55 (40 pieces)
4293 triple calendar, moon-phase, minute repeater 38mm 1943/1957 (2 pieces)

Table 1. Overview over the most common Vacheron Constantin Teardrop Lug examples from the late 1930s to the late 1950s. 


Ref. 4126 (& 4299). The reference 4126 is probably the most well known and also the most common execution. It comes as a sub-second time-only watch and given the known production run it might well have been the first execution and a test run for the design. The 4299 is by design very much the same watch but in a smaller yet well-proportioned 30mm case[7]. However, we do see some versions with the minute-track outside the markers. The production run is hard to pin down but according to the examples we encountered it is at least between 1948-54. - Approximately on par yellow (~40%) and rose gold (~40%) and less steel (~10%)[5].


wristshot of a rare bicolor reference 4299 Vacheron Constantin in 30mmA rare piece in a an even rarer execution - a well-proportioned ref. 4299 (30mm) in steel and yellow gold. Photo Courtesy of TheHourLounge.


Ref. 4218. The center-second 4218 is another classic that already gives the entire watch a completely different feel. The center-second makes it a nice link from the Artdeco inspiration to more modern styles. The production period starting in the mid 1940s might put it historically exactly into that niche. - Approximately on par yellow (~40%) and rose gold (~40%) and less steel (~10%)[5].


direct comparison of vintage time-only Vacheron Constantin Teardrop Lug watchesDirect comparison between the center-second ref. 4218 (left) and the sub-second ref. 4126 (right). Photo archives.


Ref. 4412. The 4412 is a bit of a mystery. It appears to be a time-only dress piece but so far I've encountered only one example sporting an interesting cloisonne enamel depicting the now forbidden crest of Mussolini. It originally retailed by Hausmann in Rome an lastly auctioned by Crotier in Hamburg in 2016. The referred watch was made in 1943 but cased and potentially got the enamel dial only in the early 1950s. If all of these pieces came with enameled dials or how many were made at all is a matter of debate[6].

Ref. 4241. The 4241 is a classic Vacheron piece sporting one of the most romantic complications there is - the triple-calendar with moon-phase**. It appears to be a natural extension of the original 4126 line-up as these calendar watches appeared already during the early 1940s. - Approximately slightly more yellow (~50%) than rose gold (~30%) and few in steel (~10%)[5].


vintage 1940s Vacheron Constantin 4241 Triple-Calendar from PhillipsThe romantic Vacheron Constantin ref. 4241 with triple-date and moon-phase from the 1940s. Beautifully captured by Phillips Geneva May 2022. Btw not exactly Teardrop Lugs - the ref. 4241 came in various case designs with only a part of them with classic teardrop "bunny ears".


Ref. 4261. The 4261 with minute repeater is one central pillar of Vacheron mid-Century watchmaking. Well it's historically important watchmaking no matter the brand as it is one of the most intriguing and complex complications to implement. According to the research not more than 40 pieces combined in yellow (~25%) and rose gold (~40%) as well as platinum (~25%) were produced between approximately 1942 to 1955[3,5].


vintage Vacheron Constantin reference 4261 minute repeaterA stunning example of a ref. 4261 Vacheron Constantin minute repeater in yellow gold. Photographed and sold at Monaco Legend Group Auction in April 2023.


Ref. 4293. The most complicated of the bunch - triple-calendar, moon-phase, minute repeating grand complication - and also one of the most historically important Vacheron Constantin timepieces from that era comes with another interesting story. If we look a little closer at the dates associated with this stunner we see that it was only cased in 1957 (according to the archives)[4]. In other words, it was cased and sold well after most of the production run for this design was over. So I'd speculate this may or may not have been a commissioned piece.


3) The Dial

It's no secret we here at Goldammer like ourselves a well-designed and well-rounded dress watch, so we've come across one or another Teardrop Lugs VC over the years... but I'm actually not sure we've seen the exact same dial layout twice...? But let's have a closer look at the variants we encountered so far, in person and online (this is focusing on time-only pieces).


diverse dial variations from vintage Vacheron Constantin Teardrop Lug watchesSeveral different dial variations from some of the Vacheron Constantin Teardrop Lug creations... and this is the time-only variants and even here we could go on... Photos Courtesy of Christie's, Phillips, Antiquorum &


Dial Layout. There are several things that vary but one major commonality is the minute-track inside the hour markers. Hereby, the minute-track consists of either dot indeces or a "railroad" type of track. This detail "sectors" the dial and gives the watch face immediately a two-tone appearance even if it lacks thereof. Some variants further come with linen or guilloched dial textures. Moreover, the dials have a slight downward curvature to the edges (in other instances referred to as "Pie-Pan").


The Pie-Pan-esque dial on a classic Vacheron Constantin 4218From the right angle you'll observe the Pie-Pan-esque curvature on the dial edge - a feature further supported by the sector arrangement due to the inner minute-track. Photo archives.


Numerals & Hour Marker. The time-displaying details on these pieces are some of the most varied you'll probably find for single references. It's virtually every combination you might think of. The numerals come in Roman and Arabic - and basically two major font styles: thin and restrained (for example middle column above) as well as more Artdeco Roman (upper left) and Arabics (upper right). I further came across a Breguet numeral ref. 4299 (30mm), which appears to be a rarer option.


vintage advertorial from the 1940s featuring a Vacheron Constantin 4218A 1946 advertorial featuring a beautiful and early ref. 4218 with two-tone sector dial with even numerals and dot indeces. Seeing the photo it's also most likely the watch Don Draper wore while presenting the ad to Vacheron himself. Photo Courtesy of HIFI archives.


The layout here ranges from full numerals (upper left) to full markers (shown below). But anything in between - even, quarter, 6-12 or 12-only numerals - is possible as well. The quarter and even combinations appear to be the most common ones. The hour marker show mainly dagger (for example lower right) and arrow styles (middle row right). But again these pieces come with a cornucopia of different versions including dot, trapezoidal, prism, stelline and mixed marker styles.


dial close up on a vintage 1940s Vacheron Constantin 4126It didn't fit into the overview but having no numerals at all on the dial has been an option as well... Geometric perfection by prism markers in this stunning 1950s ref. 4126 in rose gold. Photo archives.


Hand style. The hands are one feature that's quite common between all variants. Almost all Teardrop Lug Vacherons of the time come with slim baton hands to let the rest of the dial speak for itself. The only exception we discovered yet has been a neat example sold (online) at Christie's New York in 2019 with a (close-to-perfection) pair of faceted alpha hands.


vintage Vacheron Constantin ref. 4126 with alpha handsA mysterious example of a reference 4126 with rare alpha hands in rose gold from 1947. Photo Courtesy of Christie's NY June 2019.


4) Conclusion

Overall, what we hopefully learned here is that Vacheron established a stunning design blueprint in the late 1930s, integrated it into several complication watches in the early 1940s, to finally give it victory lap in a stunning center-second time-only execution in the late 1940s. The (very successful) story appears to have ended during the early- to mid 1950s when Vacheron Constantin started to look ahead to new trends and lug-designs.

Importantly, there's not The VC Teardrop Lug. It's a frame to build a beautiful story around. And Vacheron really used it to its full potential if you ask me. The timepieces appear playful, at times almost comical, due to the nature of the "bunny ears". Yet in other executions you'll find yourself embraced by a strong masculine claw of a watch. And isn't that versatility something you strive for as a collector?



* The teardrop lug-design itself was most likely introduced in the late 1930s but I can't tell you the exact year.

** The 4241 is a double reference - including both the triple-calendar with and without moon-phase[7].



[1] Collection/Archive of sold watches - Vacheron Constantin; Goldammer Vintage Watches;

[2] Swiss Poincons de Maitre; David Boettcher, VintageWatchStraps;

[3] Vacheron Constantin, Extremely Fine and Very Rare Minute Repeating Reference 4261; Monaco Legend Group Auctions, April 2023;

[4] Vacheron Constantin, An Extremely Fine, Rare and Historically Important Reference 4293; Christie's Watches, New York, Oct. 2007;

[5] Searchable Archives at CollectorSquare, Christie's & Antiquorum;

[6] very rare Vacheron Constantin reference 4412; Cortrie Auctions, Hamburg, March 2016;

[7] The Hour Lounge - Instagram; Vacheron Constantin;


All Rights on the text and graphics reserved to the Author. 

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1 comment

  • Great article, well done. I will send you some pictures of my 30mm VC teardrop lug.

    John Magnussen on

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