In Appreciation of Bautte

A recently arrived auction catalog presented an interesting early wrist watch, circa 1830, by the renowned Genève watchmaker, Jean-François Bautte (1772-1837). Seeing his name reminded me of the connection he had in uniting Vacheron & Constantin.

Born in 1788, François Constantin’s apprenticeship in commerce began with his father’s grain business. By age 16, he had secured employment with an assembler of watch cases in Geneva and was thus introduced to the field of horology. A few years later, François was working for a most prestigious watchmaker, Jean-François Bautte, as his sales representative in Italy. According to Franco Cologni’s book, Secrets of Vacheron Constantin, Bautte was the first in the Canton to bring together all watchmaking trades under one roof and thus signal the beginning of the end for the old piece-work industry.

Several years later, having established his reputation, Constantin left Bautte to start his own business in partnership with a Mr. Roch. He discovered they did not get along and soon Constantin found himself alone.

Jacques-Barthelemy Vacheron had tired of the dual responsibility of supervising the manufactory and representing the brand abroad.  He approached Constantin to reprise the role of travelling salesman, with the added incentive of a full partnership. Thus in 1819, on April 1st, the firm of Vacheron & Constantin was inaugurated. While Constantin spread the products of Vacheron & Constantin throughout Europe, he was particularly focused on Italy. And it would seem that his old master Bautte, who introduced him to the Italian market, wasn’t too pleased as revealed in this letter to J-B Vacheron from Turin in February of 1821;

“…Bautte coming through here, was somewhat discomforted to see the amount of business that we do and to hear from every watchmaker that more is purchased from us than from anybody else. I know that he intends to do everything possible to get a slice of the cake…It is not on me that you should count, but on yourselves. It is the goods that speak, the traveller (salesman) has almost to be silent”

In Appreciation of Bautte

Constantin's last sentance describes one of the guiding values of Vacheron & Constantin; that the product shoud speak louder than any marketing hype!
Thanks again for the interesting bit of VC-related history
05/12/2011 - 13:10
It is interesting how Constantin, who is obviously an accomplished salesman, keeps encouraging the people back in the Geneva manufacture to strive for further technical excellence.  I believe he has expressed these sentiments in other correspondences with Geneva too. In the end, such consistent philosophy has proven well for VC which has outlasted and continues to outshine many marketing-dependent brands.  With the help of forums like this (and guys like you), I believe VC will continue to be a logical choice for the horologically-educated crowd. Best regards, Kazumi
Francois Constantin deserves more respect!
05/12/2011 - 19:46
I made a personal vow to cease abbreviating the name of our venerable company as a sign of respect for this man.  Forevermore, its Vacheron Constantin!  "&" ampersand is optional .
fantastic research as usual Dean and Constantin's role in making
05/12/2011 - 19:53
VC one of the greatest watch brands of all time can only be underligned!
It only takes a spark to light the flame.......
05/13/2011 - 18:42
It's amazing how the mind works! Dean, thank you for sharing the moment in respect of Bautte and Francois. Interesting stuff! Tony