Being a vintage fan, such a quote from the past is sure to inspire
I've only seen François Constantin's famous quote translated in English, where it has been interpreted slightly different by several authors.
The words came from a letter written by Constantin to Jacques Barthélémy Vacheron, dated July 5, 1819 and only three months after Constantin joined Vacheron Chossat et Cie as a partner. He had been on the road since June 24 and was in Turin, Italy. A prolific letter writer, he provided the VC archives with it's most cogent record of the period.
Italy had been the most significant market since 1816, when Jacques Barthélémy made frequent trips. The Royal watchmaker, Martina, had in fact become a customer of the re-named Vacheron & Constantin and this was Constantin's first trip on their behalf to this important market. His letters to Vacheron were no doubt well considered.
This digression from your question is important to understand the context, and not just the words, of the quotation. As you suggest, mere words do not impart meaning. So please bear with me a little longer!
François Constantin's background deserves some attention; perhaps more than we generally give. He was born in 1788 and by the age of fourteen was an agent for his father's grain business, walking throughout the countryside collecting orders. He began work as a "commercial traveller" (salesman) for a watch case manufacturer by age sixteen. He was later recruited by Bautte, a highly respected Geneva watchmaker, as his representative in Italy. Constantin's first encounter with Vacheron was over Italy, when the latter tried to persuade the former to also be his agent in the country. As Constantin was in turmoil, first for having left Bautte then for joining with a disagreeable partner, he gladly fell upon Vacheron's offer of a new partnership at the age of 31.
Vacheron's faith in Constantin was amply rewarded for, within five years, he was intimate with Italian aristocracy, including King Victor Emmanuel. Those connections attracted other great families of Europe and soon the shops of Vacheron & Constantin had ample orders for pieces of the highest value and complication.
While renowned for his social skills, it was his savvy as a businessman that probably ensured the success of Vacheron & Constantin. His one consistent demand was for quality above all. It was on this characteristic that he felt all competition were weakest and they were strongest. Reviewing his letters, this theme is undeniable.
You may also enjoy some other favorite quotes from his correspondence. Constantin from Turin, February 1821, regarding competition from another watchmaker:
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.
Again from Turin in July of 1821, Constantin writes:
Let us keep our lines as they are but let us concentrate on their reliability, for these splendid watchmakers have no taste for a fine watch that stops; they prefer an ordinary one which does not stop.
But of the famous quote - the motto of Vacheron Constantin - the translation I prefer goes like this:If you give me the support I need, I promise you that we will sell as many watches as all the other sales representatives put together...My reply to you is that we will succeed; our watches are already held in the highest esteem here (Italy), and in continuing to do better if possible, which is always possible, we will master all potential customers. You know this is my pipe dream; try to make it come true.
When I hear those words, or any variation, I think of François Constantin; his humble beginnings, vision, perserverance and quest for quality above all. I also commit to forego our contemporary shorthand and include the name of Constantin whenever referencing this great brand
My information has been gathered from Cologni's Secrets of Vacheron Constantin and the letters reproduced in Antinquorum's catalog The Art of Vacheron Constantin.