So I'm chillin on the sofa, enjoying an interesting documentary on the TV the other night, when a close-up set alarm bells ringing. I know that watch!
As the title suggests, the subject of this documentary was royalty. V&C has a long association with royalty, which I first discovered while researching a previous THL article; Proud Possession of Royalty. It was then I learned of a connection between the Maison and HRH Princess Elizabeth for, upon her marriage to Philip Mountbatten in November of 1947, the princess was gifted a V&C watch by the Swiss Government.
This advertisement provides a great deal of information about the watch itself; "a sparkling river" of 64 round cut and 6 baguette diamonds affixed to a platinum case, containing a precision movement of 17 jewels that only measures 12 mm across. The photo inset shows a proud Georges Ketterer examining the watch with a loupe while the workmen look on. The real star is the fellow seated, MM. Houriet, sertisseur (jewel setter).
The watch faded from memory until the aforementioned TV show. Prince Philip: The Plot to Make a King, is a worthy way to spend an hour for anyone interested in 20th century history. I was following along as they reached the point when Philip marries the younger Elizabeth, and they went off on a honeymoon followed by a gaggle of news reporters.
Princess Elizabeth was asked to show off her wedding ring and she generously obliged.
Man, that could be the watch .
Here it is in 1987, as catalogued in the book; The Queen's Jewels: The Personal Collection of Elizabeth II, by Harry N. Abrams. The movement, as described in the advertisement, would be a very small round caliber of 5 1/2 lignes. This actually was highly unusual as almost all movements of that size from the period were shaped. One exception was the backwinding LeCoultre cal. 426. Although V&C didn't have a version of the 426 in their catalog, their relationship with JLC makes it a reasonable candidate as the base for this one-off creation.
The watch was featured once again in an advertisement by Vacheron et Constantin. This ad appeared in 1953 following her coronation as Queen Elizabeth II.
The text reminds readers that Vacheron & Constantin is the favorite of the rich and powerful. So the watch ascends, along with its owner, from Princess to Queen. Many years later it was to return to a Princess.
Yes, that is our V&C on the wrist of the Princess of Wales in 1995. Queen Elizabeth gifted the watch to Lady Diana on the occasion of her wedding to Prince Charles in 1981. Given as a wedding gift to a princess not once, but twice, is certainly a most wonderful provenance. Alas, its current whereabouts are unknown to this writer but hopefully it still resides with the family. Who knows what future adventures this amazing little V&C will have...