…would be as sweet! Apologies to the Bard for borrowing his famous line from Romeo & Juliet, but the sentiment fits so well. In actuality, Juliet spoke thusly; What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
Juliet was attempting to persuade her lover that, no matter the feud between their families, his surname was not a barrier to her love. The love I now apply these words to is, of course, for Vacheron et Constantin. But, of what “other name” do I speak?
To give satisfaction to this question too quickly would deprive us both of a wonderful story. So patience, while I direct you to the Art of Vacheron Constantin auction catalog from 1994. There you will find lot 31, an astonishing minute repeating Grande and Petite sonnerie dual-train pocket watch with Silent/Strike mechanism. The description indicates this “extremely rare” piece, movement nr.344348, was completed in 1908 on special order for the V&C agent in Rome, and a footnote suggest that another similar watch circa 1930 was featured in The World of Vacheron Constantin*.
Today, this superb timepiece resides in the Maison’s collection and was showcased in Cologni’s Secrets of Vacheron Constantin on page 225.
Vacheronistas with vintage inclinations will no doubt comment on the movement’s unusual design; certainly not the ubiquitous Vacheron Calibre. Those who have ventured to study other haute horlogerie brands from the past may experience a sense of familiarity for its freeform, somewhat amoebic architecture.
Thankfully Antiquorum took the rather unusual step of photographing this rather unusual watch in a state of partial disassembly, for it revealed a secondary serial number engraved on the repeater works; 8625.
The design and secondary number were sufficient to encourage a growing suspicion, supported by the production ledgers of a renowned Swiss complications specialist; Louis Audemars of Brassus.
Descendant Paul Audemars (author of L'Histoire de Louis Audemars & Cie, which was published in conjunction with an exhibition of the maker in Le Sentier this Spring) indicated that movement 8625 was inventoried as a “work in progress” at their Geneva shop in June of 1880. Here, I speculate, the ebauche was handed over to V&C; perhaps prior to the unfortunate bankruptcy of Louis-Benjamin Audemars in 1885, or even as a result of. How, you may ask, can I connect these four digits to that maker? I will ask for your participation in viewing these other Louis Audemars dual-train repeater movements so you may draw your own conclusions.
I will even suggest this watch was not the only involvement of Louis Audemars with Vacheron Constantin.
The foundations of Swiss watchmaking excellence were built upon collaborations between specialists and are an endless source of fascination for the cognoscenti. Search the archives for other examples - the jump hours specialist Robert Cart, the chronograph specialist Victorin Piguet, to name a few. The Bard was right; a V&C by any other name would be as sweet!
*Perhaps they were referring to photo reference 3640 on page 405.
I hope you enjoyed this brief adventure. Mrs TT and I will leave in a few days for our own adventure in the Kingdom of Bhutan. We will return in early November so until then, be well my friends .