Inspired by a recent thread dedicated to vintage movements, I was challenged to consider which in my collection were the most inspiring and two "brothers" immediately came to mind. They share the same movement but served entirely different purposes for their master, the house of Vacheron & Constantin.
The elder brother was introduced on WUS not too long ago, so I'll just briefly describe its significance when manufactured in 1910. V&C responded to competition from first Waltham, then Patek Philippe, to produce a robust timepiece for the South American market, which they did in 1907 with the launch of their Chronometre Royal family of 22-ligne gold-cased watches. No doubt for advertising purposes, a very few were actually submitted to Observatory trials after being given a horological hot-rodding with state-of-the-art nickel-steel and brass balances, carefully assembled and expertly adjusted. How few? Well, after a dozen years devoted to the brand I've only come across two! Stimulated, I like to think, by these few "halo" pieces, the Chronometre Royal line expanded into different sizes and metals, and went on to become the most popular in the Manufacture's history with over 10,000 pieces sold.
Economics being what it is; in 1914 the South American distributor declared bankruptcy and suddenly V&C was left holding several hundred movements ordered but not paid for. Time passes and the factory's fortunes wax and wane along with world affairs. The Great Depression hit everyone hard, including those who made luxury goods for customers that ain't got the do ra mi, boys. With today's conglomerates and super-elites, its hard to imagine the state of affairs that a private company like V&C endured during the Depression. Hours were reduced to 10/week, factory lands were converted to community gardens, skilled horologists took on work repairing gas meters, and any scheme to offer attractively priced goods was considered.
Enter little brother, born in 1938. Within this modest desk watch beats the production version of the same Chronometre Royal 22-ligne movement as his elder sibling. V&C struck on the idea to offer a naval-inspired piece to use up the last 300 movements from South America and thus recover their investment plus stimulate some activity in the shops. According to the archives, they sold quickly. This series also signalled the end of Chronometre Royal production until the name reappeared on wrist watches some twenty years later. Different, but the same, they both did their jobs well