2018 marks the 185th anniversary of Swiss watch manufacturer Jaeger-LeCoultre. Here we give a brief recap on the company’s rich history and look at what they do best. We also highlight two of our favourite models from the current catalogue: the Rendez-Vous Moon for her, and the Master Ultra Thin Tourbillon for him. Both are exquisitely crafted and demonstrate Jaeger-LeCoultre’s legendary reputation for refinement and attention to detail.
185 years is quite an innings and you can be sure Jaeger-LeCoultre has made good use of this time. Since founding, the Maison has produced hundreds of inventions, registered approximately 400 patents and developed over a thousand in-house movements. They have played a significant role in putting the Vallée de Joux on the map and are one of the few fully integrated Manufacture, boasting an impressive 180 skills under one roof. To this day, the brand continues to be at the forefront of haute horlogerie.
Jaeger-LeCoultre bears the designation ‘manufacture’ with full rights. All aspects for creating a timepiece are conducted within the Grande Maison. The Manufacture boasts 180 different skills performed under one roof. Starting from the pencil design. And going far beyond mere assemblage. They include Enamelling (in miniature). Engraving. Gem-setting (including snow-setting). Guillochage. Skeletonising. Circular-graining. And Polishing.
Jaeger-LeCoultre is renown for producing its own movements. Of which there are almost 1,300 types now. Many are form-based, in which the shape of the calibre takes advantage of the entire form of the case. They range from the Automatic to the most complex Grande Complications. (Combining Perpetual Calendar, Minute Repeater, Gyrotourbillon and Chronograph functions, to name a few.) Jaeger-LeCoultre movements are coveted due to their quality. (Other famous watch companies integrate them into their own models.)
View the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Moon Steel Black Dial Automatic Men’s Strap Watch here.
185 years of heritage, inventiveness and creativity since 1833
Jaeger-LeCoultre’s history goes back to the first watchmaking workshop established in the Vallée de Joux. Founded by Antoine LeCoultre in Le Sentier, in 1833. LeCoultre refined the manufacture of watch parts by the invention of the Millionometre, in 1844. (The first instrument capable of measuring a micron.) He also gave the world the (keyless) crown winding system still used today, in 1847. (His work was recognised by a gold medal at London’s inaugural Universal Exhibition, in 1851.)
Under the leadership of Antoine’s son Elie, LeCoultre & Cie went on to establish the Vallée de Joux’s first manufacture, in 1866. Bringing all watchmaking skills together under one roof. Thus, the “Grande Maison of the Vallée de Joux” was born. And in 1870, the first partially mechanised production for complicated movements begun.
Meanwhile, in the bustling horological centre of Paris an ambitious watchmaker from Alsace had set up shop in 1880. Edmond Jaeger made a name for himself by producing refined movements and instruments used for measuring speed. (Such as the chronograph and tachymeter). And was enlisted as the official horologist to the French Navy.
View the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso One Duetto Moon Silvered/Brown Dial Ladies Strap Watch here.
The two watch houses first became acquainted in 1903, when Jaeger challenged Swiss watchmakers to replicate an ultra-thin movement he had just invented. Grandson to Antoine, Jacques-David LeCoultre accepted the challenge. But instead of competing, the two collaborated.
The arrangement proved fruitful. By 1907, LeCoultre developed Calibre 145. Then the world’s thinnest mechanical movement (it would continue to be used in watches until the 1960s). LeCoultre and Jaeger collaborated regularly on projects for years to come. Leading to the creation of the first wristwatches. In 1925, LeCoultre unveiled the “Duoplan”. The world’s first reliable luxury wristwatch for women.
The movement was split into two levels (allowing accurate regulation in a small space). The Duoplan was also one of the first gem-set steel watches. (Forerunner to the Joaillerie 101 models.) In 1929, the Duoplan movement was miniaturised to create the Calibre 101. The world’s smallest mechanical movement – its 98 components barely weighing 1 gram.
View the Jaeger-LeCoultre Atmos Phases De Lune Rhodium Plated White Dial Clock here.
Also of note, in 1928, the (now coveted) Atmos table clock was designed by Swiss engineer Jean-Léon Reutter. A variation in the ambient temperature of just one degree was enough to power the mechanism for two days. Making it virtually perpetual winding. LeCoultre developed the Atmos clock and improved on the design. (To date, over 500,000 have been produced.)
Having worked together on numerous occasions, LeCoultre and Jaeger had become closely affiliated. 1931 saw the debut of a notable joint-venture. The “Reverso” was born out of another challenge. To design a model that could withstand polo matches between British officers in India. Its unique swivel transformed the Art Déco classic into a signature timepiece. The success of the Reverso sealed the connection between LeCoultre and Jaeger. They merged to become Jaeger-LeCoultre in 1937.
View the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Duoface Silver/Black Dial Automatic Men’s Watch here.
The Grande Maison’s achievements following the merger continued to soar. The “Tuile Duoplan” was released. Calendar complications began to be included in wristwatches. And the Maison’s first automatic watch was unveiled. In 1956 came the first automatic alarm watch, “Memovox”. And in 1958, the chronometer with double anti-magnetic case, “Geophysic”. The 1960s were memorable for stunning ladies’ jewellery pieces featuring tiny movements. And the release of the “Memovox Polaris”, the iconic, underwater-chiming diver’s watch.
Jaeger-LeCoultre produced the thinnest quartz movement, Calibre 606, in 1981. And then broke their own record the following year, with Calibre 608. 1992 signalled a turning point, when the 1000 Hours control was created. This involved a series of tests a wristwatch was subjected to for 1,000 hours. It gave rise to a new benchmark in horological reliability. (The precursor to the “Master” line.)
View the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Perpetual 18ct Pink Gold Beige Dial Automatic Men’s Strap Watch here.
Several notable Grande Complication watches followed under the Hybris Mechanica series. Including the “Gyrotourbillon 1” in 2004. And the Reverso grande complication à triptyque (the first with three faces) in 2006. In 2007, the “Duomètre” collection was launched (based around the Dual-Wing concept). And in 2013, the “Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon 3 Jubilee” was unveiled. Jaeger-LeCoultre marked 2018 by introducing a completely new, sport-elegant collection, “Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris”. (Inspired by the 1968 Memovox Polaris.)
If that’s not enough to tickle your curiosity, here are two recommended examples, with ties to the Maison’s illustrious history.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Rendez-Vous Moon
The first wristwatches were worn by women. And Jaeger-LeCoultre was one of the first to offer them. The Rendez-Vous collection is a tribute to this fact. This ladies’ piece combines the watchmaking and jewellery skills of the Grande Maison’s master craftsmen. Presented in a 36mm (10.5mm thick) white gold case.
The mother-of-pearl dial is crafted with delicate gullioché at the top. It features a dramatic moon phase surrounded by constellations. And a Rendez-Vous indicator in the shape of a brilliant star. (Adjustable via one of the crowns.) The dial, bezel, lugs, case side, and even the crowns are adorned with 166 brilliant-cut diamonds to enhance the nocturnal spectacle. (A rear sapphire reveals the movement.)
Movement: Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 935 – self-winding mechanical, 265 parts (41 jewels). Power reserve: 40 hours. Water resistance: 3 bar/ 30m/ 100ft. Band: Satin.
View the Jaeger-LeCoultre Rendez-Vous 36mm White Mother of Pearl/Blue Dial Ladies Watch here.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Tourbillon
The Master collection is another modern mainstay with its roots tied to Jaeger-LeCoultre’s past. Inspired by the first ultra-plate watch created in 1907. The round, sleek models showcase minimalism and finesse. The finest of these being the Master Ultra Thin dress watches. Demonstrating Jaeger-LeCoultre’s prowess in the manufacture of ultra-thin, in-house movements.
This particular model with tourbillon keeps the case thickness to 11.3mm. It’s housed within a 40mm pink gold case. The wearer will appreciate its lightness and precision. The eggshell beige dial features gilt hour-markers and dauphine hands in gold. And the rear sapphire reveals an exquisitely decorated oscillating weight. Complimented by the rest of the movement’s finishings.
Movement: Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 982 – self-winding mechanical, 262 parts (33 jewels). Power reserve: 45 hours. Water resistance: 5 bar/ 50m/ 167ft. Band: Leather.
Berry’s Jewellers is proud to be an authorized retail partner of Jaeger-LeCoultre in the UK. To explore the full collection of watches available, please click here.