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"Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without." - Confucius
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Jaeger-LeCoultre

The first manufacture from “the Rome of grand complications”

The Reverso, the Master Control or the Gyrotourbillon are familiar to everyone in the field of fine watchmaking. 180 years of heritage and experience stand behind these masterpieces. With 1,242 different calibres and 398 registered patents, Jaeger-LeCoultre remains the reference point in high-end watchmaking.

 

History

Albeit the family workshop was established in 1833, the LeCoultre family fled to Switzerland from France at the end of the 1500s, and were one of the founders of the village of Le Sentier in 1612, where the brand embarked on its epic journey.

With his innovations Antoine LeCoultre made watch usage more user-friendly in 1847; for example he created a system whereby timepieces could be wound and set without the use of a key. Antoine’s efforts were crowned with success: in 1851 within the framework of the first Universal Exhibition he received a gold medal for his gold chronometer in London, and the whole industry took notice of his name.

Antoine and his son Elie LeCoultre founded LeCoultre & Cie in 1866 – this was the first manufacture in the Joux Valley. Their machinery, equipment and expertise enabled them to be the first to create calibres with complications in small series. Using the new methods they built increasingly precise mechanisms, and by 1890 the brand was famous for their minute repeaters and grand complications.

By the onset of the 20th century, 500 people were working at the “Grand Maison” creating 350 different calibres.

In 1903 Edmond Jaeger (1858-1922), a great French watchmaker and specialist in fine micro-engineering embarked on the development of an ultra-thin watch mechanism together with Jacques-David LeCoultre. Their most famous innovation was the 145 Calibre that was in production until 1960. Being a mere 1.38 mm in thickness made this the flattest mechanism of its time.

The cooperation led to friendship, and in 1937 the Jaeger-LeCoultre brand was established.

In addition to numerous calibres and registered trademarks, the brand has also created a series of widely known, iconic pieces too. One of the most famous of the Art Deco period was the Reverso with a reversible watch-face that was originally intended for British polo players. Reversing the face of the watch meant that it could withstand even the hardest hits of a polo game.

The Duoplan watch proves the prejudice against watches with small movements wrong, in the assumption that they are not precise enough. The LeCoultre Calibre 7BF Duoplan was created in an effort to bring together miniaturisation and precision. The Calibre 101 found in Duoplan jewel timepieces is the world’s smallest mechanical movement.

Every horlogerie-fanatic knows the Atmos. This clock sources the energy required for its operation from the changes in temperature and atmospheric pressure, and can thus work without human intervention for years.

The first watch working on this principle was created by Cornelis Drebbel in the 17th century. The initial version of the Atmos watch was designed by Jean-Léon Reutter in Neuchâtel, the mechanism of this timepiece sourced energy from the shifts in temperature. The first commercial Atmos 1 model in 1929 used a mercury and ammonia bellows power source. In 1935 Jaeger Le-Coultre took over the production of the Atmos and created a model that used the present ethyl chloride power source.

The Memovox, “voice of memory” has a mechanism that could be used as an alarm for waking up or to set appointments. The first models were hand-wound but in 1956 it became the first self-winding alarm watch in history.

The Jaeger-LeCoultre houses over 180 skills necessary for designing and building the most prestigious timepieces from start to finish.

 

Trivia

  • It wasn’t a physicist or engineer who first measured the micron, but Antoine LeCoultre in 1844.
  • Starting in 1992 the brand introduced the 1000 hours control (subjecting every completed watch to a battery of six tests lasting 1000 hours). Ever since (with the exception of the Calibre 101 and the Atmos) every watch has to pass this test before it leaves the manufacture.
  • Since Jaeger-LeCoultre’s founding, the company has produced over 1,242 different calibres, registered approximately 400 patents and created hundreds of inventions.
  • In 2004, Jaeger-LeCoultre created a model together with Aston Martin: the AMVOX1. The design of the timepiece was inspired by a 70-year historical link between the two companies.
  • Some collectors believe that the American LeCoultre is not associated with Jaeger-LeCoultre Switzerland. This is not true; the confusion originates from the 1950s, when the North American distributor of LeCoultre watches was the Longines-Wittnauer Group, which was also responsible for the distribution of Vacheron Constantin, Longines and Wittnauer timepieces. Collectors have confused this distribution channel with the manufacture of the watches.

 

Facts

  • Founded in 1833 by Antoine LeCoultre
  • CEO: Daniel Riedo
  • Member of The Responsible Jewellery Council

Photo credits: Jaeger-LeCoultre, Johann Sauty. All registered trademarks are property of their respective owners. All rights reserved.