Section 1 - History
The manufacturer Jaeger LeCoultre expresses the true soul of Swiss watchmaking and its oldest and most notable characteristics.
The founder of the LeCoultre family, Pierre, was a refuged French Huguenot, who escaped to Switzerland in 1558 and settled in the area of the Vallee de Joux. His son founded a church, and a village grew around it: Le Sentier, where the company is still headquartered today.
One of the descendants, Antoine, invented the machine to cut watch pinions from steel in 1833, so he founded a small workshop to exploit his invention, which grew into a full-fledged manufacturer in the following years. Antoine also created a very precise measuring device capable of measuring the micron, the Millionomètre, in 1844, and in 1847 he developed a keyless system to rewind watches based on a push-pin principle to switch between functions.
Antoine was an inventor and a forward-thinker.
In an age where the etablissage (a method of watch manufacturing where existing components are assembled rather than manufactured from raw materials.) was common, with hundreds of small labs scattered around the region, he dared to build an industrialized environment, founding the LeCoultre & Cie industry and bringing all of the professionals under one roof, and creating in 1870 the first partially mechanized production plant for complicated movements.
In 1891, the company managed to combine complications, creating the first bi-complicated watches incorporating chronometer and minute repeater functions, and after that, incorporating a perpetual calendar to make the first grand-complications.
The size of the premises, employing over 500 workers, earned the company the nickname of “La Grande watchmaker”, something that has accompanied it through the years. By 1900, Jaeger LeCoultre had created more than 350 different types of calibers, and was the biggest manufacturer of blank movements, also called ebauches, in the Valley of Joux, and during the next 30 years, it became the biggest supplier of movements for Patek Philippe.
The company name was LeCoultre. It assumed its present name only somewhat later, in 1936, and this happened after more than thirty years of cooperation with Edmond Jaeger, a Parisian watchmaker who was specialized in ultra-thin movements. The cooperation of the two resulted in a series of amazing movements, between which the iconic caliber 145, made in 1907 - a record-breaking movement only 1.38 mm thick: a feat which still has never been surpassed.
As of today, the company in its history has produced over 1,242 different calibers, registered approximately 400 patents and created hundreds of inventions in watchmaking, and its movements have been mounted inside watches of every brand: this fact has led to the creation of its other famous appellative: “the watchmaker of the watchmakers”.
The pursuit of excellence in the horology technique continued throughout the years. In 2004, the Grande watchmaker created the Gyrotourbillon I, its first grande complication wristwatch featuring a tourbillon gravitating on two axes, along with a perpetual calendar with double retrograde indicators and a running equation of time.
In 2006, Jaeger LeCoultre released a special version of one of its more iconic timepieces, the Reverso, called Reverso Grande Complication à Triptyque, the first watch in history to be equipped with three dials driven by a single movement, and in 2009 the company presented one of the world's most complicated wristwatches, the Hybris Mechanica à Grande Sonnerie, featuring 26 complications.
Section 2 - Iconic pieces
One of the most iconic models of Jaeger LeCoultre is not a watch, but a clock.
The Atmos, invented by Swiss engineer Jean-Léon Reutter in 1928 in Neuchâtel, is an amazing timepiece that defies almost every assumption of watch technology. To work, it requires no human intervention and next to no energy, as it gets its power from small temperature and atmospheric pressure changes in the environment - hence its name.
The Atmos caliber is contained in an airtight case filled with a mixture of temperature-sensitive gases. A fluctuation in temperature of just 1 degree Celsius is enough to charge the clock for two days. Its balance, suspended from a steel-alloy wire thinner than a hair, performs two vibrations per minute, and its mechanism requires no lubricant. It is known for its accuracy: the moon-phase model, for example, has an accuracy of 99.99993% - that is, it accumulates a one-day variation every 3,821 years.
The company purchased the patents for the clock in France in 1936 and in Switzerland in 1937 and improved it until it launched it ten years later, in 1946. The last edition of the clock, the Atmos Mystérieuse, was launched in 2003and mounted the Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 583, comprising 1,460 parts.
The Reverso is one of the most well-known models of the watchmaker. It was invented in the first part of the last century, in 1931, as a hardy sports watch to wear during a polo game. Its name derives from its peculiar feature, the case that can be rotated to protect the watch glass. The watch had good success, then it was retired from the lineup, only to be inserted back under the pledge of the then Italian distributor of the watchmaker in Italy, to become today the most iconic model of the Grande watchmaker.
The Memovox was another important model of the watchmaker. It was launched in 1950 and was the first alarm wristwatch which truly worked manufactured in the world, which was followed, the year after, by the evolution of another very popular alarm timepiece, the Vulcain Cricket. Its mechanism could be set up as an alarm for waking up, or remembering of meetings and schedules, and proved itself very popular, so it was mounted in dress, sports and diver watches.
The Geophysic was launched in 1958, and it belongs to the series of watches made for explorers and adventurers worldwide. It was, and is, designed to be protected against shocks and magnetic fields.
The Master Compressor series belongs to the Jaeger LeCoultre’s diver line and features robust sports watches featuring their peculiar water-resistant system for the crown.
The Master series also presents watches made for normal, over-the-water use. Available in regular and ultra-thin versions, the Master line presents a huge variety of models, from the simple three handers with date to the most complicated versions featuring moon phase display and date hand, power reserve display, tourbillon, or perpetual calendar.
1 - Reverso
When you hear Jaeger LeCoultre, you associate it with the Reverso. It’s a given.
An icon of style and a symbol of the Art Deco design, the Reverso was born for practical reasons, but in time it became what it is today: an amazing watch of exquisite class, made for men and women.
The Reverso debuted in 1931, inspired by the request of the Indian importer of the watchmaker. The British polo players complained because they did not find any sports watch which could stand the hard conditions of a typical polo match, with the end result of finding their watch with broken glass.
To resolve the matter, the company thought of an innovative solution: flipping the watch before use, so the glass was protected from shocks and jolts. So, the company made and patented the swiveling system that gives the watch its name.
From these days, the Reverso has become much more than a simple sports watch, its case made in precious metals and decorated with enamels and see-through glass, and its size increased to accommodate the needs and style of the modern era.
Also, the simple movement of the first Reverso, made by Tavannes, has become much more complicated, with some models mounting complications, grand complications and tourbillons.
2 - Memovox
The Memovox, from its launch in 1950, has been developed in several models, all of which feature the signature alarm system. You could find the Memovox line featuring both dress and sports watches, and also some tributes - re-editions of old classics which testimony the attachment of the Jaeger LeCoultre fans for this unique line of timepieces.
The interesting fact is that combined with the signature alarm, you may find a dress watch, a world timer or a diver, making the line extremely versatile.
The first models were hand-wound and equipped with the Calibre 489 movement. In 1956, the company launched the Calibre 815, which was the first self-winding alarm watch of the world, and in 1959, it tucked the movement inside a water-resistant case, creating the Memovox Deep Sea to warn divers to begin their ascension. In 1965, the Polaris Edition featured a triple case back to amplify the sound. The Polaris was re-edited in 2008, with a Tribute edition.
3 - Geophysic
In 1958, during the International Geophysical Year, Jaeger-LeCoultre launched a watch that could be protected against magnetic fields, water, and shocks. These kinds of watches were quite popular back then, and every company had one model in their watch arsenal.
The Geophysic - a certified chronometer - was proposed as a watch intended for the use in the hard conditions of the scientific bases in Antarctica. The timepiece was designed to be heavy-duty. it was fitted with the best materials and technologies available at the time, featuring a Calibre 478BWS movement with a Breguet overcoil, a regulating spring on the balance-cock, a shock-absorbing device and a Glucydur balance wheel.
Unlike most mechanical watches, this model was unique because the second-hand does not move smoothly, but rather in one-second bursts, like what happens in a quartz watch.
When it was launched, one of the copies was gifted to William R. Anderson, the Captain of the American nuclear submarine “Nautilus”, which was the first to travel between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans passing through the North Pole.
4 - Master Compressor
A subset of the Master collection, the Master Compressor is the divers’ version - and is different from the typical diver watch for its signature waterproofing system.
Instead of the usual screw-down crown, the Master Compressor uses a half-turn of the compression key to pull out or push down the crown. This system is also better because when it's closed, it completely seals the case by putting pressure on an internal cone.
5 - Master
The Master was introduced by the company in 1992, and it is a classic and classy all-rounder available in different finishes and materials, making it perfect for every use from the most casual to the most formal.
What distinguishes the Master series from the similar lines of the competitors is the rigorous testing it undergoes during the production.
Every watch is tested singularly for 1,000 hours of use and has to sustain resistance checks on pressure, shock, and magnetic fields.
The Master series also offers the Ultra-Thin category, which is modeled after a minimalistic pocket watch from 1907. The Ultra-Thin, with an impressive thickness of 7,5 mm, offers a range of features which go from the simple two-hander to the ones with central seconds hand and date window, small seconds, moon phase display and date hand, power reserve display, tourbillon, and perpetual calendar.
Section 3 - News
One of the traditional sponsorships of the watchmaker has always been the one to the Seventh Art. This is why Jaeger LeCoultre is one of the main sponsors of the Venice International Film Festival, with its Glory to the Filmmaker Award. Conceived in 2007 by Jaeger LeCoultre together with La Biennale di Venezia, this important prize wants to reward an individual who has had a substantial impact on the evolution of contemporary cinema.
During the latest 2019 edition, the prize went to the esteemed Greek-French film director Costa-Gavras for the director’s new film, “Adults in the Room”, presented in the Festival’s Out of Competition category.
The movie is based on the book of the same name about Greece’s 2015 financial bailout, written by Yanis Varoufakis. The award was presented by Alberto Barbera, Director of the Venice Film Festival, after the world premiere screening of the film in a ceremony at the Palazzo del Cinema on the Lido di Venezia.
In addition to the trophy, Costa-Gavras was presented with a customized, hand-engraved Reverso watch, displaying on its back the winged lion, an iconic part of the official logo of La Biennale di Venezia, and the “Glory to the filmmaker” motto. We are pretty sure that this will be a very welcome and useful addition to the memorabilia collected by Costa-Gavras during his illustrious career.
Last year, the Jaeger LeCoultre prize went to the famous Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou, of “Red Lanterns” fame.
Section 4 - Gossip/Style
July 2019 - Until 12 August, the Royal Academy hosts the London's Royal Academy of Art Summer Exhibition, one of the oldest exhibitions in history. The current name was given to it "only" in 1870, but it is since 1769 that every year works of contemporary art made by selected emerging artists are exhibited and can also be purchased by the public. Jaeger LeCoultre was the main sponsor of the event.
During the gala evening which presented the exhibit, Catherine Rénier, the CEO of Jaeger LeCoultre, welcomed the approximately 200 guests with the Letters Live, a reading event where the actor Benedict Cumberbatch (now a Hollywood face recently seen as the hero Doctor Strange of Avengers Endgame, but also famous for the BBC TV series Sherlock) and other colleagues (Ellie Bamber, Juliet Stevenson and Clark Peters) entertained the public with the reading of famous letters from the past, like the one Vincent Van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo in 1876.
Jan 2018 - The Richemont Group, of which the watchmaker is part of, has bought the Yoox Net A Porter Group to invest in digital e-commerce channels: a sign that even for high end and luxury brands, the digital market is considered to be the future.
The founder of Yoox, Federico Marchetti, has welcomed the news with the following quote:
“Almost 20 years after inventing Yoox, I’m increasingly fascinated by the magic of Ynap. The prospect of no longer owning 4% of the share capital in no way changes my entrepreneurial commitment to Ynap. My motivation has always been to dream and innovate for our customers and that will not change in the years to come”.
Section 5 – Current Most Popular Models
The most popular model from the Grande watchmaker is the Reverso, both for men and women.
Due to its iconic shape and looks, it is a classic that is not going to go out of style.
Its broad line featuring complications and grand complications also allows catering for every kind of needs and desires, up to the most exclusive.
The Master collection, especially in its Ultra-Thin category, is the perfect all-rounder for every activity. Sleek, stylish, coming from an amazing brand and quite affordable for its technical contents. The Master Compressor features one of the best water resistance systems of the horology world, so it is perfect to be used in its original role - that is, as a tool watch.
A timepiece like the Memovox is also an amazing choice, as it shows both a knowledge of the traditions of horology and a taste for the unexpected (who is going to think that there is something so old-styled yet so charming as a mechanical alarm watch?).
And if you want to surprise the hosts in your home, an Atmos will for sure provide a lot of material.
Section 6 – Current Approximate Price List By Line/Model
The Reverso line
The Reverso is a very prolific line, so there are several models available, from the small Reverso Lady to the Reverso Grande Taille, and their prices start from a really affordable amount and progress towards the very high end.
You might find mechanical and quartz-based Reverso, both in regular stainless steel as well as precious metals like gold and platinum, and some, featuring a precious metal bracelet, are also adorned with gems.
||Stainless Steel, Gold, Platinum, Gems
||Several depending on versions; most notable are moon phase, perpetual calendar, chime repeater, tourbillon
Indicatively, a pre-owned stainless steel, quartz Reverso in very good condition - for man or woman - can be found for around $2,500. If you want the mechanical version (and we are sure you might), the price would increase to $3,000. If you want to buy it as new, you might arrive at $4,500 and $5,500 respectively, upwards.
If you want the gold versions, prepare to budget at least $5,500 for a quartz-based timepiece and $7,000 for a mechanical one.
Of course, when you add complications and grand complications the price increases vertically, even if we have to note that Jaeger LeCoultre watches represent a great price point in interesting complications. The Reverso Worldtime, with two displays featuring different complications and colors, is on the market at $27,000. The Quantieme, with a perpetual calendar and a moon-phase on two dials, is priced around $29,000.
The Septantieme, a limited edition made for the 70th birthday of the Jaeger LeCoultre company, featuring several complications is on the market for $35,000. This is the same price for a minute repeater.
The top Reversos, featuring the 3-axis Gyrotourbillon, start from $150,000.
The Memovox line
The Memovox was first introduced by the Grande watchmaker in 1950/51 with the manually wound Calibre 489. It features two separate crowns to manually wind and set the alarm and the timekeeping parts separately. The name comes from a combination of two Latin words, Memor (remembering) and Vox (voice), meaning “the voice of remembering,” a perfect choice for an alarm watch. The Memovox is available in dress models, both in stainless steel and gold, and in water-resistant models, mainly the Polaris and DeepSea, and their Tributes.
A Grand Memovox, featuring a perpetual calendar, is also available.
A special note must be written for the Amvox, a special cooperation between Jaeger LeCoultre and Aston Martin, which has also a chronograph version, the Amvox2.
||Stainless Steel, Gold, Platinum
||Alarm, and others, depending on the model
The original Memovox was issued in different versions, in stainless steel, gold-filled or 18k gold case. It is an affordable watch, starting from only $1,200 for the most basic references in steel or in gold-filled. The 18k gold versions start from around $1,800 upwards.
There are some rare “TV screen” editions available which retail for around $2,500.
The Tributes to Polaris and DeepSea can be found for around $15,000.
The Grand Master Memovox Perpetual Calendar starts around the $18,000 mark.
The Amvox and the Amvox2, together with the Master Compressor, hover around the $8,000 mark and upwards.
The Geophysic is available in several varieties, from the simple three-hand model to more complex releases featuring a date display, world time function, or tourbillon. The case is available in stainless steel, 18-karat pink gold, or platinum.
||Stainless Steel, Gold
||Mainly date, but also worldtime and tourbillon
The Geophysic is quite rare. Second-wrist versions in steel can be purchased on the market for around $7,000, while gold ones fetch higher prices like $12,000. New versions cost around $12,000 for the steel version and around $24,000 for the gold one.
The Universal Time starts from $8,500 for the steel version and rises up to $15,000 for the gold one.
The Master Compressor line
The Master Compressor, with its peculiar water-resistance system, is a great sports timepiece. Available both in dress and sports varieties, it represents a fine addition to every watch aficionados watch arsenal.
||Dress or luxury sports watch
||Stainless Steel, Ceramic
||Mainly date, but also alarm and chronograph
A second-wrist, basic stainless steel Master Compressor watch can start from around $3,500 upwards, and the chronograph versions a bit more, in the range of $4,500. If you want to buy them new, you should budget $9,500 and $12,500 instead.
The Master line
The Master and Master Ultra Thin line represent excellent value for the quintessentially wearable watch. From the simplest quartz to the most complicated mechanical movement, this line offers a design that is eternal and will never get out of fashion.
||Stainless Steel, Gold, Platinum, Diamonds
||Every kind of complication depending on the model, chronograph, power reserve, perpetual calendar, moon phase, tourbillon
The second-wrist basic quartz models in stainless steel start from around $1,200 and the mechanicals start from $1,700. For the gold versions, you should add at least $1,000 a piece.
The top versions, the so-called Grande Tradition featuring Grand Complications and Gyrotourbillon can rise up to the half a million range, with an average around the $100,000 mark for the minute repeaters, regular tourbillons or perpetual calendar versions.
The Ultra-Thin versions start from $3,000 for the simplest versions in steel, and rise up to $70,000 mark, with an average of $40,000 for both perpetual calendars and tourbillons.
Section 7 – Previous Blog Post
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Section 8 – Q & A
Who makes better watches? Rolex or Jaeger-LeCoultre?
The two companies are between the best players in their own field. Both deliver an amazing quality in their products, and both have been innovators in their own fields.
It becomes really hard to select a clear winner there.
Rolex movements are generally much more utilitarian. They derive from tool watches, so they are built to last. You will not find any decoration in a Rolex movement: but you will find outstanding workmanship and precisely engineered components which won’t let you down.
JLC movements instead are more traditionally made. They show effort and dedication to decoration, as in the typical tradition of the Swiss horology, and usually, come with interesting complications.
Do Jaeger-LeCoultre watches retain their value over the years?
Of course not. Let’s be serious, you shouldn’t buy a Jaeger-LeCoultre from an investing perspective. And unlike what has been written here, the Reverso while being a true icon and one of my favorite watches ever, depreciates over time. That’s just a fact.
Why is Audemar Piguet part of the Big 3 along with Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin? What happened to Jaeger LeCoultre?
The short answer is, Jaeger LeCoultre doesn't have the longevity or continuity of the Big 3.
AP, Patek, and Vacheron Constantin have always produced end-product wristwatches, and have done so long enough, and well enough, to be considered the best three watch manufactures from the country that many consider producing the best watches.
What makes the Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso watch iconic?
It's one of the watches that has changed horology forever.
There only used to be dress watches, but with the Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso, the sports watch was born.
It may not look like today's sports watches. but the Reverso was the first timepiece made especially for a sport.
Who makes the best watch movements, JLC, Patek, VC, A. Lang, Zenith, or Rolex?
JLC is basically known as the watchmaker’s watchmaker. They don’t make the most complicated watch. In reality, you don’t really need a PP Grand Master Chime.
However, JLC is a brand known to supply other watchmakers like Patek or AP with movements. They don’t enjoy jubilation like how Pateks or Rolex enjoys. Don’t get me wrong though, they do have really complicated watches.