3 Innovative Watches By Jaeger-LeCoultre
When you’re a watchmaker with over 1,200 patents to your name, you earn yourself a bit of a reputation. In the case of Jaeger-LeCoultre, that’s being known as the watchmaker’s watchmaker, suggesting not only that the brand supplies other watchmakers with its movements—which it has done to no less than Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, Vacheron Constantin, IWC, Chopard, Panerai and Cartier—but has also earned their respect. But is Jaeger-LeCoultre’s reputation built on fixing problems that never existed? Here are three watches to answer that question.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Aston Martin AMVOX7 Power Reserve Chronograph 194T470
Despite meeting over a challenge to build an ultra-thin movement in 1903, Edmond Jaeger and Jacques-David LeCoultre didn’t formally join forces until 1937. Edmond Jaeger had been kept busy by world wars, his clockmaking skills drafted by the military for the production of aircraft gauges—a skill he transferred to the motor industry once peace was resumed.
Jaeger had, in his life, witnessed the emergence of the automobile, from Karl Benz’s 1886 patent for the first gas-powered vehicle to Henry Ford’s mass produced 1927 Model T. His talents garnered the attention of partners Robert Bamford and Lionel Martin, whose 1914 sports car had dominated the Aston hill climb in Buckinghamshire, England. Their company, Aston Martin, needed a gauge supplier, and Jaeger was the man to go to.
That partnership lasted until 2016, when avant-garde watchmaker Richard Mille assumed the position as Aston Martin’s supplier of timepieces, but not before Jaeger-LeCoultre had dedicated the creation of an entire model line to the British carmaker. That was the AMVOX collection, and this is number seven.
What looks like a fairly ordinary chronograph—albeit one festooned with Aston Martin-inspired details like the mesh grille dial and winged logo—has a secret up its sleeve, because where you might expect to find chronograph pushers, you’ll find … nothing. That’s because the complication is activated by pushing the watch itself, at twelve o’clock to start and stop the red central seconds hand, and six to reset it again. A switch on the side allows the reset function to be locked, or the chronograph as a whole.
This clearly wasn’t enough of a challenge for Jaeger-LeCoultre, because the crystal-activated chronograph, first seen in the AMVOX 2, gains a power reserve here. Piffle, you say, a power reserve isn’t anything new—but this is a power reserve with the Jaeger-LeCoultre touch, a symmetrical, bi-retrograde fuel-gauge style readout that slowly advances to the top of the dial—a nice nod to the original gauges Jaeger produced for the cars this watch commemorates.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Compressor Diving Pro Geographic GMT Depth Gauge 185.T7.70
This Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Compressor Diving Pro Geographic has, alongside a GMT and world timer display, a depth gauge. Other manufacturers have attempted depth gauges before, Panerai with a battery-powered readout on its PAM00307, and Oris with a simple-yet-clever channel carved into the edge of its Aquis Depth Gauge’s crystal. IWC has been full mechanical before, utilising a pressure-sensitive diaphragm that converts the weight of the water into the movement of a hand on the dial.
And that’s sort of what this Jaeger-LeCoultre has, but Jaeger-LeCoultre has done something a little bit different with it. To understand it, I’ll let you into a little secret: many, many diving watches will never be used for diving. Very few will even be fully submerged, and that makes the idea of a watch like this, with the addition of a depth gauge, really rather pointless.
But let’s put this into perspective. The Ferrari 812 Superfast has as much horsepower from its 6.5-litre V12 as an F1 car; a pair of Classé CA-M600 monobloc amplifiers enough drive to drown out an orchestra. Will they ever be used to their fullest extents? Rarely, if ever, but sometimes it’s the knowing that really makes it worthwhile. You squeeze the throttle of the 812 and feel the power lying in wait, dial up the Classé pairing to a room-shaking volume and revel in the fact that the dial has barely touched halfway.
Jaeger-LeCoultre knows this, understands the appreciation of potential, which is why on the Diving Pro Geographic, they’ve fitted it with a button to try the depth gauge out for yourself. Bone dry and not within a mile of a wetsuit, you can press the satisfyingly damped button on the left hand side of the case and watch the mechanism in action.
And you really can see it action, from start to finish. Watch the compression of the spring through the side of the case, driving the retrograde lever across the dial, turning the depth gauge hand around its meter. Prepare to be startled at the amount of pressure it takes to read even a 30m depth.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Duomètre Quantième Lunaire 6042520
If you want to make a watch precise enough to display fractions of a second, like Jaeger-LeCoultre has with this Duomètre Quantième Lunaire, it’s not enough to simply have it be accurate at its peak; it also needs to perform when its operating parameters are sub-optimal. Typically, this refers to position and temperature, but a big factor in the accuracy of a watch is quite simply how wound it is.
A watch’s mainspring, its source of power, runs down through use until it requires winding again. When it is fully wound, it is the furthest away from its original, resting form, and torque, the twisting force the spring produces as it tries to unwind, is at its highest. But as the spring unwinds, its torque decreases, and each beat of the movement gets delayed a little further.
Some manufacturers, like IWC, actually limit the last part of the mainspring at the point where accuracy falls of a cliff, but that’s too clumsy for Jaeger-LeCoultre. Instead, the Duomètre has two mainsprings—not unusual in itself, but here each one is dedicated to its own purpose. One drives the secondary displays like the hours and the minutes as you’d expect, while the other is dedicated solely to keeping the seconds accurate by delivering uninterrupted, uniform power to the balance.
Each mainspring is wound independently, feeding torque through standalone drivetrains via twin power-reserve indicators, which are topped up by winding the crown in either direction. An elegant ratchet system delivers drive to one mainspring without unwinding the other, symmetrical swan-neck pawls arcing around the arbour to keep a constant tension on the ratchet.
And as this is supposed to be a precision instrument, of course, so the second hand doesn’t just hack when the crown is pulled—that is, stop to allow easier syncing—it whips back around to twelve, and so too does the foudroyante jumping seconds indicator. And, just because, Jaeger-LeCoultre even chucked in a quick-set date pusher as well.
‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ is the mantra so many people live their lives by, but it seems that’s a sentiment that bypassed Jaeger-LeCoultre completely. No-one needs a new way to activate a chronograph, or measure depth, or regulate seconds, but where’s the fun in doing things like they’ve always been done, never trying anything new? No-one needed to go to moon or to the bottom of the ocean, but curiosity took us there, the same curiosity that harnessed fire, electricity, lift, the atom—the curiosity that earned Jaeger-LeCoultre the reputation it has as the watchmaker’s watchmaker.
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