The Foundation of LeCoultre
The watch company LeCoultre was founded in 1833 by the brothers Charles Antoine LeCoultre and François Ulysse LeCoultre in Le Sentier in the Vallée de Joux. The former was a brilliant craftsman who invested all of his energy into developing new manufacturing processes and production methods. His Millionometer of 1844 made it possible for the first time to measure mechanical components to the thousandth of a millimeter. His crown winding mechanism, developed in 1847, dispenses with the winding key then required by all other watches. At the 1st World Exhibition in London, LeCoultre won his first gold medal with a pocket chronograph, thanks to this new invention.
The company grew steadily, bringing all functions of watchmaking in-house for the first time. By 1860, LeCoultre already had 100 employees and came to become a dominant manufacturer of movements and watches. The company, now led by the sons of the founder, began building repeater watches, chronographs and calendar watches and provided complicated watch movements to other companies. About 1890 the number of different LeCoultre watch movements had already reached 125.
The cooperation of Jacques-David LeCoultre and Edmond Jaeger
- 1903, the flattest watch movements in the world: mechanical movement with height 1.38 mm, chronograph movement with height 2.8 mm, repeater with height 3.2 mm
- 1929: smallest watch in the world with 74 parts and a weight of only 0.9 grams
In the year 1903 Jacques-David LeCoultre, grandson of founder Antoine, in Paris meet the Alsatian Edmond Jaeger. This partnership brought LeCoultre to the luxury watch market. After decades of friendly relations with the manufacture, the company name was officially changed to Jaeger-LeCoultre in 1937. Fearing anti-German sentiment due to World War II, the LeCoultre name was retained in the U.S. market.
Jaeger-LeCoultre became and remains a leader in the development of so-called form movements, in which the form of the movement, if necessary, takes advantage of the entire form of the case. For instance, rectangular watches can have wheels and gears pushed to the corners. Another noteworthy development was the 1925 launch of the Duoplan watch, which boasted sensational accuracy and the possibility to exchange the entire movement in minutes. The term, "Duoplan", refers to the fact that the movement is constructed on two levels. Thereby the balance wheel at the lower level can be made larger and thus ensures greater accuracy. Another milestone was the 1928 launch of Atmos, a desk clock fitted into a glass globe, which derives its winding energy solely from changes in atmospheric pressure and temperature.
The Reverso and further watch classics
Introduced in 1931, the Reverso entered the market with a flip-over case and art déco design. Today, the Reverso line amounts to approximately 40% of Jaeger-LeCoultre's production, with many variations introduced. The Reverso line today includes dual-face "Duo" or "Duoface" options, traditional small models, larger "Grande" models, a Grande Ultra Thin variation, both men's and ladies' options, in steel and in gold, with or without complications (up to a model with tourbillon), and in 1999 even a sports series, Reverso Gran'Sport.
In the recent history of the company, the presentation of the Master Control marks an important step. Every watch provided with this designation will be thoroughly checked for 1000 hours prior to delivery to the customer, and that means that it must pass tests that are much sharper than those in the chronometer certification guidelines.
The latest innovations in the model range include the development of a new approach to the crown sealing, called the compression key system. This patented invention takes the place of the usual, awkward-to-use system of the screw-in crown, which is still common practice for most manufacturers. Especially for chronographs with their mostly two additional pushers the traditional system is proving to be extremely impractical. Whit the compression key system a short push of a lever is enough, and immediately the crown and pusher openings are completely sealed.
One of the most prestigious manufactures
- See also Jaeger-LeCoultre calibres
Jaeger-LeCoultre bears the designation 'manufacture', which is highly regarded in the watch business, with full right since the company is known not only for building watches, but also for producing the corresponding movements used. These movements are coveted due to their quality and are also delivered to other famous watch companies which in turn integrate them in their own models. IWC, for example, has long used JLC movements, as did Vacheron Constantin, Patek Philippe, and Audemars Piguet. Indeed, Jaeger-LeCoultre was combined with Vacheron & Constantin from 1938 through 1965 under the holding company, Société Anonyme de Produits Industriels et Commerciaux.
Jaeger-LeCoultre was struggling by the 1980's after the quartz crisis. In 1986, the German VDO Group (known for its automobile speedometers), brought IWC and 60% of Jaeger-LeCoultre together as LMH, adding A. Lange & Söhne in 1991. The company's rebirth centered on the iconic Reverso watch, with many complications introduced in the following decade. After VDO was integrated into Mannesmann, it in turn was bought by Vodafone. Not wanting to be in these industries, Vodafone sold LMH to the Swiss Richemont group.
Success through persistent focus on excellence
After not too long ago most of the JLC watch production was covered by the classic Reverso, the brand has managed to provide an additional important mainstay with the Master Compressor series. Here it scores particularly with the superior manufacturing quality of the models, from the manufacture movement over the good case quality to the self-conscious sporty appearance. There are plenty of offerings on the market that are priced much less, but a Jaeger-LeCoultre is and will always remain special. It retains its value permanently. Where other brands are trying to draw attention to themselves by loud PR campaigns, here always the watches themselves and their high production standards stand at the center.
Another branch of production is focused on new inventions and projects in the highly complicated specialties. These include the models Gyrotourbillon 1 and Reverso Gyrotourbillon 2 with spherical tourbillon as well as the award-winning model Duomètre à Chronographe that in 2008 was chosen Watch of the Year.
In the fall of 2009, this parade of world news and exclusive complications is even extended: by presenting the trilogy 'Hybris Mechanica 55', which comprises in total 55 complications, and between 2010 and 2014 comes in an edition of 30 sets. The collection consists of three watches, which, by themselves in their own way, surpass anything ever in the watch world-famous: the Hybris Mechanica à Grande Sonnerie (at this point the complicated wristwatch in the world), the Hybris Mechanica à Triptyque and the Hybris Mechanica Gyrotourbillon. But that's not all: For each set, there is a purpose-built, expensive watches safe vault of the German manufacturer Döttling.
A year later, Jaeger-LeCoultre presented the Master Grande Tradition Grande Complication featuring minute repeater, flying tourbillon and zodiac calendar.
Survey over the most important models and ranges
- Reverso — the classic flip-over watch
- Memovox — the alarm watch
- Geophysic and Geomatic — watches for science and exploration
- Master Compressor — the sports series
- Master Ultra Thin — the elegant dress watch
- Duomètre — "dual wing" power
- Reverso Complication series
- Hybris Mechanica series, including Gyrotourbillon 1, Reverso grande complication à triptyque, and Duomètre à Grande Sonnerie
Rue de la Golisse 8
CH-1347 Le Sentier
Tel. 021/845 02 02