THE GRANDE MAISON
The inhabitants of the Vallée de Joux have a time-honoured habit of referring to the Manufacture Jaeger-LeCoultre as the Grande Maison.
This affectionate nickname actually fits us like a glove, since it is an expression carrying multiple meanings and connotations that are inherent to our Manufacture and of which we are truly proud.
Referring to the Grande Maison effectively conjures up the hive of activity housing the one thousand or so individuals (exactly 950 at the moment) who are busily exercising 40 different professions and demonstrating their mastery of 20 different technologies. Indeed, just as in a beehive, all the occupants of the Manufacture strive towards a common goal and in this case, that means producing pure watchmaking “honey”.
The term Grande Maison also evokes a friendly warmth as well as a sense of belonging and of shared destiny.
Since 1833, these collective efforts have given rise to over one thousand different movements created by Jaeger-LeCoultre and more than 200 registered patents. Right from the time of its founding, the Manufacture focused most of its energies on a notion that lies at the core of all the gestures accomplished there: a tireless quest for meticulous precision, pursued with unfailing determination. A single example vividly illustrates this quest: in 1844, just 11 years after the creation of the the Manufacture, Antoine LeCoultre and his companions developed a revolutionary object, the Millionometer, an instrument capable of measuring microns. This tool was to transform the entire watchmaking industry by making it possible to make components endowed with formerly inconceivable accuracy.
Crafting peerlessly precise components is one thing, while knowing how to assemble, decorate and integrate them within a specific shape in a process governed by equally rigorous standards, is quite another.
The great strength of a genuine manufacture such as Jaeger-LeCoultre, fully integrated and capable of making a watch from start to finish, lies precisely in its ability to unite all the talents in the pursuit of one sole purpose. To achieve this, all the various crafts and professions must be exercised in a consistently interactive manner, meaning, for example, that design, technical aspects, functions, forms, materials, finishings, and decoration must always progress hand in hand and step by step.
Within the Grande Maison, one expert’s achievement directly affects others, simultaneously reinforcing and energizing this flow of fine workmanship. It is the very fact of “being together” under a single roof that enables us, today as in yesteryear, to present major innovations and to create products embodying the culmination of a shared passion for precision and beauty. Or, in other words, “pure” watchmaking.
Jérôme Lambert, CEO of Jaeger-LeCoultre
BIRTH OF A NEW PURE WATCHMAKING LINE: THE DUOMÈTRE
In 2006 alone, the Grande Maison created eight new movements, presented twelve new watches and filed nine new patents! Some might have thought this was the ultimate peak of dynamic achievement for the Manufacture, but Jaeger-LeCoultre’s exceptional resources were obviously far from exhausted by this spectacular creative effort.
2007 is clearly set to be a truly historic year that will prove another landmark in the history of the Grande Maison.
It is indeed a far from commonplace event for Jaeger-LeCoultre to launch an entire new line. Most of its activity, apart from the Atmos clocks which are unique in their kind, is firmly focused on two exceptional watch lines representing two product lines: the long and proud dynasty of Reverso watches, and the lively and frequently ground-breaking Master Control lineage.
2006 witnessed the emergence of a new more masculine and sporty branch of the Reverso family, the Reverso Squadra, as well as the birth of an exceptional product embodying the very essence of the watchmaking art: the Reverso grande complication à triptyque, the world’s only watch with three faces driven by a single movement. Last year also saw the introduction of the Master Tourbillon, a high-precision tourbillon that raised this horological speciality to new levels of chronometric performance.
That same year, the brand’s distinctive flair for total integration of case and movement, and thus of form and function, were also brilliantly highlighted by the presentation of the AMVOX2 Chronograph, in which the chronograph functions are directly activated via the case.
The pace of these functional and technical developments, particularly in the Master Compressor line, shows no sign of slowing down this year (see pages 14 to 17 ) – indeed, quite the opposite. But 2007 will doubtless be especially remembered for the launch of a new product line driven by movements based on a radically different and entirely innovative conception, the Duomètre collection.
Reinventing the grand tradition of horological classicism
The joint research conducted on all floors of Jaeger-LeCoultre is underpinned by a shared philosophy, a deliberate intention: reinventing the grand tradition of horological classicism. But reinventing does not imply reproducing. While drawing from the purest wellsprings of Haute Horlogerie and its deepest values, now confirmed by several centuries of experience, the purpose of Jaeger-LeCoultre was to create a product that was also totally innovative. A product that took account of the most “sacred” watchmaking traditions, as well as the most cutting-edge technological traditions. A product also inspired by the rich past of the Manufacture.
The determination to give pride of place to the noblest expression of the watchmaking art – characterized by extremely rigorous standards, constant concern for reliability and precision, architectural beauty of the movement, superlative craftsmanship and infinite care lavished upon finishing and decoration – requires envisioning function from the standpoint of aesthetic beauty!
With this philosophy in mind, it was thus entirely “natural” that a line conveying such a new form of horological expression should be equipped with a movement based on an equally new conception. This is certainly the case for the new Duomètre collection, which now represents the ultimate in round watches from Jaeger-LeCoultre: a further demonstration of the finest watchmaking principles, endowed with exceptional decoration and a radically different movement.
THE DUAL-WING 380 MOVEMENT, AN EXCEPTIONAL WATCHMAKING CONCEPT
At the heart of this new Duomètre collection lies an entirely novel “double” movement concept.
One single basis of time, meaning a single balance – and thus a single regulating organ – drives two independent mechanisms.
Each of these two mechanisms has its own going train, powered by its own barrel. There is no interaction between the two going trains, which operate in a completely autonomous way, each independently of the other. The only element they share is the basic time measurement supplied by their shared regulating organ.
This major innovation is entirely in keeping with Jaeger-LeCoultre’s time-honoured pursuit of precision and reliability, in that this unprecedented technical development involves major breakthroughs in this field, particularly due to the lack of interference between the two going trains.
This can be seen in the first movement to which this exceptional concept has been applied: the Dual-Wing Calibre 380 movement in the Duomètre à Chronographe. Within this mechanism, one of the going trains drives the classic time function (hours, minutes and seconds), while the other drives the chronographic or timekeeping function, enhanced by a jumping-seconds display.
Each of the two going trains has its own barrel, providing each with a respective power reserve of 50 hours (50 for the time and 50 for the chronograph), without any interference whatsoever in terms of energy consumption. Using the chronograph thus detracts no energy from the time function, and vice versa.
Moreover, thanks to an ingenious gear system, the twin barrels are manually wound by a single crown controlling two winding ratchets. However, turning clockwise winds only the hours, minutes and seconds, while a counter-clockwise rotation winds only the chronograph.
The fact that leaving the chronograph running does not affect the rate of the watch considerably improves its accuracy by eliminating any interaction when the chronograph is started or stopped. In addition, the very existence of twin independent going trains means that no dedicated chronograph coupling-clutch is required. This absence of a coupling-clutch ensures instant chronograph start and stop functions, thereby further raising the level of functional precision that is already enhanced by the absence of torque between the two separate time and chronograph mechanisms.
Moreover, the Dual-Wing movement concept enables the addition of an independent jumping-seconds hand, which in this case jumps six times per second and serves to complement the already comprehensive chronograph indications, making a grand total of five subdials including the jumping-seconds display integrated within the mechanism and complementing its indications.
AN EXCEPTIONAL MOVEMENT AND ITS EXCEPTIONAL DECORATION
While the Dual-Wing movement is radically new in terms of its technical conception, it is nonetheless aesthetically inspired by Jaeger-LeCoultre’s major historical accomplishments. Clearly intended to embody “pure” horology and reflecting the most traditional values of the time-honoured art of Haute Horlogerie, it therefore deserves the most impeccable finishing and decoration.
A close examination of the consummate art with which the watchmakers of the Grande Maison have finished and decorated their movements, and particularly the splendid mechanisms of certain distinguished 19th and early 20th century pocket-watches, guided Jaeger-LeCoultre in the dedicated decoration of the Calibre 380.
Also drawing inspiration from the superlative standards of decoration displayed on the Grand Complication models that have enriched the history of the Manufacture, this decoration admirably mirrors the technical nature of the Dual-Wing system itself.
One would be wrong to think that decoration serves a purely aesthetic purpose. Certainly, the innate beauty of a movement is itself a delight, but it is also the best possible guarantee of the high quality of the 390 parts composing this complex 48-jewel movement. For who would take the risk of spending hours on bevelling, polishing or engraving a part that had even the slightest functional flaw?
Directly visible through the anti-reflective sapphire crystal case-back, the two independent barrels are snailed with polished sinks. The crown-wheel is also snailed and delicately bevelled by hand. Meanwhile, the ratchet-wheels are adorned with a sunburst decoration and respectively engraved with the “Chronograph” and “Hours and Minutes” inscriptions. The springs and steel parts are polished, smoothed and bevelled by hand. The screws are flame-blued. The very shape of the time mechanism features taut, straight lines making a striking contrast with the chronograph mechanism and its arabesque structures that provide maximum visibility of its mechanical intricacies. The nickel silver bridges are hand-bevelled and decorated with the exclusive Jaeger-LeCoultre côtes soleillés motif fanning out across the whole movement from the centre of the balance. To achieve this exceptionally fine decorative work, Jaeger-LeCoultre created a workshop entirely dedicated to the manual finishing of movements.
DUOMÈTRE À CHRONOGRAPHE
The Duomètre à Chronographe watch, with its Dual-Wing movement, is undoubtedly the chronograph that most aptly epitomizes the grand art of watchmaking.
It is definitely the most complete of all with its four subdials and its jumping-seconds display.
Its exceptionally readable dial is a direct reflection of the entirely original concept of the Dual-Wing movement beneath. It graphically expresses the unusual architecture and enables completely intuitive reading.
The hours and minutes of the conventional time function are indicated by the two hands on the subdial between 9 and 11 o’clock, and the seconds by a central hand. The chronograph hours (12 hours) and minutes (60 minutes) are indicated by the two hands on the subdial between 1 and 3 o’clock which has a double-graduated hour and minute scale. Further enhancing the precision of the intuitive minute read-off, a sector between 3 and 4 o’clock inside this same subdial provides a numerical indication of the minute units (from 1 to 9).
The central chronograph seconds hand is also complemented by a pointer-type display of the jumping seconds at 6 o’clock. Each second is thus divided into six units so as to ensure even greater precision in the calculation. However, the jumping-seconds display represents a major innovation, made possible by the design of the Dual-Wing movement: it is not directly linked to the escape-wheel, but only indirectly via the independent chronograph mechanism. This means that, contrary to traditional jumping-seconds hands which are in constant motion, this one can be started, stopped and returned to zero via the chronograph function – which is exactly why this 1/6th of a second indication is so useful!
All these chronograph functions are operated in a user-friendly manner by a classic single pushpiece at 2 o’clock, giving the wearer instant and simplified control over the coordinated starting, stopping and resetting of the five chronograph indications. This is in itself an extremely complex innovation, since it involved mastering the instant resetting of all indications within an extremely small space.
The single notched crown at 3 o’clock represents another innovation, serving both to set the time and to wind the two independent barrels: clockwise for one and counter-clockwise for the other. The separate indications of the two power reserves are provided by two slender retrograde hands, respectively positioned at 5 and 7 o’clock.
The horological face of the duomètre
THE PURE FACE OF HOROLOGY
The exterior of the Duomètre à Chronographe simply had to be worthy of the exceptional movement within. Bearing in mind the same lofty demands imposed by a vision of horology at its purest, the Jaeger-LeCoultre designers worked closely with the technical teams responsible for movement development.
Beneath its apparently simple and perfectly rounded shape, measuring 42 mm in diameter and 13.5 mm thick, the case of this watch reflects a determination to place it in the vanguard of watchmaking refinement.
Guaranteed water-resistant to a depth of 50 metres, its shape is inspired by pocket-watches with covers. The level surface around the sapphire crystal fitted in the case-back is delicately engraved.
Crafted in platinum, pink gold or yellow gold, the Duomètre à Chronographe is exquisitely finished. Alternating delicately satin-brushed surfaces on the case itself with polished surfaces of the bezel and the welded lugs, it provides a truly classic interplay of materials in harmony with the finest watchmaking traditions.
A large new crown has been created, finely grooved for a better grip and adorned with the Jaeger-LeCoultre monogram.
The rectangular-shaped single chronograph pushpiece at 3 o’clock is delicately satin-brushed. Finally, the Duomètre à Chronographe is fitted with a matte black alligator leather strap with 18-carat gold folding clasp.
Well protected by the glare-proofed sapphire crystal, the dial displays perfect visibility and clarity. Nonetheless, this distinguished and understated appearance, designed to provide the most accurate possible reading, exudes an inherent sensuality stemming from its sheer refinement. As one would expect from such a noble watch, the silver-coloured dial is fine-grained like velvet. Its extremely slender hands – blued steel for the chronograph functions; gold- or rhodium-plated for the time functions – point with unfailing precision to the black transferred chronograph scales or to the applied gold numerals.
Bearing the Jaeger-LeCoultre signature topped by its applied gold JL, each limited-edition Duomètre à Chronographe carries its limited-edition number engraved on a small rhodium-plated “number plate” at 6 o’clock. For non-limited models, this same plate carries the number of the movement, Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 380. A refined signature for a watch case that is also refined and finds its inspiration in the great tradition of pocket watches.
Master Compressor Extreme W-Alarm
MASTER COMPRESSOR EXTREME W-ALARM, A POWERFUL DEMONSTRATION OF INNOVATION AND TECHNICAL MASTERY
While the Duomètre à Chronographe represents the pinnacle of “pure” horology, the Master Compressor Extreme W-Alarm (W stands for world) forcefully demonstrates the capacities for technical innovation of the Grande Maison in the service of “extreme” watchmaking. Everything about this watch combines to satisfy the highest demands for performance and functionality.
For the very first time, a rugged timekeeper unites two complications that are indispensable for the most adventurous globetrotters: world time and an alarm mechanism. These sophisticated functions are housed in a patented two-part case featuring a unique shock-absorbing system that enables it to absorb even the hardest knocks.
Powering this extreme innovation, Jaeger-LeCoultre presents the new Calibre 912, an imposing self-winding movement measuring 36.2 mm in diameter, equipped with the latest breakthrough achievements to emerge from the brand’s research and development department: a variable-inertia balance fitted with adjustment screws on its outer rim, and an oscillating weight mounted on ceramic ball bearings (requiring no maintenance and no lubrication).
Moreover, the decision to incorporate an alarm mechanism within this imposing case, especially one thus fitted with a shock-absorbing system, called for in-depth research on the specific acoustic qualities of this alarm. In the end, this led to the development of an entirely novel gong. Not only has its geometry been entirely redesigned, but the gong has been fixed directly to the caseband by means of two pins, rather than the traditional way of fixing it to the base of the case.
The result is a powerful sound with optimal resonance, whether or not the watch is on the wrist. Moreover, thanks to a lever system specially developed and integrated around the city crown at 10 o’clock, a double pushpiece serves to start or stop this alarm function.
Visually speaking, the Master Compressor Extreme W-Alarm is also distinguished by an original display of the alarm time: two juxtaposed discs appear through an arc of a circle at 9 o’clock. Not only are they perfectly readable, but they also provide the possibility of adjusting the alarm in precise 5-minute intervals. Meanwhile, the world-time indications are read-off on a city disc carrying the 24 time zones and a rotating 24-hour bezel ring.
Finally, thanks to a simple and ingenious interchangeable system, its black alligator leather strap can be easily swapped for a sturdy rubber wristband. Extreme from all angles.
Master Compressor Diving
MASTER COMPRESSOR DIVING, A NEW GENERATION OF DIVER’S WATCHES
Master Compressor Diving. The Grande Maison gives rise to an innovation one can genuinely describe as revolutionary!
To what exactly are we referring? To an all-mechanical depth sensor chamber or depth gauge guaranteeing highly accurate measurement of depths ranging from 0 to 80 metres.
The brilliant idea governing this mechanism was sparked in the minds of Jaeger-LeCoultre engineers by a close observation of the famous Atmos clock by Jaeger-LeCoultre. As we know, the Atmos mechanism is driven by a capsule containing a gaseous mixture that expands or contracts according to the smallest variations in atmospheric pressures. These movements of the gas are used to wind the mainspring of the movement. This principle has now been applied to creating the depth gauge of the Master Compressor Diving Pro with a membrane that expands or contracts according to the water pressure exercised on it. These movements are transmitted to a hand via a rhodium-plated rack and a pinion, partially visible on the dial and specifically shaped to display a logarithmic scale graduated from 0 to 80, shown in greater detail over the first 40 metres.
This chamber, free of any gaskets and therefore guaranteeing long-term reliability, is independent of the watch itself with which it has no direct connection, being fixed to the outer flank of the 46.3 mm case which is water-resistant to 300 metres.
Two models that are water-resistant to 1,000 metres round off this new generation of diver’s watches: one provides a GMT function, and the other a Chronograph function, both limited editions of 1,500 pieces. The redesigned case measures 44 mm in diameter and 5 mm at its thickest point middle part. It is equipped with a screw-locked caseback and a sturdy 3.60 mm sapphire crystal, all of which contribute to its ability to withstand the extreme pressures exercised at depths of 1,000 metres – equivalent to 890 kilos, or the weight of a small car.
The whole range of technical and aesthetic details, the design, the user-friendly features and the readability are on a par with its performances: a 120-tooth unidirectional rotating bezel that can be indexed every 30 seconds; perfect readability ensured by oversized numerals and hour-markers, luminescent hands, triangle on the bezel, power reserve indicator and the use of colours designed to provide the strongest possible contrast at various depths; compression keys guaranteeing optimal security by supercharging one of the four toric gaskets and thus reducing the space around them; the use of ultra-light and ultra-resistant grade 5 titanium; and a choice of articulated triple-link wristbands with a rubber-moulded metal frame or a titanium bracelet, complemented by diving straps that are either rubber-moulded or in a rugged fabric with Velcro fastening.
All these “minor details” in fact play a capital role when the aim is to offer the most advanced and reliable possible professional diver’s watch.
The Heritage Gallery
THE HERITAGE GALLERY OF THE GRANDE MAISON
Since its founding in 1833, the Manufacture Jaeger-LeCoultre has always been located in the exact same spot: Le Sentier, in the Vallée de Joux.
Over the years, it has been progressively extended by the successive additions of new buildings, forming a vast ensemble that has nonetheless never lost sight of its initial identity. As in days gone by, people still affectionately call it the Grande Maison.
Its uninterrupted history has been dotted with milestone creations including hundreds of movements, hundreds of inventions and brilliant accomplishments that have made their mark on the history of technical and precious watchmaking: the Atmos clock (1928) which draws its energy from the slightest variations in atmospheric pressure; the world’s smallest movement (1929); or the famous Reverso watch (1931), to mention but a few.
And this epic adventure, far from being frozen in the past, is more vibrantly alive than ever – as is eloquently confirmed by the achievements presented in the past few pages.
However, the Grande Maison still lacked a special area dedicated to antique collection. This gap will be filled as of this autumn with the inauguration of a spacious Heritage Gallery at the very heart of the original building where the first workshop was opened.
Visitors will be given a choice as to how they prefer to visit this gallery. Welcomed at the entrance by a huge showcase presenting over 300 different mechanical movements, they will be able to opt either for a chronologically ordered journey presenting the evolution of mechanical watchmaking, viewed through the prism of the technical and aesthetic creations of the Manufacture; or for a more theme-oriented visit enabling them to admire the main Jaeger-LeCoultre product lines: Reversos, Round watches, Complicated watches, Atmos clocks and Jewellery watches.
In all, some 500 precious, technical, historical and contemporary objects will be on display.
In addition to this permanent historical overview, the Heritage Gallery will host temporary exhibitions presenting specific aspects of the watchmaking art, of the professions it encompasses and of the latest Jaeger-LeCoultre creations. This will also provide an opportunity to view the exhibitions dedicated to the partnerships Jaeger-LeCoultre has been cultivating over the past few years with photographers from around the world. Moreover, collectors will be welcomed in a special dedicated area.
THE BOOK OF THE GRANDE MAISON
Written by Franco Cologni, the book entitled Jaeger-LeCoultre, the Story of the Grande Maison is the new reference work dedicated to this major player on the fine watchmaking scene and acclaimed creator of icons.
The magnificent 380-page volume, richly illustrated with almost 600 photos taken by Maurizio Galimberti, Douglas Kirkland and Claude Joray, invites one to embark upon a remarkable geographical, historical, technical and human voyage.
Whether they are connoisseurs of fine watches, devotees of style and aesthetics, collectors of Haute Horlogerie, or simply curious by nature, readers will undertake a journey through time and space, highlighted by surprising encounters and providing a wealth of original information.
Stemming from extensive research into brand archives, this work not only presents hundreds of vintage and contemporary models, but also provides portraits of the men and women of the Grande Maison.
Published by Flammarion, available in French, English, Italian, German and Japanese
Source: Europa Star April-May 2007 Magazine Issue