When contemplating the long history of Jaeger-LeCoultre and its massive manufacture in the Swiss Jura, it’s difficult to think of a complication or technical feat that it hasn’t already achieved. There’s a reason why the company goes by the sobriquet the Grande Maison. So I was surprised this afternoon to open up an email with the quite beautiful watch below and to see in the attached press release the statement that its combination of a chronograph with a triple calendar with moon phase represents a first for JLC.
This new complete Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Chronograph Calendar is the headline act of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s newly revamped Master Control line, a collection which itself goes back only to 1992. But you wouldn’t think that by looking at it. The Master Control is a sober but attractive and tastefully proportioned line of everyday watches with looks that verge on the timeless. Jaeger-LeCoultre has subtly updated the cases of the line, drawing on its great round watch designs of the middle part of the last century, such as the Futurematic, PowerMatic, and Memovox models. Master Control takes its name from Jaeger’s 1,000-Hours Control Certification, and was the first watch collection to undergo this rigorous testing – not just of the movement, but of the cased-up watch. Across the board, Jaeger has also upgraded the movements in its Master Control line, adding such desirable modern features as an escapement with silicon parts for the sake of tribology and redesigned barrels for extended power reserve.
Of course, for the new Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Chronograph Calendar, the making of a new combination of displays also necessitated the making of a new movement. The caliber in question is the JLC 759, a quite good looking caliber with Geneva waves, blued screws, and a gold rotor bearing Jaeger’s “JL” motif. It’s visible through a sapphire crystal caseback. The chronograph function is paired well with the calendar, and I’m quite impressed with the design of the watch from the dial side. Its bi-compax display looks like it will be a breeze to read along with the calendar functions at six and 12 o’clock. The chronograph scale is graduated for pulsations to enable the measurement of heart rates. This is a column-wheel chronograph with vertical clutch. Two versions of this watch are being made, stainless steel and rose gold, the latter version made from what Jaeger-LeCoultre refers to as “Le Grande Rose gold.” While the exact composition of the new proprietary precious metal alloy is not being released, it includes palladium, used to stabilize the gold and prevent it from oxidizing and fading over time.
What immediately strikes me about this version of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Chronograph Calendar, with its pairing of chronograph with calendar displays, is the harmony of the design. It really does look to me as if this watch could have hailed from the 1950s or early ’60s. Of course, that would have been technically impossible for the time, mainly because of the presence of the automatic chronograph. The silver hands on silver sunray finished dials with contrasting blued hands for the chronograph have a cool and contemporary look about them. To me, they signal that this watch is of the modern era. A lot of people think about Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Chronograph Calendar as being “the watchmaker’s brand,” and that mantle is as much theirs as it was in 1992 or earlier. But I think it’s also important to give JLC their due from a design standpoint. This is a beautiful wristwatch that offers a lot of functionality in an extremely wearable package. And at $14,500 for the stainless steel version, quite a lot of value too.