2015 sees the release of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Minute Repeater watch. Jaeger-LeCoultre is one of the most revered names in watchmaking and is fondly referred to as “La Grande Maison,” which can be loosely translated as The Great Manufacture. In its rich 182-year history, the company has created over a thousand calibers, registered 400 or so patents and has numerous inventions credited to its name. And for the most part of the past century, it even provided movement blanks to Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, and Vacheron Constantin. The caliber 920 is a great example of this and is still used even today by Audemars Piguet in Reference 15202 Extra-thin Royal Oak, also known as the “Jumbo.”
It is also one of the few manufactures that is well versed in all horological complications. Its new-for-2015 Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Grande Complication (hands-on here), which features a flying orbital tourbillon, indication of sidereal time, and minute repeater, is proof of that. Speaking of minute repeaters, these are something of a Jaeger-LeCoultre speciality. At SIHH 2014 last year, the manufacture unveiled the 11th timepiece of its Hybris Mechanica collection, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Minute Repeater Flying Tourbillon, which became the thinnest minute repeater watch in production. Not only that, it also featured a flying tourbillon and was self-winding to boot. Clearly, Jaeger-LeCoultre has an affinity with minute repeater complications.
For 2015, Jaeger-LeCoultre has released a new minute repeater that will feature in its Master collection. The new Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Minute Repeater comes in a very classically styled and sized 39mm pink gold case and is just 12.1mm thick. But more importantly, the new Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Minute Repeater also has a very clean dial. The previous models with the reference numbers 5011410 and 5012550, were equipped with Jaeger-LeCoultre’s caliber 947 and 947R, and had busier dials, with power reserve and barrel torque indications at 8 and 4 o’clock, respectively, as well as a seconds sub-dial at 6 o’clock. The new Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Minute Repeater with the reference number 5092520 does away with the power reserve and barrel torque indications and only has a seconds sub-dial at 6 o’clock. For collectors who found the older models slightly too busy looking, Jaeger-LeCoultre has heard your pleas.
It is a deep black dial, with lovely glossy applied hour markers and hands. The discs for the year index is black as well, with white printed numerals. Far ‘friendlier’ to your eyes than the previous 37mm edition, though I could live with that too. Just over the center pinion, you see another aperture. This is the day & night indicator. The date, days and months are represented in a large font on the dial, making it quite readable (usable). I had no problems reading the specific date, day and month out of the dial. The moon phases aperture is amazing, with its dim blue sky and gold moon and stars.The watchmakers at Le Sentier made life really easy for the lucky people who will purchase this Jeager-LeCoultre Master Perpetual. To set or adjust the calendar, there is just 1 button. You can’t mess up (big time). Some mechanics have been set to motion, and it’s far better not to temper with it through this function. If you push it a lot of time and advance past the current date, there’s little you can do except wait for the power book to come to an end and wait for the date that is being displayed. In case you really innovative it too far (months, perhaps years), you need to have it fixed by a watchmaker. This motion does not have any inverse button (some endless calendars do have this), so always set up the date with care.The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Perpetual itself is quite sparse (therefore ‘Ultra Thin’ from the official version name) with its 9.2mm. The grade 868 movement also influenced this ultra thinness of course. Caliber 868(/1) has 336 components of which 46 are jewels. In total, the movement itself is only 4.72mm thick.
However, while the dial may look simple, its construction is anything but. Look closely, and you will see that the dial is also finely grained, while the hour markers are in fact rendered using polished pink gold. The dauphine hands have also been hand-finished, and are endowed with both polished and sandblasted finishings.
Underneath the dial beats Jaeger-LeCoultre’s caliber 942, which is assembled and decorated entirely by hand. The movement is made up of 437 parts, including 58 jewels, and a new 22k gold rotor bearing the logo of Jaeger-LeCoultre with polished and grain finishes. Caliber 942 also beats at 28,800 vph and has a power reserve of a very decent 40 hours. The caliber 942 also features Jaeger-LeCoultre’s special crystal gong, which is machined to from a single piece from a top secret alloy. The gongs are then welded directly to the sapphire crystal, so that when the hammers strike, it creates a loudspeaker effect, allowing the minute repeater mechanism to be easily heard.
I find it rather difficult to locate a modern watch with a small diameter plus a round shape, that can’t be immediately classified as dull or even as your average grandfathers’ watch. Only few brands master the art of producing a relatively small and traditional dress watch. Patek Philippe is among them, Vacheron Constantin another and using a bit of creativity, Audemars Piguet has a few of them in their collection too. There are different watches in their own collections that I would favor. This Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Perpetual unites being a pleasant and ‘ultra’ thin design with a complication I really admire, a perpetual calendar.Even although I have quite big wrists, the 39mm Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Perpetual suits me well. My colleague Gerard owns the prior model, in 37mm. The dial lay-out is a bit different, i.e. the formation of sub dials is rotated 180 degrees. So that the moon phases are in 6 o’clock, the month and year indicators at 12 o’clock. The movement in that watch was caliber 889. Gerard explained that he bought that opinion when it came out with a black dial, as they were mostly delivered with a silver dial. You can discover that specific 37mm model for approximately 9000 Euro on the pre-owned market now. To me, that’s a no brainer if you want a perpetual calendar under 10.000 Euro, and have to pick between a brand new Frederique Constant or Montblanc with endless calendar or this Jaeger-LeCoultre. Not for me at least. So the size of 39mm (and just 9.2mm thick) is ideal for me, though I’ve big wrists.
Jaeger-LeCoultre has also eschewed the traditional slide mechanism for activating the minute repeater function and opted for a more elegant push button system. This allows the watch’s case to be compact, and for the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Minute Repeater, the push button has been positioned at a diagonal to the crystal gong, thus ensuring some measure of symmetry in its looks. The watch also features a safety mechanism which protects the watch against unintentional activation of the striking function.
The new Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Minute Repeater also comes with an alligator strap and with a matching pin buckle. It is priced at $169,000. jaeger-lecoultre.com