Jaeger-LeCoultre (JLC) is one of the most interesting and inventive brands operating today. From the timeless Art Deco-inspired classicism of the Reverso, to the handsome elegance of the Master Control collection, the sporty ruggedness of the Master Compressor divers or the sheer eccentric beauty of the Extreme LAB series—this mainstay within the world of luxury timepieces has a number legendary models credited to its name. Bob's Watches stocks some of the finest pre-owned offerings.
Rightfully regarded as one of horology’s old masters, and known throughout the industry as the “watchmaker’s watchmaker,” Jaeger-LeCoultre has had a long and rich history of making exceptional mechanical movements, with around 1,200 calibers to its name. From ultra-thin calibers to high-complication movements, Jaeger-LeCoultre movements are not only found in the brand’s own famous watches but also inside those belonging to other renowned luxury brands like Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin, Audemars Piguet, and IWC.
Aside from its mechanical movement mastery, Jaeger-LeCoultre has also produced iconic timepiece designs such as the Reverso, the Master, the Memovox, the Atmos, and others. The brand’s peerless engineering expertise has also seen them produce some of the most complicated watches ever made, such as the extraordinary Master Grande Tradition Grande Complication, housing both a sidereal orbital tourbillon and zodiac calendar, as well as a minute repeater.
The origins of Jaeger-LeCoultre date back to 1833 when Antoine LeCoultre established a workshop in the Vallée de Joux in Switzerland. In 1844, Antoine LeCoultre invented the Millionometre, the first instrument capable of measuring the micron (one-millionth of a meter) to facilitate manufacturing minuscule watch parts. The company progressively grew, eventually combining all aspects of watchmaking production under one roof—which was not the norm in the Swiss watchmaking industry at that time as it was typically made up of small workshops specialized in various watchmaking components.
By the turn of the century, LeCoultre was the leading watch manufacture of the Vallée de Joux. In 1903, Parisian watchmaker Edmond Jaeger of Etablissements Ed. Jaeger established a challenge for Swiss watchmakers to create the world’s thinnest movement and Jacques-David LeCoultre (Antoine LeCoultre’s grandson) rose to the task.
LeCoultre & Cie introduced the world’s thinnest pocket watch in 1907, powered by the ultra-thin LeCoultre Caliber 145. The partnership between the LeCoultre and Jaeger companies flourished over the next decades, producing the Duoplan watch in 1925 (powered by a two-level movement to maintain a large-size balance wheel to ensure precision), Jean-Léon Reutter’s prototype Atmos clock (powered by temperature and atmospheric pressure changes in the environment) in 1928, and manufacturing Caliber 101 (the world’s smallest mechanical movement) in 1929. The two companies finally made it official and joined under the name Jaeger-LeCoultre in 1937.
In 2000, Richemont purchased Les Manufactures Horlogères SA (LMH), a company that owned Jaeger-LeCoultre, IWC, and A. Lange & Söhne. Today, Jaeger-LeCoultre remains an integral part of Richemont’s watchmaking division.
The retail price of Jaeger-LeCoultre watches can range from as low as $6,000 for steel entry-level Reverso or Master Control watches on leather straps to hundreds of thousands of dollars for high-complication pieces crafted from precious metals. Of course, the secondary market for pre-owned Jaeger-LeCoultre watches offers significant savings off MSRP for current production models and higher discounts for discontinued models. However, coveted rare or vintage Jaeger-LeCoultre watches are valuable and come with hefty price tags, and it is not uncommon to see certain collectable vintage JLC watches sell for well into the tens of thousands of dollars.
|Model||Reference||Material / Size||Retail Price (MSRP)|
|Reverso Classic Large Small Seconds||3858520||Steel, 45.6mm x 27.4mm||$6,000|
|Reverso Classic Large Duoface Small Seconds||3842520||Pink Gold, 47mm X 28.3mm||$19,400|
|Master Control Date||1548420||Steel, 39mm||$6,100|
|Master Ultra Thin Moon||1368420||
|Polaris Chronograph WT||905T480||Titanium, 44mm||$13,900|
|Geophysic Universal Time||8108120||Steel, 41.6mm||$15,500|
|Atmos Classique||5102201||Rhodium-Plated Brass||$6,600|
Beyond their extensive catalog of in-house movements, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s catalog is home to a number of incredibly famous watch collections which have been in production for decades. These watches are true icons within the luxury watch industry and represent cornerstone offerings that have been treasured and pursued by collectors and enthusiasts for generations.
Pre-dating the name change to Jaeger-LeCoultre, the LeCoultre brand unveiled the company’s most iconic watch to date: the Reverso. Invented in 1931 specifically for British Army polo players in India, the Reverso watch featured a case swivel system which allowed the rectangular case to flip around to protect the fragile dial side during a dangerous match.
The Art Deco style Reverso has grown to become Jaeger-LeCoultre’s signature watch, offered for both men and women in various sizes, materials, styles, and complications—but always with the rectangular swivel case. For the first six decades of the collection, one side of the case remained plain. However, in the 1990s, the first Reverso DuoFace models appeared where each side of the revolving case indicated a different time zone. Reverso watches are available in small, medium, and large sizes, where the bigger ones are sometimes referred to as “Grande Reverso” watches. For a period of time in the 2000s, Jaeger-LeCoultre also made the sportier Reverso Squadra models, characterized by squarer case profiles and rubber straps.
Today, Jaeger-LeCoultre segments the Reverso collection into the elegant Reverso Classic, the vintage-inspired Reverso Tribute, and the ladies’ Reverso One. Due to the large variety of Reverso watches and the model’s long history, the secondary market has plenty of options from the inexpensive to the incredibly pricey. Simple entry-level models start out at several thousand dollars for pre-owned examples; however prices can easily reach well-into the five or even six figure range for complicated versions.
In 1950, Jaeger-LeCoultre introduced the mechanical Memovox alarm wristwatch, which would go on to spawn several versions. There was the Memovox Deep Sea launched in 1959, which was Jaeger-LeCoultre’s first dive watch and the world’s first dive watch with an alarm. Then, in 1968, the Polaris Memovox made its debut with a triple caseback system to make the alarm louder underwater.
Today, not only is the Memovox alarm function found across several Jaeger-LeCoultre collections but in 2018, Jaeger-LeCoultre also presented the new Polaris collection of sports watches, which draws inspiration from the vintage Polaris Memovox. The simplest is the time-only Polaris Automatic models, while the titanium Polaris Chronograph WT packs a chronograph, GMT, and worldtimer into the watch and costs roughly twice the price of its entry-level siblings.
The International Geophysical Year took place from the summer of 1957 until the end of 1958, and to celebrate the global scientific project, Jaeger-LeCoultre produced the precise, robust, and antimagnetic Geophysic chronometer. Only produced for a year, this vintage Jaeger-LeCoultre watch serves as the inspiration for the current-production Geophysic collection that was revived in 2014.
The Geophysic collection is home to the True Second and the Universal Time models. The Geophysic True Second has a second hand that ticks every second (but it is not quartz) instead of sweeping around the dial to permit the wearer to measure time more precisely. The Geophysic Universal Time displays 24 different time zones at once for the ultimate multi-time zone wristwatch.
In 1992, Jaeger-LeCoultre introduced the “Master Control 1000 Hours” in-house certification, where their Master Control watches were subjected to one thousand hours of testing. Unlike the Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC) that only tests the movement, the Master Control 1000 Hours tests entirely finished Jaeger-LeCoultre watches to ensure their uncompromising performance.
In 2002, Jaeger-LeCoultre unveiled the Master Compressor collection, named after the innovative compressor key system that replaces the traditional screw-down crowns/pushers. The patented compressor system permits the user to lock/unlock the pushers with just a small rotation (color-coded with red when it is unlocked, thus not sealed for water-resistance) rather than having to unscrew them entirely from the case. The JLC Master Compressor collection was a popular series of robust sports and dive watches for men and women, made in different materials and with various complications like chronographs, GMTs, alarms, and more. Jaeger-LeCoultre currently does not produce the Master Compressor models; however the vintage examples are frequently pursued by collectors and can be bought on the secondary market.
The current Jaeger-LeCoultre Master collection is divided into three distinct lines: the Master Grande Tradition, the Master Ultra Thin, and the Master Control, all characterized by refined round cases and elegant designs. The Master Ultra Thin watches are some of the most popular from Jaeger-LeCoultre given the brand’s proficiency in making slim watches. Available in steel, gold, and platinum, JLC Master Ultra Thin models can range from simple time only or time and date editions to complex perpetual calendars or tourbillons. The Master Control line offers plenty of functional variety including the Master Control Date, the Master Calendar, the Master Chronograph, the Master Geographic, the Master Memovox, and the Master Tourbillon. Most of them are available exclusively in steel but there are a few pink gold and white gold options too.
Reviving the relationship Jaeger had with Aston Martin in the 1920s to build counters and dashboard instruments for the automaker, Jaeger-LeCoultre announced a partnership with Aston Martin in 2003. This partnership paved the way for the AMVOX (a combination of Aston Martin’s initials Memovox) collection of watches.
Made from 2004 until 2016, all Jaeger-LeCoultre AMOX watches were limited-edition models and naturally, included design elements that honored the automobiles. Interestingly, Jaeger-LeCoultre never made an AMVOX 4 or 6.
Jaeger-LeCoultre no longer makes the AMVOX range, so today these various references can only be found in the pre-owned market.
Jaeger-LeCoultre released the Duomètre collection in 2007 utilizing the Dual-Wing concept that combines one mechanism for timekeeping and one mechanism for additional complications—both synchronized by a single regulator.
Given the complexity of the Dual-Wing movements and the watch’s precious metal cases, the Duomètre lineup is home to some of the most expensive Jaeger-LeCoultre watches. Even used Duomètre are priced well above the $20,000 mark and can easily reach into hundreds of thousands of dollars for the ultra-complex versions.
Invented by watchmaker Jean-Léon Reutter in 1928 and eventually commercially produced by LeCoultre in 1932, the Atmos clock requires no winding for power. Instead, the Atmos clock relies on tiny changes in ambient temperature for its power —therefore, it is a clock that can, in theory, run forever.
Jaeger-LeCoultre has continuously produced the Atmos over the last eight decades, often teaming up with known designers (like Marc Newson) or brands (like Hermes) to create special-edition models. There are also the highly intricate Atmos Marqueterie clocks encased in wooden marquetry cabinets.
Jaeger-LeCoultre is a supporter of Cinema and sponsors events like the Venice International Film Festival and the Shanghai International Film Festival. Additionally, the famed watchmaker counts film stars like Benedict Cumberbatch, Amanda Seyfried, and Nicholas Hoult as Jaeger-LeCoultre brand ambassadors, while actors Clive Owen, Carmen Chaplin, Diane Kruger, and Dev Patel have also worked with the historic watch manufacturer. Beyond their relationships with their individual brand ambassadors, Jaeger-LeCoultre watches have also appeared in movies like Doctor Strange, The Dark Knight Rises, and Iron Man 2.
Along with cinema, Jaeger-LeCoultre also sponsors the sport of polo around the world, emphasizing the origins of the Reverso watch. Polo players Clare Mountbatten, Eduardo Novillo Astrada, and Luke Tomlinson have all been JLC brand ambassadors at some point. Plus, Jaeger-LeCoultre has also partnered with famed polo bootmaker Casa Fagliano for a collection of Cordovan leather straps made especially for select Reverso models.