Producing ultra-thin calibers with additional complications represents a major technical challenge. In this particular field, Jaeger-LeCoultre fulfils a long-cherished dream of brand aficionados by unveiling its first ultra-thin automatic perpetual calendar watch.
The watchmakers and designers of the Manufacture have united their endeavours in creating an extremely slim mechanism equipped with a complete calendar, and in arranging the entire set of indications on a dial that retains the collection’s minimalist elegance while ensuring perfect readability.
The new Master Ultra Thin Perpetual watch features the same pure design combining classical elements with the aesthetic inspiration of the Grande Maison. In addition to the hour, minute and central seconds hands, its dial comprises three counters dedicated to the perpetual calendar displays: the first at 9 o’clock for the day of the week; the second at 3 o’clock for the date; and the third at 6 o’clock for the month.
Jaeger- LeCoultre’s distinctive signature appears below the moon phase. In addition to this comprehensive range of information, a perpetual calendar function must also indicate the current year, and on the Master Ultra Thin Perpetual, a full four-digit display appears through a small aperture at 7 o’clock.
The new model comes in three variations distinguished by the material or colour of the case. The first features an 18-carat pink gold case framing an eggshell-white dial, while the 18-carat white gold version comes with a grained silver-toned dial. Finally, the steel model available exclusively from Jaeger-LeCoultre boutiques is graced with a sunburst silver-toned dial.
Whatever its colour, the case with its comfortable 39 mm diameter will be first and foremost examined sideways by connoisseurs and collections. While they will note the streamlined lugs and the slim bezel endowing this watch with a peculiar grace, their attention will doubtless focus on the amazingly diminutive 9.2 mm thickness – a new tour de force designed to house Calibre 868, the Manufacture’s ultra-thin automatic perpetual calendar movement.
A single corrector located on the side of the case is enough to change all the indications in accordance with a remarkably simple principle: one press moves the perpetual calendar one day forwards, while any additional changes required to keep step with the vagaries of the Gregorian calendar take place automatically.
Its sophisticated watch mechanism takes account of the unequal length of months with 28, 30 or 31 days. Every four years, it will just as naturally display the 29th of February that is associated with leap years. It will thus require no manual adjustment before March 1st 2100, since century years are an exception to the four-year cycle governing leap years. Meanwhile, the moon-phase display will faithfully portray the various states of our satellite over the next 122 years.
Finally, just above the dial centre, a small rectangular window, generally in the same shade as the background, turns gradually red as evening falls. It indicates the period during which it is preferable to avoid any adjustments in order to avoid potentially damaging the gear wheels that are already engaged in preparing the change of indication that takes place daily at exactly midnight.
The Master Ultra Thin watch is fitted with a sapphire crystal case-back that reveals the 22-carat gold oscillating weight segment of the automatic winding system, as well as the Fine Watchmaking decorations artistically executed on the various movement parts.
Ultra-thin calibres & perpetual calendars from Jaeger-LeCoultre
In the early 20th century, Jacques-David LeCoultre took up the challenge presented to Swiss watch manufacturers by the French industrialist Edmond Jaeger, who wished to develop the production of ultra-thin watches. Their encounter marked the start of a fruitful collaboration that would culminate several decades later in joining their names for posterity. It gave rise in 1907 to the introduction of the Calibre 145 pocket-watch movement meeting Parisian designers’ wish for discretion and refinement. Its stupendous 1.38 mm slenderness earned it the title of the world’s thinnest watch movement, a record it still holds in its category.
Produced for half a century, it nurtured the tradition of ultra-thin Haute Horlogerie watches that Jaeger-LeCoultre still cultivates today. The history of these minimalist timepieces was soon enriched with complications, such as Calibre18/19RMCCVEP, a pocket movement comprising a chronograph and a minute repeater while measuring just 3.55 mm thick.
In 1976, when quartz was shaking the very foundations of Swiss watch watchmaking, the Grande Maison in the Vallée de Joux boldly developed a high-frequency ultra-thin movement with date display and measuring a mere 3.25 mm. Named Calibre 900, it paved the way for the automatic movements equipping the models of the Master Ultra Thin line and distinguished by their exceptional reliability and sturdiness.
Nor is the perpetual calendar complication a newcomer to the history of Jaeger-LeCoultre. Several decades before the appearance of the ultra-thin calibres that would facilitate the brand’s entry into the world of Parisian luxury and elegance, the Manufacture was already making pocket watches featuring complications including a perpetual calendar.
One of the first most striking achievements in this domain was a Grande Complication pocket watch presented in 1895 and comprising a minute repeater, a chronograph and a perpetual calendar. It was driven by LeCoultre Calibre 19RMCSQ.
|Grande Complication pocket watch, circa 1895|
Another example of this inventiveness was Calibre 154, a pinnacle achievement of the watchmaking art in the first half of the 20th century. In addition to an instantaneous perpetual calendar with moon phases, this model also boasted a minute repeater and a split-second minute-counter chronograph. Like its extra-thin mechanisms, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s perpetual calendar calibres were to enjoy exceptional longevity. In the more recent past, daring developments have given rise to the movements used in such emblematic models as the Master Perpetual Calendar model in 1996, or the Reverso à Quantième Perpétuel model launched in 2000 and featuring a back dedicated to the calendar functions.
In 2004, the Gyrotourbillon I with perpetual calendar, spherical tourbillon, equation of time and double retrograde date heralded a new era in contemporary watchmaking that continued in 2006 with another masterpiece equipped with this universally appreciated complication: the Reverso Grande Complication à Triptyque.
Mechanical automatic Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 868
38-hour power reserve
4.72 mm thick
White gold version: grained silver-toned and black nickel appliques
Pink gold version: eggshell-white and 4N polished appliques
Steel version: sunburst silver-toned and rhodiumed polished appliqués
Hands: Hours, Minutes: Dauphine type
Hours, minutes, seconds
Perpetual calendar: day, month, date, year and moon phases
The perpetual calendar indications are adjusted via a single corrector at 8 o’clock
39mm in diameter
9.2 mm thick
Water resistance: 5 atm
White gold version: 18-carat white gold pin buckle
Pink gold version: 18-carat pink gold pin buckle
Steel version: stainless steel folding clasp
18-carat white gold version: Q1303520
18-carat pink gold version: Q1302520
Steel version: Q130842J – Boutique edition