Time in Reverso, and other treasures from the Jaeger-LeCoultre archive
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Jaeger-LeCoultre is known as the watchmaker’s watchmaker. Over its history, in addition to its own iconic timepieces, it has made movements for brands including Vacheron Constantin, Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe. Visually, its calling card is restrained elegance, from the art deco Reverso created for the polo pitch but just as at home in the clubhouse, to the Memovox Polaris, designed for deep-sea diving but equally fit for the boardroom. Technically, it’s a major pioneer: the maker of the smallest movement ever (worn by Queen Elizabeth II at her coronation); the maker of the first 100 per cent automatic watch with no back-up crown to wind it; the maker of the first diving watch to incorporate a chime…
Jaeger-LeCoultre Shark Deep Sea, €50,000
Jaeger-LeCoultre Triple Calendar, €20,000
Now in its 190th year, the company that started as LeCoultre & Cie and became Jaeger-LeCoultre in 1937 wants to make some noise about its distinguished history and innovations. To which end it has put together a capsule collection of 12 restored classics from its past catalogue that will both tour the world and be available to buy online from this month. Labelled (somewhat like a crack troop of renegade enforcers from a Hollywood blockbuster) The Collectibles, this capsule follows similar restoration initiatives by Vacheron Constantin and Zenith. It will remain in continual revolution, with newly restored models swapping in as others are sold.
It is, says the company’s CEO Catherine Rénier, an endeavour only made possible by the integrated manufacture in the Vallée de Joux in Switzerland where every part of a Jaeger-LeCoultre watch is made. “We did not have to invest in the tools to make the project happen. The fact that we have a restoration workshop is because we’ve always made calibres for ourselves or for the industry and restoring these calibres is part of our DNA.”
Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox Polaris II, €22,000
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Mariner Deep Sea, €20,000
But, she continues, the project is about much more than “resale”. She wants to share the story of Jaeger-LeCoultre and the history of watchmaking more widely – hence the collection being available for all to see on the website. “We want the word to be spread and we want the watches to be seen. The aim of The Collectibles is to convey the history of watchmaking and how much it has changed through the different periods. We celebrate the ’20s and the freedom of women with some models; we celebrate the ’30s with art deco and the Reverso; we celebrate very pragmatic watch tools with the Memovox Parking [it rang an alarm when the parking meter ran out] and the Geophysic [gifted to the first American captains to sail under the North Pole]. It is also a beautiful tribute to the history of the world in the past century.”
Each watch will come with any original packaging and documentation and a copy of a history of the collection researched and written in-house (also available to buy through Mr Porter). “It was a treasure hunt tracking down the watches for the collection,” says Matthieu Sauret, the brand’s product marketing and heritage director, “but you never know what really is the treasure. Is it the watch or is it the hunt and the story you find around it?”
Jaeger-LeCoultre has been worn by figures including Charlie Chaplin, Salvador Allende and Picasso. None of the pieces in the first tranche of watches has graced the arm of someone of such fame, says Rénier. But who’s to say what treasures might surface.
The collection will be available from 9am on 25 January at jaeger-lecoultre.com