Valle de Joux Grande Maison
Jaeger-LeCoultre’s roots stretch back to the 19th century and as the watchmaker’s fame grew, so did its reputation. The house became known as the Grande Maison, for it was the biggest company in the famed horological hub of the Vallée de Joux, located in Switzerland near the border with France. First founded by Swiss horologist Antoine LeCoultre in 1833, LeCoultre by the early 20th century had teamed up with the Paris-based watchmaker Edmond Jaeger, an early master of ultra thin watches. Today Jaeger-LeCoultre holds pride of place in the Richemont Group portfolio.
The art-deco style Reverso may be synonymous with the house, but Jaeger-LeCoultre in fact is behind a host of extraordinary timepieces. Take the Master Control line for example, which debuted in 1992 in homage to the 1000 Hours Control, a set of rigorous tests that measured the reliability and precision of the brand’s timepieces under extreme conditions. Twenty years later, the company marked the event with three new timepieces, which included the exceptionally precise Master Ultra Thin Tourbillon. Boasting a rare 28,800 vibrations per hour, its automatic calibre 982 was encased in pink gold with an eggshell white dial. Also within the line is the Master Calendar, in steel or pink gold - an understated three-hander automatic watch that further displays the day, month and moonphases. The chronograph is another area of expertise; cue the excellent Deep Sea Chronograph Cermet, which riffs off the original 1959 Memovox Deep Sea, the first automatic diver’s watch equipped with an alarm. With a reinforced cermet case and matt black dial, the chronograph also has a mode indication of on, off and reset, alongside the hour, minute and small seconds functions, and all powered by the automatic calibre 758. Other chronograph designs includes the elegant Master Compressor Chronograph, again with an automatic movement, alongside a day/night indicator and second time zone. With a charcoal grey or black dial, ceramic case (ruthenium dial and titanium case for the Extreme LAB 2 model), it is among the more classic, sporty timepieces on the market.
Queen Elizabeth II
Jaeger-LeCoultre’s place in British royal history is secure, thanks to Queen Elizabeth II having worn a Jaeger-LeCoultre jewellery watch – equipped with the maison’s famously ultra thin and world’s smallest 101 movement – to her coronation in 1953. To mark her Diamond Jubilee in 2012, the company presented her majesty with a special Atmos du Millénaire clock, part of the Atmos range that Jean-Leon Reutter first created back in 1928 – and an almost secret invention that tells the time via a gas-filled capsule that expands with changing air temperatures.
Collectible vintage Reverso watches
There is no disputing that the Reverso is Jaeger-LeCoultre’s icon today, with the watch spawning iterations that range from the Classic (which replaced the Reverso Grande Taille) in various sizes, from gold to steel, to the more technical second time zone Reverso Tribute Calendar. But vintage Reverso timepieces are also increasingly covetable – if recent auction prices are any measure. Take for example a wonderful white gold and diamond parure from 2005 - comprising a necklace, earrings and Reverso rotating watch-ring – that hammered down at Sotheby’s in 2016 for CHF 50,000, surpassing its high estimate of CHF 30,000. Or consider another classic 18k gold style with a dual time and 24 hour display that recently went for HKD47,500 against a high estimate of HKD 35,000 at Christie’s. Meanwhile, a lucky bidder at Christie’s recently won a set of four, numbered and limited edition 18k gold Reversos produced in 1995 and with representations of the four seasons beautifully painted in enamel. All for just $106,250 (estimate of $40,000-$80,000).