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The Millennium Watch Book
Jaeger-LeCoultre - Master Tourbillon

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Tourbillon

The first Everyday Tourbillon*

The revolution Jaeger-LeCoultre brought about in 2006 wasn’t to do with the tourbillon itself, but with what one could do with it: making it suitable for everyday wear whilst losing nothing of its class, beauty and accuracy. It was a major turning-point.

The cars of 1920 are nothing like those on the roads in 2020. This is due in part to the march of progress, but also because of changes in practice. In most cases, progress is driven by these changes rather than the other way around. People today want to drive further, more safely and more comfortably while using less fuel; cars have changed as a result. The same is true of tourbillons. The watchmakers of 1801 sought accuracy above all else. Over and above that, the collectors of 2021 want tourbillons that are visible, finely decorated, innovative, more affordable, as well as capable of with-standing the rough and tumble of urban life; and tourbillons have adapted accordingly.

Fast, accurate, and affordable

The Master Tourbillon released by Jaeger-LeCoultre in 2006 is the fruit of these trends. For one thing, the Manufacture took note of the fact that tourbillons are extremely power-hungry. People love tourbillons as a complication, but they gobble up watches’ power reserves, a price that collectors are reluctant to pay. Most brands therefore make do with reducing tourbillon diameter and the frequency of the movement. Jaeger-LeCoultre, however, resisted all such temptations: after all, smaller tourbillons are less visible, and slower tourbillons are less accurate. The resulting Master Tourbillon is a rare case of a tourbillon calibrated at 28,800 vibrations per hour, rather than the more usual 21,600 vph. To ensure this high frequency didn’t use up too much power, Jaeger-LeCoultre designed a cage made from lightweight titanium, requiring less energy to move it; the cage weighs in at just 0.28g. The inertia of the balance has also been optimised to achieve perfect equilibrium between stability and power use.

Master Tourbillon

Master Tourbillon © Jaeger-LeCoultre

Seeing everything, all the time 

Another prerequisite for contemporary collectors is that their tourbillon should always be clearly visible. Having hours and minutes hands sweep over it is deemed acceptable, since this intrinsic occurrence only happens from time to time. The same cannot be said of the date: who in their right mind would put up with a tourbillon being partly concealed for up to a week at a time? To address this, Jaeger-LeCoultre devised a clever complication by means of which the central date hand covers the long span between the 15th and 16th of the month in just three hours, starting at midnight on the 15th, without stopping over the tourbillon, located at 6 o’clock.

Simple and straightfoward

Another point is that these days, nobody will wear a tourbillon watch if it’s too difficult to set. Here too, the Manufacture in Le Sentier found a way to adapt to contemporary expectations. The date can be adjusted both ways, both forwards and backwards – no mean feat considering the 15th to 16th jump the firm imposed on itself so as not to hide the tourbillon. The watch displays two time bands, with time at home shown at the top and local time in the middle; the date synchronises automatically with the latter. The Master Tourbillon’s livery is innovative, too, in that it was released in rose gold, platinum – or steel. Tourbillons have since become more widely available, but at the turn of the millennium, it was extremely rare for them to come clad in a non-noble material such as steel. It was a carefully thought-out decision by the Manufacture with a view to offering an accurate, reliable timepiece that really was tailored to everyday wear – and affordable, too, with a launch price of around €35,000.

*This year GMT Magazine and WorldTempus have embarked on the ambitious project of summarising the last 20 years of the Tourbillon in  The Millennium Watch Book - Tourbillons, a big, beautifully laid out coffee table book. This article is an extract. The Millennium Watch Book - Tourbillons is available on www.the-watch-book.com, in French and English.

 

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Jaeger-LeCoultre: HOME OF FINE WATCHMAKING SINCE 1833. Located in the serene setting of the Vallée de Joux, our Maison radiates a unique sense of belonging. The soul of La Grande Maison is formed here, inspired by the exceptional landscapes of the Jura Mountains, guided by an unquenchable inner fire. With all crafts under one roof within the Manufacture, watchmakers, engineers, designers and artisans work together to give birth to fine...

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