When in 1833 watchmaker Antoine LeCoultre invented the millionometer, which measures thousandths of a millimetre, he laid the foundations for a family firm that was to become one of the world’s most renowned luxury watch brands. Subsequent generations of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s team of horologists have created 1,262 automatic internal watch mechanisms, or calibres, that have kept it firmly at the forefront of the industry.
Technology that transformed watch design
In 1983, its Calibre 889 introduced sophisticated technology that boosted power reserves, supported secondary calendar dials and even allowed watches to track the waxing and waning of the moon. This game-changing mechanism was so slim that it also spawned a new wave of elegant designs that for decades proved the secret of the success of Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak models, IWC Schaffhausen’s Portuguese and Aviator collections, and the Overseas and Patrimony collections by Vacheron Constantin.
For years, the watchmaker’s legendary expertise supported the desirability of rival watch brands, but in 2005 Jaeger-LeCoultre changed tack, saving the 21st-century version of the Calibre 899 – offering enhanced precision and reliability, as well as 28,800 automatic mechanical movements per hour – for its own-brand models. The latest iteration, which sports the brand’s logo and a new gilded, angular design, can be found in its new Master Control re-editions launched at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie in Geneva in January.
Reinventing a retro classic
The Master Control first came out in 1992 and was named after Jaeger-LeCoultre’s pioneering “1,000 Hours Control” quality-check programme that tests resistance to impact, temperature change, water and movement through six positions. The three new models combine modern technology, a well-proportioned casing and the Master Control’s vintage design – currently very much in vogue – with a subtle makeover to cater to the tastes of the contemporary watch buff.
A vibrant blue leitmotif has been added to the dial, skeletonised baton hands and minute circle, and this smart, distinctive hue extends to the alligator-leather strap. The sector dial is two-tone, with an opaline finish that blends elegantly with a satin-brushed perimeter and deflects glare to ensure the time is easy to read even in direct sunlight.
As Stéphane Belmont, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s head of patrimoine, explains, “These watches appeal to a more audacious client, who dares to express his tastes and affirm his character while remaining discreet and elegant.”
The cornerstone of the collection
Of the three new models, the simple and elegant Master Control Date represents the essence of the collection, and has been designed as a versatile timepiece with modern, vintage appeal to suit both the working day and weekend wear. The 39mm stainless-steel case is just 8.5mm thick, which is slim compared to most watches on the market, and its sapphire crystal case-back displays the workings and the 22-carat oscillating weight of the latest version of the Calibre 899.
A sturdy model for the sportsman
The Master Chronograph is a sportier model inspired by a vintage, split-second pocket watch that’s one of the most coveted retro pieces displayed in the watchmaker’s Heritage Gallery at its manufacture d’horlogeriein the village of Le Sentier in the Vallée de Joux. With a slightly larger 40mm diameter and a more substantial 11.7mm thickness, it has the longest power reserve of the three new models at 65 hours. Brushed-steel buttons on the case band control the two-counter chronograph on both sides of the dial, which measures hours and minutes. The tachymeter, which tracks speed of travel, is marked out in the signature vibrant blue of the collection and runs discreetly around the outer perimeter.
Time zones for the frequent traveller
The Calibre 899 powers the Master Geographic’s secondary dial, which allows the frequent traveller to see the time at his destination. A crown set at 10 o’clock on the case adjusts the indicator, which displays the names of 24 world cities (and high-end hotspots such as St Barths), spanning every time zone. To deflect even the strongest tropical sunlight, the indicator is housed in a circular guilloché that catches the light from a different angle.
According to New Bond Street renowned watch and jewellery retailer Wempe, a quarter of a century after the Master Control collection’s initial release, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Calibre 899 is the power behind a new collection that courts men from a new millennium, while referencing the last.