The History of Jaeger-LeCoultre


Jaeger-LeCoultre is a watch manufacturer based in Le Sentier in the Swiss Jura Valley and is currently a subsidiary of Swiss watchmaker Richemont.

Jaeger-LeCoultre originally started as a company making luxury movements.

The pursuit of precision, reliability and elegance in the movements was also reflected in the watchmaking.

Jaeger-LeCoultre watches are characterized by their vintage style and range from complicated mechanical movements to high-end quartz.

The founder of Jaeger-LeCoultre invented high-precision measuring instruments, a legacy that continues to this day.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Factory

It can be said that the fact that it was the first in the world to use sapphire crystal on a consumer wristwatch and developed the Reverso, a reversible polo watch, are proof of its status as a cutting-edge brand.

Jaeger-LeCoultre's brand image is defined by the word "accuracy," such as the development of the "Dual Wing" movement, which separates the function of controlling complications from the function of accurately keeping time.

Jaeger-LeCoultre has earned an outstanding reputation not only for its watches but also for its movements, and is known for its particularly rigorous product testing.

Renowned watch manufacturers such as Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet and Vacheron Constantin use Jaeger-LeCoultre movements.


The craftsmen of Le Sentier

Jaeger-LeCoultre Engraving

The story of Jaeger-LeCoultre begins in the small village of Le Sentier, located in the Jura Valley in western Switzerland.

Originally a region with a thriving iron mining industry, the village began to attract metal-related craftsmen, and the number of blacksmiths, cutlers, watchmakers, and other businesses increased.

Since outdoor activities were not possible during the winter, when the long winter arrived, not only watchmakers but also various other craftsmen began to stay indoors and manufacture watch parts.

In this way, the foundation for the artisanal techniques that allow parts to be produced slowly and carefully over a long period of time using limited materials was laid.


LeCoultre inventions

Jaeger-LeCoultre Antoine

However, the village had a small population and a certain degree of mechanization was necessary to improve work efficiency.

As if to meet this demand, Antoine LeCoultre invented a machine to cut out watch pinions.

Pinions are very important parts of a clock movement, and this machine, which can quickly cut out pinions of consistent quality, has dramatically improved work efficiency.

In 1833, the LeCoultre brothers, Antoine and Francis Ulysse, founded their own watchmaking workshop.

Antoine continued to invent machines to improve efficiency and accuracy, completing the millionometer in 1844.

The invention of the millionometer makes it possible to measure in microns, or micrometres (1/10,000 of a metre), and the LeCoultre brothers proprietary this important invention.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Millionometer

In 1847, a system was developed that allowed the mainspring to be wound using the crown without the need for a key, eliminating the need for a key to wind the watch.

In this system, the press of a button activated a lever that alternated between the time-setting and watch-winding functions of the crown.

During this period, watch components were made piecemeal by different craftsmen in the Jura Valley.

There was no single workshop that could handle the production of watch movements, cases, and assembly all at the same time; each was done by different specialized craftsmen.

However, in 1866, Antoine and his son Elie founded LeCoultre & Cie and started a workshop that could handle all processes from start to finish.


The development of Le Sentier

Jaeger-LeCoultre Work Process

LeCoultre & Cie is the first in the Jura Valley to centralize all watchmaking processes in one factory.

Antoine had other plans.

In 1870, Antoine became the first person in the world to successfully mechanize part of the assembly process of a complex movement.

That same year, LeCoultre & Cie had grown to employ 500 people and was known as the "Grand Maison of the Jura Valley."

Although Antoine passed away in 1881, his achievements ensured the further modernization of Jaeger-LeCoultre and Le Sentier.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Movement

In 1883, as Le Sentier did not yet have an electrical infrastructure, the LeCoultre factory installed a steam generator and introduced electric lighting into the factory.

In 1886, a railway line was opened in the Jura Valley, which had developed into a mecca for the watch industry, and steam locomotives began to connect the Jura Valley with major Swiss cities.

By the turn of the 20th century, LeCoultre & Cie had evolved into a renowned company producing hundreds of different movements and was the main supplier of movements to Patek Philippe in Geneva.


Jaguar and LeCoultre meet

Jaeger-LeCoultre Edmont

In 1903, LeCoultre partnered with French watchmaker Edmond Jaeger to create an ultra-thin movement designed by Jaeger.

Jaeger was born in Andaux in eastern France and had his workshop in the town of Epernay in the Marne department in the Champagne region.

Jaguar was looking for a reliable and skilled watchmaking company to partner with, and chose LeCoultre & Cie as the company of choice.

In fact, Jaguar's design was a sight to behold.

The basic movement he designed was 1.38mm thick, the minute repeater was 3.2mm, and the chronograph was 2.8mm.

LeCoultre was successful in producing these movements.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Movement

In 1907, Jaguar signed an exclusive contract with the Parisian jewellery and watch company Cartier until 1922, which meant that Jaguar movements would be used in Cartier watches.

The collaboration between Jaeger and LeCoultre did not end there, as they also founded a company called Ed Jaeger Limited in London to jointly develop dashboard instruments for cars.

Although we were under exclusive contract with Cartier at the time, this did not constitute a breach of contract as the development was not related to watches or movements.


Atmos: The perfect timepiece

Jaeger-LeCoultre Atmos

The Atmos was invented in 1928 by Swiss inventor Jean-Léon Luther and produced by LeCoultre.

Inside the glass case of the Atmos is a sealed capsule filled with chloroethane gas that expands and contracts with changes in room temperature.

Atmos is powered by the pressure generated by the expansion and contraction of gas due to temperature changes, and can continue to function almost indefinitely.

Between 1936 and 1946, LeCoultre developed an efficient way to manufacture the Atmos.

Atmos is not only a long-lasting watch, but also one that offers the highest level of precision.

Due to its illustrious reputation, it has been designated as an official gift by the Swiss government for VIP guests.

The Atmos moon phase version is so precise that, if kept on a level surface at the right temperature, it will only deviate by one day every 3,821 years.


Reverso: The Reversible Sports Watch

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso

In the early 1930s, Jaeger and LeCoultre were still separate companies.

At that time, India was still a British colony, and wristwatches were an essential tool for British officers stationed there to keep track of time.

However, whenever they played polo, the glass of their watches would often shatter due to the intensity of the game.

So César de Trey, a Swiss watch expert visiting India, received a request from an officer to find a watch that could be used safely during polo games.

De Trey turned to LeCoultre, which had a reputation as an expert in developing movements for any condition.

In 1931, Edmond Jagger and Antoine's grandson, Jacques-David LeCoultre, worked with French engineer René-Alfred Chauveau to develop a watch that could withstand this strenuous sport, and introduced the Reverso, a wristwatch with a reversible case.

Since its introduction in 1931, the Reverso's design has changed very little.

The Reverso is a rectangular watch with a restrained Art Deco style and no other notable decoration on its case apart from the polished gadroons at the top and bottom of the face.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso

The leather strap features alligator leather on the front and soft calfskin on the back, perfectly matching the case.

The design ensures that there are no gaps between the strap and the case, or between the end of the strap and the conical lugs.

Push the case to the right to unlock it and then you can slide it to the right.

When the case reaches its full right side, it flips over so that the face faces inwards and the steel case back is on the outside.

This feature protects the watch dial from polo sticks and balls.

After the development of the Reverso, in 1937, Jaeger and LeCoultre officially became one company, and Jaeger-LeCoultre was born.


Jaeger-LeCoultre Movements

Jaeger-LeCoultre Movement

Jaeger-LeCoultre is a company with a reputation not only for its beautifully finished watches, but also for its ébauches, or versatile movements.

Most of Jaeger-LeCoultre's movements, which are ultra-thin yet incredibly sturdy, were developed in the 1960s, and many have since been further improved upon.

Many top watch manufacturers, including the world's three major brands - Vacheron Constantin, Patek Philippe, and Audemars Piguet - use Jaeger-LeCoultre movements, which continue the traditions of Edmond Jaeger.

The Caliber 920 is used exclusively by these three major brands.

Developed in the 1960s, this automatic movement is just 2.45mm thick and uses the Gyromax movement developed by Patek Philippe.

Gyromax is a mechanism that corrects accuracy errors by attaching several weights to the balance wheel and adjusting them as they rotate.

The heavy side of the weight faces inward towards the balance wheel, allowing it to rotate quickly.

In addition to the basic model, Caliber 920 comes in three variations: with date, with date and second hand, and with a second time zone.

After 2000, the rights to this caliber were transferred to Vacheron Constantin, also a subsidiary of Richemont, and it was inherited as caliber 1120-1122.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Movement Manufacturing

The caliber 839, with a thickness of 1.84 mm, is also a remarkable movement.

It is often mentioned together with the caliber 838, which has similar performance, but it has a larger diameter and uses the KIF shock-resistant device, making it a reliable movement despite its thinness.

The hand-wound caliber 839 is used not only by Jaeger-LeCoultre, but also by Chopard, IWC and Van Cleef and Arpels.


Polaris: A Remake of a Classic Diving Watch

Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Movement

In 2018, a new collection was released to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Memovox Polaris, which was released in 1968.

A collection of alarm watches has been released that faithfully reproduce the original Polaris.

The Memovox Polaris' elegant case is 42 mm in diameter and has a narrow bezel that allows for a large dial area.

Like the original Memovox, this new Memovox has three crowns in an unusual arrangement.

By turning the crown located at the top, at the 2 o'clock position, you can wind the alarm spring, and by pulling it out once and turning it, you can set the alarm date and time.

When pulled out, turn the dial clockwise to set the alarm date, and counterclockwise to set the alarm time.

The central crown operates the count-up inner bezel, which can be moved in both directions.

And the crown at the bottom is the normal crown for setting the time.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris

The hands and Arabic numerals/hour markers are coated with Super-LumiNova, a luminescent material, and the textured dial reduces reflections.

The case is 15.9mm thick because there is a space in the case back to reflect the alarm sound, but unlike the harsh sound of other alarm clocks, the alarm produces a deep, pleasant sound befitting its large case.

While the original Memovox was a diver's watch, the 2018 version doesn't have a screw-down crown, and Jaeger-LeCoultre advises caution when using it underwater.

Jaeger-LeCoultre has produced not only ultra-thin luxury movements, but also elegant watches with a vintage style.

In the past, now, and into the future, the company will continue to be known as a watch manufacturer that brings to the world magnificent watches and movements.