Jaeger-Lecoultre : The Franco-Swiss Watchmaking Alliance

The story of Jaeger-Lecoultre began in 1833 in the Vallée de Joux in the Swiss Jura when Antoine LeCoultre, a 30-year-old Swiss inventor, set up a watchmaking workshop in the family barn. A true mechanical genius, he designed the Millionometer, the first instrument capable of measuring microns and enabling the creation of increasingly miniaturised movements. He continued his innovations by creating one of the first keyless winding movements in 1847. The quality of his work in watchmaking was rewarded with a gold medal at the first Universal Exhibition in London, already proving international recognition.

Now well established, Antoine and his son, Elie, took the initiative in 1866 to group together all the watchmaking trades that were then dispersed and to found LeCoultre & Cie.

In 1903, following a challenge from the French watchmaker Edmond Jaeger, Antoine's grandson, Jacques-David LeCoultre, went into business with the latter. Their collaboration resulted in the creation of the world's thinnest watch 1.38mm thick. Cartier decided to exploit this patent and secured its exclusivity through a 15-year contract. From this date onwards and for the next thirty years, the Jaeger and LeCoultre establishments would only grow closer together, finally merging under the name Jaeger-LeCoultre in 1937.

 

"Ultra-Thin" model

This merger successively led to the creation of several watches that are still the success of the brand today:

The iconic Reverso model was born after a problem faced by polo players who wanted to keep their watches without breaking the dial. It was therefore in 1931 that the reversible watch was created. Today it has become their best-seller, and there are two Reverso models, the Classic and the Tribute, which are available for men and women, in steel or gold, with or without diamonds.

 

Reverso Large Size Day-Date, "Crédit Municipal de Paris"

In 1950, the first alarm watch, the Mémovox, was born and was constantly improved to become the first automatic alarm watch in 1956. Subsequently, it was adapted for divers when the Polaris version came out in 1965, equipped with a triple bottom enabling it to be heard at depth and thus marking decompression stops.

Finally, Jaeger-LeCoultre participated in the development of the Atmos clock before finally buying back its patents. This very special clock with its quasi-perpetual movement is equipped with a mechanism designed to have a minimum of friction and which recharges itself by means of a barometer system; a simple variation of one degree in temperature enables it to run for two days. This feat of watchmaking became the official diplomatic gift of the Swiss Confederation in 1950.

Finally, for those of you who have won the Lotery, Jaeger-LeCoultre offers its customers a Hybris Mechanica collection reinventing the brand's iconic models with movements with horological complications pushed to their limits: perpetual calendar, gyrotourbillon, singing minute repeaters, etc.

For the ladies, Jaeger also developed in the 50's and 60's so-called "secret" wristwatches, diamond-cut in white gold, yellow gold or platinum. Some of the Calibre 101 collection watches have their dials hidden, and look more like bracelet than a watch, a beautiful combination of jewellery and watchmaking craftsmanship. The Calibre 101 was created in 1929 and was the smallest calibre in the world.

Did you know that? Queen Elizabeth II wore a Jaeger-LeCoultre diamonds and gold watch for her coronation.

After various takeovers over the years, the company was acquired in 2000 by the Richemont Group, which obtained a 60% stake, while the Audemars Piguet watchmaking brand obtained the other 40.

 

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