JLC is a brand that has been around for nearly 200 years, and of course during that time the brand has broken records, made some iconic watches and solidified itself among many “Grail lists”.
This is our guide to JLC. And here’s what we’re going to cover.
1. The storied history of the brand.
2. An overview of the most popular models.
3. And a quick highlight of some of our favorites.
For starters JLC is pronounced Jaeger LeCoultre. And the name comes from the names of the two founders, and around the office we just say JLC. So, with that let’s talk through the brand’s background.
This brand has a storied history that reads like a watchmaker fairytale set in the Swiss mountains. After moving to France to flee from religious persecution in the 16th century, the LeCoultre family established the community of Le Sentier where the company’s manufacturing is still based today. After inventing a machine to cut watch pinions from steel Antoine LeCoultre founded a small watchmaking shop in the community. Here committed himself to the pursuit of high-quality timepieces. In 1844
LeCoultre invented the world’s most precise measuring instrument at the time called the Millionometre.
The millionometre was the first instrument capable of measuring a micron. This invention helped refine the manufacturing of watch parts and established the metric system as the standard for watch measurement. And is if that were not enough three years later LeCoultre discovered a system that eliminated the need to use a key to rewind and set watches. For these achievements he received multiple awards at the first Universal Exhibition in London. At this event he even won a gold medal for the gold chronometer he crafted. By 1870 this small family-run watch business now called LeCoultre and Co employed more than 500 in-house watchmakers and boasted 250 various calibers. 128 of which were chronographs and 99 contained minute repeaters. From 1902 and for the next 30 years LeCoultre produced most of the movements for the established watchmaker, Patek Philippe.
Now, to change the setting and the lead character we move to Paris, and the watchmaker to the French Navy, Edmond Jaeger.
In 1903 Jaeger challenged Swiss manufacturers to produce ultra-thin movements like he had invented. Antoine LeCoultre’s grandson Jacques David rose to the challenge and helped create the thinnest pocket watch in the world in 1907. Of course, equipped with the LeCoultre movement. It was the LeCoultre caliber 145. And this duo would use it for the next 50 years.
Jaeger and LeCoultre continued to work together on projects over the next several decades. Including a popular partnership with Cartier and in 1925 the pair introduced the world’s smallest movement, the Caliber 101.
With nearly 100 components the movement shockingly only weighed about one gram. Despite the successful inventions and partnerships over the decades it wasn’t until 1937 that they officially formed a partnership and became Jaeger-LeCoultre as we know them today.
It’s interesting to note that the legendary Reverso first debuted just a few years prior to the partnership in 1931 under LeCoultre’s name.
Under the new partnership the brand continued to make a name for itself and has always embodied the inventive spirit of its founder. In 1946 they developed their first automatic watch. A decade later they debuted the Memovox, the first automatic alarm wristwatch. In 1958 they created the Geophysic chronometer, featuring a double anti-magnetic case. Later in 1982 they designed the world’s thinnest quartz movement, the Calibre 608. And shortly after in 1987 they introduced a hybrid quartz and mechanical movement called the Mecaquartz. The innovation continued into the new century with the 2006 Reverso that required six unique patents and remains a powerhouse brand to this day.
Now that we’ve covered JLC’s history let’s dive deeper into the models that carry the name.
The Reverso is one of the most iconic rectangular watches. Created in 1931, it is a great balance of luxury and utility. A purpose-built design for the polo fields. The reversing mechanism allowed a way for a polo player to protect their watch crystal from damage while playing polo. Nowadays it’s much less likely that a watch is being worn while playing polo, and in the age of rugged sport watches this watch is definitely on the dressier side. The reverse side is now often used for special engravings, and in some situations shows off a movement, or in rare cases the back actually has a completely separate dial.
The Geophysic line represents the unrelenting pursuit of precision. First introduced in 1958 to coincide with the first International Geophysical year, they created arguably the most durable and precise watch of the time. With technologies like a self-compensating balance spring and an anti-magnetic cage. Since the watch was only produced for one year in limited numbers it can be very hard to find an original. Luckily the Geophysic line was re-released in 2014, and still pushes the envelope in durability and precision. A lot of watches in the Geophysic line now feature a true second complication. This allows the second hand to tick by making a single jump each second, and this is done without interrupting the watches functioning. Some of the Geophysic watches also feature a Gyrolab balance wheel, whose noncircular configuration reduces air friction and makes for a more efficient movement. And these are just two ways in which the Geophysic line continues to push the envelope in watches decades later.
The Master Line
The Master collection is known as the timeless and elegant line. The current collection was introduced in 1992 and represents a big achievement for the brand’s movements. For watch to carry the Master name it must undergo a battery of testing for 1,000 hours. That’s nearly six weeks! The high performance of the Master line can be missed because of the pure elegance in the watches, but the Master line achieves a perfect marriage of beauty, and power and is a great introduction into the JLC brand.
Introduced first in 2007 as a chronograph, The Duometre line of watches feature a truly unique design. Called the Dual Wing design, the movement features two separate main springs with their own gear trains converging into a shared regulating part. The idea behind this complex movement is two independent power sources: one for timekeeping, and a second for the complications, thus preventing any degradation to the timekeeping from any added complications. Here we have the Duometre Unique Travel Time. This watch features two separate time zones, as well as power reserves from both barrels, and a GMT day-and-night globe. The use of blued and gold hands make the watch fairly easy to read. One of the coolest features of the watch is the crown. Wind it clockwise, and you wind the complication mainspring, and wind it counterclockwise and you wind the time only mainspring.
Originally released in 1968 the Polaris was not just another dive watch. It featured the Memovox complication. Memovox roughly translates to the “voice of remembering” and refers to the alarm built into the watch. In 1968 less than 2000 were produced so it can be extremely difficult to find one. 50 years later, in 2018, JLC reintroduced the Polaris, now with an entire line of watches. The Polaris line still features a limited-edition watch with the Memovox complication but includes other watches as well. Things as complicated as a world timer chronograph and as simple as the date complication seen here. We love this Polaris because of its unique inner rotating bezel.
That’s a basic overview of their main models, and there are dozens of variations on the above categories. For all of you interested in adding a JLC to your collection here are two of my favorites.
The JLC Reverso 1931.
To me this is the Reverso. It is based off the original dial design from 1931, and strikes a perfect balance of size, being larger than the original. It’s a classic design that now measures right under 28 millimeters wide. In every way this trump’s it’s vintage counterpart. A vintage Reverso is going to be much more expensive and most likely a hassle to maintain. So, with the 1931 you get a modern sized tribute that’s just a pleasure to wear.
And up next the Master Memovox
The master Memovox is such a cool watch, because in an age of smartphones an actual alarm is so charming. Originally created in the early 50s the Memovox complication found its way into many JLC watches like the Polaris mentioned above. This Memovox was released under the master line in 2010. The 40-millimeter case is a great update and wears nicely. To use the alarm just wind the two o’clock crown, and set the inner disc to the time, and that’s it. Listen to that! It’s awesome!
In every way we hope this overview acts as a guide to this iconic watch brand. Let us know your favorite JLC watch and as always thanks for watching.