Jaeger-LeCoultre sets the standard in mechanical, jeweled watches for women
Jaeger-LeCoultre has been making watches in Switzerland’s Vallée de Joux for the past 180 years, gaining a reputation as an important mechanical innovator. The brand has created 1,242 calibers and holds over 400 watchmaking patents, but because many of these calibers have been cased in men’s watches that are highly coveted by collectors, the brand’s equally long history as a maker of women’s mechanical watches is often overshadowed.
Jaeger-LeCoultre was actually one of the first to create wrist and pendant watches which, in the 1880s, were in demand by women, while men still preferred pocket watches. The sleeveless gowns of the era cried out for jewelry to adorn women’s exposed arms and wrists, and it was a natural progression for watch brands to incorporate their mechanical movements into bracelets and pendants. Jaeger-LeCoultre’s original specialty was ultra-thin mechanical movements, starting with the Calibre 7HP, a movement that was used primarily in enameled watches that were set with diamonds and pearls.
Jaeger-LeCoultre believed a movement should follow the contours of the case housing it, and the company quickly became a specialist of what were called shaped movements. This resulted in an impressive array of rectangular, tonneau, baguette, almond and square-shaped movements, such as the LeCoultre Calibre 6EB created in 1908. It measured barely more than one centimeter wide and a mere 1.5 mm thick. It was designed specifically for what we would today call cocktail watches – dainty, Art Deco style timepieces, worn by women in the Roaring Twenties. Next came the Duoplan, introduced in 1925, housing with the LeCoultre Calibre 7BF, another miniaturized movement that could be used in a brooch watch or a “secret” watch with a cover.
In 1931, the brand introduced the famous Reverso, designed especially for polo players who needed to protect their watch dials during play. This reversed case design, which today allows two watches to be driven by the same movement, was also used in ladies watches. For ladies, the Duoplan was relaunched as the Duetto in 1997, with a light- colored dial for day and a darker, diamond-rimmed dial on the reverse, for night.
This year, Jaeger-LeCoultre introduces a high jewelry watch, the Reverso Cordonnet Duetto, as a celebration of its heritage as a ladies’ watchmaker. It contains the mechanical manual-wound Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 844, and is designed as a diadem or tiara, set with over 1,250 diamonds. Inspired by a 1936 model, the watch is highlighted by a cordlet-style bracelet. The creation of a diamond-set wristlet seamlessly following the curve of the wrist was a challenge. Each of the links is individually paved with diamonds, and interlocks to form a rounded Art-Deco-inspired design. One dial is lapis lazuli and the other is mother-of-pearl; both are surrounded by diamonds.
The brand is also launching two Grande Reverso Lady Ultra Thin watches as part of the celebration, including an extra-slim Duetto Duo and a high jewelry model that celebrates the brand’s expertise as a maker of gem set watches. The Duetto Duo features a dual time-zone display using an ultra-thin movement, a technical feat. One dial features a central sunburst guilloché pattern surrounded by dancing hour numerals, while the other more contemporary dial is composed of inset mother-of-pearl. The jewelry version is adorned with mother-of-pearl on both sides, one of which is set with diamonds. The case is set with 90 diamonds.
As we enter a new golden age of ladies’ watch design, Jaeger-LeCoultre is well positioned to undertake the creation of magnificently designed as well as technically challenging watches.
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