Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Date – A regional speciality
Balsamic vinegar from Modena, Grana Padano and Proscuitto di Parma are all wonderful products employed in Italian cuisine. A snifter filled with a fine Cognac, a crystal glass of Burgundy or a flute of Champagne are exemplars of fine alcoholic beverage worthy of Dionysus.
Indeed, continuing the theme of vines and wines, terroir is key to the creation of some of the finest luxury products we have grown accustomed to enjoying. It is the locale of their conception which imbues a product with a certain frisson of enchantment. The geographic appellation has attracted a value based on history and tradition and conferred a certain je ne sais quoi, a quality difficult to define but equally palpable at the same time.
The Vallée de Joux is a region steeped in watchmaking tradition. Although the altitudinous area, nestling in the Swiss Jura, is now home to the creation of complete timepieces by some of the most prestigious names in the field of haute horlogerie, it was once synonymous with crafting solely watch movements. These movements would ultimately be encased in fine pocket watches sold by maisons located in Geneva.
Most notably, the regional speciality for movement manufacture is linked with two areas of competence, complicated and ultra-thin watches. Chiming watches such as minute repeaters and grand sonneries are notable in their complexity and necessitate the fine motor skills and knowledge of the greatest masters. The expertise in this field means these watches are often realised in this remote region.
At first glance, an ultra-thin movement, sometimes powering only two hands, may appear seemingly simple. However, it is the lithe proportions of the case which distinguish the movement as challenging to execute. Numerous components must be housed within a shallow calibre but reliability and functionality cannot be compromised despite the svelte profile of the movement. Watchmaking traditions must be respected with no aspect of the finissage neglected.
A maison inextricably linked to the Vallée de Joux, with a rich tradition of making complicated watches and ultra-thin movements, is Jaeger-LeCoultre. Indeed, the haute horlogerie brand can trace its origins to 1833, the year of its inception.
Jaeger-LeCoultre has the largest catalogue of movements without question. In the past, I have specified the number, but such is the pace of innovation that this information is intrinsically obsolete before it reaches publication. Indeed, “innovation” is a word often mentioned when discussing JLC. It has a plethora of patents to its name which increases on a near weekly basis. The pace of development, despite the peaceful temperament of Le Sentier, home to the brand, is breathtaking and comparatively quick compared with some brands.
JLC has produced movements for many famous names in the world of haute horlogerie and its prowess for making complicated watches and ultra-thin movements is well-known. Last year, I wrote about the stunning Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Jubilee created to celebrate the 180th anniversary of the brand. It perfectly illustrated all that is delightful about the watch company.
At SIHH 2014, Jaeger-LeCoultre played to its strengths, releasing several stunningly complicated timepieces as well as a few ultra-thin beauties. One model which immediately caught my gaze was the Master Ultra Thin Date, delivered in a sumptuous 18-carat pink gold case.
Charming, exquisite, classical and discreet are all adjectives which could be readily applied to this latest novelty from Le Sentier. The rest of this review imparts some of the subtle nuances which make this latest model a potentially wonderful vintage which will impart joy for generations.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Date – The Dial
The dial is delivered in “Eggshell beige”, a muted hue with an assuming tone. However, like a softly spoken individual, those in its company are drawn closer to enjoy its considered comments. The restrained sea of beige provides a hushed canvas on which to express the various functions, magnificently accentuating everything in close proximity.
Polished, applied appliques, in matching pink gold, at first appear like simple isosceles triangles but close examination reveals exquisite facets to their form, basking in ambient light and sparkling with a jewel-like brilliance. Their long tapering form guides eyes to the centre of the dial where the hour and minutes are charmingly expressed with dauphine shaped hands. Again, they are faceted, engaging with ambient light and imparting time with brevity and delightful charm.
A central sweep seconds hand, once again, sharing the profile of an isosceles triangle, reaches outwards to gold pearls encircling the dial. Jaeger-LeCoultre has subscribed to the “less is more” design philosophy and produced a result which is sublimely resolved.
A date aperture resides at 6 o’clock, delivering the date in black text on a white disc, neat, succinct and yet eminently legible.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Date – The Case
The case diameter of 40 mm is perfect. I suspect anything different would not work as well. Jaeger-LeCoultre has judged the proportions expertly, it is the horological equivalent of Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man.
A case height of 7.4 mm is effortlessly slim. Whilst some brands seem to be seeking ever thinner proportions, I applaud Jaeger-LeCoultre in delivering an honest, slim watch, without losing integrity or eschewing traditional watchmaking craft. When I placed the Master Ultra Thin Date upon my arm, it sat comfortably and, despite being encased in gold, was not unduly heavy.
An exhibition caseback reveals the manufacture movement, the Calibre 899. Every element of this horological composition sates my watch loving foibles. The Master Ultra Thin Date has been designed with purists in mind. It is quite simply lovely.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Date – The Movement
The self-winding Calibre 899 has a frequency of 28,800 vibrations per hour, a 43-hour power reserve and contains 219 components. The slightly open-worked oscillating mass is decorated with circular Côtes de Genève motif. Ideally, I would have liked the rotor to have been fully open-worked, exposing more of the finely finished components beneath.
An ultra-thin manufacture movement with fine finishing collaborate to make a powerful argument in favour of the Master Ultra Thin Date.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Date – Closing remarks & Pricing
I have not hidden my admiration for this model. Editorial poker is not a game I play well, especially when a watch wholeheartedly captures my attention with its numerous virtues. In a world where “bling”, conspicuous consumption and over outré offerings are chosen by the misguided, there is much merit in seeking the quiet, timeless refinement of a Jaeger-LeCoultre ultra-thin timepiece.
Remarkably, despite having a wonderful genetic lineage dating back to 1833, this latest offering from Jaeger-LeCoultre delivers exceptional value for money. In the UK the recommended retail price of £11,200 including VAT is very competitive.
However, most notably, this watch is a son of the Vallée du Joux, a region noted for its adept skill at making movements and especially ultra-thin watches. There is no doubt Jaeger-LeCoultre has produced a regional speciality for the delectation of generations to come.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Date – Technical Specification
Model: Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Date
- 18-carat pink gold,
- Diameter 40.00 mm; height 7.40 mm,
- water resistant to 5 bar (50 metres),
- sapphire crystal to front and caseback.
- Calibre 899, self-winding movement,
- frequency 28,800 vph (4 Hz),
- 32 jewels, 219 parts,
- power reserve 43 hours.
Functions: Hours; minutes; central sweep seconds; date.
Strap: Brown alligator leather strap, supplied on a pink gold pin buckle
Price: £11,200 RRP (15.4.2014)