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REVIEW: Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Tourbillon a Quantieme Perpétuel>>>>

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Published on 05-11-2011 09:33 AM

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Review of the Jaeger-LeCoultreGrande Tradition Tourbillon a Quantieme Perpétuel

By: John B. Holbrook, II


Jaeger-LeCoultre is one of the world's few remaining watch companies that manufactures all the components of its watches completely in house—the movements, the cases, the dials and even the hands—nothing is outsourced. That fact alone sets the brand apart in both experience and capability from even the most elite of its competitors. Its history is equally distinctive. In 1833, Antoine LeCoultre (son of the watchmaker Jacques LeCoultre), opened a workshop in the town of Le Sentier. Many are surprised to learn that the current Jaeger-LeCoultre factory is located only a short distance from the site of Antoine LeCoultre's first workshop. By 1925, the decision was made by Antoine's grandson, David LeCoultre, to merge the company with one owned by Edmond Jaeger, creating today's Jaeger-LeCoultre. Historically, the company has been extremely successful at implementing cutting-edge technology; while at the same time remaining faithful to the foundations and traditions of horology. The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Tourbillon a Quantième Perpétuel is a perfect example of this maker's seamless blending of old and new.

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It's generally accepted that the two most difficult mechanical complications to manufacture are the perpetual calendar (the complication that automatically adjusts for the varying lengths of months and the leap year cycle) and the tourbillion (the rotating escapement and balance wheel cage invented by French watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet, designed to counter the effects of gravity on accuracy). Only a handful of the premier watchmaking houses can successfully manufacture these two complications, so any watch with either mechanism achieves an admirable watchmaking benchmark. Here's a close up photo of the tourbillon complication of the Master Grande Tradition Tourbillon a Quantieme Perpétuel:

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The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Tourbillon a Quantieme Perpétuel features both of these coveted complications and a moon phase display just for good measure. The new Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 987 is the mechanical marvel driving the Master Grande Tradition Tourbillon a Quantieme Perpétuel. It is a self- winding mechanical movement with 47 jewels, 401 individual parts and measuring just 8.15mm in thickness. The Calibre 987 has 48-hour power reserve and a balance wheel beating at 28,800 beats per hour (bph). Of course, the movement is crafted, assembled and decorated by hand by JaegerLeCoultre craftsmen. Thankfully, Jaeger-LeCoultre designed the watch with a sapphire display case- back that affords the ability to observe the intricate details, finishing and decoration of the Calibre 987. The unidirectional self-winding rotor is fashioned from case-matching 18 karat yellow gold, with the central area of the rotor cleverly left open to provide a better, less obscured view of the movement. Geneva stripes are applied to all bridge surface areas, and heat-blued screws are used throughout the movement. Unique to this yellow gold variation of the Master Grande Tradition Tourbillon a Quantieme Perpétuel (limited to just 300 examples) is the implementation of Jaeger-LeCoultre's new silicon escapement. Using silicon instead of traditional steel in the construction of the escapement is an interesting idea—silicon is light, hard, anti-magnetic and corrosion resistant. Perhaps even more important is that silicon is highly resistant to friction—a great enemy of accuracy within a mechanical watch movement.

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The watch is fitted with a special magnification cyclops on the sapphire observation caseback, which allows a better view of the new silicon escapement.

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All the amazing technology in this impressive watch goes to waste if it doesn't come in a package that's easy on the eyes. Fortunately, JaegerLeCoultre does not disappoint in this regard. I have a soft spot in my heart for yellow gold, so the 42mm 18 karat polished yellow gold case (water- resistant to 50 meters) appeals to me.

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Between the gold case lugs is a luxurious alligator strap, fastened with a case-matching deployant clasp. The clasp is particularly well constructed and exudes the quality one expects from this manufacturer and this price point. Despite the somewhat oversized diameter of the case and the heft of the solid construction, I found the Master Grande Tradition Tourbillon a Quantième Perpetuel quite comfortable to wear and perfectly well suited for a wide variety of both dress and casual wardrobe choices.

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A dial that imparts as much information as does the Master Grande Tradition Tourbillon a Quantieme Perpétuel runs the risk of appearing cluttered and can be difficult to read at a glance. But I'm happy to report that the dial of this watch is actually quite legible, with a nicely balanced layout that is both aesthetically pleasing and functional. The upper third of the cream-colored velvet finished dial features three subdials, with the date indicator at 9, the year and month indicators at 12 and the day of the week and moon phase indicators located at 3. The lower portion of the dial exhibits a Clous de Paris hobnail pattern, and an aperture for viewing the tourbillion cage, with a blued seconds hand affixed to the top of the rotating cage. Completing the dial are 18 karat gilded hour markers and matching gilded Dauphine style hands.

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The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Tourbillon a Quantième Perpétuel in yellow gold (Ref. QW500142) carries a retail price of $115,000. Clearly a piece at this level represents the epitome of haute horlogerie—showcasing Jaeger-LeCoultre's considerable expertise in the art and craft of mechanical watchmaking. For those fortunate few with the means to obtain it, this piece brings together the pinnacle of traditional mechanical watch complications (the tourbillion and perpetual calendar) with some of Jaeger-LeCoultre's most recent mechanical watchmaking innovations (such as its new silicon escapement) in a stunningly gorgeous and technically impressive package. Congratulations to Jaeger-LeCoultre on a tremendous achievement.

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