Jaeger-LeCoultre – Unique Auction

11.29.11

  • Cadran Bleu 412
France's biggest auction house, Artcurial, presents 250 unique watches and clocks, covering nearly 180 years of Jaeger-LeCoultre history.

The sale, entitled the "Jaeger-LeCoultre - Unique Auction", will constitute the richest collection of Jaeger-LeCoultre timepieces ever sold at auction. All of the brand's iconic collections will be featured, in addition to more limited but no less sought-after timepieces, including military watches, watches with the winding mechanism on the case back, lids or complete calendars, miniature mystery clocks, Duoplan étrier watches and countless other technical and stylistic marvels.

In 2003, Artcurial organised the first auction entirely dedicated to Jaeger-LeCoultre. Eight years later, in response to the demand from brand enthusiasts and aficionados of fine watchmaking, this exceptional initiative was repeated.

Watch icons are born from the greatest inventions… Discover them!

1958. Geophysic Chronometer, model 2985 Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic Chronometer was created in 1958 on the occasion of the Manufacture’s 125th anniversary. It was intended for the scientists of the International Geophysical Year, an unprecedented scientific operation. In the middle of the Cold War, several thousand researchers from 67 countries combined forces to lay the groundwork for sharing knowledge in the Earth sciences. They set up numerous bases in the Arctic. With its precision, toughness and resistance to magnetic fields, the Geophysic Chronometer accompanied their explorations. Along with the famous E168 model, the Artcurial sale will be offering an extremely rare version, which has not been seen at auction for over 10 years: the model 2985, dubbed Geophysic Luxe, of which only 103 were made. Its Jaeger-LeCoultre 478BWSbr calibre offers every technical device to guarantee the greatest accuracy: indirect central seconds, stop second, Glucydur balance wheel, swan-neck adjustment system (with regulator spring and setting screws), shock absorbers, precision end curves, anti-magnetic escapement, unbreakable spring, 17 jewels, an 18-carat yellow-gold case, silvered dial, appliqué hour-markers and gold hands.

Circa 1890. Minute repeater pocket watch In 1870, its mastery of precision engineering allowed LeCoultre & Cie to revolutionise watchmaking by making small runs of calibres with complications. New manufacturing methods allowed great strides to be made in the reliability of complication watches. The Manufacture soon became renowned for its minute repeaters. In just a few decades it brought out over 200 different calibres with this classic complication, one of the most sophisticated in the sector. Created at the turn of the 1890s, the hunter pocket watch being auctioned by Artcurial houses the 33-jewel LeCoultre 19RVS calibre in its finely guilloché-worked pink-gold case. Made in nickel silver, the minute repeater movement has an escapement in the grand tradition: bimetallic cut balance wheel, precision end curves, double plate, visible levers, and straight-line lever escapement. The engraved back opens to reveal the classically decorated movement protected by a very fine domed glass: Côtes de Genève, angled bridges and screws, and mirror-polished gongs. The visible winding crown is distinguished by its wolf teeth gears. The grand feu enamel dial bears painted Roman and Arabic numerals. The gilded hands are in Louis XVI style.

Circa 1900. Enamel pendant watch The Jaeger-LeCoultre Manufacture brings together some 180 different watchmaking specialities necessary for the complete design and manufacture of watches: from the most recent technologies to the oldest and rarest crafts. The enamel miniature painting studio is home to skills that have all but vanished. It adjoins the engraving studio, where artisans delicately hollow out the metal to embellish the most prestigious watches and movements. In the purest Art Nouveau style, this pendant watch being auctioned by Artcurial has a polychrome engraved, chased and enamelled 18-carat yellow-gold case. The grand feu enamel dial is marked with metallic markers integrated into the enamel and painted Arabic numerals. With its cylinder escapement, the LeCoultre 9HN calibre barely reaches 2 cm in diameter. Its half-hidden “LeCoultre” winding system was protected by a patent filed in 1894.

2011. Reverso à éclipse by Zep, unique piece Personalised by Philippe Chappuis, alias Zep, creator of the cartoon character Titeuf, to celebrate Reverso’s 80th anniversary, one Reverso à Eclipse will be offered by Jaeger-LeCoultre in the Artcurial catalogue. The proceeds of the sale will be donated to a charitable association, the AMM (The Monaco Association against Muscular Dystrophy). A small wheel above the crown draws aside the two sides of the dial to reveal a drawing especially made by Zep: Titeuf slipping through a clockwork mechanism, a nod to Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times. This image was reproduced in miniature by an enamel craftsman of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Manufacture. Over 80 hours of intense concentration and a number of kiln firings were necessary to apply and fix the colours laid on with minuscule brushes. Encased in 18-carat pink gold, this unique watch houses the Jaeger-LeCoultre 849 Calibre, with a total thickness not exceeding 1.82 mm.

1933. Blue dial Reverso, model 201 The Reverso watch was created in response to a challenge set by British officers based in India who wanted a watch capable of surviving the shocks endured during a match of polo, their favourite sport. The idea is as simple as it is brilliant: with a discreet movement, the wearer of the watch can pivot the case to protect its dial. An Art Deco classic, a watchmaking icon, the Reverso has found favour with both men and women. Produced in hundreds of different models, it has become a prized collector’s item. During the 1930s, the Manufacture’s clients were able to choose the dial which adorns their Reverso from several tens of models. The white, silvered or black dials were the most popular but a few pioneering spirits chose coloured dials: brown, red or blue. Artcurial is offering an extremely rare Reverso from 1933, the model 201 with a blue lacquered dial, with stamped hour-markers and minute rail. This steel model has a LeCoultre 410 calibre, the earliest LeCoultre Reverso movement.

2011. Atmos 561 by Marc Newson, unique piece Invented in 1928 by the Neuchâtel engineer Jean-Léon Reutter, developed and manufactured by Jaeger-LeCoultre, the Atmos perpetual clock flirts with one of humanity’s oldest dreams: perpetual motion. Drawing its energy from the slightest changes of temperature, it consumes 65 million times less energy than a 15-Watt light bulb. A change of one degree is enough to run the clock for 48 hours. Having served as the official gift of the Swiss government for over half a century, the Atmos has become an emblem of Swiss watchmaking excellence, and a cult object for its many fans. The Artcurial sale will offer several very rare models from the 1930s. For its part, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Manufacture is offering a unique piece especially made for this sale, with the proceeds to be donated to a charitable association, the AMM (The Monaco Association against Muscular Dystrophy). The Atmos 561 by Marc Newson is housed in a special Baccarat crystal case the making of which required a number of special operations, in particular the technique of glass frosting, followed by the application of several acid baths to obtain a sand-blasted crystal effect.

1938. “Tuile” Duoplan, model 18008 The wristwatch took over in the interwar years. It offered a major advantage over the pocket watch: it allowed faster access to the time. But it posed a thorny problem: miniaturization. This is because the smaller the mechanism becomes, the harder it becomes to offer precision, reliability and resistance. The Duoplan watch offered an original solution: by overlaying the movement’s components on two levels, it was able to retain a large balance wheel. In other words, it reconciled elegance and fine watchmaking. One of the Duoplan watches offered by Artcurial perfectly symbolises the marriage of elegance and technique in the service of women. The case is an extension of the 18-carat pink-gold “chain” type bracelet. The glass protecting the copper-coloured Art Deco dial is shaped like a Roman roof-tile, a particularity which earned this watch the name “tuile” (French for “tile”). For even greater aesthetic purity, the crown is hidden beneath the watch. This model is one of the very first to be signed Jaeger-LeCoultre, as it was made only one year after the fusion of the two names LeCoultre and Jaeger. 11,107 Jaeger-LeCoultre 403 calibres, one of which powers this watch, were manufactured between 1927 and 1966 – an annual rate of less than 300.

1959. Memovox Deep Sea, model E857 In the aftermath of the Second World War, the young French ensign Jacques-Yves Cousteau invented the aqua-lung with the help of Emile Gagnant, marking the start of the history of leisure diving. Clubs sprung up everywhere and the equipment improved. Jaeger-LeCoultre contributed to the development of this new sport by creating the first diving watch fitted with an alarm in 1959. The Memovox Deep Sea’s alarm served to remind divers that it was time to start their return to the surface. Memovox Deep Sea, model E857, a watch made up of 1060 pieces, created between 1959 and 1962. Jaeger-LeCoultre was to produce a replica of this legendary watch in 2011. One model to be sold by Artcurial was intended for the American market, as indicated by the LeCoultre signature. Long exposure to the sun has changed its colour slightly, giving it a chocolate tint, making it even rarer. Water-resistant to 100 metres, its steel case houses the Jaeger-LeCoultre 815 calibre, the first automatic alarm calibre in watchmaking history. The alarm time is indicated by a rotating inner disk.

1967. Memovox Polaris, model E859 The Memovox Polaris, of which 1714 were made between 1965 and 1970, remains Jaeger-LeCoultre’s best known diving watch. The project took shape in the wake of the 1959 Memovox Deep Sea. The Manufacture’s new creation had an unusually large case for the time: 42 mm! One year after the launch of the first models, the Memovox Polaris was fitted with a new system to increase the volume of the alarm under water. A triple case back prevented the sound from being damped by the diver’s rubber suit. It consisted of an inner case in bronze for the resonance of the alarm, a waterproof back and an outer back with 16 round openings. Manufactured in 1967, the Memovox Polaris watch to be sold by Artcurial, model E859, is among the first models fitted with the patented Compressor triple back. It also offers an inner bidirectional rotating flange, luminescent hour-markers and hands and a date aperture. Composed of 241 parts, the self-winding Jaeger-LeCoultre 825 calibre is equipped with a hammer rotor. Although perfected over the years, today’s Jaeger-LeCoultre alarm watches still use a similar alarm system.