Last month in the tiny Swiss village of Le Sentier, the 190-year-old watchmaker, Jaeger-LeCoultre, released a collection of seventeen meticulously restored watches, coined "The Collectibles", from 1925 to 1974 to highlight the brand's incredible innovation...and here's what you need to know:
1. From the brand's inception in 1833, the production has remained in Le Sentier
Jaeger-LeCoultre started as a caliber and parts maker, slowly evolving into a watchmaker in the 1920s, but always maintaining the same location. What was originally a farm, Antoine LeCoultre established his own atelier, laying the literal groundwork for what would then turn into one of the world's leading horological manufacturers.
2. Honoring the Past was Key
Heritage is an imperative element in whatever JLC does and this was no exception. At the manufacturer, a blueprint consists for every watch ever designed thus creating a foundation for The Collectibles from each piece's inception.
3. Condition was of Highest Priority
To maintain the original design, none of the seventeen watches have polished cases: the dials, cases, and calibers have each been restored to their original appearance and working condition, preserving the historical significance. One piece in particular demonstrates the importance, a 1968 Master Mariner Deep Sea Barracuda, had it been polished (or altered), there would be no original example in existence.
4. Restoring These Watches is a Skill Only 10 Craftsmen Have
With over 1,000 employees at the company's manufacturer, only ten men and women have completed the additional training at La Grande Maison required to lead the restoration efforts of The Collectibles, making them not only skilled craftsman, but the most skilled in Switzerland. Interestingly, the restoration efforts included using tools from the '20s, when the company first started making their own watches.
5. The Brand's Manufacturer Being Fully Integrated Made The Collectibles Possible
Jaeger-LeCoultre's CEO, Catherine Rénier comments, "The fully integrated manufacturer enables us to run this project. It is quite complex in terms of restoration..but we can do it on our own with the resources and the knowledge gathered. It's really a tribute to the manufacturer and the spirit of invention."
6. Each Model was Handpicked, Sourced, and Restored by JLC's Heritage Department
Each of the seventeen watches selected marks an emblematic moment in JLC's watchmaking history but also automatic watches from 1925 to 1974, known as "the golden age of watchmaking".
7. The 20's and 30's Was A Turning Point For Jaeger-LeCoultre
The decade that saw the innovation and invention of Caliber 101, the Reverso, and the Atmos, was arguably the most significant. Jaeger-LeCoultre's Director of Heritage, Matthieu Sauret states, "It's the moment where we shift from watchmakers for watchmakers to watchmakers in our own right."
8. Lesser Known Models Were Purposely Chosen
9. The Collectibles Follows the Relationship Between Man and Watch
As lifestyles changed over the timeframe highlighted in The Collectibles, so did how one wore a watch. Catherine Rénier comments, "After the Futurematic, watches became tools. Watches like the Memovox Parking and the Geophysic are meant to go with your life, less of a status watch and more a watch for the man that is out in the world working and traveling."
10. Being a Caliber Maker From Day 1, Still Drives JLC's Innovation
Having made calibers for both Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet, the brand still credits its spirit of innovation. Launched in 1929, the Calibre 101, the smallest mechanical calibre ever made, is still used in today's high jewelry pieces, almost 100 years later.
11. The Innovation Drives the Brand's Balance Between Past and Present
With over 1,000 movements and 400 patents, Jaeger-LeCoultre is driven to maintain the maison's heritage but also its desire to create something new. Having a near-200 year portfolio of innovative ideas fuels a natural creative process around calibers and design, balancing past and present perfectly.
12. The Collectibles Represent JLC's Longevity
With the earliest piece in The Collectibles being a diamond Duoplan from 1925, the timeless design and quality are evident. With so many accessories having a minimal lifespan, this 98-year-old watch is quite literally still kicking (or ticking). The 17 watches represent the brand's ability to transcend time with design but also the craftsmanship of something made to last more than just one lifetime.
13. Recognition Through Heritage
JLC is the definition of "if you know you know", it is certainly one of the quieter brands in Richemont's portfolio but the brand known for being one of "quiet luxury" is finally finding its voice with more than just the watch community. The Collectibles marks just one of the brand's new initiatives to highlight its savior faire, with others being the art-deco-themed Reverso Café in New York and The Stellar Odyssey exhibition in Dubai.
14. The Watches in The Collectibles Are For Sale
Coming with extracts from the very archive in the place in which it was designed, twelve of the watches will be available on Jaeger-LeCoultre's website but also on display in a traveling exhibition through 2023, also commemorating the brand's 190th anniversary.
15. The Watches Were Restored to Last
In the spirit of not only watchmaking, but also sustainability, the seventeen watches in The Collectibles have been given a second life. (Catherine) Rénier notes, "Our phones will die in two years, but these watches have had many wrists and many more to come, that's the beauty of our world, it is timeless".
16. To commemorate The Collectibles, Jaeger-LeCoultre released a coffee table book
Each chapter dedicated to an in-depth detailing one of the seventeen watches, this near-600 page book beautifully marks not only a time in horology but a time in history, available through Mr. Porter.
17. Vintage and its Craft Should Be Celebrated
Having been a collector of vintage, it is incredible to see a brand celebrate and showcase their vintage pieces. The Collectibles is significant and represents a shift in the watch industry, in that vintage and heritage collections are not remade but restored and promoted by the brand's themselves and let's hope it is here to stay.
Learned more about The Collectibles at Jaeger-LeCoultre's website, here.