Wednesday, August 28, 2013

On The Wrist: Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Jubilee

There were some less-than flattering words thrown at Jaeger-LeCoultre when they first launched the Master "Ultra-Thin" range. Those words ranged from the tame "that ain't so thin" to the downright nasty "they're lying about them ultra thins." (ed's notes: the vocab has been toned down to suit a wider range of audience) It's as if Jaeger has taken all these criticisms to heart and they're now doing ultra thins that are in fact, actually ultra thin.

To wit: The Master Ultra Thin Jubilee. The name is startling short compared to its Jubilee brethren. But as we have mentioned before here it is a lot more difficult to do a thin watch than a big watch with a ton of complications. This watch is the best example of "watchmaking dexterity" to borrow a term used frequently in PR blurbs. The Master Ultra Thin Jubilee runs a well-proven manual winding movement calibre 849, which is used in the Master Ultra Thin 34 and 38. This movement, at 1.85mm, is relatively thick (Vacheron's ultra thin movement is but 1.55mm) but the whole cased up watch hieght of 4.05mm is a mere 0.05mm thinner than the Vacheron, thus claiming the title of the world's thinnest mechanical watch right now.

The Master Ultra Thin Jubilee pays tribute to a time in the history of the brand - when Mr Jaeger met Mr LeCoultre. It was back around 1903 when Edmond Jaeger challenged watchmakers in Geneva to produce an ultra thin movement of his design, and Jacque-David LeCoultre, grandson of Antoine LeCoultre, said "Challenge accepted!" and in1907 the world's thinnest pocket watch was created. The movement inside (calibre 145), measuring a mere 1.38mm, remains the thinnest movement in the world. This meeting led to the eventual creation of Jaeger-LeCoultre.

The original ultra thin pocket watch from 1907 - Courtesy of Jaeger-LeCoultre
Here's a bit of maths trivia. You take away the movement height of 1.85mm away from the total watch height of 4.05mm and what does that leave you? The answer is not a whole lot! But the better answer is 2.2mm, in which you still need to cram in a crystal, two hands, a dial and a case back. If you think about it there is very little room to work with, and this watch is assembled by the top watchmakers in the high complications workshop at the Manufacture. The case is what Jaeger calls a "knife-edge" case meaning there isn't actually a 'case' so to speak. It's that thin.

Even though it is made from the same extra-white platinum as the other watches in the Jubilee collection , it is extremely light and you almost don't feel it when it is on the wrist. The blue alligator strap goes really well with the watch, but unfortunately the one we looked at was a prototype, and production watches will be (and has been) delivered with a shiny black croco strap, making it very, very dressy. (I'd try to find a nice dark blue strap to swap the watch back onto)

This piece is a limited edition of 880 pieces worldwide, and a snip at only $18,900. We think at this price they'll be gone as fast as the watch is thin.

Friday, August 23, 2013

LeJour Valjoux 7734 Chrono - 2 Years On...

So I thought I'd open up the LeJour to see the Valjoux 7734 movement within. It's not the prettiest movement - far from it. but there's something quite honest about it. it's not pretending to be something it's not. Just an honest, workhorse of a movement that endeavours to provide relatively reliable timekeeping for many many years. It is surprisingly refreshing to see something like this after we've been spoilt by the glamourous sapphire crystal case back, bevelled edges, geneva stripes and blued screws. It's the basic white tee and jeans of movements.

The watch has been on rotation for the past 2 years. You can see the first post here. Opening the watch up wasn't my intention. I'd just wanted to change the strap but thought I might as well have a look at the movement while I was at it. I haven't worn this watch all that much, but I do still like it as much as the day I first acquired it. It has a certain charm and warmth that always brings a smile to my face when I see it. I still haven't bothered with checking its accuracy. To be honest there are only 2 hands so it's not like I'll notice any deviation (unless it's something like a minute a day).

Thanks to the shortish lugs the watch wears quite well on my wrist. It is tall, but not unmanageable. Having swapped it onto regular straps it is actually very comfortable.

I'm happy to report that in the two years under my care the watch has remained more or less in the same condition. The case back seal looks to have seen better days when I opened the watch up. I might get around to having the glass and back seal replaced one of these days, but that would be more to keep the dust out than making the watch water resistant. Other than that it was just a good excuse for me to practice my macro photography skills...

Monday, August 19, 2013

3D Printed Watch From rvnDSGN

It was only a matter of time before this happened right? You can now get a 3D printed watch! And not made of plastic either. rvnDSGN has managed to create a watch printed in 3D out of titanium powder. These are laser-sintered and the watch can be had in a choice of white, grey or black dial.

Alas it still runs a fairly tradition ETA quartz movement. (Imagine if even the movements were printed? That would shake the watch industry up a little!) The watches are made in the States and are fitted with NATO style watch straps.

Here is the official blurb from the website: "rvnDSGN is a boutique watch brand established in 2011 as the vision of award winning industrial designer zach raven. rvnDSGN timepieces are the first of their kind, completely built using the latest in 3D additive manufacturing technology. designed in solid titanium, one of the newest and most precise methods of 3D printing, the beauty of the manufacturing process shows the story of its creation through subtle grain on the case, allowing each watch to be unique. each rvnDSGN timepieces is completely handmade in the United States per order; this takes a little longer, however the customer is buying a watch made specifically for them. we use only the highest quality materials including; Swiss ETA 7-jewel movements, laser-sintered titanium, and handmade leather nubuck straps."

At $600 a pop these watches aren't cheap for a quartz titanium watch, but then again, what prices the novelty factor of a 3D printed watch?

(All images taken from

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

On The Wrist: Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Tourbillon Cylindrique a Quantieme Perpetuel Jubilee

(On the wrist with AUD pricing)

We have a real treat for you, our dear tarts readers, in this on-the-wrist post. Jaeger-LeCoultre Australia was kind enough to show us two watches from the Jubilee collection (Alas no Gyro 3... sigh) but even just having the opportunity to see these watches in the flesh is quite a treat in itself already. Let's have a look at the tourbillon first.

One thing we find is that sometimes Jaeger gives their watches really long names. I mean, the name for this watch will run the length of a page. It's almost as much as what Rolex puts on their dials. However, it was pointed out to me that although lengthy the name fully describes what the watch is. So if you break it down, it tells you the brand, the collection, the sub-collection and what sort of complication the watch has, and in this case, a perpetual calendar with a cylindrical tourbillon.

It is a stunning watch in person. The press images does it no justice at all. at around 42mm in diametre and about 13mm thick, it's really not that big a watch at all, and wears extremely comfortable on the wrist. How Jaeger manages to cram all those complications into such a relatively small space is beyond me. Perpetual calendar takes up room. cylindrical tourbillon takes up even more room. It's a full rotor automatic movement too, so that also, takes up room. I'm again reminded that this is exactly what is achievable due to the fully integrated design/engineering/manufacturing process. This watch I am told is 100% made in-house (apart from the strap - as alligators don't fare all that well in a frozen lake) and it is the first watch to combine a flying tourbillon with a cylindrical balance spring thus creating a timepiece of great precision. (not going to get into precision vs accuracy here. Perhaps another post)

The perpetual calendar is pre-programmed to the year 2100, and extremely easy to use. There is one recessed pusher at the side of the case at the 8:00 position that allows you to advance the calendar by one day per push. No need to figure out which part of the calendar to adjust first. However, if you do go past the actual day, you'll just have to wait till you catch up with the watch in real life, as you can turn the calendar backwards.

The watch design itself is inspired by 19th century pocket watches, and the dial features a grained finish which is quite unique but doesn't have applied indices. The layout is well balanced and symmetrical, as you'd expect from a true Manufacture. The layered dial may seem gimmicky but personally it gives the dial more depth and adds a bit more interest. I'd also prefer an actual rotating moonphase disc rather than a hand but that's really just nitpicking.

Overall it is a fantastic watch. And it is also extremely great value (relatively speaking). If you think about it, you are getting a double combo of cylindrical tourbillon with perpetual calendar, in a limited-to-180 pieces platinum case for only $170k AUD. Have a look at other comparable platinum cased complication watches from other Haute Horlogerie brands and you'll see just how much of a bargain this is. But be quick- at this price those 180 pieces aren't going to last.