20 May 2017

Vintage Jaeger-LeCoultre watch

Stainless steel case, applied numerals, sword hands and a sub dial seconds hand.

By In Gear, Style 4 min read

Jaeger-LeCoultre is a brand that has been on my wish-list for a while. They have an exquisite reputation as one of the great watch brands, a favorite of watchmakers everywhere for over a century. LeCoultre has existed since 1833 and was specialized in creating the most refined mechanical movements, which they sold to other high-end brands such as Cartier and Patek Philippe to fit into cases. After a merger with Jaeger, a company that was known for its pocket watches, the company became known as Jaeger-LeCoultre (JLC) and start selling entire watches.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso

The most well-known JLC model is the Reverso, a watch from the art-deco period. It’s unique feature is a case that could be flipped over – reversed – to shield the fragile glass from being damaged while playing polo. Somewhat pretentious, but extremely pretty. And that’s basically a good description of JLC in general. I’d actually assumed that I wouldn’t own a JLC for a while, because many of their models – even the vintage ones – start at prices that just are not options for a recent college graduate.

And that’s when I found this particular watch on an auction site. The model is not part of any specific model line or family, but is just one of many dress watches JLC created in the late ’40s and early ’50s. What makes this an interesting model is the oversized 36mm case – considered a women’s size nowadays, but when the watch was made this was an extremely big men’s size. The lightly patinated off-white dial catches the light beautifully, changing shade gently depending on the light. It features silver applied numerals on the even numbers and applied arrow point hour indices on the even numbers. A slightly sunk oversized subdial at 6 ‘o clock tracks the seconds, while the brandname Jaeger-leCoultre is written in a tiny font at the top of the dial. The silver hands have the typical JLC sword shape, which feature on many other JLC watches like the Reverso and the Geophysic too. The watch just breathes simplicity and elegance.

My vintage Jaeger-LeCoultre watch

On the other hand, the design of this case is very dated. Modern watches feature a screwed back that will help keep the watch watertight, but this model is old enough to have nothing more than a friction-fit lid to keep the elements out. Definitely not a watch to take into the water, but it’s also really not even a good idea to wear this watch out in the rain.

LeCoultre cal469/1c movement

The watch runs on a LeCoultre cal469/1c, an excellent movement which has origins in the ’30s but does not have as much pedigree to be known on its own. The movement is in excellent state, showing none of the signs of wear and tear that you’d expect on a watch of this age. Often these older watches have been serviced and repaired repeatedly throughout the years, usually by watchmakers who considered these things tools and not luxury items. But every screw in this movement still looks mint, like it’s never been taken out of its case.

A JLC wristshot

Considering its age this watch is in remarkably good condition. Of course it’s more than 70 years old and has been worn, so the scratches on the case and the patina on the dial come as no surprise. But the entire watch is still looking good, the patina gives it some character without looking dirty and damaged. The plexiglass crystal did need some tender care, but nothing some Polywatch couldn’t rub out.

The non-JLC crown

The only disappointment is the crown. Because this is a mechanical handwinder, crowns are the components that wear out the fastest. Every day the watch needs to be wound for it to keep working, and every day you’ll touch and rub off a little bit more of the crown. In my case the original crown has at some point been replaced by a non-JLC crown, which does not fit the rest of the watch at all. I’ve had it replaced with a stainless steel model, but it does sting a little not to have a matching original JLC crown for this watch.

I’m pretty sure I’m going to enjoy wearing this little beauty on the wrist!

(Original post in Dutch)

What do you think?