Le-Coultre was founded in 1833 by Antoine LeCoultre, and the company merged with Jaeger S.A in 1937 to become Jaeger-LeCoultre. Based in Le Sentier, Switzerland, Jaeger-LeCoultre are responsible for some of the most iconic timepieces of the 20th century. The company boasts over one thousand movements, including the world's smallest movement and a timepiece of near-perpetual movement. Popular timepieces under the hammer include the Reverso, Atmos, Memovox, Polaris, Joaillerie 101, Duoplan and Futurematic to name a few. In 2000, Jaeger Le-Coultre was bought by Richemont, and continues to produce exceptional and highly sought-after timepieces to the present day.
Perhaps one of the most iconic and collectable of Jaeger-LeCoultre's designs, the Reverso, patented as "a watch which can slide on its base and flip over on itself" was introduced in 1931. With a sleek rectangular case, clean lines and geometric appeal born from the Art Deco movement, this eye-catching timepiece was developed to withstand polo matches of British officers in India. With an enduring style that is just as wearable today as it was nearly a century ago, these pieces are highly sought after by collectors at auction.
The Duoplan was created in 1925, and was named after its movement that was contstructed on two levels. Introduced during a time that miniature watches were in vogue, this was a technically excellent timepiece that stood apart from its competition with its reliability and elegance. The Duoplan was one of the first gem-set watches, and in 1929 boasted a sapphire crystal, a first in watchmaking. The Duoplan was the forerunner of the later Joaillerie 101.
The Joaillerie 101 is marvelled for its small size. Designed in 1928 and taking the title of the world's smallest watch movement, the 101 comprises 98 components that weigh less than a single gram, the calibre 101 has continued to feature in beautiful wristwatches for ladies. Queen Elizabeth II wore a Jaeger-LeCoultre calibre 101 wristwatch for her coronation in 1953.
Jaeger-LeCoultre has a long association with military forces. Famously one of the 'Dirty Dozen' manufacturers selected by the British Army to produce watches for the soldiers in the 1940s, these pieces remain highly collectable and sell brilliantly at auction. Together with Buren, Cyma, Eterna, Grana, Lemania, Longines, IWC, Omega, Record, Timor and Vertex, Jaeger-LeCoultre were tasked with creating manual wind wristwatches inscribed W.W.W (Watch Wrist Waterproof) to support troops through World War Two.
Above: A WWII Jaeger-LeCoultre 'Dirty Dozen' wristwatch - with identifying 'WWW' as well as broad arrow markings to both case back and dial. Jaeger-LeCoultre produced around 6,000 of the 150,000 watches exported to Britain in 1945. The broad arrow markings signified government property and WWW stood for 'Watch Wrist Waterproof.' Created for the British Army, these timepieces also bear the manufacturers serial number, together with the letter code for each manufacturer - F for Jaeger-LeCoultre, followed by the military store number.
Jaeger-LeCoultre were also responsible for a wide selection of timepieces produced for the RAF, notably those marked with '6B / 346' and '6B /159' mark 11 timepieces produced throughout the 1940s, accompanying thousands of servicemen through the horrors of World War Two.
Above: A WW2 RAF Pilot's wristwatch, reference 6B/159. The RAF stores number 6B/159 together with broad arrow distinguishes these timepieces. Ordered by the RAF circa 1943 for pilots and navigators, these watches were produced with both a black dial and luminescent markers, as well as a white dial with black markers. Another variation of the 6B/159 watches features a Weems rotatable steel bezel, and all featuring the famed calibre 470 manual wind movement.
The Futurematic was released between 1951 and 1959 as the world's first fully automatic watch. It was also the first wristwatch without a crown to the side but flat to the case back, enabling a sleek silhouette. As the name suggests, these thoroughly modern watches were groundbreaking at the time and good examples are sought-after by collectors.
The Memovox, or 'Voice of Memory' watch was released in 1950. This timepiece had a striking mechanism allowing alarms to be set for waking up, appointments etc. In 1956 a Memovox with a calibre 815 became the first self-winding alarm watch with a chiming hammer mechanism enabling the watch to alert the wearer to a set time, activated by the triangular marker adorning the central dial. Later in 1959, the Memovox Deep Sea was launched with a specific alarm reminding divers to ascend.
It is the diver's Memovox watches that sell particularly well at auction, the 1960's 'Memovox Polaris Alarm' diver's watches are incredibly sought-after by keen collectors. Featuring a large compressor case, black dial and luminous markers, the Polaris Alarm watches can fetch thousands under the hammer. Added complications to the Memovox function in such as a world-time, triple calendar, moon phase add to the rarity of these pieces, as well as interesting dial materials and features. Master Control Memovox watches will always command a premium, as well as mid century pieces in good condition.
The Atmos pendulum was invented in 1928 and patented in 1936-7, this groundbreaking pendulum only requires a variation of one degree in temperature to power the mechanism for two days. Described as classical yet avant-garde, the Atmos clocks and watches are highly collectable. The Atmos clocks derives energy from both temperature and atmospheric pressure changes in the environment and therefore can run for years without any human intervention.
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