An interesting page of JLC History: Automatic watches.

Jul 16, 2013,21:55 PM

When we do our home work on  the topic of automatic movements, we learn that this technical solution was found since the end of the 18th Century, by a certain Mr Sarton, in 1778, to be precise, very close followed by Mr A.L  Breguet, in 1782.
But when it comes to wristwatches, the automatic solution came much later, as we had to wait till 1922 to see Mr Léon Leroy making the first prototype... Which seemed to have never been  in production.
The first automatic wristwatch to have been released   had a famous and well known name, for all the watch lovers, Harwood:
Here is what I wrote about this Harwood, in my dedicated review on the Futurematic:
" The Harwood was made in collaboration with Frederic Emile Blancpain, and was presented at the Basel Fair in 1926.

The interest of this watch is capital, as it is the first automatic wrist watch in the world!

At this moment, it was a 12 hours ( !! ) Power Reserve, And...And...we're coming back at our intial topic, no crown to change the hour nor to wind the watch..."
We can't say that Jaeger-LeCoultre was a precursor in the domain of Automatic Watches, as they came 20 years after ( 1946 ) , with their own self winding time keeper.
Still, it would be interesting to know who else offered such a technical solution at this time, which is, nowadays, the most  used and seen in our wirstwatches.
I decided to sum the JLC Automatic watches to 6 examples, 6 watches which were a milestone, at their time, in a chronological presentation. 
Let's see them in the detail:
1/  The first JLC Automatic movement, the Cal 476 ( since 1946 ).
 We're far from the Harwood, with a much  larger power reserve, which is about 40 hours.
The finish is not awesome, the decoration is not unpleasant, the movement is accurate, and reliable, so accurate that it  was used as a Chronometre, 12 years later, but we'll have the time to  see that, later...
2/  The Powerwind, Ref E 163.
 An evolution of the Cal 476, introducing a complication which will almost never leave the watches from the Manufacture, The Power Reserve ( Reserve De Marche ) from 1948 to 1959.
Indeed, Jaeger- LeCoultre still has the watch in the catalog, whose name is Reserve De Marche, with a more modern, yet a bit retro, presentation.
Please note that the Powerwind / Powermatic came in several references, cases, sizes and dials, mostly for the US market, which can be distinguished by their smaller size and the LeCoultre signature on the dial.
Here, an European E 163 in a 37 mm case:
Its movement, the Cal 481, is an evolution of the Cal 476, the original automatic low beat movement:
3/  Futurematic Ref E 501.
A totally new and dedicated movement came from JLC for the Futurematic, the Cal 497.
Reading the old documents is a great source of informations as you learn that this movement has the following virtues.
- A larger balance, which goal is to provide a greater accuracy.
- The swinging weight is locked once the watch is sufficiently wound.
- When you slide the crown, the movement hacks, which allows a precise setting of the hands, coordinated to a radio time, for example.
- An ingenuous system which provides a 6 hours power reseve and allows the watch to immediately run when you put it on your wrist, after it stopped.
Aesthetically speaking, different cases and dials were produced, but all share this original display, the lack of the visible crown, and these great  movements ( Cal 497 / 817 / 837 ).
Its movement:
4/ The Ref E 329:
This is a watch you won't often see, here or there.
What I know is that is was produced for a a few years, from 1957 to 1962, in a small batch: 4121 pieces in Stainless steel,  and also in yellow or rose gold.
This is a decently sized watch (  35 mm ) with a sober and elegant case whose orignality lies in the date: Black on white for even days, white on black for odd days.
As for the movement, nothing exceptional, we have here the Cal 813, which beats at 19800 vibrations per  hourt,  displaying  the date and a small second. As you can see, it is a bumper movement.
5/  The Memovox E 855:
You will pardon me for this  light anachronism, as the E 855 was not the first Automatic Alarm Wristwatch, as it housed a Cal 825 while the first one was the Cal 815, introduced in 1956 (  The Cal 825 was introduced in 1959 ).
So, the first Reference to house the Cal 815 is an E 853 ( 1956 ), the second one being the ... Deep Sea Alarm, ref E 857 ( 1959 ).
The difference between the Cal 815 and the Cal 825?
One doesn't display the date ( 815 ) while the other does ( 825 ).
Anyway, JLC released the first Automatic Alarm Watch, since 1956, which justifies that we mention the Memovox, here.
The Memovox... A timeless watch, which is still in the catalog, after a break of a bit ore than 10 years, which is nothing in a 61 years old model.
A model which knew so many iterations and versions that it would be an endless thema of collection.
The watch
 The Cal 825:
6/  Geomatic Ref E 398:
I recently discovered that the Geomatic was not the first automatic  chronometer made by the Grande Maison, the first one being the P 476/ 3, which was a bumper movement.
The Cal 881, born in 1961,  is very different. The bumper has been replaced for a more modern 360° rotor, winding in both directions, beating at 19800 vibrations per hour, and  submitted to the COSC, as a good chronometer it is.
There was an impressive variations of cases (  round / tonneau ), showing different lugs, too, and I don't even mention the dials.
The Geomatic is a very elegant watch, in a certain way,  more elegant than the " Macho " Geophysic, the two most known JLC Chronometers;
The watch:
The Cal 881:
I could have included some other watches, of course, such as the Mystery / Galaxy, or the last Vintage Chronometer mad made by JLC, the (in)famous Cal 906,  but these one are the dign representant of the Manufacture production, at this time, and I had to make a choice, a selection, here.
I wouldn't close this topic without sharing some thoughts, about these Automatic movements, in the " Grande Maison " history.
I have to say that I have mixed feelings with these automatic movements.
In the Fifties, they became very popular, and the " big  names "  of the moment all offered their own vision  to their respective clientèle.
Indeed, it was very seducing to think that the watch could live with you, without having to wind it every day.
Intellectually, it was certainly a good idea.
At the beginning of its life, the automatic movement peacefully co existed with their manual " brothers ".
In a few cases, I would even say that it was not thinkable to have another caliber than an automatic one.
Could you imagine a manual winding  Futurematic? Me, not: Futurematic sounds much better than Futuremanual.
They were an interesting technical improvement for some watches, too, like the Diving watches.
Winding on a daily basis a diving watch is not good for the seal, so there were two possibilities: An 8 Day movement, or a self winding one.
BUT isn't there a price to pay?
More and more, the automatic movements take the path on the manual, which we can see, still nowadays.
When you compare both the manual and the automatic, I'd say that the last is more functional, when the ifrst could be very pleasant to look at.
On an aesthical point of view, I don't see ANY Vintage JLC automatic movement which can compete with the beauty of a Cal P 478 BWSBr ( Geophysic ), a Cal 479 ( Military WWW ), a Cal 488 ( Mark 11 ), a Cal 470 or 450 ( Mark 7 ), and, Creme de la Creme, the famous Cal 484 / 494 ( Triple Dates ) for example.
The Elusive Geophysic movement:
With the automatic, did we go from  beauty to functionality?
Once again, this question is very actual...
Food for thought.
Looking forward to reading your comments,
This message has been edited by amanico on 2013-07-16 21:57:11 This message has been edited by amanico on 2013-07-22 07:24:21

More posts: GeophysicJaeger LeCoultreMemovoxMemovox E 855

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re: History

 By: DRMW : July 16th, 2013-22:33
Cool to see an evolution of the brand. It would be interesting to time them and check accuracy improvements as the manufacture evovled over the years. -MW

About accuracy.

 By: amanico : July 16th, 2013-22:35
A well adjusted Cal 881 / 883 is very good, in terms of accuracy, and can easily compete with current JLC movements. But we have to keep in mind that the Master Tourbillon won the Chronometry contest, in 2009, with some splendid results. Best, Ming. Nicol... 

Another gem of a post

 By: Ares501 - Mr Green : July 17th, 2013-01:10
from Laboratory of General Alladin :) Marvelous photos and info All the best Damjan P.S. I think that it will be intersting to see blommans input ;)

Well, let's see what Blomman has under his sleeve... ;)

 By: blomman Mr Blue : July 18th, 2013-13:55
The Futurmatic you know... The E855 you know... The Geomatic you konw... Hm... And the Powermatic you know very well...! ;) This one is new in the forum, I never showed this here before... This one is brand new (to me) with help from a dear friend. Case s...  

Wow! Your P 476 looks a lot like mine!

 By: amanico : July 18th, 2013-14:02
And great to see that you got the E 329! Surprises, surprises! Best, my friend. Nicolas

Moving out from the Memo...

 By: blomman Mr Blue : July 19th, 2013-00:10
Into Autos? ;) Working several themes right now... Hopefully I will be able to show some here before end of summer! :) Best Blomman

Yes! That is the fun part! ;)

 By: blomman Mr Blue : July 19th, 2013-12:24
The journey even including some Reversos! :) Best Blomman ...  

Your latest adition

 By: Ares501 - Mr Green : July 19th, 2013-02:25
deserves a cigar ;) Best my dear friend Yours Damjan

That is a great idée! ;)

 By: blomman Mr Blue : July 19th, 2013-12:25
Thank you for all your help and support, dear friend! :) Best Blomman

I like your 'never seen before'

 By: Clavi : July 19th, 2013-03:41
[Quote Blomman] This one is new in the forum, I never showed this here before... Well, I think this other one was never showed before... (sorry for the bad iphone pic, I just happened to have the watch and book at hand... but not the camera !) ...  

Your watch is a bit too much to the left... ;)

 By: blomman Mr Blue : July 19th, 2013-12:27
Hey Clavi ! Nice photo, love the backdrop! :) Best Blomman

Thank you Nicolas for another beautifully writen piece.....

 By: Sandgroper : July 17th, 2013-02:08
of history. Yes the mouvement of the Geophysic is superb and the Cal 476 and Cal 481 are not bad looking at all. I do not understand however how the calibre on the picture just below the Futurematic works. Pardon my complete ignorance but is there a piece... 

It is an automatic movement, with a bumper, my friend, not a rotor.

 By: amanico : July 17th, 2013-02:11
You were looking for a rotor, it is a bumper. ;) Thanks for your kind comments, my friend. Nicolas

Thank you Nicolas, yes, bumper, that's what I am.....

 By: Sandgroper : July 17th, 2013-02:34
looking for, like the 476 and 481...I still don't figure it out....perhaps I need a whisky :) Cheers my friend Francois ...hic!

The bumper bears the Jaeger Lecoultre wording. You see it?

 By: amanico : July 17th, 2013-02:38
If not, you need a serious whisky! ;) Best, Nicolas

:):) Whisky makes me see things much clearer.......

 By: Sandgroper : July 17th, 2013-03:30
I thought so but wondered about the absence of springs and if the springs would be in place, then the travel of the bumper would be very short, but with the clarity of view acquired from my Whisky:) I guess that the springs mechanism may be somewhat diffe... 

Have a second one! :)

 By: amanico : July 17th, 2013-10:38

It's interesting looking at the 881...

 By: watchme : July 17th, 2013-07:49
knowing that the 920 came out 6 years later and has been called "the most beautiful automatic movement in the world" by a few brands (and many more admirers), and was probably in the germination stage when this was released (since new movements were 5-to-... 

This is something which crossed my mind.

 By: amanico : July 17th, 2013-10:40
Funny to see that JLC, at this time, and somewhat nowadays, always improves their products. Best, Dean. Nicolas

learning a lot Nicolas, thanks for this article !

 By: WatchFred : July 17th, 2013-08:51
this was the first E 329 I've seen, nice ! No knowledge to add, just some more watches .... the Powermatics are lovely pieces, let me share one of mine, early without the "Powermatic" branding: and the Futurematics; quirky, slightly crazy, highly innovati...  

That is what I call an impressive collection of Memos and Futurematics!

 By: amanico : July 17th, 2013-10:41
Which would be your next step? JLCs? Best, and thanks for your breathtaking addition in this post! Nicolas

Nicolas, the E501...

 By: elliot55 : July 17th, 2013-16:48
... is freakin' so cool. How do I get one of those? Great report, my friend. Hope we get to see each other soon. - Scott

Getting one is not too difficult, but a nice one, that is a bit tougher.

 By: amanico : July 17th, 2013-22:18
I will show it to you next time we meet! Best, Scott. Nicolas.

Beautiful and very educative post ...

 By: nilomis : July 17th, 2013-18:41
Nicolas, Another high class post. Thank you master, a post to save for future reference. You made me to regret for letting go a Memo bumper. Cheers, Nilo

The Memovox should be in every collection.

 By: amanico : July 17th, 2013-22:20
Ok, as a JLC moderator, and a big fan of the Memo, I am a tad biased. ;) But, well, there is a part of truth in these words. There are some splendid Memos, + the friendly complication = a must have watch. All the best, Nilo, and thanks for your kind comme... 

Superbly written .. Notably educative.. Highly enjoyable !

 By: hs111 : July 18th, 2013-08:31
It is really nice to see that 6-pack, different but connected by a common denominator. The evolution is also full of pleasures, featuring different aspects. I am always specifically intrigued by the Powerwind/ Powermatic and of course the Futurematic, in ... 

There is a lot to love, here.

 By: amanico : July 18th, 2013-12:38
I have a big weakness for the brown dialed Auto P 476, and the E 329. The Futurematics are already icons. As well as the Geomatic. There are many more to rediscover! All the best, my friend. Nicolas

Thank you for another great post, Nicolas!

 By: blomman Mr Blue : July 18th, 2013-11:11
That is a great lineup! The half "dirty dozen" ala JLC! ;) There is a lot to discover here. Auto, Auto + Power reserve, Auto + Alarm, Auto + Alarm + Date, Auto + Chronometre.... It easy to loose yourself only around the automatic movements! As for your Q?... 

And we didn't even include the auto diving watches! :)

 By: amanico : July 18th, 2013-12:36
Can't wait to see what you have under your sleeve, my friend. Best, Nicolas

To correct a misconception...

 By: gatorcpa : July 18th, 2013-18:43
...about the Harwood, the first mass produced automatic wristwatch. I've seen it reported in a number of locations around the Internet that the movement had a very low power reserve, anywhere from 10 to 12 hours. I recently purchased one of these watches ...  

Thanks for your input, gatorcpa. And for posting a photo of the Harwood movement.

 By: amanico : July 18th, 2013-22:08
Which is not often seen! Best, Nicolas.

What a great find!

 By: blomman Mr Blue : July 19th, 2013-00:11
Thank you for sharing this one with us! :) Best Blomman

like this interesting page very much which shows...

 By: FanFrancisco : July 19th, 2013-10:35
.... which really shows how competent and technically strong in developing outstanding movements. thanks a lot for putting them together so nicely. however, you may have missed out one more automatic movement which is the Cal. 906 chronometer grade calibe...  


 By: amanico : July 28th, 2013-10:01

I sure have a few darlings in your list...

 By: hans_jorgen_1968 : July 26th, 2013-02:08
... Very interesting "work through" my friend Best Hans