The true blue Jaeger-LeCoultre pedigree in Chronograph watchmaking

 By: Jaw : February 28th, 2005-11:11
From an etymological standpoint, chrono-graph means ?writing the time?. The chronograph invented by Rieussec in 1821 (patented in 1822) literally placed a drop of ink to mark the end of the measurement (while the hand continued turning). Strictly speaking, the current complication should thus be called chrono-scope, ?looking at the time?; a term which is recently used by Chronoswiss - in any case, the term, Chronograph is now the commonly accepted name for the complication.

(Jaeger calibre 420TMS in 1884)

Adolphe Nicole in 1844 was credited as the inventor of Chronograph which included the 3 common functions (1) Start, (2) Stop and (3) Reset to Zero. Adolphe was a native of Valee de Joux who had settled in London for business reasons and had his main workshop in Le Solliat. Lesser known is the fact that Adolphe enjoyed a good relationship with his cousin, Antoine LeCoultre, the founder of Jaeger-LeCoultre.

(The Old Manufacture)

At the time, it was generally agreed that complicated watches were far less precise than simple watches. Antoine LeCoultre and his son Elie examined this problem which stemmed mostly from the imprecision of the human hand. LeCoultre & Cie was the first and for years the only Manufacture capable of producing complicated movements by means of a partially mechanised process. Uniting hand and machine in the service of precision and reliability led to extraordinary expansion.

(1890 Jaeger calibre 20TMCCS)

Between 1870 and 1900, the Jaeger-LeCoultre created no less than 128 different chronograph calibres! 42 were equipped with counters, 32 with split-seconds hands; 33 also comprised a repeater mechanism, and 1 combined a chronograph, a repeater and a perpetual calendar.

These calibres at one time supplied the entire Swiss, French and German watch industries, from Glash?tte to Geneva and including Schaffhausen, Besan?on, La Chaux-de-Fonds, le Locle, Saint-Imier, Fleurier, Sainte-Croix, and of course the Vall?e de Joux.

The Manufacture Lecoultre & Cie had become a reference in the field of chronographs movements.

During the first half of the 20th century, the Manufacture continued to innovate in this field. From 1903 onwards, it began creating ultra-thin chronographs, which were marvels of technical sophistication and miniaturisation.

(1915 calibre 19CCRM)

From the 1920s on, LeCoultre was one of the pioneers in chronograph calibres for wristwatches. By way of example, a LeCoultre 13-lignes movement made in 1923 Cal 13cc was fitted within a Patek Philippe watch that was estimated to be worth $200,000 at an auction in 1997.

(1923 calibre 13CC)

In 1927, LeCoultre created Calibre 133, a counter chronograph movement with a diameter of 11 lignes, meaning 24.8 mm! 62 movements were made up until 1936 for other haute horlogerie top brands.

In 1987, Jaeger-LeCoultre created the mecha-quartz chronograph Calibre 630.

(1970 calibre 154, Perpetual Chrono Minute Repeater)

Starting from 1994 and 1995, there were 2 concurrent projects to develop 2 very fine Chronograph movements, the exceptional shaped Calibre 829 in the form of the 1996 Reverso Chronograph Retrograde and the round calibre 930 originally meant to be used in the round Jaeger-LeCoultre.

(The Reverso Chronograph Retrograde Limited Edition)

The Reverso Chronograph Retrograde and the subsequent Reverso Gran?Sport Chronograph (Cal 859) was exceptionally fine and rare. This should have been a talking piece in 1996. An inhouse and integrated double face chronograph was unique at that time and is still very rare today. I attributed the relatively cool media and public reception then (the watch took a number of years to sell) to a conservative team in Le Sentier who under-appreciated the value of good marketing. If I recalled correctly, there wasn?t even a marketing department in the manufacture! (The Reverso Gran?Sport Chronograph was briefly discussed here at )

(Reverso Gran?Sport Chronograph, exceptionally good value)

Both the Calibre 829 and 930 developments were expensive; the thinking in the factory then was to create the best chronograph movements. The only production caliber 829 double sided complication was particularly expensive to produce.

(Calibre 829)

The Calibre 930 development, under Roger Guignard (I call him the George Lucas of Jaeger-LeCoultre) started with the same pure intention, with the following minimum requirements
(1) Integrated chronograph and not modular
(2) It must bear the traditional column wheel as a sign of quality. A column wheel remained the best and the most reliable way to coordinate all the functions of the chronograph: start, stop and reset.
(3) There are 3 main ways to start and stop (engage and disengage) the chronograph, i.e. Lateral Coupling, Vertical coupling (vertical clutch) and Sliding Pinion. Conventional wisdom says that the higher quality Vertical Coupling is the best way was collaborated by real test results. Other factors being equal, Vertical Coupling has the following advantages (3a) Chrono seconds starts without hesitation (3b) highest resistant to shock and (3c) the rate of balance wheel remained unchanged when the chronograph function is engaged.

Roger Guignard also successfully incorporated the Jumping Minute function and the project was a technical success. The Calibre 930 development project however was finally suspended as the manufacture sensed that the product maybe ahead of its time.

(Roger Guignard, Constructeur)

In recent years, the lack of a round chronograph in the Jaeger-LeCoultre product range is getting a little awkward. The need for one is also getting obvious as chorus of calls from retailers and collectors were heard.

(Philippe Vandel)

Two years ago, Jaeger-LeCoultre decided to revive the abandoned calibre 930 project and was put under the charge of Philippe Vandel, a constructeur who was involved in the calibre 829 development?

to be continued

A great watch...

 By: Dje : February 28th, 2005-11:11
seems to be coming.

Jaw you are perfect to make us desire.

Thank you for your new input to our JLC knowledge.

A great story full of wonders.

We are getting closer to the jewel.

Thanks Dje...

 By: Jaw : March 6th, 2005-05:05
Your patience appreciated.

Pining for more info...

 By: John : February 28th, 2005-12:24
To be continued...?'re killing us here...

Thanks for this installment...can't wait for the next one.


Wonderful as always, thanks Jaw! Glad to hear that JLC is finally coming with a...

 By: RT : February 28th, 2005-01:13
integrated chronograph movement given its long history associated with chronographs as you pointed out. Now I will have to take a closer look at that Gran'Sport Chronographs again. Thanks and can't wait to find out more about this cal. 930.



Mechanized production elsewhere

 By: Aaron : February 28th, 2005-03:15
I'm interested in the date of the first production of JLC's chronograph movements by machine and whether they really pre-date the Waltham patents on the subject(1880, with production soon after). This was the pinnacle of American movement production as can be seen in the quality of finish of a late 19th C. AWW chronograph as compared to the JLC
[no association with the company, just a picture]

Great prologue Jaw!

 By: damien : March 1st, 2005-06:06
Thanks for the report and looking forward very much to your next instalment.

I was about to do a search on this very subject last week.

 By: Ruckdee : February 28th, 2005-07:19
Thank you for the concise and pictorial lesson. It is most fitting for the occasion indeed.


To be continued.......Arghhhh

 By: Jokoh : February 28th, 2005-07:19
Everytime I watch a series that says "To be continued", I get very jittery. As always, its like nearing the murder scene. The suspense of waiting till next week!! I love chrono, I'm willing to wait as I know JLC will not let me down

Thanks again Jaw...don't let us wait too long no more hair to loose


Well, and the soap opera has come to and end..

 By: Jaw : March 6th, 2005-05:05
No need to lose more hair and thanks for your patience

Thanks for the heads up Jaw, what's that 2.....

 By: watchculture : February 28th, 2005-09:21
circular thin tubes on the Cal 19 CCRM for ?

>>>>>Zach T

Minute Repeater gong (nt)

 By: Jaw : February 28th, 2005-10:22

I was trying to figure out where the hammer was(nt)

 By: watchculture : March 1st, 2005-07:07

2 hammers at the top edge....

 By: watchculture : March 1st, 2005-07:07
Thanks....I need another pair of glasses

Did Jaeger also develop the jumping minute counter for lange?

 By: furen : March 1st, 2005-01:01

Was the chronograph movement not released because they let Lange use the innovation, the same way they let lange use the big date mechanism first? thanks for the write-up! I can't wait to see the watchmaker's watchmaker chronograph.


the Jumping Minute function is actually not an innovation from JLC

 By: clavi : March 1st, 2005-01:01
the Jumping Minute feature is not something new in chronographs.
For example, the rather old and common Valjoux 72 and Lemania 321 feature this function.
Therefore it can't be something that JLC saved for Lange use only, as you can find it on many other chronographs predating Lange re-introduction.

However, it is a good thing that JLC uses this feature, as I have always found wandering minute counters prety much useless as you can't really read the exact time recorded efficiently (see for example Breguet type XX lemania equiped with wandering second: it is very difficult to tell exactly which minute you are in)

I do agree that JLC was not the first...

 By: furen : March 1st, 2005-01:01
and I am no expert when it comes to chronographs. JLC has in past helped other companies to create innovation. The big date was not new when lange came out with it. However, JLC helped them with in creating the complication. I am not bashing Lange, I just want to know if JLC helped with lange's datograph. JLC also helped cartier with its new movement.

I also would like to see JLC come out with the jumping minute counter!


semi-instantaneous is not the same as instantaneous

 By: ei8htohms : March 5th, 2005-08:08
Hi Guys,

Lange's minute counter is instantaneous. Precisely at the 60 second mark, the minute hand jumps instantly to the next minute.

Most minute counters are semi-instantaneous. A few seconds before the minute changeover they start to creep a little and then they snap over at the 60 second mark. This is how the minute counter in the new JLC chronograph works and also how the Vj 72 and Omega 321 work.



 By: Jaw : March 5th, 2005-07:19
The instantaneous Jumping minute was in the original calibre 930, which was not marketed. Calibre 751 and 752 is semi-instantaneous due to the factors mentioned.


I am speculating here

 By: Jaw : March 1st, 2005-02:02
The calibre 829 project was costly, but possibly due to the ready availability of lesser chronographs at cheaper prices, the response from the market wasn't exactly hot then.

Gunter Blumlein was one of the most (if not the emost) admired industry leaders. He re-started A Lange & Sohne from ashes, turned around the near bankrupt IWC and changed Jaeger-LeCoultre from a relatively unknown high quality movements supplier to a reborn manufacturer. He is admired by most in the industry, and although some detractors referred to him as "The Master of Deception", he was much respected even by his enemies.

The late Mr. Blumlein believed that if a product is ahead of its time, it will fail.

This is my speculation, and similarly your theory about Jumping minute is also pure speculation, is it true? I don't know, one JLC executive once told me "As far as I know, Lange did their own Datograph".



 By: furen : March 1st, 2005-05:05
It was just speculation on my part. I love JLC, and I have always seen them playing second fiddle because they help competitors with movements and complications. Hence, the competition does not need to focus on innovation but spend their time with marketing. THis is just my perspective when it comes to JLC.


Part 2 - The revived calibre 930 and a never before published PHOTO of a new watch!

 By: Jaw : March 1st, 2005-08:08
For most technical watch brands, a minimum of a clear 5 year product strategy is essential. The ability to continuously produce innovations that meet high expectations is a real challenge for most. Jaeger-LeCoultre, in contrast, has many working prototypes of various complications. For example, when Sylvain Golay (or any other watchmaker) is in a good mood, or if one is really lucky, he might show you some stunning complications left in the closet for various reasons. So the caliber 930 situation wasn?t unique.

(Column Wheel coordinates all the functions of the chronograph: Start/Stop and reset. It transforms the pushes on the buttons into movements of levers, arms and springs, which activates or stops the chrono seconds, minute and hour counters)

If the Jaeger-LeCoultre team wanted to start caliber 930 production off the shelves, and call it a new Master Chronograph in just another Master Case, they probably could have done it with little or no backlash. The objective of the revival project however, was very clear from the beginning? a new Jaeger-LeCoultre chronograph had to be something special or would not go into production.

(There are 3 main types of coupling, Lateral, Vertical or sliding Pinion, Vertical Coupling is a signature for high-end chrono. Test shows Vertical Clutch system has the advantages of (1) No hesitation of the chrono seconds hand at start, (2) much higher shock resistant and (3) The rate of balance wheel remain unchanged at start and stop, making accurate time recording possible)

For a start, the name caliber 930 failed to survive. (Let?s call it the 750 development from now on.) The objective was simple but the task far from easy. I.e. The new Chronograph had to be special, accurate, reliable and easy to maintain.

The first logical step for Philippe Vandel was to incorporate ALL the new autotractor improvements into the 750. (For the changes in autotractor movements, please read through our previous discussion here, ).

The development team also sought opinions from many watchmakers and engineers specialized in chronographs. So long as they were experienced in chronograph development, the team gladly sourced them out and consulted each and everyone, inside or outside the manufacture, with the exception of watchmakers currently working for other brands and competitors for ethical reasons.

The beat was changed to 28,800vph and one barrel added serially not only to increase the power reserve to 72 hour with sufficient energy for the chronograph play but to ensure both the watch and the chrono runs much more accurately for a longer period of time.

(2 Barrel with power reserve of 72 hrs, almost perfectly flat torque up to 60 hours)

Instantaneous Jumping minute was visually impressive, but the development team soon found problems common with such complications. (Outside our topic, but this is also true with Jump Hour.)
(1) The instantaneous jump requires energy and torque (not to mention impact), so much so that it will affect the chronograph recording accuracy and the long term reliability of the watch.
(2) The instantaneous jump can also cause confusion in recorded time. Imagine the minute hand at 8 minutes. Say you stop the chrono as the chrono seconds hand move from 59s, 0s and 1s, the instantaneous jumps may occur either just before zero, exactly at zero or just after zero, this could happen even if the chronograph mechanism is constantly being adjusted to jump accurately, and you risk scratching your head wondering if your horse has galloped for 8m59s, 9m59s, 8min0s or 9m0s. If the minute moves ever so slowly and slightly towards 9m just before the JUMP, no such confusion is possible

(Note the intermediate wheel?s teeth shape, meant to give a very slight delay before the unmistakable jump)

To solve this problem, the team intentionally introduced an intermediate wheel and modified the gear?s teeth shape, so that the chrono minute will always move slowly and slightly for a miniscule fraction of a second, just before the unmistakable JUMP to the next minute.

As the 750 team worked on the movement, the young and charming Creative Designer Magali Metrailler was given another important assignment, to design the most unusual compressor for a unique watch.

(Creative Designer Magali Metrailler)

The success of the Compressor range for Jaeger-LeCoultre has been phenomenal. Turnover for the 4 relatively new models, 2002 Compressor Memovox, 2003 Compressor Geographic, 2003 Compressor Automatic and the 2004 Compressor Dualmatic has reached an amazing 20% of total JLC revenue in the short 3 years! And for Magali at least, every of her designs from the basic Compressor Automatic to the state of the art Gyrotourbillon are commercial hits!

(4 of Jaeger-LeCoultre?s success stories, The 4 current Compressors)

Knowing Magali since her first (somewhat shy) public appearance in Singapore?s Compressor Memovox launch (reported in PuristS), her level of confidence has grown in correlation with her popularity amongst the watch enthusiasts. A public member of went so far as to call her fans ?Magalite??

Elsewhere under the same roof, while Jaeger-LeCoultre has long experience in watch case production, the department was about to introduce the most innovative watch case ever - A watch case which should withstand extreme shock and vibration with a case integrated strap changing mechanism.

Serious in-house research on case making is unheard of in the industry, such job is normally the domain of specialized case manufacturers?

To be continued

Ps. What?s ahead:

(Note, this photo is the first media photo ever published in public)

A stunning design by Magali Metrailler and

The first Shock absorber watch case?
Combined to give us the first Extreme watch for extreme activities.
Watch this space!

I'm speechless, almost.....WOW!

 By: John : March 1st, 2005-09:09
Double WOW!


Wow...a very fresh JLC. Nice complication...

 By: Jacky : March 1st, 2005-09:09
...although i need a while to figure out the dial. A bit busy in photo but i am sure its a great watch in hands Thanks Jaw for this earliest picture. Have been hearing some rumours and finally its reveal. I like the red and white indicator at six I am sure a gold version with leather strap will give the watch a different look.


p/s Magali is seriouly a genius in designing. Congratulations if you ever log in here and read

I am under shock right now!!

 By: Dje : March 1st, 2005-09:09
Thank you Jaw for all this precise report (I am eagerly waiting for part 3).

This new caliber seems amazing. AMAZING!!

You say it incorporates ALL autotractor improvements, so I guess it is an automatic caliber? I hope to know soon what is the use of the little 0 to 30 white and red counter at 6?

Do you have any reference of another current chronograph caliber with vertical coupling?

I try to understand how it works but I am not clear on that. I am sure I will after reading some more reports from you.

A "case integrated strap changing mechanism" is quite promising!!

A shock absorber watch case? At least one good reason to have a big case watch for those who like them. If the movement size is comparable to the Autotractor, looking at the case design and the room that is left for the movement, this watch is going to be huge!

May we get also a non-Compressor, transparent back, classical one? I hope so. I am sure we will.

I really like Magali's sport version. I am pretty sure I gonna love Janek's classical one (please not too much weight for my small wrist?).

I am under shock!!

Some answers and the strap changing process (photos)

 By: Jaw : March 5th, 2005-07:19
- Yes it is an automatic
- The counter is a second hand (disc) more to indicate that the watch is running.
- Vertical coupling - e.g. Frederick Piguet 1185 and post-Zenith Rolex come to mind
- Here are some photos of CEO Jerome Lambert demonstrated how easy the strap is changed.

(Flick a button)

(Strap is out)

(Snap it back)

(Voila, securedly snapped back)

- The diameter is 46.3mm, scary by numeber but the watch is wearable


A very sharp looking chronograph. Case construction seems impressive.

 By: Ruckdee : March 1st, 2005-09:09
I can't wait to learn more about it, particularly in respect of water resistant and chronograph buttons.


Re: looks fabulous and exciting blend of functions...but I fear....

 By: stultus77 : March 1st, 2005-09:09
...that this is going to be quite a MASSIVE case.

Not to jump the gun, Jaw, but any idea of the case size?

- Daniel

A little late, but yes you knew by now, 46.3mm. (nt)

 By: Jaw : March 6th, 2005-05:05

Thanks Jaw for >>

 By: Velociphile - No longer in the building : March 1st, 2005-10:10
your efforts to bring us this first. Very funny in the light of the claims that the JLC forum on "the-other-site-that-cannot-be-named" (LOL) claims 'close' relations with JLC.....

I knew I should have trademarked Magalite! Haha!

Very interesting to see 'half keys' (is it?) on the chrono buttons (as proposed in my Polaris re-issue spec). Ahhhhh, so there's still hope of my baby coming soon.....! However, I'm a bit afraid that comments like "I try to understand how it works?" speak for themselves.

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