True to its nature, SIHH is not exactly a touchpoint for those who love a simple steel sport watch. But surprises do happen, and among a sea of tourbillons, a handful of grande sonneries, and enough precious metal to underwrite a small ground war, Jaeger-LeCoultre pulled a fast one and dropped a trio of steel Master models that quickly became a highlight of the show. With a crisp but romantic design and a complication for nearly any taste, the new Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Date, Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Geographic, and Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Chronograph prove that JLC hasn’t lost any of their signature range.
The 2017 Jaeger-LeCoultre Master trio all bear roughly the same sector dial design, skeletonised baton hands, and black markers with light blue accents. The Master Date and Geographic are 39mm wide while the Master Chronograph is 40mm. All three are in steel, with sapphire crystals, in-house automatic movements, and 50 meters of water resistance.
Organized by most accessibly priced, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Date (reference 1548530) is a charmer. With a simple but detailed two-tone dial, the outer element is brushed while the inner circle is grained, and the effect is lovely. The sector markings are black and the date display uses a white date wheel with bright blue numerals. The hands, as with all three models, are a skeletonised baton style that appears black in person but shows as blued steel on JLC’s website.
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Mater Control Date’s 39mm-wide case is just 8.5mm thick, thanks to the slim JLC 899/1 automatic movement within. The 899/1 is a 4Hz movement with a 38-hour power reserve provided by a single barrel. On wrist, the Date is easy-wearing and beautiful, with a slim profile and excellent legibility. If you want an everyday watch with a distinctive yet vintage charm, this is about as good as any I can think of.
The yearly Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) is, as the name would imply, a show predominantly composed of watchmakers creating watches which signify the upper echelons of watchmaking. Six-figure price tags are a dime a dozen on the show floor. When I first watched the new Master Control Date using a business dial at Jaeger-LeCoultre’s booth, I knew I needed to get some time with it on my wrist, but once every conversation I had with collectors, journalists, and other industry buddies kept coming back into some $5,700 time-and-date watch, I knew we had something special on our hands.Openworked tourbillons and decimal striking watches are great, sure, but when we’re being honest, they are show pieces more than anything else. Very few will ever be made, and very few will ever actually be worn out-and-about. I’m not saying I don’t like these kinds of watches — I find them endlessly interesting and lust-worthy — only that I find watches such as this Jaeger-LeCoultre far more persuasive in the end. It is a easy watch that offers real watchmaking indoors, has a distinctive design, and comes in at a price which makes it cheap to some relatively large swathe of the watch-loving population.Let’s look at how the new industry dial Master Control Date came about and then dig into the details of the watch itself.The Master Control collection made its debut for Jaeger-LeCoultre back in 1992. The idea was to create a line of watches that represented the worth of pure, classic watchmaking, having a focus on simple aesthetics, functionality, understated technology, and long-term performance. Together with the initial collection of watches, Jaeger-LeCoultre started its “1,000 Hours Control” quality test program, which subjects finished watches to a six-week program of tests. Including impacts, temperature changes, movement through six positions, water resistance, and much more — it is all pretty standard stuff now (though six months is a great deal of time to get something such as this), but in 1992 that was basically unheard of.
Next up is the fan favorite Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Chronograph (ref 1538530), with a 40mm steel case and two-register chronograph layout. This 12-hour chronograph has a 30-minute sub dial and no date. The balance of this dial design is not to be understated and of the three new models, the chronograph really puts the blue accents to best use. The outer tachymetre scale and the chronograph scales are all rendered in this cool, saturated light blue. Combined with the stark legibility of the black accents and the baton hands, the blue manages to add a youthful flare to the design.
The overall look is certainly vintage-inspired, but much like some of the new-vintage designs for the Reverso, these sector dial models stand on their own and the chronograph has a mass appeal that is hard to argue with. Powered by JLC’s automatic 751G, this 4Hz column wheel chronograph movement sports two barrels to offer a power reserve of 65 hours.
Last but certainly not least, we find my favorite of the sector dial trio, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Geographic (ref 1428530). It is 39mm wide and rocking JLC’s signature Geographic GMT complication, the Master Geographic displays two time zones (along with AM/PM in the away zone). The second timezone is selected using a city disc at six and the crown at 10. If you have ever used this complication you’ll know it’s a practical and easy-to-manage GMT function that borrows just enough from a world timer to be more than your casual GMT.
The dial layout is more asymmetrical (with the offset am/pm indication), but I think this is the coolest of the three models. The sector dial blends nicely with the complication, and I think the GMT is just the perfect functionality for a well-rounded everyday watch. The other plus with the Geographic complication is that it works both when changing time zones for travel, or checking other time zones when connecting with colleagues or friends.
Those that know JLC’s offerings know that they have a lot of beautifully made watches under $10,000. So, while the price point of these sector dial versions is appealing (especially against the backdrop of SIHH), the real success here is the accessible sizing and the designs that are both beautiful and distinctive among their siblings. While I’m sure that some will take umbrage with the lack of lume or the highly vintage-inspired hand selection, the design works so well when viewed as a whole.
If you’re hunting in the $5,000 to $10,000 range and are looking for an everyday watch from a fantastic brand with a distinctive yet vintage charm, any one of these three will fit the bill. The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Date will retail for a price of $5,700 USD, with the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Chronograph selling for $8,000, and the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Geographic claiming $9400. Slim pickings or not, these sector dial Master models from JLC were easily some of my favorite new models shown at SIHH and will likely prove to be very popular in the coming months. jaeger-lecoultre.com