Founded in 1833 by Antoine LeCoultre following his invention of the machine to cut small watch pinons from steel, LeCoultre as a brand began in innovation. Further creation followed with a proprietary keyless winding system in 1847 and, in 1866, the Vallee de Joux’s first watchmaking manufacturer all under one roof (rather than in separate small workshops as was previously common). Antoine’s firm quickly became one of the most well-respected movement makers in Switzerland. So much so, that LeCoultre produced for Audemars Piguet as well as manufactured most of Patek Phillippe’s movement blanks from 1902 into the 1930s—an impetus for the nickname “the watchmaker’s watchmaker” which collectors still tout today.
In 1903, Edmond Jaeger, a Parisian watchmaker and distributor, called on a few swiss brands to step up their ultra-thin movement manufacturing, the LeCoultre brand answered that bell. By 1907, LeCoultre created the caliber 145, the thinnest pocket watch movement in the world at the time. Also in ‘07, Jaeger finalized an exclusive deal with his neighbors at Cartier to supply the jeweler with movements for the next fifteen years—LeCoultre made those movements. By 1937, the somewhat informal business friendship became a partnership and Jaeger-LeCoultre was born.
For auction today is a unique LeCoultre signed dress watch powered by their caliber 818 movement and featuring a factory black diamond dial. While the JLC partnership was formal by the time this watch was manufactured in the late 1960s, the company retained LeCoultre branding on watches bound for the US market up until the 80s due to legal implications and customer awareness. So, the LeCoultre signed JLC is raising no red flags but was simply destined for the wrist of an American from the get-go. This is only further confirmed by the “VXN” import code stamped on the movement, indicating the US market.
Beyond branding, this watch is really special. The case finishing is up to par with that of the movement which is proudly shown through the screw-down display caseback. We are impressed by the striking effect of the crosshatched finishing on the bezel and top side of the lugs. Saving the dial for last as it is the gem of the piece… factory diamond dials are periodically seen from JLC, particularly on Memovox examples, and this one is extremely well designed and executed.
The 34mm case is in stainless-steel and presents in what we believe to be mostly unpolished condition with the original “morellis” finish very sharp. Some light polishing may have hit the sides of the case and the caseback appears to be polished. On the caseback, due to those legal implications, LeCoultres destined for the US market were cased by US case makers, thus some inconsistencies are seen across models. The display caseback is unusual but really appears to be of the period. We do believe the crown to be a replacement, most examples from the brand feature signed crowns and this one, beyond being unsigned, does not fit as precise as an original might.
The Dial and Hands
The dial is in great condition with no major flaws apparent in the seller’s photos. Most importantly, we believe it to be original and never refinished. Some small imperfections to the matte finish can be seen upon close inspection but it is unclear if this is dust on the dial, marks on the crystal, or, in fact, an issue with the actual finish. The handset appears correct, is an appropriate length, and preserved in matching great condition.
With no luminous material to worry about on the dial or hands of this LeCoultre, ownership should be relatively stress-free on that front for years to come.
This watch is powered by a LeCoultre caliber 818. The seller states it to be “fully serviced by our watchmaker” is offering the watch with a 1-year mechanical warranty.
|Location||New York City|
|Movement||LeCoultre caliber 818|
|Dial||Black matte with diamonds|
|Case Material||Stainless Steel|
|Band Material||Leather Strap|
|Clasp Type||Stainless Steel Buckle|