In 1833, in the heart of an isolated valley in the Swiss Jura, the brilliant inventor Antoine LeCoultre founded the small workshop that was to become one of the most prestigious brands in watchmaking: Jaeger-LeCoultre. Gathered together under the same roof, the men and women working at the “Grande Maison”, as it soon came to be known, gradually learned all the skills of the master watchmaker, thus equipping them to write the finest pages in the history of horology.
In 1866, when Swiss watchmaking was still structured around small home-run workshops, Antoine LeCoultre and his son Elie decided to pull together under one roof all the many skills involved in making watches, and install a steam-driven machine to power their new tools. LeCoultre & Cie became the first Manufacture of the Joux Valley. Today it houses over 180 skills necessary for designing and building the most prestigious timepieces from start to finish.
From the mid 1890s onwards, the LeCoultre & Cie Manufacture started making calibres for watches with grand complications. This noble title is reserved for watches with at least three classic complications such as minute repeaters, chronograph or perpetual calendar. Since then, Jaeger-LeCoultre has carried on the great tradition of ultra-complicated watches which earned the Joux Valley its nickname of “the Rome of grand complications”.
Elie LeCoultre’s son, Jacques-David LeCoultre (1875-1948) took over management of the watch manufacture after three years spent in the workshops as a watchmaker. A keen lover of sport, music and theatre was to be Director General of LeCoultre & Cie from 1906 until his death in 1948. A man with a prodigious capacity for work, a talented watchmaker, a brilliant businessman, he was to put the Manufacture on the international map.
In 1903, the Parisian Edmond Jaeger (1858-1922) challenged the Swiss perceptions by inventing and manufacturing ultra-thin calibres. Jacques-David LeCoultre (1875-1948), grandson of the Manufacture’s founder, threw himself into the task with zeal. The collaboration led to a friendship between the two men and gave birth to some true marvels in watchmaking, culminating in the birth of the Jaeger-LeCoultre brand in 1937.
In 1929, at a time when demand for luxury objects had dwindled because of the international economic crisis, the Manufacture’s watchmakers set themselves the challenge of creating the world’s smallest watch movement. They miniaturised the Duoplan calibre to the limit. The Calibre 101 weighed barely one gram and had 74 parts. Crafted in extremely small quantities, but in continuous production, its record is still unmatched to date. For her coronation in 1953, Queen Elizabeth II of England wore a watch that used this superlative mechanism.
Jaeger-LeCoultre took in 2009 the two first places in the first chronometry competition of the 21st century, with the Master Tourbillon and the Reverso Gyrotourbillon 2. Initiated by the Musée d’Horlogerie in Le Locle, this competition was supervised by scientists from NASA, the EPFL, the Geneva Observatory, and the Federal Office of Metrology. In three recognised institutions, each watch underwent three series of accuracy tests and a test of resistance to shocks and magnetic fields.
Jaeger-LeCoultre is part of the Compagnie Financière Richemont SA- the ultimate holding Company for some of the world’s leading luxury goods companies – its Maisons – encompassing jewellery, watches, premium accessories and other luxury products. The company’s brand portfolio includes: Alfred Dunhill, Azzedine Alaia, Baume & Mercier, Cartier, Chloé, IWC, Jaeger- LeCoultre, Lancel, Lange & Söhne, Montblanc, NET-A-PORTER.COM, Officine Panerai, Peter Millar, Piaget, Purdey, Roger Dubuis, Shanghai Tang, Vacheron Constantin and Van Cleef & Arpels.