Although Jaeger-LeCoultre is, for good reason, most strongly identified with the Reverso, it does of course have so many other watches, movements, and designs to its credit over its very long history that the Reverso, taken in context, starts to seem like the quite small tip of a very massive iceberg. One of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s most important strengths has been the making of sturdy, classically beautiful round watches with small complications, and in that spirit, the company has just introduced a new model in the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Calendar Collection. This is the Master Control Calendar.
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Calendar collection has been part of the company’s portfolio since 1992. When the collection was launched, its name was derived from the then-new 1,000-Hour Control certification. This is a dual certification process which includes extensive testing during both prototyping and production. It includes tests for everything from chronometry to resistance to environmental corrosives, resistance to magnetism, shock resistance, and so on. Every Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Calendar watch is tested individually as a fully cased-up timepiece, and the company is justly proud of its reputation for reliability in the basic virtues of watchmaking.
In addition to a redesign of the watch, which now has a more contemporary look and feel, there have also been major upgrades to the movement, which is the JLC caliber 866. The movement has had its power reserve extended to 70 hours (from 43 in the previous version) thanks to an improved mainspring and barrel, and the escape wheel and pallets are now in silicon. There is another quite charming new feature, as well, in the date display. When it’s time to switch over from the 15th of the month to the 16th, the red-tipped date hand performs a 90º jump clockwise, in order to keep the date hand from obscuring the moon phase display. The watch is available at launch in either stainless steel or rose gold. There are few things more powerfully evocative of the high point of mid-20th century watchmaking than a complete calendar with moon phase. It’s quite a seductive complication, offering a great deal of the pleasure of the much more complex annual and perpetual calendars, without the considerable additional expense and, often, greatly increased mechanical delicacy and difficulty of operation and upkeep. The newest enhancements to the caliber 866 are not immediately apparent, but they should represent an improvement in the already excellent performance of the movement, which is one of the great classic in-house self-winding movements of the 2000s. Indeed, it is, in a way, one of the great classic in-house self-winding movements of the last several decades, as it’s a direct successor to the JLC caliber 889, which was first introduced in the 1980s and which found its way, in Jaeger-LeCoultre’s capacity as a movement supplier, into watches from several other high-end manufacturers as well. The strap is Novanappa, a vegetable-tanned calf leather produced in France, and it is equipped with a quick-change system, allowing the strap to be changed out easily without using any tools. Overall, one has a first impression of a high-grade movement in a high-quality watch, intended to be a robust, reliable, and unassumingly elegant daily companion for a lifetime.