With such a long and illustrious history of watchmaking at the very highest end of the scale behind it, Jaeger-LeCoultre introduced the Master Grande Tradition Grande Complication a few years back, and with it set out to capture the presence of its most exotic pocket watches, which were the reserve of the elite in the 19th century. The fruit of this effort appeared in the form of this veritable showcase of haute horlogerie, minutely detailed, bristling with complications and magnificent in every way. Jaeger-LeCoultre have once again pulled out all the stops and lifted the cover on the superb 2015 Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Grande Complication.
The 2015 Master Grande Tradition Grande Complication is quite simply breathtaking, and is testament to what can be achieved when big brand resources are available to plough into materials, machinery and man-hours. It is essentially created around the principles of sidereal time (an ancient scale devised by early astronomers in which time is measured using the constellations, slightly different to solar time or our neatly rounded civil time), so the sidereal day is 23h 56m and 4s, and that is precisely how long it takes for the mesmerising focal point of this timepiece, that beautiful flying tourbillon, and the face of the dial to which it is affixed, to travel around in a counter clockwise direction as it completes the sidereal day.
One of the first things to strike you about this marvel is the sheer depth of the display, which is a captivating by-product arising out of the need to accommodate the height of the tourbillon cage and its anchorage. A silver textured opaline minutes ring surrounds the outer edge of the face just in from the bezel, before plunging steeply past the applied gold hour markers and 24-hour references, downwards to the orbiting dark blue dial, with its ‘map’ of the constellations visible in the night sky of the northern hemisphere, and of course the tourbillon, which lies far below the uppermost sapphire crystal.
Elsewhere, around the perimeter of the dial, a little gold sun tracks the course of the 24-hour cycle, advancing one increment daily, because as well as telling at a glance if it’s am/pm it also serves to display the date, month and even current zodiac phase as it passes over the white markings which line the edge of the deep blue centrepiece.
Obviously a watch which displays the sidereal day is going to fall short when accurate timekeeping is also an important factor and of course it is, and the gold hands in the classic Jaeger-LeCoultre Master style operate to what we consider to be civil time, making the Master Grande Tradition Grande Complication a practical timekeeper, if somewhat over the top to be a daily wearer.
So what do we have so far? A dial and flying tourbillon which together perform a daily rotation in sidereal time, complemented by civil time which runs in parallel, a calendar which displays date, month and governing zodiac symbol, and a day and night function too. Hugely impressive for certain, considering the complexity of these intricacies, but what truly elevates the watch even further and into the highest levels of watchmaking and making it worthy of the Grande Complication tag is the minute repeater complication, which has also been a feature of the Master Grande Tradition Grande Complication since its inception.
Long recognised as one of haute horlogerie’s greatest challenges and accomplishments, enabling the owner to keep in touch with time via the ears as opposed to the eyes, the minute repeater is only to be found on watchmaking’s most exotic, top-of-the-tree timepieces, and at the Jaeger-LeCoultre workshops in La Vallée du Joux, ongoing development means that here, in the Master Grande Tradition Grande Complication, the minute repeater heralds the passing minutes, quarter hours and hours through its circular cathedral gongs which encompass the perimeter of the movement. To extract the purest, most resonant tone from the strike of the hammer on tine, the gongs are made from hard crystal, and the receiving surface has been made flat, instead of being rounded, to maximise the contact area and produce the fullest chime as the trebuchet hammers make contact. The tell-tale lever on the left side of the case commands the setting and actuation of the repeater so its sonorific sense pervading chimes are available on demand, as and when desired.
To deliver such a host of complications, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Grande Complication features the Calibre 945 hand winding movement, a profoundly technical temple to horology which employs no fewer than 527 individual components to carry out its functions. Operating at 28,800vph and offering a 40-hour power reserve as well as the increasingly popular low maintenance silicon escapement, its complexity and nuances can be appreciated through the sapphire exhibition caseback.
The 18kt rose gold case measures 45mm across and 15.8mm in height; big, but commensurate with the pocket watches it serves homage to.
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Grande Complication is sure to be one of the highlights from SIHH 2015, and despite the fact that it is produced on an individual basis, it is good that such an important heritage as Jaeger-LeCoultre continues to remain relevant, while almost every other industry has left its past behind, all but forgotten, in dusty corporate archives.