Jaeger LeCoultre Ultra Thin Minute Repeater Flying Tourbillon

Jaeger-leCoultre Ultra Thin Minute Repeater Flying Tourbillon

No doubt, seeing is wanting … and that means seventy-five very happy owners of these rare pieces which are about to be produced by the manufacture in Le Sentier.

By Vincent Daveau

When you see complicated watches on a regular basis, you end getting an idea of what you personally would like to have in a model. Well, believe it or not, there is an ideal timepiece. A piece that has everything a watch repairer who knows all the subtle little details, or a collector who has it all might hope to find in a minute repeater.

A matter of taste

From the outside, this watch is all sobriety, but not overly so. The case has its edginess, tempering the sober look and counterbalancing any potential dullness. This balance, by the way, is something only a few brands have achieved. Obviously, there are little details here and there that do titillate the eye.

Jaeger LeCoultre Master Ultra-Thin Minute Repeater at SIHH 2014

Some elements might have been left out. For example, the apertures made between the pad-printed indexes, which, for a piece of this caliber, could have been a bit more sophisticated or given more relief. They might have used applique elements or machined the dial from a block producing slightly raised indexes and adding material to an old-fashioned incision.

In any case, this succession of apertures on the dial draws attention to the peripheral oscillating mass that enlivens the face of the watch. Another  case of a gilded lily is in all likelihood that G clef at 8 o'clock. It seems it was added there to remind the owner that his or her severe watch chimes out the time indicated on the dial on request. A little overdone, perhaps? Opinions are likely to diverge on the flying tourbillon, whose only positive aspect may well be its hidden cage, so one ultimately forgets about it. Coming to think of it, the tourbillon may just as well have been hidden altogether to let the mind concentrate on listening.

Jaeger-leCoultre Ultra Thin Minute Repeater Flying Tourbillon

Speaking of looks

Knowledgeable devotees would, no doubt, have preferred seeing the fascinating mechanism of racks and cams that make up the minute repeater rather than the artifice of a flying tourbillon whose cage seems to have disappeared magically. Instead, the manufacture chose to display other parts of it.

For the best viewing, you must turn the 41-millimeter, white gold case over. That is when you discover that the caliber is not made of traditional rhodium- or gold-plated brass, but rather of German silver – a material that the brand has been using for some time now. This material was used mainly by German brands or by rival brands in the Vallée de Joux. After all, it is merely a question of fashion. The first noticeable elements are the trebuchet hammers, inspired by the ones used in one of the Hybris Mechanica  models. Putting it back in service was a good idea, since it has proved its mettle already. These marvelous, highly sophisticated elements have been combined with two square gongs set on Jaeger-LeCoultre’s signature support designed for better sound diffusion.

Jaeger-leCoultre Ultra Thin Minute Repeater Flying Tourbillon

The real ding

The prototype revealed that the sound of the watch was powerful enough, but nothing more. A number of factors could affect the  potentially perfect sound emission. For one, this beautiful watch is water-resistant to 3 atm.  Its thinness is another factor, as is the chosen metal (white gold) and the large sapphire crystal surface made necessary by the peripheral oscillating mass.  

Nevertheless, the watch’s not-so-loud sound is compensated for by its sheer tempo, definitely music to the ears of the aficionados. You can no longer hear the wheel of inertia, which regulates the speed of the strike of the gongs, but the actual striking of the gongs itself has been largely improved. The time lapses between the hour, quarter and minute strikes have been eliminated thanks to a patent pending mechanical system. When there are no quarters to strike, the watch strikes the hours immediately followed by the minutes. This avoids the that disgraceful pause that can heard in almost all of the competition’s mechanisms.

In order to hear this marvellous minute repeater, with a diameter of a mere 7.9 millimeters, one has to do a little work, which purists will surely appreciate. The manufacture’s craftsmen thought that having a permanent protrusion – a visible pushbutton – would be like having a wart on a a beautiful face. To avoid disrupting the perfect harmony of the case, they created a "magic" retractable pushbutton that has to be released by activating a small locking lever using one's finger.

Jaeger-leCoultre Ultra Thin Minute Repeater Flying Tourbillon

Therefore, applying just 2 millimeters worth of pressure on the locking system suffices to activate the mechanism and then make this useful but esthetically unpleasing bulge retract and disappear from sight. This ingenious idea is worthy of kudos. Indeed, an exceptional timepiece equipped with beautiful complications needs to strike a balance between mechanics and overall look. Here, in absolute terms, the balance is perfect and is found in the tiniest details. In the face of such mastery, we can feel the deep-seated pride of the watchmakers who created such artistry. And so they should, because this piece is indeed close to perfect.

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