Ahead of this week’s SIHH watch salon, insiders at Jaeger-LeCoultre teasingly promised us that this year’s new releases would feature some very interesting complications. What they didn’t tell us was that most of these complications would all be in a single watch. Read on to discover the top features of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon Westminster Perpetuél, one of the unquestioned highlight pieces of this year’s show.
The timepiece — which Jaeger-LeCoultre is offering in a 43-mm white gold case, with either a guilloché blue enamel or silver grained dial — is limited to only 18 pieces and boasts a world’s-first triumvirate of horological chefs d’oeuvre: it is the first multi-axis tourbillon watch with a constant-force mechanism, a Westminster chime, and perpetual calendar. Jaeger-LeCoultre began making its multi-axis Gyrotourbillon watches in 2004, and the most recent evolution to emerge before this one was 2016’s Reverso Tribute Gyrotourbillon. That watch’s bi-axial rotating tourbillon cage was thinner than those of previous models, and this one is smaller still, contributing to the new watch’s overall wrist-friendly dimensions. This type of tourbillon regulator obviously needs a lot of energy to maintain the movement’s chronometric performance, and this is supplied by the new constant-force mechanism (also known in classic horological parlance as a remontoir d’égalité) which consists of a spring, periodically re-armed by the mainspring, that also regulates the motion of the minute wheel, resulting in a very precise jumping minutes hand.
As if all that weren’t enough, the watch is home to a Westminster carillon minute repeater, so named because its chimes are tuned to replicate those of the famous Big Ben clock in London’s Palace of Westminster. The mechanism uses four sets of gongs and hammers to play the chimes on demand at each quarter hour. Creating this type of chiming timepiece is a discipline very few watch maisons have mastered but Jaeger-LeCoultre has improved upon even this. Its watchmakers have included a silence-reduction device that ensures there is no time delay between quarters not struck before the minutes, i.e., no gaps of silence between strikes — a problem (albeit a decidedly “first-world” one, to be sure) with other minute repeater watches. The sound of the chimes is thus very seamless and harmonious, and JLC has also ensured that it is also optimally acoustic with the use of the manufacture’s patented crystal gongs, which are welded to the underside of the crystal over the dial, and the articulated trebuchet hammers that strike them strongly and quickly for a sharp, clear sound. Both are innovations that debuted in Jaeger-LeCoultre high-horology pieces in recent years, as are the gongs’ square-shaped cross-sections, which provide a larger area of contact than the more common circular ones, adding another element to crisp clarity of the chimes.
The other high complication built into the watch’s manual-winding movement, Caliber 184, is a perpetual calendar, whose pointer-type date can be adjusted forward or backward without doing damage to the mechanism. The balletic beauty of the gyrotourbillon has been taken into account in the design of the calendar functions: the date pointer jumps over the tourbillon aperture from day 16 to 17, thus never obscuring the view. Of course, Jaeger-LeCoultre has also paid close attention to the aesthetics of all elements, from case to dial to movement: The minute repeater is activated by a smoothly rounded pusher rather than a traditional slide, the dial features hand guilloché, fine hammering and grand feu enameling, all in-house specialties at JLC’s Metiers Rares workshops; and the case, as alluded to above, is engineered to be more contemporary and wearable than previous masterpieces from JLC’s Hybris Machanica series, of which this watch appears to be an ultimate culmination.