Jaeger-LeCoultre’s “Collectibles” capsule collection hits Los Angeles
Unveiled on June 16th at a special event held in JLC’s boutique on Rodeo Drive, the second capsule collection in the Jaeger-LeCoultre Collectibles program delighted the watch aficionados present.
Focusing on the 50-year “Golden Age” of 20th-century watchmaking (demarcated by JLC as running from the 1920s to the 1970s), the Collectibles program aims to reinvigorate vintage watches from this period, fully restoring them to a standard that can only be described as “new and unworn”.
It’s actually mind-blowing to see the pieces in play here. For this capsule collection, we have 11 watches, lovingly returned to their original glory by Jaeger-LeCoultre’s ultra-talented 10-strong team of watch restorers.
As someone who spent years hunched over a bench, learning the equally gratifying and galling art of micro-mechanics, I must say I am in awe of the skill on display. The restorers have unshackled access to the brand’s archives and are therefore able to reference the original technical drawings of the components in question. Remarkably, given that some of these pieces are close to 100 years old, there are, on occasion, original NOS (New Old Stock) spare parts available. And, in instances where no such parts remain in stock, the original stamping tools have been retained so a replacement can be made and finished to the appropriate standard on-site.
Thanks to JLC’s vertical integration, all of this work can be performed in-house. The results are truly remarkable and a testament to the talent the brand has diligently accrued.
The release of the second Collectibles capsule collection coincides with the manufacture’s 190th anniversary and is the perfect way to honor all that has gone before. While none of the pieces currently available hails from the brand’s first year of existence in 1833, one of them (a divine Duoplan ladies’ model) was first created in the 1920s, and a Reverso, boasting a delicious deep red dial, rolled off the production line in 1933.
I say first created because these pieces are truly reborn. Their restoration is unequivocally stunning to behold but it does, quite naturally, raise some philosophical questions. To some, the total, unrestricted renovation of an historical watch is a travesty; to others it is transcendent.
I fall into the latter camp having never understood the myriad ills excused by the word “vintage” where the term “old” (or even “clapped-out”) might be more appropriate. Here, Jaeger-LeCoultre has taken fine examples of an exemplary era of design from its own history and lovingly caressed them back to box-fresh perfection.
Honestly, and I really mean this, seeing these pieces in their revived state is an almost spiritual experience for me as a watchmaker (and an avid fan of both old design and new products). And, perhaps best of all, this isn’t the end of this weird and wonderful experiment: the Collectibles program intends to release a “continually evolving selection of historically significant timepieces” in a “series of capsule collections presented in different cities around the world.”
So, Los Angeles has had its fun. Where next might this roadshow roll? I for one will be keeping an eye out for news on this matter, so I might pay the event a visit myself.
Each of the available pieces will be supplied with a new calf leather strap, relevant archival extracts, and a copy of The Collectibles book, which has been written to provide background to the 17 historical models selected for their significance to both Jaeger-LeCoultre’s history and that of the watchmaking industry in general. Every model offered in the Collectibles programme will be one of the 17 featured in the book. If available, the original box and/or papers will be included also.
In addition to the earliest pieces, I mentioned earlier (the Duoplan and the Reverso), this collection of 11 pieces includes the Futurematic (the world’s first fully automatic watch without a conventional crown), and a selection of automatic alarm watches from the late fifties. These pieces (of which there are five in the second capsule collection) are part of the legendary Memovox family and are powered by either Calibre 815 (three of the five), or Calibre 825 (which has a date display at 3 o’clock).
Talk about timing… In the wake of the Omega Speedmaster Phillips Auction scandal, which threw the whole practice of vintage watch collecting for a loop, we have this, an apparently transparent endeavor to fully refurbish a brand’s own classics without the pretense that all or even any of the original parts will remain by the end of it. It’s refreshing.
In reality, it’s very likely a lot of the components of the watches chosen (presumably for their relatively healthy condition) will be salvageable. But, if they’re not, who cares? Jaeger-LeCoultre made them once and, by golly, the brand will make them once more! This is basically the way you would treat your modern Reverso when you send it in for service. Why wouldn’t you want it to come back to your wrist gleaming as freshly as it did the day you first strapped it on?
These models were first presented on June 16th at JLC’s boutique on Rodeo Drive. They will be on display until June 21st (that’s this Wednesday). In addition to the 11 pieces brought to market this time around, visitors will find a display walking through the 17 chapters of the Collectibles book, giving us all an insight into what models we can expect to see in future Collectibles capsule collections.
If you can’t make it out to LA in person to see these fascinating pieces in the metal but are desperate to own one, you can actually buy them online at jaeger-lecoultre.com, as well. Although one imagines you’ll have to be quick as every piece will be highly sought after by collectors and the well-heeled stylish to boot.
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FROM THE SHOP
|Movement||Self-winding caliber FBN 229.01 with natural escapement; 72-hour power reserve|
|Functions||Hours, minutes and small seconds|
|Case||40mm; stainless steel; water resistant to 30m|
|Dial||Verdant green, with sector track; applied, white rhodium treated gold Arabic numerals and hour markers|
|Strap||Brown calf leather with Alcantara lining, stainless steel pin buckle; additional Milanese bracelet in stainless steel|
|Limited Edition||Limited edition of 15 pieces|