Circa 1120 • First permanent settlers in the Vallée de Joux
Monks draw their chief means of subsistence from the lake. In this high-perched valley, they gradually clear certain plots of land amid the "Joux", which meant forest in old French.
Circa 1480 • First forge in the Vallée de Joux
Established thanks to the local iron mines, the art of metalworking sparks the economic development of the valley. It first enables the production of ploughing tools needed for farming. Little by little, the mastery of miniaturization techniques will transform this isolated and rather barren region into the worldwide centre of complicated watch making.
Circa 1559 • Arrival of Pierre LeCoultre in the Vallée de Joux
The first representative of the LeCoultre family in Switzerland, Pierre LeCoultre (circa 1530-circa 1600) flees religious persecutions in France. He leaves his village of Lisy-sur-Ourcq close to Paris.
In the Vallée de Joux, he starts to farm untouched land, exploits forestry resources and devotes the latter part of his life to teaching religion and general knowledge.
From the 16th century onwards, the LeCoultre family plays a predominant role in the region's political and economic development.
Circa 1730 • Establishment of the LeCoultre forge
Abraham-Joseph LeCoultre (1711-1776), blacksmith, farmer and beekeeper, founds the forge that will give rise to the Manufacture Jaeger-LeCoultre.
From 1740 • Watch making and the lapidary's art reach the Vallée de Joux
The Combiers (as the inhabitants of the valley are known) come to specialize in making movement blanks, dials and pinions, which they deliver to Geneva. They devote their long winter evenings to making striking mechanisms and quickly become the undisputed masters of all watch complications.
In parallel, the art of the lapidary begins to develop. The Combiers make watch jewels that ensure the precision of watches. They also cut the diamonds adorning the most beautiful timekeepers.
A self-taught watchmaker trained at his father's forge, a brilliant inventor and technical pioneer, Antoine Lecoultre (1803-1881) founds the Manufacture at the age of 30, thanks to his revolutionary tool for making pinions for watches and clocks.
His workshop, initially employing four craftsmen, quickly prospers. In association with his brother Ulysse, Antoine LeCoultre erects the first building from which the Manufacture is to develop.
His inventions represent decisive breakthroughs for the watch trade as a whole.
1844 • Invention of the Millionometer
Antoine LeCoultre invents the most accurate measuring tool of his time. The millionometer is the first instrument capable of measuring thousandths of a millimetre.
Widely used until the early 20th century, it ensures the extraordinary finish and reliability of the timekeepers produced by the Manufacture.
1845 • Improvement of the road, which crosses the Marchairuz linking Geneva to the Vallée de Joux. Each spring for the past century, the watchmakers of the valley have taken this rutted path to the city at the end of Lake Léman in order to sell their precious mechanisms crafted during the winter.
1847 • Invention of the crown winding system
Antoine LeCoultre makes a revolutionary system doing away with the need for a key to wind the watch and set it to time. A single "lever" crown serves these two purposes.
Today, almost all mechanical watches comprise this type of system.
1851 • Gold medal at the Universal Exposition in London
At the very first Universal Exposition in 1851, marking the dawn of the modern era, Antoine LeCoultre wins a gold medal for a gold chronometer, as well as in recognition of his numerous other achievements: crown winding system, avant-garde production processes and the excellence of components conducive to interchangeability.
From this point on, the Manufacture will regularly receive the most prestigious accolades.
1858 • Elie LeCoultre ably assists his father Antoine
A watchmaker and inventor like his father, Elie LeCoultre (1842-1917) begins work in the Manufacture at the age of 15.
Industrial pioneer, creator of numerous complicated Calibres and promoter of new manufacturing processes, he transforms the small family workshop into the very first Manufacture in the Vallée de Joux.
1860 • At each mealtime, around sixty employees are served at the table of Antoine LeCoultre.
1867 • LeCoultre becomes the first Manufacture in the Vallée de Joux
Housed within a spacious building inaugurated the previous year, the family workshop becomes the first full-fledged Manufacture in the Vallée de Joux. Under one roof, for the very first time, watchmakers pool their multiple forms of expertise in the invention of new mechanisms.
The new production methods ensure the technical excellence and variety of creations: 9 to 20 lignes Calibres with quarter and minute repeaters, chronographs, fly-back hands, etc.
From here on, the Manufacture is to be the economic heart and the driving force of watch making in the Vallée de Joux.
1874 • A new building links the two previous ones. The Manufacture employs over 200 people.
1877 • Antoine LeCoultre hands over his shares to his three sons who rename the company: LeCoultre & Cie.
1879 • La Société des Glacières in the Vallée de Joux begins commercialising the ice from the lake. Sawn and stored during the winter, it supplies cafés around Lake Léman and as far a field as Paris during the summer.
After World War II, the company was superseded by the widespread installation of refrigerators.
1880 • Founding of Jaeger in Paris
Edmond Jaeger (1858-1922), a great French watchmaker, had left his native Alsace in 1873 following the Franco-Prussian war. He founds his company in Paris in 1880.
As official Horologer to the French Navy, he devotes his life to mechanisms for measuring speeds: chronometers, tachometers, kinemometers and cockpit clocks.
1881 • Death of Antoine LeCoultre after a last invention
In her memoirs, Antoine's wife Zélie LeCoultre provides a vivid account: "Every single evening of one winter and many others were devoted to making toothed milling-cutters; he knew those with blades, but he also wanted to make some with small teeth; he created a special machine for this purpose and made quite a few, but the machine entirely built by him was not precise enough for his liking. It is incredible to think how much patience and work he devoted to accomplishing this, but he finally made it. At this age, such an arduous task was detrimental to his health, and a swelling of the face proved fatal. On April 26th 1881, this dear husband was taken from me at the age of 78 years and 10 days."
1883 • Well before electricity reached towns, the Manufacture adopts electric lighting in its workshops. Energy is drawn from a modest steam-driven machine powered by local turf.
1886 • The steam train connects the world to the Vallée de Joux.
1888 • Construction of a new building
The new workshops accentuate the specialization of the Manufacture in the field of watch complications.
1890 • The Manufacture makes 156 Calibres
In 1890, around 500 employees create an exceptional range of 125 simple Calibres and 31 of the most complicated ones on the market.
1900 • Jacques-David LeCoultre takes charge of production
The son of Elie LeCoultre, Jacques-David LeCoultre (1875-1948) assumes management of production after three years spent in the workshops as a watchmaker. This devotee of sport, music and theatre, will serve as Managing Director of LeCoultre & Cie from 1906 until his demise in 1948.
A man endowed with incredible working capacity, as well as a talented watchmaker and brilliant entrepreneur, he proves capable of giving the Manufacture a truly international dimension.
1902 • Relations with Patek & Philippe
From 1902 and for the next 30 years, LeCoultre & Cie is to create and make most of the movement blanks for Patek & Philippe in Geneva.
Creation of a gemstone and gem-setting workshop
To adorn jewellery watches, a new workshop welcomes the know-how of a diamond-cutter and a gem-setter.
Specialized craftsmen also make watch jewels. These components reduce the friction of the pivots and guarantee greater longevity for LeCoultre & Cie movements.
1903 • Jacques-David LeCoultre meets Edmond Jaeger
Having learned of Edmond Jaeger's plan to make ultra-thin watches, Jacques-David LeCoultre decides to take up the challenge. He cycles 20 kilometres from the Manufacture to the nearest phone in order to call Paris.
The cooperation and friendship of these two men will give rise to numerous exceptional creations, as well as to the Jaeger-LeCoultre brand.
1907 • Cartier, which has been a client of Edmond Jaeger for several years, signs an exclusive contract with the Parisian watchmaker. Through Jaeger, LeCoultre & Cie will craft the stunning watch creations launched by the famous jeweller.
World's thinnest movement
An unrivalled master of ultra-thin calibres since 1903, the Manufacture creates the world's thinnest crown winding pocket-watch movement: 1.38 mm high, and a diameter of 39.54 mm. It thereby sets a record that has yet to be matched in the world of traditional Belle Horlogerie.
Other breathtakingly diminutive complicated movements accompany this development, including a chronograph just 2.8 mm high and a minute repeater 3.2 mm high!
1912 • Extension of the Manufacture
Representing a new phase in the integration of all watch making know-how under one roof, this new building becomes the new architectural core of the Manufacture.
From 1915 • Aviation and automobiles
From 1915 onwards, three exceptional men combine their dynamic talents to create instruments intended for aviation and automobile pioneers. Their names are Jacques-David Lecoultre, Edmond Jaeger and Edmond Audemars (1882-1970). A childhood friend of Jacques-David LeCoultre, the latter is a cycling champion, the first pilot to have flown from Paris to Berlin, and the future legatee by will of the Roland Garros tennis tournament. He has just set a new record for high-altitude flight at 6,120 metres. Despite his several layers of clothing, his feet almost froze.
Partly made in the Vallée de Joux and carrying the Jaeger signature, the instruments, chronographs, 8-day watches, automatic pilots and goniometers are standard equipment on allied planes during World War I and subsequently on the most prestigious post-war cars.
1925 • Invention of the Duoplan watch
Based on a revolutionary concept, the Duoplan Calibre consists of two superposed levels making it possible to accommodate a large watch movement within a small case.
Due to its exceptional reliability, the Duoplan is guaranteed by the Lloyds insurance company in London. An innovative after-sales service system makes it possible to replace the watch movement in a matter of seconds.
1927 • Extension
The creation of Duoplan (1925), Reverso (1931) and Uniplan (1932) wristwatches demands more space than ever.
1928 • Invention of the Atmos clock
After several years of research and a first patent filed in 1926, Swiss inventor Jean-Léon Reutter (1899-1971) comes closer than ever before to achieving one of humankind's most cherished dreams: that of perpetual motion. In 1928, he presents the first prototypes of a clock that draws its energy from the slightest atmospheric variations.
Thanks to his friend César de Trey (1876-1953), who will also contribute to the creation of the Reverso), Jacques-David LeCoultre discovers the fascinating "eternal" clock. After a detailed scrutiny of its mechanism, he notes that only the finest watchmakers will be able to rise to this technical challenge. Jean-Léon Reutter shares this conviction.
Entirely made within the Manufacture since 1936, the Atmos has become a legend of its time. Its prestige earns it status as the official gift of the Swiss government.
1929 • World's smallest movement
Despite the 1929 depression, the Manufacture demonstrates exceptional creativity.
The brilliant concept of the Duoplan Calibre provides an opportunity for the watchmakers of the Manufacture to rise to a new challenge. They flirt with the impossible by creating the world's smallest mechanical watch. The first version of Calibre 101 weighs barely 1 gram and is composed of 74 parts.
Queen Elizabeth II will wear one of these models at her coronation in 1953.
1931 • 8-day double-barrel wristwatch
In 1928, the Manufacture was one of the first and only companies to take up the challenge of 8-day wristwatches.
In 1931, LeCoultre & Cie creates the rectangular 8-day double-barrel Calibre 124. This exceptional Calibre foreshadows the Grande Reverso line.
1931 • Birth of the Reverso
After a polo match in India, British officers challenge their friend César de Trey to create a watch able to withstand the hard knocks inflicted by their favourite sport. On returning to Europe, the businessman shares the problem with Jacques-David LeCoultre, who creates the Reverso watch in association with Jaeger.
Designed in Paris by René-Alfred Chauvot and patented on March 4th 1931, the Reverso enshrines all the Art Deco values: universality, understated aesthetics based on fundamental shapes, an attachment to hand craftsmanship, along with a taste for playfulness and celebration.
1932 • Baguette clock
Reminiscent of the shape of the pendulum on old-fashioned clocks, the elegant 8-day baguette movement is revealed through a transparent glass case.
1937 • Official birth of the Jaeger-LeCoultre brand
Jaeger of Paris and LeCoultre of Le Sentier officially seal their longstanding cooperation. From now on, watches from the Manufacture will carry the Jaeger-LeCoultre brand name (formerly either LeCoultre or Jaeger).
A superb rectangular wristwatch calendar celebrates the official birth of Jaeger-LeCoultre.
1938 • Compass miniature camera
A great hit with spies, the Jaeger-LeCoultre miniature Compass camera is a splendid demonstration of fine mechanical engineering.
From 1941 Jacques-David LeCoultre decides to throw the spotlight on the technical mastery of the Manufacture by participating in observatory competitions. Jaeger-LeCoultre immediately earns the highest distinctions, particularly from the Neuchâtel Observatory for its Jaeger-LeCoultre tourbillon Calibre 170.
1943 • The Manufacture employs a workforce of seven hundred. Eight of them have been working there for over forty years, and three for sixty years!
1946 • First Jaeger-LeCoultre automatic watch
At the end of World War II, the spirit of the era is geared towards reconstruction, efficiency and pragmatism. Jaeger-LeCoultre directs its inventive genius towards the field of automatic round timekeepers, forerunners of the Master Control line. The first is equipped with Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 476.
1950 • Birth of the Memovox
Symbolizing the well-organized and efficient time of the post-war boom period, the Memovox, meaning literally "the voice of memory", immediately asserts itself as the ultimate watch for the active man. Its striking mechanism gives a pleasant cadence to the schedule of daily life: waking up, appointments, train timetables or parking meters.
The first Memovox models were manually wound, Calibres 489 and 814 (with date display). Thanks to their exceptional quality, the career of these Memovox Calibres continues to this day, representing exceptional longevity in the watch-making world.
1953 • Futurematic
Jaeger-LeCoultre invents the first 100% automatic watch with no winding-crown. Its movement constantly maintains sufficient power-reserve to start up again with impeccable precision, even after having stopped for a long period.
1955 • To accommodate the new specialities developed by the Manufacture, three new buildings are added to the five existing ones.
1956 • First automatic alarm wristwatch
The automatic Memovox is a world first. Produced between 1956 and 1968, it is equipped with Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 815, a 17-jewel, 18,000-vph mechanical automatic movement with alarm function.
1958 • Geophysic Chronometer
In 1958, Jaeger-LeCoultre takes part in the extraordinary adventure of the International Geophysical Year by creating an outstandingly rugged model: protected against magnetic fields, shock- and water-resistant, as well as extremely accurate.
Fitted with Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 478b, the Geophysic chronometer acquires tremendous prestige. When a group of Genevan citizens decides to honour the feats of the first atomic submarines that have just gone under the North Pole, they present the commanders of the Nautilus and the Skate with a gold Geophysic chronometer specially engraved for the occasion.
In 1962, this automatic watch is renamed Geomatic.
1958 • The Manufacture employs almost eight hundred people.
1962 • Ultra-thin Calibre 838
Belonging to the upper echelons of the watch movement aristocracy, this patented Calibre is the thinnest existing to be fitted with an anti-shock device. Thickness: 1.85 mm.
Today's Master Ultra Thin is equipped with the direct descendant of this miniature marvel, Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 849.
1967 • Jaeger-LeCoultre takes part in the creation of the first quartz wristwatch in watch making history. Bêta 2 makes a clean sweep of all the Observatory prizes in the chronometer category.
A new building is dedicated to making the perpetual Atmos clock.
1981-1983 • A blaze of records for quartz Calibres
In 1981, Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 606 with date display and centre seconds is the thinnest in its category. The following year, the 601 earns the title of the world's thinnest, at 1.8 mm high for a diameter of 11.7 mm.
In 1982, Jaeger-LeCoultre betters its own record with Calibre 608: a mere 1.6 mm thick!
1983 • Calibre 889
In parallel with quartz developments, the Manufacture continues to cultivate its passion for the finest mechanical horology. The high-frequency automatic Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 889 with jumping date display is a vivid example.
In 1992, this will become the movement which equips the very first watch to surmount the rigorous Master 1000 Hours test.
1989 • Grand Réveil
The cream of the Memovox Calibres, the Grand Réveil achieves the feat of incorporating a large complication within the limited space of a wristwatch.
High-frequency automatic Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 919 comprises no less than 350 parts, a perpetual calendar with moon phases and alarm. It gently strikes its reminders on a bronze bell.
The Master Grande Memovox, representing a worthy heir to the Grand Réveil, is created in 2000.
1990 • Géographique
All the genius of the Manufacture is lavished on creating automatic Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 929 with 24 time zones, day-night indication, power-reserve and a high-frequency balance.
The Géographique is a subtle invitation to travel. Its time zones tempt one to escape for a moment and to project oneself into space, sensing the earth's roundness with one's fingertips.
1991 • Journey to the centre of time exhibition
To celebrate the 60th birthday of the Reverso, the Manufacture creates a travelling pavilion dealing with watch making history encapsulated within a 70 times larger-than-life Reverso.
The Reverso 60ème heralds the era of the Limited series complicated Reverso models. The solid silver guilloché dial framed by a Grande Taille pink gold case conceals manually wound Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 824 with a substantial power-reserve.
This marks the start of a succession of horological feats. The Reverso welcomes a tourbillon in 1993, a minute repeater in 1994, a retrograde chronograph in 1996, a time-zone mechanism in 1998 and a perpetual calendar in the year 2000.
1992 • Master 1000 Hours
Based on an unparalleled set of strict standards, the battery of tests composing the Master 1000 Hours control procedure guarantee the exceptional reliability and precision of the first Master Control.
From now on, all Jaeger-LeCoultre round watches are required to meet the demands of these 1000 hours of tests which create a new benchmark in quality watchmaking.
1994 • Reverso Duo
On the corner of a tablecloth in a small restaurant in the Vallée de Joux, a new concept for the Reverso takes shape.
What if the famous watch were to have two faces? The dream becomes reality thanks to Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 854, which indicates the time here and now on the front, while the back shows the time far and away...
Three years later, the feminine Reverso also acquires two faces, one by day, the other by night. The Reverso Duetto plays on times, on appearance and on personality.
1997 • Extension
The fabulous creativity of the Manufacture in the field of complicated wristwatches calls for spacious, well-lit new premises.
At the heart of the Sinai region, in the Saint Catherine monastery, a profoundly cultural place beyond the reach of time, the Atmos du Millénaire patiently marks off time through the ages.
On its dial graduated until the year 3000, the perpetual clock indicates the years, the months, the moon-phases and, as a small concession to secular time, the hours and minutes.
2002 • Master Compressor Memovox
The 1965 diver’s Memovox inspires its style. It bears the seal of the 1958 Geophysic chronometer. And its Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 918 stems directly from the 1956 Calibre 815. The Master Compressor Memovox sets the crowning touch to its predecessors' noteworthy achievements.
With its revolutionary compression keys, it heralds the Master Compressor line.
For the Reverso Neva, the Manufacture Jaeger-LeCoultre invents a new Haute Joaillerie technique: "snow-setting". Diamonds slide and undulate towards infinity like the waves on the famous Neva river running through Saint Petersburg.
To celebrate the start of its eighth decade of existence, the Reverso writes a new chapter with Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 879.
Its 8-day power-reserve provided by a coupled double-barrel system sets a new standard in the field of 8-day wristwatches. The Reverso Septantième is a remarkable prelude to the new Grande Reverso line.
In tribute to the 200th anniversary of the birth of its founder, the Manufacture creates 200 exclusive timekeepers carrying his signature engraved on the case and movement.
Worthy of its famous inventor, Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 877 features an 8-day double-barrel power-reserve and a large date display.
Reverso Platinum Number Two
Innately understated and distinguished, the second platinum Reverso reveals the magic of the tourbillon through its entire back. In keeping with the sense of symmetry inherent to Art Deco, Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 848 invents a new decorative motif: "Côtes Soleillés".
Worthy of the most brilliant inventions presented by the Manufacture, the 75 Atmos Mystérieuses’ will reveal their secrets only to the most informed and clever minds.
"Anachronism, the plays of time" exhibition
100 years after the encounter between Edmond Jaeger and Jacques-David LeCoultre, the Manufacture inaugurates in Paris an avant-garde travelling exhibition highlighting the symbolic dimensions of the mechanical watch.
*The “Trentes Glorieuses” (Thirty Glorious Years” ) refers to the post Second World War period of economic growth, and which came to an end with the first oil crisis in 1973.
The Watch Quote™ would like to thank the Press Relations service at Jaeger-LeCoultre Switzerland for its invaluable assistance.