Master Compressor Extreme LAB
When exceptions become the rule
The Watch Quote™ - April 21st, 2007
The revolutionary Master Compressor Extreme LAB undoubtedly represents an exceptional achievement. Operating without any form of lubricant, the new Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 988C powering this watch proves itself fully capable of running smoothly for years without any wear of its parts or deterioration of its performances. Even at temperatures of -40°C, when the oils or grease in a classic watch freeze and bring the movement to a halt, the Master Compressor Extreme LAB continues its task unperturbed by any such factors.
A new geometry of the balance, the use of new lighter and more resistant materials in the escapement, and a latest-generation tourbillon regulator, converge in enabling the Jaeger-LeCoultre 988C to establish a new precision benchmark.
Clothed in its high-tech garment, the Master Compressor Extreme LAB prefigures the future of watchmaking. This concentrated blend of technology and inventiveness, for which six patents have been filed, will delight the most discerning connoisseurs... since it will be expressed through an exclusive and limited production.
A unique concept watch
- A lubricant-free watch
- Resistance to extreme temperatures: - 40° / + 60° C
- Innovative character rewarded by six patents
- Movement entirely redesigned and created by Jaeger-LeCoultre
- Two years of intense development
- High-tech design: carbon and titanium case
- Automatic tourbillon with a large variable inertia balance (11.5mg x cm2) oscillating at a high frequency of 28,800 vibrations/hour
- Two time zones
- Pointer-type AM/PM indication at 12 o’clock
- Patented jumping date display between 15 and 16 linked to local time, arranged on either side of the tourbillon
An exceptional concept, a lubricant-free movement
Revolutionary by its very nature, the Master Compressor Extreme LAB does away with the need for any lubricants in the movement. All watch parts have been entirely rethought to achieve the supreme horological quest to eliminate oil so as to ensure optimal operation. Traditional mechanical movements use oils or grease to ensure the ideal operating of all the parts in motion. These take the form of oils in varying degrees of fineness for parts with high translation or rotation speeds, or grease for parts subject to powerful pressures or stresses.Unfortunately, the properties of such oils and grease deteriorates over time and the performances of the movement likewise decline if these lubricants are not replaced in due time.
Watchmaking is no exception to this rule, which is why only a lubricant-free watch movement could be genuinely considered as perfect.
Testing conducted during the 1970s on plastic movements had already shown the way towards doing without some of the oils and grease. However, these watches did not stand the test of time, which resulted in wear on the parts that in turn rapidly diminished their chronometric and functional performances.
In its ongoing search to enhance the reliability of mechanical movements, Jaeger-LeCoultre had already renounced the use of lubrication in the ball-bearing mechanisms of automatic winding systems, by introducing ceramic ball-bearings as early as 2002.
Today, the research team at the Manufacture in Le Sentier is raising the bar even higher, exploring totally uncharted territory by making a mechanical movement run without the help of any lubricant whatsoever. This research has culminated in the brand-new Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 988C: the first mechanical movement in watchmaking history to operate in an accurate and reliable manner with no lubricant.
The engineers and watchmakers have resorted to new materials and new combinations of materials in order to rise to this historical challenge. The EasiumTM carbonitride thus makes its grand entrance onto the watchmaking stage. This extremely hard material features extraordinary tribological properties and is therefore particularly suited to the making bearings able to operate without lubricants. This is why, in Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 988C, Easium replaces the traditional jewels lubricated with a fine oil. The burnished steel pivots of the balance-staff are coated with a special surface treatment and turn inside an Easium bearing. The endstone is also made from Easium. This is also a material used to make the two bearings allowing the carriage to turn in the bridges without any need to add jewels that would require lubrication. Watchmakers examining the movement will look in vain for the red gleam of the pallet-stones, noticing instead a distinctive dark substance: black crystalline diamond, a synthetic material as hard as natural diamonds but with considerably enhanced operational properties. Its friction on the silicon teeth of the escape-wheel does not require any oil to improve its operating longevity. All the burnished steel pivots of the wheels and pinions are coated with a surface treatment that obviates any need to oil the jewels.
On the other end of the movement, the barrel grease has also disappeared. Instead, a graphite powder helps the bride to slide smoothly inside the drum when the mainspring has been wound beyond the maximum power reserve by the automatic winding mechanism. The molecular structure of graphite consists in a stack of microplatelets; contrary to grease, it retains its lubricating properties over time, whatever the temperature and the hygrometry level. As for the ball-bearing mechanism of the oscillating weight, in addition to the use of ceramic ball- bearings mentioned earlier, friction has been reduced by optimising the rotor which features carbon fibre arms and a distinctly lighter and more rigid base. Finally, the oscillating weight segment is surprising in itself with its iridium platinum alloy, the densest non-toxic physical body currently machinable. The entire winding/time-setting mechanism is coated with Nickel-PTFE in order to eliminate the customary greasing points. The date jumper-spring features a frictional surface that also operates in “dry” mode.
The early years of each century are particularly propitious to creativity. On behalf of all watch connoisseurs, one may sincerely hope that the discoveries being made by Jaeger-LeCoultre will have a lasting influence on 21st century horology.
The quest for precision
After several years devoted to a given profession, one might tend to develop a sense of knowing everything and of mastering everything – until a little something challenges even the most deeply ingrained convictions. By way of example, let’s take an inescapable part of a mechanical watch: the balance. Aren’t the most efficient balances circular? The latest research by Jaeger-LeCoultre proves the exact opposite. Lengthy testing has revealed the importance of the total surface of the balance on its aerodynamic performances. The larger the surface, the greater the aerodynamic friction and the more energy it takes to maintain the oscillations of the balance and spring – which is in turn detrimental to precision. The geometry devised by Jaeger- LeCoultre, coupled with the use of an extremely dense material – in this case iridium platinum – minimises the surface in friction. Thus, given a constant level of inertia, this balance requires less energy to oscillate than a traditional balance.
The geometry of the balance has also been designed to reduce the ratio between the mass and the inertia of the balance. High inertia ensures a stable regulator that is fairly insensitive to the vibrations and daily shocks to which a watch is subjected and which disturb its precision. Nonetheless, high inertia implies a higher balance mass, leading to larger losses due to mechanical fiction and thus increased energy consumption to maintain the oscillations – as well as a larger difference in amplitude between horizontal and vertical positions. The balance of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 988C has been optimised in order to reduce total mass without modifying the determined inertia. The shape of the arms, the openings and the geometry enable a several-point gain in the mass/inertia ratio. This factor directly influences the variations in rate between different positions that are well-known to watchmakers, due to the difference in amplitude between the “dial-up” and “pendant-up” positions. The lower the mass/inertia ratio, the smaller the differences between the various positions, thus enabling the watchmaker to perform a more precise adjustment of the watch.
Meanwhile, the balance-spring makes its own contribution to accuracy. It beats in a perfectly concentric manner in order to guarantee ideal isochronism. Not only does it feature the carefully calculated form of a Phillips terminal curve, but the watchmakers have also created something they call a “bend” in the centre. The “bend” is a distortion of the balance-spring at a specific place, close to the collet pinning-point, and which at given moments modifies the rigidity of the spring and corrects the natural tendency of any spring to “breathe” in an off-centred manner. Only this winning combination of an outer Phillips terminal curve and a central “bend” makes it possible to create a balance-spring that develops in a perfectly concentric way (meaning with symmetrical expansions and contractions in respect to the centre). Precise adjustment of this movement is of course performed using screws placed on the balance. This process, now used on all the Jaeger-LeCoultre automatic calibres, has replaced the traditional index assembly and ensures peerless initial reliability of the rate that thereby remains unperturbed over time, even if the watch is accidentally jarred.
To perfect the exceptional efficiency of this regulating organ, the aerodynamic properties of the balance have been fine-tuned by bevelling the arms, by streamlining the shape of the weights, and by integrating adjustment screws inside the weights. The escape-wheel is made from silicon, which is considerably lighter than steel and thus also favourably influences efficiency. A one-minute tourbillon houses this literally extraordinary regulator. The tourbillon carriage is machined from blocks of a magnesium alloy that is two and a half times lighter than titanium, and contributes to reducing energy losses due to friction and thus further improves the exceptional efficiency of the regulator. The cadence of 28,800 vibrations per hour, the high(11.5 mg.cm2) inertia of the balance and the tourbillon, together guarantee the Master Compressor Extreme LAB a smooth transition from the laboratory to the wrist.
With this unprecedented watch, Jaeger-LeCoultre confirms its technical leadership in ensuring precision whatever the conditions.
A high-tech exterior
Inspired by the unshakeable conviction that the beauty and perfection of a work of art is expressed in even the smallest details, the watchmakers and designers of the Manufacture have raised the game of precision and functions to unprecedented levels of refinement.
The aesthetics of the Master Compressor Extreme Lab reflect the technology within. Its transparent dial reveals the heart of the horological mechanism featuring a particularly attractive graphic design characterised by subtle contrasts between the black aluminium of the openworked centre bridge and the flange, the white colour of the applied hanging numerals and hour-markers, and the grey of the tourbillon bridge. The centre bridge is made from an aluminium alloy reinforced with particles of titanium carbide, Ticalium®. The mechanical hardness and resistance of this alloy are thus improved by 20% without increasing the density. The case visually reflects the movement with its association of carbon, silicon carbonitride and grade 5 titanium. Three patents have been filed for this case construction alone. The first covers its original structure featuring an interior carbon fibre case fitted inside a titanium ring. The obvious advantage is a gain in weight, but the resulting aesthetic effect is doubtless even more remarkable. The case as a whole is topped by a bezel in silicon carbonitride, a material that is lighter and more resistant than traditional ceramics.
The second patent request relates to the suspension mounting of the movement. The silent- block, made from a supple red polyurethane material, not only serves to avoid any risk of water seeping into the crown tube, but also mechanically isolates the movement and its Compressor crown. The calibre and winding-stem are thus mounted in a “free-floating” manner and there is thus no metal to metal link between the movement and the case, which means the watch mechanism is protected from detrimental external influences such as violent shocks or vibrations.
The red eloxed aluminium crown echoes the red elements on the dial, the silent-block shock-
absorber and the strap.
Jaeger-LeCoultre has also devoted special attention to the strap of this watch. Its double-layered construction enhances both its robustness and its virile appearance. The unusual combination of materials such as leather, cordura canvas and alcantara, reinforced by a composite strip, lends this strap a three-dimensional appearance on a par with the case to which it is attached. Another patent has been filed for the notched adjustment of the strap fastening, designed to ensure a perfect fit around the curve of the wrist. With the Master Compressor Extreme World and the AMVOX2, Jaeger-LeCoultre once again demonstrates a proven ability to use its mastery of watchmaking technology to create inventive and functional exterior features that contribute to the performance of its timepieces.
The Jaeger-LeCoultre research unit
Jérôme Lambert - CEO Jaeger-LeCoultre
Located for the past 145 years at the heart of the Vallée de Joux, the acknowledged paradise of watch complications, Jaeger-LeCoultre has been assiduously cultivating the pioneering spirit characteristic of the inhabitants of the region. Only inventiveness and an ability to adjust to their environment could have enabled the people of the valley to survive through the centuries. Antoine LeCoultre, the man behind what was to become the Jaeger-LeCoultre brand, displayed a particularly powerful inventive spirit. The watch components he made with machines he had himself designed and produced turned out to be so precise that he even had to invent new measuring instruments able to measure one thousandths of a millimetre for the very first time.
This spirit is still perpetuated within the Manufacture Jaeger-LeCoultre, which has developed around Antoine’s original farm-workshop. Building on the experience gained from over 1,000 movements developed since its early days, and the expertise of a complete “Manufacture” making it possible to create prototypes of the most innovative mechanisms, the Jaeger-LeCoultre development team is capable of pushing the frontiers of what is deemed conceivable in the sphere of traditional watchmaking. Recent inventions such as the spherical tourbillon in 2004, the crystal gong in 2005 and the ellipse isometer escapement in 2006, eloquently confirm this capacity. These impressive feats stem from a healthy confrontation between watchmaking tradition, cutting-edge development and production technologies, and the use of new materials – the end result being that Jaeger-LeCoultre is widely considered by analysts to be the most innovative brand in the high-end watchmaking segment.
This approach has led to the emergence of new professions in the company’s premises in Le Sentier, including computer simulation specialists, watchmaking analysts and material engineers, all working side by side with the traditional professions within the sector. This emulation in turn gives rise to mechanisms that will forge the success of the watches of the future. In order to reinforce its approach aimed at boosting and enhancing watch technologies, Jaeger-LeCoultre has decided to unite these new professions within a single “think-tank” unit that plays a complementary role to the existing development, laboratory and prototype-making setup. Its distinctive feature lies in its mission to work on topics not directly linked to new watch development projects. It is responsible for examining the new challenges of contemporary watchmaking, particularly in terms of precision and reliability.
The Master Compressor Extreme LAB constitutes
the ultimate symbolic expressionof the philosophy
and dynamism driving the Jaeger-LeCoultre brand
The Master Compressor Extreme LAB sweeps aside all standard conventions. Years of research and effort have been devoted to finding the technical solutions destined to solve an issue as old as watchmaking itself – simultaneously envisioned from a conceptual and technical angle, and from that of hand craftsmanship. It took a brand endowed with such a strong heritage as Jaeger-LeCoultre to create the Master Compressor Extreme LAB, boasting exceptional breakthrough features that foreshadow the watches of the future.
Six patents pending