Watches: Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Grande Complication (live pics & video)

By Thierry Ané on February 17, 2015

In an era dominated by digital technology where every possible piece of information, however complex, can be accessed on line with no particular efforts, it is difficult to realise that not so long ago, being able to measure and display on a timekeeper anything pertaining to the time, the seasons, the tides, the moon or any other celestial information was a great technical achievement!

It is in the late 19th century that the virtuosity of master watchmakers really took off and from that period on, all timekeepers, whether clocks, pocket watches or wristwatches, have never ceased to push the boundaries of human intelligence and dexterity by offering the most sophisticated combinations of complications.

And even today, where such functionalities have either lost their relevance and/or their magic for most people (being useless to today’s way of life or simply so easily obtained on our laptops for us to think twice about the technical achievement behind their display), all the watch enthusiasts around the world have kept their ability to appreciate the technical prowess their presence on a timekeeper requires.

With the “Master Grande Tradition” line, the watchmakers of the Manufacture Jaeger-LeCoultre pay a vibrant tribute to this golden age of Fine Watchmaking by showcasing a wide range of complications, sometimes combined, in creations the aesthetics of which remain faithful to the wonderful restraint of the models from this period, and whose superlative finishing is always achieved by the same age-old manual artistic crafts.

The work-of-art introduced at this year’s SIHH that best exemplifies this general philosophy is unarguably the 2015 version of the Master Grande Tradition Grande Complication, a fascinating piece of Haute Horlogerie that we were lucky to see in the metal at the exhibition and that I am happy to present here today with our own pictures. I hope they will help the readers appreciate the incredible beauty of this creation a little more than the unique (!) official picture provided by the Manufacture: this was obviously not enough to do this model justice…

When reviewing such an incredible timepiece, the easiest part is to decide where to begin: thee dial! This is clearly where the magic takes place and where the eyes of any observer, whether seasoned watch connoisseur or neophyte, will lay first.

At a glance, though, both will easily understand that this Master Grande Tradition Grande Complication is entirely dedicated to astronomical time measurement. Inside an opaline silver-toned ring, the dial reproduces the sky chart of the Northern Hemisphere, displaying the pattern of constellations we can no longer see in the sky of our illuminated cities. Attached to this dial is the orbital flying tourbillon with a minimalist carriage made of ultra-light titanium to emphasise its aerial side.

What makes it “orbital” is the fact that together with the rest of the dial, it revolves around the dial counter-clockwise. This fascinating show takes exactly 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4 seconds to perform a complete revolution. Watch lovers will know that this corresponds to the average sidereal day, the unit of time used by astronomers to follow the trajectory of celestial bodies.

Spinning around the edge of this majestic chart, a small sun performs a full turn of the dial in exactly 24 hours and therefore displays the “solar time” we are more accustomed with. This sun also points to the zodiac signs, months and days appearing on the dial’s outer ring.

This year, the in-house manually-wound JLC 945 calibre that animates this beauty has been placed in a refined 45 mm pink gold frame. Extremely classical, this beautiful case draws its design inspiration form pocket watches of the 19th century, in particular for its extremely concave bezel. Keen observers and devotees of the “Grande Maison” will notice a difference on the design of the lever that appears on the case band.

The slide of the minute repeater has indeed been reworked to be more ergonomic and pleasing to operate. For those who did not know the previous versions of this watch, like for instance the white gold model introduced in 2010 or the full pave rendition of last year, the presence of this lever will let you know that in addition to its astronomical indications, this decidedly complex mechanism is also able to provide an audible indication of the (solar) time of the day.

On demand, when the slide is activated, the watch will sound the hours, the quarters and the minutes in a melodious way that is also extremely audible. Indeed, the Manufacture uses crystal cathedral gongs to create the purest and most melodious possible chime. To achieve the exceptionally rich tone, the section of the hammers that strikes on the gongs is square rather than the usual round shape. This way, it provides a contact greater surface for the hammer and consequently a greater sound. The sapphire crystal placed on the back of the watch lets you admire them in action.

On all aspects, the Master Grande Tradition Grande Complication epitomises Fine Watchmaking at its best and is yet another testament of the expertise of this renowned Manufacture. This is an outstanding piece of Haute Horlogerie that has the ability to move experience watch lovers and neophyte alike: a great achievement!

For more information please visit the Jaeger-LeCoultre web site.

For a technical description of the timepiece and additional pictures: