180 Degrees Of Perfection

The first machine is a hundred years old; the second is as modern as tomorrow. Each of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s new Master Ultra Thin models features a mesmerizing dial with a guilloche pattern rendered in a deep, luminous blue. To create the dial, a guillocheur uses his or her thumb to press a small engraving machine across its surface. Three lines are required for each one-second space. One hundred and eighty in total. Each done by hand, using a machine which dates to 1920. Speed and pressure must be constant, or the resulting line will waver or vary in its depth.

The result appears perfect, as if it were applied by a robot or some other impersonal means—but it is very much the result of human hands. One set of hands in particular, actually. At the Jaeger-LeCoultre Manufacture in the Vallée de Joux, in the Rare Handcrafts Atelier, only one person can be “master of the guilloche savoir-faire” at any given time. With this work completed, the markers can be attached. This is done using laser welding, a technique that did not arrive in practice until 1992 and is far less automated than the name suggests. Jaeger-LeCoultre uses this technique to ensure that the guilloche face accepts the Grand Feu enamel evenly. It is applied in several layers, again by hand. 

All of this takes considerable effort for the Master Ultra Thin Moon Enamel, which features a moonphase complication with the Jaeger-LeCoultre manufacture 925/2 movement. It becomes noticeably more complex and time-consuming with the Master Ultra Thin Tourbillon Enamel, which uses a separate and distinct guilloche pattern for its date indicator. For the Master Ultra Thin Perpetual Enamel, each of the four subdials (for day, date, month/year, and moon phase for both Northern and Southern Hemisphere) receives its own pattern. “You can imagine the time required to finish a complete dial,” Jaeger-LeCoultre Product Design Director Lionel Farve laconically allowed—but even to imagine the time required would, itself, require quite some time. 

Part of a collection of three new models, the Master Ultra Thin Perpetual Calendar, gets put to the ultimate test in 2020, a leap year. A perfect example of Jaeger-LeCoultre's Rare Handcrafts, a winning combination of artistry and technical know-how.
Part of a collection of three new models, the Master Ultra Thin Perpetual Calendar, gets put to the ultimate test in 2020, a leap year. A perfect example of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Rare Handcrafts, a winning combination of artistry and technical know-how.

Which perhaps explains why all three of the new Master Ultra Thin watches are strictly limited editions. One hundred each of the Moon and Perpetual models will be made, while the Tourbillon will be half as common at 50 units produced. Each is available solely in white gold with blue enamel dial and blue alligator strap. Farve notes that white gold is all but required for the dial since steel can not accept this enamel process and platinum does not produce the same visual result. The case, therefore, is also white gold, for aesthetic unity. 

That same consideration guides the relatively modest dimensions of these watches. None of the three calibers involved require much space, so Jaeger-LeCoultre has chosen to keep diameters tidy, with the Moon and Perpetual at 39mm and the Tourbillon at 40mm. The latter is also the thickest, at a reasonable 12.13mm; the others are around ten millimeters. In an era where sports watches have made inroads all the way to black tie, it’s refreshing to see these subtle and frankly gorgeous timepieces in unashamedly formal dress.

Master Ultra Thin Moon Enamel: Simple Style

The simplest of the Master Ultra Thin series places a fully polished white gold moon in a field of stars. The date ring surrounding the moonphase display is engraved in depth for greater readability, while a subtle “Automatique” on the subdial reminds both owner and observer of the self-winding 925/2 movement within, powered by a skeletonized rose-gold rotor via a single power barrel and 30 jewels.  The hour markers are larger than in previous Master Ultra Thin models, and doubled at the cardinal points. With a case depth of 10.04mm, the emphasis is on easy wear, a cause further assisted by highly contoured lugs. Power reserve is quoted at 70 hours, which is considerable for a dress watch of this size. Retail price is $34,700, which is considerably more than that the standard Master Ultra Thin Moon and likely reflective of the painstaking work involved in the creation of the dial.

Master Ultra Thin Perpetual Enamel: Beauty Through Time

The new polished moonphase design which is the star attraction of the Master Ultra Thin Moon Enamel is joined in the Ultra Thin Perpetual Enamel by three subdials for the perpetual calendar functions. Jaeger-LeCoultre’s manufacture Calibre 868A/2 unifies 332 components to vibrate 28,800 times per hour in a 46-jewel movement with a single power barrel. The bezel has a delicate curved step that makes this already reasonably sized watch look even slimmer. At any given time, about a dozen deeply-blued screws are visible through the sapphire exhibition caseback, a nice touch and in this case a pleasant match for both strap and dial. 

The thin white gold case houses the Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 925, an automatic mechanical movement with a 70-hour power reserve. A limited-edition of 100 pieces and a Watches of Switzerland retail exclusive.
The thin white gold case houses the Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 925, an automatic mechanical movement with a 70-hour power reserve. A limited-edition of 100 pieces and a Watches of Switzerland retail exclusive.

Master Ultra Thin Tourbillon Enamel.

David Hurley, the charismatic executive VP from power retailer Watches of Switzerland, is particularly bullish on this variant: “A limited-edition of 100 pieces from a manufacture such as Jaeger-LeCoultre is very special indeed…. Adding to that, the beautiful hand-enameled guilloche dial in on-trend blue makes this watch ideal for collectors.” The Ultra Thin Perpetual Enamel retails at $53,000. Despite the considerable complication of the movement and the tidy dimensions, water resistance is quoted at 5 bar. 

Eleven years ago, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s new Calibre 978 won the Chronométrie 2009 International Timing Competition, the first such contest in 32 years. The Grande Maison’s team brought about the victory with a stunning average gain of 0.13 seconds per day and a maximum variability of 0.28 seconds per day. This performance was made possible largely by a tourbillon carriage rendered in titanium alloy and machined to exacting specifications. If watch movements were race cars, this one would be a Formula One champion. 

This airy, almost insubstantial-looking complication is at the heart of the Master Ultra Thin Tourbillon Enamel, suspended within the Grand Feu dial and encircled by 60 engraved markers. A new and revitalized Calibre 978 focuses on improvements both mechanical and aesthetic. No surface is left unembellished front or rear; the caseback displays Geneva waves on the gold rotor and tourbillon bridge itself. A “sunray” effect on the main plate draws the eye to the center of the complication.

A date counter with a separate guilloche pattern balances out the tourbillon window; it, too, features engraved counters. The 40-millimeter case is 12 millimeters deep; among tourbillon-equipped watches, this is surely one of the easiest to wear and admire. Power reserve is a robust 48 hours, significant for a tourbillon of this size and weight. Price is an equally robust $81,000—but the edition of 50 examples will likely disappear quickly regardless. 

A Rare And Unique Birthplace

All three Master Ultra Thin Enamel watches receive their finishing at the Métiers Rares® (Rare Crafts) Atelier. This workshop, inaugurated in 2016, is located on Jaeger-LeCoultre’s campus in the Vallee de Joux. Approximately 30 artisans are located here, separated by glass panels and focused on their traditional wooden workbenches. Some of their shared tools are more than a century old. 

The Enamel Process Itself

At the Atelier, each Master Thin Enamel dial receives multiple coats of blue enamel. It is polished and heated to 800 degrees C each time. Six to ten layers of transparent enamel are then added to strengthen and protect the color. During the course of this process, the dial can be heated as many as 22 times, with each heating cycle risking a crack or flaw in the existing layers. The payoff is in the striking visual patterns of the guilloche dial and the interplay of light and shade within. This defiantly time-consuming, human-centric process produces a result which a quick glance sees as perfection and a long examination reveals as the result of dedicated individual effort. 

Enameling, a rare handcraft reinstated at the Jaeger-LeCoultre Manufacture in 1996, provides the guilloché blue enamel dial with its vibrant, lustrous color.
Enameling, a rare handcraft reinstated at the Jaeger-LeCoultre Manufacture in 1996, provides the guilloché blue enamel dial with its vibrant, lustrous color.

A Celebration Of Uniquity 

Beyond their beauty and technical accomplishments, the three watches of the Master Ultra Thin Enamel series possess a shared and special quality best described as “uniquity.” Unlike most mass-produced timepieces, and even beyond many of the finest efforts from Switzerland and elsewhere, the considerable degree of hand work put into each of these 250 examples ensures that they will all be slightly unlike each other. Each will bear the marks of their creation, the almost-but-not-quite perfect embellishments of guilloche and enamel acquired during the process. Under a microscope, they would be nearly as different as fingerprints. 

It takes a unique individual, as well, to appreciate the effort involved in the creation of this series. Jaeger-LeCoultre can be confident that it has built the customer base to understand that effort. Their beauty will be obvious even to the brief observer, but it will run deeper for those who know the long hours involved in their assembly and finishing. Flawless at first glance, the uniquity of the Master Ultra Thin Enamels will be in their imperceptible variations. All those moments spent under the artisan’s lens, rendered via 180 lined degrees of perfect imperfection.

A new and original display of the perpetual calendar, the day is at 3 o’clock, moon phase at 6, date at 9 o’clock, month and year at 12. The moon phase illustrates both the Northern and Southern hemispheres.


Watches of Switzerland (1.844.4USAWOS – 1.844.487.2967)
Mayors (1.844.4MAYORS – 1.800.462.9677)

10 Killer Ways to Wear a Steel Watch

Being well-dressed starts with a great watch.

And when it comes to sartorial versatility, nothing beats a fine timepiece inside a steel case. It can take you anywhere and everywhere. This year, reassess your wardrobe by eliminating the unnecessary and paring down to the essential. Here are a few ideas…

The Look: Rolex Oyster Perpetual 39 ($5,700); rolex.com + A.P.C. Serge Shirt ($220) + A.P.C. New Standard Jeans ($220); apc-us.com

The Look: Hermès Slim d’Hermes ($7,650) + Hermès Jacquard Turtleneck, ($1,625); hermes.com

The Look: Breguet Type XXI Chronograph Ref. 3817 ($13,900); breguet.com + Todd Snyder Striped Brushed Wool Sweater ($298) + Todd Snyder Unconstructed Sport Coat ($598); toddsnyder.com

The Look: Glashütte Original Seventies Chronograph Panorama Date ($14,900); glashuette-original.com + Berluti Unlined Supple Wool Double Breasted Jacket, ($3,700) + Berluti Classic Wool Trouser ($1,010); berluti.com

The Look: Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 5711/1A ($24,836); patek.com + Officine Generale Paul Wool Pants ($370) + Officine Generale Benoit Italian Poplin Shirt ($225) + Officine Generale Cashmere V Neck Sweater ($475); officinegenerale.com

The Look: TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 1887 ($4,500); tagheuer.com + Ralph Lauren Cashmere Tickweave 3-Piece Suit ($9,995) + Ralph Lauren Purple Label Tailored End-on-End Shirt ($350); ralphlauren.com

The Look: Tudor Heritage Black Bay Chronograph ($5,050); tudorwatch.com + Louis Vuitton Double Face Jacket ($2,530) + Louis Vuitton Pique Crew Neck, ($920); louisvuitton.com

The Look: NOMOS Tangente Neomatic 39 Silvercut ($3,880); nomos-glashuette.com + A.P.C. New Standard Jean ($220); apc-us.com + Helmut Lang Vintage Jean Jacket ($420); similar at farfetch.com

The Look: Girard Perregaux Laureato 42 MM ($11,000); girard-perregaux.com + Brunello Cucinelli Crew Neck Sweater ($2,100) + Brunello Cucinelli Casual Trouser ($875) + Brunello Cucinelli Travel Bag ($4,895); brunellocucinelli.com

The Look: Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic True Second ($10,500); jaeger-lecoultre.com + Todd Snyder Striped Brushed Wool Sweater ($298); toddsnyder.com + Levi’s 501 Original Fit Jean ($60); levi.com

Photographs by Max Gaskins. Styling by Justin Arroyo.

Watches & Wonders Miami

For decades, the watch industry calendar has revolved around two events, both held in Switzerland: the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, in January, and Baselworld, in March. That all changed over Presidents Day weekend, when the inaugural Watches & Wonders Miami transformed South Florida into a horological mecca.

The event, a joint venture between the Fondation Haute Horlogerie and Miami Design District Associates, emphasized a party-like atmosphere and social media sharing. W&W Miami offered the general public unprecedented access to more than 20 premium watch brands including Bulgari, Hublot, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Parmigiani Fleurier, Tag Heuer, and Van Cleef & Arpels.

Some of them showed recent collections, museum pieces, and one-of-a-kind creations; others trotted out world premiers and top execs. Master watchmakers held classes; Buckminster Fuller’s “Fly’s Eye Dome” and other art installations, as well as a rolling street party, added an element of pageantry. Wristwatch aficionados and collectors descended in droves.

Notable guests included musician Brendan Fallis, actor and model Eric Rutherford, art collector Craig Robins, author Aaron Sigmond, and style bloggers Marcel Floruss and Lainy Hedaya.

The Hero Family Behind Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Watch Straps

Inside a modest workshop on the western outskirts of Buenos Aires, four men are hard at work.

They measure patterns and heat irons over an open flame, methodically whetting and polishing and hammering. The tables are covered in awls, spurs, wrought-iron pincers. Rolls of exquisite calfskin and horsehide are stacked waist-high. Rows and rows of hardwood shoe lasts line the shelves.

Welcome to Casa Fagliano, a bastion of traditional bootmaking. The workshop first opened in 1892, across the street from the Asociación Civil Hurlingham Club. The latter establishment grew into the nation’s equestrian sports epicenter, hosting Abierto de Hurlingham, one of the world’s most prestigious polo tournaments. Casa Fagliano found an eager clientele. English-style polo boots became a specialty.

Germàn, the Fagliano clan’s youngest member, shows off his wares.

Four generations later, the operation remains a family affair. Rodolfo, the 86-year-old patriarch, cuts leather and welts soles alongside his sons, Eduardo and Hector, and his grandson, Germán. To them, “mass-production” is a four-letter word; these guys make each boot by hand, one at a time. Order a bespoke pair with matching kneepads and wood trees, and you can expect to join a six-to-eight-month waiting list—albeit one that includes Prince Harry, Tommy Lee Jones, and the Sultan of Brunei.

Also Jaeger-LeCoultre. The Swiss watchmaker first collaborated with Casa Fagliano seven years ago, commissioning straps for a limited-edition Reverso Tribute to 1931. Now, the two firms have teamed up again, this time on a special version of the Reverso Tribute Duo, which features a Cordovan leather strap, designed and handmade in the Fagliano workshop. According to Geoffroy Lefebvre, deputy CEO of Jaeger-LeCoultre, the continued partnership is a matter of values and pedigree.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Duo (Casa Fagiliano strap), $22,900; jaeger-lecoultre.com 

“Both our realms share a passion for the product, respect for expert craftsmanship, meticulous attention to detail and the pursuit of perfection,” says Lefebvre. “The Reverso was originally created in 1931 for British Army officers in India who were anxious to protect the glass of their watches while playing polo…. Therefore the relationship between the inventor of the polo watch and the most prestigious polo boot manufacturer was natural.”

The two-tone Fagliano band complements the Duo’s pink-gold case, which, as ever, features two dials. The main face is sun-brushed satin gray; it swivels and tucks away to reveal a secondary dial, silvered with Clous de Paris guilloché detailing and a day-night indicator. Both sides have formal dauphine hands, gold-plated hour markers, and run off a manual, in-house movement, offering a 42-hour power reserve.

Just 100 examples of the Reverso Tribute Duo will be offered on a Casa Fagiliano Edition strap, an order that took the leather-workers an entire year to fill. But, unlike the previous Tribute to 1931, which was exclusive to American stores, this new watch will be available at Jaeger-LeCoultre boutiques worldwide—and, yes, that includes the Buenos Aires store.