Just last month, I had the opportunity to go hands on with the newest Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Minute Repeater Perpetual calendar watch that the brand unveiled to the world today. Not only did I get to see and touch the watch, but also I was the first person (outside of the watchmakers) to put it on my wrist and activate the repeater — which is equipped with a revolutionary new gong system. Over the course of half an hour, I spoke with the watchmaker involved in creating the all-new gong, who shared some of the challenges inherent inits making.
Essentially, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Minute Repeater Perpetual calendar watch has a helical shaped gong inside of it instead of the traditional spiral gong that wraps around the periphery of the watch (typically twice). Not only is the gong shaped differently, but more importantly, it is built in two different heights so that it appears on both the top and bottom of the movement. This enables a stronger vibration throughout the watch when the hammer strike, thereby enhancing the tonality and power of the sound. It also makes for a visually arresting timepiece.
When one looks at the dial side of the watch, the gongs seem to start at 8:00 — one not quite touching the other. They wrap around the dial until they reach the 2:00 position where there is an opening into which the gongs disappear and then create the same fan out on the other side of the movement. In some ways it looks as though two tentacles are creeping from inside the movement out onto the dial.The gongs are actually two that are welded together and then travel around the base of the movement, arching up to the top of the movement and traversing the dial — stopping just before their ends meet. The concept take full advantage of the entire case space.
Jaeger-LeCoultre is a master at chiming watches and has one of the largest stables of acoustic watches — 200 — in its repertoire. For its master watchmakers, the quest in this watch was to develop the next stage for minute repeaters — to set a benchmark. The sound emanating from the watch when it was activated was loud, clear and beautifully melodious. While I did hope to feel some vibration through it when I put it on my wrist, it was okay that i didn’t, Just the sound and the look of it was enough for me.
To accomplish this feat, and to make the gongs visible not only on the case side but also via a transparent case back, the watchmakers had to move the automatic rotor — which is now hidden within the movement — carefully placed between the minute repeater mechanism and the perpetual calendar mechanism. It is rare to have an automatic repeater and perpetual calendar, and so showing the rotor is sometimes preferred, but in this case, showing the gongs was more important.
In addition to the new gong system, the watch also is equipped with a new perpetual calendar with a safety feature built into it warning the wearer when the time is wrong to be adjusting the functions. Typically between 10:00 pm and 1:00 am, a perpetual calendar is making its own mechanical calculations and adjustments to ensure when it is totally correct with the date. During that time frame, adjusting the calendar can cause breakage because the gears and wheels are already making their own changes.
The caliber 950 that powers this watch consists of hundreds of parts and was several years in the design and development stages. As such, it seemed fitting that the brand create special case. It is naturally crafted in 18-karat white gold, as that is one of the best conductors of sound for the repeater. The new case consists of more than 80 parts (both satin and polished) and is designed for comfort on the wrist. The ergonomic 43mm case features a convex bezel and smoothly tapered minute repeater slide. There are two dial color choices — both starting with a solid white gold dial — being offered: a stunning deep blue translucent guilloche enamel dial made in house, and a silver grained dial. Just 30 pieces of each will ever be made.
Technical Specs of the Master Grande Tradition Répétition Minutes Perpétuelle
Dimensions: 43 mm Thickness: 13.72 mm Calibre: 950 – Automatic Case: White goldWater resistance: 5 bar
Functions: Hours/Minutes, Minute repeater, Perpetual calendar (Day, Date, Month, Moon phase, Year)
Power reserve: 38 hours
Dial: Blue guilloché enamel / Silver grained
Reference: Q52334E1 (Limited to 30 pieces), Q5233420 (Limited to 30 pieces)