Even before Edmond Jaeger and the Jacques-David LeCoultre joined forces in 1926 and unveiled the Jaeger-LeCoultre brand in 1937, the LeCoultre name was an important one in the Swiss watch making world. That’s because Jacques-David’s grandfather Antonie was a pioneer of the industry, inventing everything from the machines that made precision watch pinions to a device called the millionometer, which, in 1844, was the first tool to accurately measure a thousandth of a millimeter.
LeCoultre’s millionometer was so important that it led to the adoption of the metric system by the entire Swiss watchwatching industry. Indeed, from the late 18th century to the early part of the 20th, there was a little bit of LeCoultre in most of the best Swiss watches. LeCoultre produced movement blanks for Patek Philippe, made entire watches for Cartier, and supplied Vacheron Constantin, IWC, Breguet, Omega, and Audmars Piguet with key components.
Jaeger brought expertise of his own to the LeCoultre table. In 1925, he designed a tiny movement that LeCoultre would manufacture as the Duoplan, a popular ladies wristwatch during the 1920s. Four years later, in 1929, the two partners produced Calibre 101, the world’s smallest movement (then as now), with 74 parts that together weighed less than a gram. The company put the Calibre 101 in its 2 Ligne ladies wristwatch, which was diminutive and discreet enough to be worn by Queen Elizabeth II during her coronation.
Another Parisian, René-Alfred Chauvet, supplied the design for Jaeger-LeCoultre’s most famous antique watch, the Reverso, which debuted in 1931. According to company legend, the Reverso was developed for a group of polo-playing British officers stationed in India, who wanted a watch whose face would not be damaged during play. Jaeger-LeCoultre’s solution was a wristwatch whose face could be flipped over to protect the crystal. The backs of these Art Deco-style Reversos were often monogrammed for their owners or decorated in enamel and other materials.
Phases of the Moon watches in the 1940s followed the Reversos from the 1930s. After World War II Jaeger-LeCoultre introduced its first automatic watch, and in 1950 the gold-cased Memovox arrived — with a built-in alarm. By 1953, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s automatic watches had evolved into the popular Futurematic. This handsome self-winder featured a power-reserve indicator on its dial. An automatic Memovox followed in 1956.
Diving watches, including the Geophysic Chronometer, were introduced in 1958. Jaeger-LeCoultre even made a waterproof version of the Memovox called the Deep Sea Alarm in 1961, but for the most part, the company focused on dress watches, leaving the sports market to Omega, Rolex, and others.