Jaeger-LeCoultre is one of the most reputable maisons in watchmaking, with a rich history and an extensive offering. The Reserve de Marche is one of the classics in their collection and was recently updated with a stunning blue dial. Today we review the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Reserve de Marche in blue.
Review: Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Reserve de Marche
The Master Collection was launched 25 years ago. The watch is tested 1000 hours for accuracy, resistance to temperature and barometric pressure changes, vibrations, magnetic fields and water resistance. To be noted that the entire watch is tested in contradistinction to the COSC certification where only the movement is tested.
The Reserve de Marche in the current collection was revised in 2012 with a case size enlarged from 37mm to 39mm. For 2017, a new blue dial is introduced with the stainless steel case.
The case, dial and hands
Master Ultra Thin Reserve de Marche is not new on the market. The case size of 39mm seems to be quite perfect for a modern dress watch, though purists may argue that a dress watch should not have a date, nor a power reserve as it should be devoid of extraneous indications, and show only the time. Yet even purer purists, if such do exist, will argue that the perfect dress watch is not to wear a watch, so as to devote the evening only to the event at hand and not having to bother with looking at the time.
The stainless-steel case preserves the style of the predecessor. As expected, the case is designed not to draw attention on it. The athletic lugs with a deep chamfering on the exterior side are continued from the case body. The thin, angled bezel presents the same nice polishing as the rest of the case. It is an equilibrium between the idea of simplicity necessary for dress piece and the number of details and finishes. Elegant and almost discreet, the case fully potentiates the beauty of the blue dial. Almost because the case still attracts attention with its nice lines, but yet subtly takes a step back to frame the dial.
The dial is a marvel for the lovers of blue at a watch. The lacquered sun-ray reflects light in a most delightful and fascinating way. One can only appreciate the splendid contrast between the strong blue surface, the applied rhodium-plated arrow hour markers and the hands.
The Master Ultra Thin Reserve de Marche’s dial has a balanced layout resembling vintage watches but in a more modern approach. The sunken sub-dials have different dimensions and slightly different visual composition. Despite that, the watch gives an impression of symmetry. The sub dials are well proportioned: big enough for a good visibility, small enough not to crowd or overfill the dial. The faceted and polished dauphine hour and minute’s hands fit perfectly in the picture. Another detail contributing to the watch charm is the minutes’ scale as an outer circle of dots.
The movement: Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 938
The Master Ultra Thin Reserve de Marche is powered by the Calibre938. This is a carryover from the older models. The movement is quite complex being composed of 273 pieces of which 41 are jewels. The free-sprung balance beats with the modern tact of 28,800 bph or 4Hz. This system is harder to regulate but offers a good stability. The watch has a power reserve of 43 hours. These numbers are more or less common for most of the watches these days.
An interesting technical detail is the gold skeletonised rotor mounted on ceramic ball bearings. Though not new, the ceramic balls are lighter and do not require lubrication.
The decoration on the Calibre 938 is quite fine, as one would expect to see in a Jaeger-LeCoultre watch. The movement has impeccable Côtes de Genève on rotor, bridges and balance’s cock. The main plate is adorned with hand applied perlage. The mounting screws are polished and thermally blued. The contrast of the screws’ shade of blue, the gold filled engraving and the gold rotor on the rhodium background makes a show by itself.
Priced at S$13,000 (including GST), the Master Ultra Thin Reserve de Marche is not the cheapest of its kind, but definitively not the most expensive. For the price, Jaeger-LeCoultre bets an excellent built watch with a lovely dial. Here are some considerations, of course, not exhaustive.
The IWC Portugieser Automatic IW500705 is priced similar to our reviewed watch – US$12,700 (in steel). The Portugieser is somewhat larger at 42.3mm diameter. The Calibre A5201001 has a long power reserve of 168 hours (with two barrels system).
Similar to the Portugieser is the Glashütte Original Senator Observer. With a price tag of €9,900, the German piece shares the same layout of the dial with the IWC but comes in a bigger, 44mm steel case. The case is simple but good looking. As all the Glashütte watches, the finishes of Calibre 100-14 is quite good, and we would judge to be similar to JLC. The three-quarter plate features Glashütte ribbing – the German Côtes de Genève, with nicely done anglage.
Perhaps a more affordable alternative is the Seiko Grand Seiko Spring Drive SBGA211. With a price tag of US$5,800, the SBGA211 is a hybrid watch using Seiko’s Spring Drive techology. The case is a high-intensity titanium case finished in the now classical Seiko style of brushed and polished surfaces. Popularly nicknamed the Snow Flake in reference to the dial, which has an alluring texture reminiscent of the windblown snow. The dial’s details are appealing, the precisely executed hour markers are completed by the printed minute indexes. The watch is powered by the 72 hours power reserve calibre 9R65.
Master Ultra Thin Reserve de Marche can be described as a serious watch. One who knows when and how to make a compromise but with a wild side streak of a blue touch. The Master in blue fits beautifully on the author’s wrist. This is a watch which can be considered an all-rounder. Maybe not for a tennis session, but definitively suited for work at a desk job, a shopping session or a lovely evening. The brand’s heritage, the 1000 hours of the Master control makes the Ultra Thin Reserve de Marche a solid companion and a good investment.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Reserve de Marche Specification and Price
The Ref. 137.84.80 has a retail price of $13,000 (including GST)
Type: mechanical self-winding movement
Dimensions: height 4.9mm
Power reserve: 43 hours
Frequency: 4 Hz / 28’800
Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, power reserve indicator
Material: stainless steel
Dimensions of the case
Diameter: Ø 39 mm; height 9.85 mm
Crystal: sapphire crystal glass
Crown: stainless steel
Caseback: see-through sapphire
Water resistance: 50m
Material: Alligator leather
Buckle: double folding 18mm buckle