Combining two of horology’s treasured complications – the moonphase display and the tourbillon with a third – the jumping date, the new Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Moonphase Tourbillon is the first from the maison‘s long history. A new caliber is developed for this new watch. Here is our hands-on detailed review.
Retail price: S$ 130,000 inclusive of GST / CHF 85,000 inclusive of VAT
Review: Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Moonphase Tourbillon
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin (MUT) Moonphase Tourbillon is a new watch, introduced in mid November under some rather quiet circumstances.
But looking at the combination of complications this new watch bears – a moonphase display with a tourbillon and a jumping date display, it is a magnificent piece, which heralds the arrival of JLC’s new self-winding movement – the Calibre 983.
The case, dial and hands
The case is the classic JLC Master case. The design is timeless, and classic. With good proportions, the 41.5mm case diameter, 12mm thick rose gold case is an exercise in elegance. The smooth, sleek lines are very pleasing to the eye.
The lugs are curved to provide a good wrap around the wrist, and we particularly love the way it sensuously curves around, both visually and how it feels when worn. As seen in the photograph below, the crown is embossed with the JLC logo, and a small pin push on the case side is used to adjust the moonphase.
The dial itself is in an eggshell shade that JLC does very well. The finish is a kind of grained satin finish which is matte. The dial is not textured to the naked eye, but the hue and finish is similar, though not quite the granular as the textured finish found in some JLC dials, like the Duomètre à Quantième Lunaire as an example.
This matte effect allows the polished, faceted rose gold arrowhead shaped hour marker appliqués to stand out in contrast. The minutes are marked by dot rose gold appliqués, between the arrowheads. The date display is marked on the periphery of the dial with odd Arabic numerals and dots for the even dates on a section which is slightly raised from the dial. The Dauphine style hour and minute hands are also in rose gold, and the date pointer is a slim needle-like hand with a T shaped end, tipped in red.
Some may particularly like this style of date indicator, as it gives the position of the date in reference to the rest of the month in a single glance. But this pointer date display hides another clever complication. Every month, the date hand makes 90-degree jump, gliding rapidly from the 15th at about 4:30 o’clock to the 16th at about 7:30, in order not to obscure the tourbillon. In the gap is placed the words “QUANTIEME LUNAIRE” at the 6 o’clock position.
Legibility is excellent. And the moonphase is seen peeking out of its aperture at 12 o’clock. A double sided hand points to the age of the moon on one side, and the phases display is replicated on the other. Both the time and date is easy to read, even at a glance. As a dress watch, the JLC MUT Moonphase Tourbillon is devoid of any application of Superluminova, and though we did not test it in the dark, we assume that reading the indications would be a challenge under poor light.
The tourbillon itself is quite a beauty. The bridge is a rounded conical shape with a flat surface where the pivot of the cage is mounted. The upper tourbillon bridge appears to be machined from a single bar of rose gold, and nicely finished. The design is new for JLC. The bridge has a flat, circular shaped center with anglaged edges, and transform into two conically shaped bars tapering from it. This central flat part of the bridge provides a stable plate for mounting the tourbillon’s pivot. It has a matte finish with a light sheen on it. As the bridge extends out from the center, it takes the form of two conical bars. These appear to have a high polish finishing, though we are not certain if its black polish. The release data does not state that is, and from our examination, it does not appear to be so.
The cage is skeletonized and has a straight brushed grained finish with fine anglage. On the cage, a three handed seconds indication is provided in blued steel. The seconds are marked around the periphery on a ring which is countersunk. The lip of the edge to the dial as it drops into the ring is finished in polished rose gold. A rather nice touch.
The movement – JLC Calibre 983
The movement in the JLC Master Ultra Thin Moonphase Tourbillon is the new Caliber 983. This is based on an older JLC movement- the caliber 978 which debuted in 2009 with the Master Tourbillon. To this base, JLC added the moonphase display and the jumping date. The triple moon phase indicator – displaying the age of the moon as well as its phases in both Hemispheres – is also a recent development, having been introduced last year.
Beating at a frequency of 28,800 vph (4 Hz), the new Calibre 983 offers a power reserve of 45 hours.
The movement construction is quite typical for JLC. The engineering is very robust. The use of a large bridge on the lower side of the tourbillon carriage is an indication.
JLC movements are known to be very reliable and workhorses. In the 983, the finishing is judged to be very good, with all the haute horlogerie elements addressed well. If we had to nitpick, some of the top level beauty treatments are not executed – for example, the lack of any acute inward or outward points. Nor any black polished components. But what is there is executed to a very high level – anglage is well done, as is the sunburst Côtes de Genève. The treatment on the rotor is particularly nice to look at, in a skeletonized design with a textured surface and a polished outer edge lip, embellished with the JLC logo.
JLC also provides a very long 8 year warranty on the watch.
The competitive landscape
This set of complications mix is quite an interesting one, and not well featured in most manufacturers catalog. And at S$130,000, it particularly well placed, at a price level where many competitors offer a watch with only a tourbillon and no other added complications.
So uncommon is this complication cocktail, that even for a prodigious manufacture like JLC, this is only their first offering. From the usual suspects in the haute de gamme level, we found no watches which match this set of complications. None from the stables of Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin, Audemars Piguet nor Breguet. The combination of moonphase and tourbillon is commonly found with the moonphase display as part of a perpetual calendar, instead of a (unique) jumping date in the JLC. In our quest for something somewhat similar, when we turn to Blancpain.
The closest we found in the Blancpain collection is the Villeret Carrousel Moonphase (retail price is S$180,000 in rose gold), introduced in 2014 and still on the current catalog. All the elements are present. Moonphase, check. Date display, check, but no jumping display. Tourbillon, well, Blancpain proposes a carrousel instead. The carrousel is a simpler complication to make and adjust/regulate, as the power flow is not through the rotating cage. This too was the first time this combination of complications appears on a watch at the 2014 Baselworld launch.
Overall, this is a beautiful timepiece. Aesthetically, it is very pleasing. The dial layout is simple, beautiful and easy to read. The finishing on the case, dial, hands and movement is excellent.
The fit on the wrist is very good, and the watch sits well on a regular sized hand, thanks to the 41.5mm diameter and thin-ish 12mm case. In rose gold, it makes an excellent dress watch.
Would we recommend it? Wholeheartedly yes. Especially if you have a budget in the vicinity, and looking for a dress watch in rose gold which not only looks good, but in a combination of a tourbillon with the useful indications of the date and moonphase.
Photographed in the JLC Boutique in Ion Orchard with the Hasselblad H3D-39 and HC4/120, HC2.8/80, with and without the H28 and H52 extension tubes.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Moonphase Tourbillon Specifications
Dimensions: 41.5mm x 12.10mm
Calibre: automatic mechanical movement, Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 983, 28,800 vph (4 Hz)
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds, peripheral ‘jumping’ date (from the 15th to the 16th), tourbillon, moon phases in both Hemispheres and age-of-moon indicator
Power reserve: 45 hours
Case: Le Grand Rose gold
Dial: eggshell with applied indexes and Dauphine hands
Water resistance: 5 bar