Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Date
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control range is a paradox. It looks like its been around for many, many decades but, the truth is, it’s only existed since the 90s. Its apparent timelessness is the result of its simple, no-nonsense design. Last year, Jaeger-LeCoultre had revisited its iconic Master Control series and given it a tinkering. No fewer than four ‘novelties’ were introduced as a result, one of which was the Master Control Date, the most austere, straight-edged wristwatch of the series and, arguably, of the entire Jaeger-LeCoultre collection. Here, we bring you the low-down and our thoughts on the classical watch.
The Case, Dial, and Hands
The case of the new Master Control Date is not unlike the rest in the Master collection in that it is honest, round, and simple in design. It may not be as frilly as a Breguet or Patek Philippe case, but it is still attractively finished, with a satin-finished case middle to contrast against the rest of the mirror polished parts. Made of stainless steel, the Master Control Date is meant to be worn on a daily basis and for any occasion. And at 40 mm in diameter and 8.8 mm in height, the watch will fit most wrists and will even slide under the tightest dress cuffs should one wish to employ it for a more formal event. The tan Novonappa® calfskin strap that the watch comes with is perfect for leisure and even business. Of course, the watch can also be dressed up simply by swapping the default straps for alligator leather straps.
The dial, much like the case, is relatively simplistic. While it may not win any beauty pageants, it does its job of telling the time and date flawlessly. Legibility is not an issue, not even under low-light conditions thanks to the luminescent strip on the hour and minute hands, as well as the luminescent dots next to each hour marker. The date window, though a very polarising element on any watch, is discreetly integrated here in place of the 3 o’clock marker. Our favourite part of the dial is the seconds hand in flame-blued steel which adds a much needed pop of colour to the otherwise monochromatic visage of the watch.
Driving the Master Control Date is the newly upgraded 218-part Calibre 899AC. The familiar movement now has a 70-hour power reserve which is impressive for an automatic winding calibre. To offer 70 hours of power reserve, technical improvements were implemented unto the Calibre 899, notably a new barrel design, new forms of lubrication, a new adjustment of the second hand, and not to mention a silicon escapement (a first) which significantly reduces friction.
The level of finissage applied onto the Calibre 899AC is beyond functional and beyond what one might expect at the price point of the Master Control Date. Just a brief look through the sapphire crystal case back reveals the praiseworthy extent that the movement has been decorated: Geneva waves on the bridges, polished bevels on the edges, heat-blued screws, perlage on the base plate, outward anglage, and circular graining on the wheels, to name a few techniques. The gold rotor that winds the movement has also been skeletonised to reveal as much of the Calibre 899AC as possible.
The Competitive Landscape
It should come to no surprise that time-and-date-only wristwatches, especially self-winding ones, are popular given its utility and often simple good looks. The Master Control Date remains a competitive product (as evidenced by its longevity in the market) by offering superior quality and craftsmanship (to some extent) at relatively accessible pricing. Priced in the ballpark of SGD10,000, the Master Control Date in stainless steel boasts nearly unparalleled bang for buck.
We said ‘nearly’ because there is another brand that is also known to offer superb value to its clients: Chopard. Chopard’s L.U.C collection is the high-end wing of the brand’s broad watch offerings. The best bit is that these watches from the L.U.C collection are priced very competitively while possessing some of the finest finishing from any non-independent manufacturer. The L.U.C XPS, for example, is a time-and-date-only stainless steel watch, just like the Master Control Date, but features superior finissage to its Jaeger-LeCoultre counterpart, especially in the movement department. The price? Under CHF8,500, which in our opinion is a fair price for a watch that is essentially the Master Control Date but with better finishing, COSC certification, and alligator leather straps.
For something a little more conspicuous, look no further than the Blancpain Villeret Extraplate 6551 Boutique Edition. Clad in yellow gold and matched with an equally striking green dial, the new Villeret Extraplate 6551 Boutique Edition is sure to capture gazes. While the Blancpain is virtually the same in size (40 mm x 8.70 mm) as the Jaeger-LeCoultre, its aesthetics could not be more different. This is a watch that you’ll either love or hate – the Villeret Extraplate 6551 Boutique Edition gets a thumbs up from us for being bold. Of course, being crafted in gold, the watch is bound to be pricier than either the Chopard L.U.C XPS or Master Control Date in stainless steel. At around SGD25,000, it represents a more opulent but unorthodox alternative to the Master Control Date.
No, the new Master Control Date isn’t going to rewrite history books but a periodical technical/visual update is always welcomed, especially if the watch in subject is a bread-and-butter model. Reliable, handsome, and fairly priced, the Master Control Date is a great point for anyone to start their Jaeger-LeCoultre collection or their foray into higher-end brands in general.