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Review: Jaeger LeCoultre Master Grand Tourbillon Enamel

Full review with analysis, comparisons, specifications, price and high resolution photographs.
by  on June 27, 2016
Overview
Brand

Jaeger LeCoultre

Complication / Type of Watch

Automatic Tourbillon.

"Métiers Rares" Enamel Dial.

Recommended Retail Price

S$155,000 with GST

US$100,000 before taxes in US

Positives

Gorgeous enamel dial.

Well designed, robust automatic tourbillon movement.

Negatives

Priced might be seen by some as a bit on the high side, but not exorbitantly high for the manufacture movement and unique dial.

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Movement
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Bottom Line

A truly beautiful automatic tourbillon wristwatch worthy of any dress watch collection.

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Review of the JLC Master Grand Tourbillon Enamel in White Gold

The maison of Jaeger LeCoultre is a prolific one. Masterful in more ways than most other watchmakers, they offer a complete line of watches with all manner of complications and special executions. We feature one of the rather special pieces, the JLC Master Grand Tourbillon Enamel in White Gold, with a unique Métiers Rares execution on the enamel dial. 

 

We have become relatively familiar with the JLC Master Tourbillon over the years. First introduced in 2006, it was a shocker for its sticker price…but not for the usual reasons. It was announced at a Singapore retail of S$50,000, lower than any other in-house manufacture tourbillon. This led the way for JLC to more tourbillons which are modestly priced.

 

Jaeger LeCoultre Master Tourbillon Enamel

The JLC Master Tourbillon Enamel is not new. We first saw it in 2013 when it was presented in a white gold case and a miniature painting on the dial depicting a scene with two cranes surrounded by bamboos. Miniature enamel paintings are a speciality of JLC, and have been featured in many of their watches. This year, the Master Tourbillon Enamel is presented as a special execution using a unique Métiers Rares technique to create a spectacular dial.

 

JLC Master Grand Tourbillon Enamel in a white gold case.

JLC Master Grand Tourbillon Enamel in a white gold case.

 

Case, Dial and Hands

 

The case is the standard JLC Master case which measures 43mm in diameter. The side of the case is decorated with an intricate pattern which gives the impression of a 3 dimensional lattice of cubes stacked on each other. We quite like the effect, and lifts the aesthetics a notch up, giving the case side an added dimension.

 

JLC Master Grand Tourbillon Enamel in a white gold case.

JLC Master Grand Tourbillon Enamel in a white gold case. The case side shows an intricate pattern which gives the impression of a 3 dimensional lattice of cubes stacked on each other.

 

The hands are standard JLC Dauphine styled hands, faceted and polished. But the magic of the watch is in the dial.

 

The dial is a special execution where gold and silver shavings are sprinkled on transparent blue enamel.

The dial is a special execution where gold and silver shavings are sprinkled on transparent blue enamel.

 

The dial is a special execution, using the technique JLC describes as Métiers Rares  (rare craft) where an artisanal specialist sprinkles specks of gold and silver shavings on transparent blue enamel. The result is like looking up on a clear night sky and gazing at the stars of the universe. And every piece unique. Bewildering. The glitter of the shavings as it catches the light against the deep blue, and translucent blue enamel looks much like the 3 dimensional interpretation of the night sky. Beautiful.

Even the print of the Jaeger LeCoultre logo, and the minute track around the circumference of the dial looks like it is floating above the night sky scene, creating a visual spectacle.

 

The Movement JLC C.978

The JLC C.978 is also not new. It also debuted in 2013, and is an automatic movement made up of 302 pieces. It runs at 28,800 bph, has 33 jewels, and a power reserve of 48 hours.

Jaeger-LeCoultre currently uses this calibre in 11 watches, making it their most commonly used caliber, but due to its complexity and high cost of manufacture, total numbers made remain low. The 978 used in the JLC Master Grand Tourbillon Enamel measures 7.05 mm high. A dual timezone version, designated as 978B also exists, and is slightly higher at 7.10 mm.

 

The JLC C.978.

The JLC C.978.

 

The movement receives the 1000 hour testing specified by JLC, and is certified as Master Control upon passing. It bears a beautiful rotor, the polished JLC logo is set in relief against a sand blasted background. The rotor design also features raised ribs with a linear grained finish. This contrasting styles of finishing, juxtapositioned on the rotor gives it a detailed look which is eye catching and attractive.

The bridges are anglaged, and receives the Côtes de Genève motif, but the shapes of the bridges are devoid of any sharp angles. This suggests JLC has taken steps to ensure simplicity of manufacture of the bridges.

Also of note is the bridge which holds the arbor of the tourbillon. This is robustly machined from a huge plate covering almost half the movement, and ensures a stable, robust base for the tourbillon.

 

The tourbillon on its bridge, and carries the characteristic three hands to show the passing of the seconds.

The tourbillon on its bridge, and carries the characteristic three hands to show the passing of the seconds.

 

Dial side, the tourbillon is beautiful. The carriage is nicely polished, and it sits captive within the polished bridges.

Overall movement finishing is quite good, in line with the modest price of the movement. Admittedly the final price of the JLC Master Grand Tourbillon Enamel is driven up by the intricate and magnificent dial.

 

Competitive Landscape

The Jaeger LeCoultre Master Grand Tourbillon Enamel in White Gold is suggested at a retail price of US$ 100,000 before taxes. While there are many tourbillons at that price range, none feature a special execution dial which feature a pattern created by a specialist using gold and silver shavings. An effect, which we must say is very attractive. But perhaps it might be of interest to compare to other tourbillons with plain enamel dials.

 

The JLC Master Grand Tourbillon Enamel in white gold.

The JLC Master Grand Tourbillon Enamel in white gold.

 

Lange 1 Tourbillon Handwerkskunst (US$ 221,700. Only in platinum, Limited Edition of 20 pieces). This was introduced as part of the 20th Anniversary of the Lange 1 celebrations. The dial is in black grand feu enamel, and the first to be made in house in Glashütte. The Lange is more expensive, but it is in platinum and carries the company’s patented outsized date. Incidentally said patent was registered by JLC, but remained exclusive to Lange for a number of years during the Blümlein era. The Handwerkskunst also carries the now legendary Lange finishing, with hand engraving and features bridges which are hand finished with many sharp inward and outward angles. The Lange finishing is, our opinion is at least a notch or two above that of the JLC.

Ulysse Nardin Anchor Tourbillon (US$ 84,000. Limited edition of 18 in rose gold and 18 in white gold). The UN carries a special constant force escapement which they own the patent for. The movement is extremely interesting and novel. Read our review for the details. The UN also carries an enamel dial which is made by Donzé, which they own, and which until recently held a near monopoly on grand feu enamel dials. The art of enamel dials are not taught in schools, and until recently appear to have been lost, and only available from a few manufactures. Donzé was one of the classical suppliers, and made dials for numerous brands. The art has seen a revival recently, and many have picked up the manufacture in-house, though many others still continue to buy the dials. Jaeger LeCoultre was never one of them. JLC always had the ability too manufacture their own enamel dials, and even those with intricate enamel miniature paintings.

Girard Perregaux President Tourbillon with Three Golden Bridges Reference 99800 (Price unable to determine as these were custom orders. Very rare, estimated that about 10 pieces made) The GP catalog shows this watch to be available in WG, PG, YG and Plat with an enamel dial with roman numerals and leaf styled blued steel hands. This GP had a special execution of their famous Tourbillon with Three Golden Bridges, but with the bridges and tourbillon only visible through the sapphire case back, and the dial side is covered with a beautiful grand feu enamel dial with roman numerals.

As usual, we do not see a clear winner. Each watch in the landscape carries their own pros and cons. And for the JLC Master Grand Tourbillon Enamel, it is the magnificent dial.

Concluding Thoughts

As mentioned, the charm of the JLC Master Grand Tourbillon Enamel is in its magnificent dial. The visual spectacle is amazingly beautiful, and mesmerizing. Once one falls in love with its charms, one never escapes.

 

On the wrist the 43mm diameter fits just nicely. Even under the cuff of a bespoke shirt and jacket.

On the wrist the 43mm diameter fits just nicely. Even under the cuff of a bespoke shirt and jacket.

 

JLC Master Tourbillon Enamel Technical Details

Reference 16634E0

Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 978

Case White Gold

Water-resistance : 5 bar

Diameter : 43 mm

Thickness : 13.31 mm

Functions
Hour – Minute – Seconds – Tourbillon

Movement
Automatic, self-winding

Pieces inside : 302

Vibrations per hour : 28800

Jewels : 33

Barrel : 1

Height : 7.10 mm

Dial : Enamel, Baton hour-markers

Strap/bracelet : Leather

 

 

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