When it comes to minute repeaters, no one is better at it than the Swiss. And when it comes to the Swiss, few manufacturers are as knowledgeable and capable as Jaeger-LeCoultre in crafting the minute repeater. We take a close look at the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Répétition Minutes Perpétuelle.
Jaeger-LeCoultre are somewhat of a leader in the field, having been responsible for numerous innovations pertaining to everyone’s favourite striking complication. Take for example the crystal gongs and trebuchet hammers, both of which were designed to amplify volume and clarity.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Répétition Minutes Perpétuelle with White Grained Dial
Last year, Jaeger-LeCoultre introduced the Master Grande Tradition Répétition Minutes Perpétuelle, a perpetual calendar timepiece with a minute repeater mechanism that is the culmination of all of the manufacturer’s know-how. First came the version with blue enamel dial: eye-catching, elaborate, and heavy on engraving. Later, a more subdued variant was introduced, arguably with a more cohesive look. If we’re being honest, we actually prefer this more “classical” execution of the watch. And so, without further ado, we bring you the details and our thoughts on the Master Grande Tradition Répétition Minutes Perpétuelle with white grained dial.
The Case, Dial, and Hands
The case of the Master Grande Tradition Répétition Minutes Perpétuelle is one of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s most nuanced. Unlike the brand’s other round watches which generally have a three-part case (bezel, middle, and back), this one has a far more elaborate case with additional inserts and separate lugs. On top of that, the case is anointed with multiple types of finissage ranging from the typical, such as mirror polishing and satin brushing, to the atypical, like sand-blasting. Measuring in at 43.00 mm x 13.72 mm, the white gold case is anything but small. That said, the size is justified given the sheer complexity of a perpetual calendar/minute repeater movement.
Much like the case, the dial of the Master Grande Tradition Répétition Minutes Perpétuelle is a treat. While not as fancy as the blue enamel-coated, engraved dial, this execution with the white grained dial – reminiscent of an eggshell – is easier on the eyes.
The layout of the perpetual calendar displays is fairly conventional, with the month indication at 6 o’clock, the date at 3 o’clock, and the day and moon phase together at 9 o’clock. These sub-dials not only possess depth, but also contrasting finishes as evidenced by the matte chapter rings and guilloched centers. There is also a year display at 7:30, just like the ones you’d see on an IWC perpetual calendar watch. A small aperture just above the center of the dial hosts the safety indicator which goes red when the calendar is in the process of changing over, thus letting the owner know not to set the time or calendar. Indicating the time are a pair of dauphine hands, brushed to perfection, with cut-outs at the base to prevent obfuscation of the safety indicator. The hours are displayed with appliques while the minutes are marked by a railroad-style track.
Driving the Master Grande Tradition Répétition Minutes Perpétuelle is the 585-part, 76-jewel Calibre 950. The self-winding movement has a mediocre power reserve of 38 hours and operates at a modern 4 Hz frequency. The highlight of the movement is its minute repeater mechanism, which prides itself on producing loud and clear chimes. Here, blued steel gongs encircle both the front and the back of the movement, making them much longer than the average repeater gong which only goes around the movement once. With a much greater surface area for vibrating, the sound produced when the gong is struck is also much greater. And striking these gongs are a pair of special trebuchet hammers. They strike with more power than regular hammers, thus also contributing to the loudness and clarity of the notes.
Also interesting is the perpetual calendar module utilised in the Calibre 950. It is reminiscent of the perpetual calendar mechanism of IWC, a fellow Richemont subsidiary. This perpetual calendar mechanism was originally created by Kurt Klaus and, to this day, remains one of the most user-friendly to use.
The finissage and decoration applied unto the Calibre 950 is praiseworthy. We love the openworking on the various components of the movement including the bridges and the spring barrel. The edges of the bridges have been expertly beveled and polished with the top surfaces adorned with Geneva waves. The flame-blued screws and the gold-filled engraving on the bridges add a welcomed pop of colour to the expanse of rhodium-plated parts. Jaeger-LeCoultre have opted against having inward angles (which are extremely difficult to make and must be done by hand) in the movement, which is a shame because the Calibre 950 is one of the brand’s most upscale calibres and it, in our opinion, deserves more hands-on love from the manufacturer’s finisseurs.
The sound of the minute repeater is perhaps the most important criteria when it comes to striking watches. How does the JLC MGT sound? Here are two video clips:
And again, listen to the strikes from the reverse side.
The Competitive Landscape
As one might imagine, timepieces featuring not one, but two grand complications are a rarity. Not every manufacturer can do it, and they don’t really pay the bills (at least compared to mass-produced entry-level pieces). These watches of grandeur exist mostly as a testament of the watchmaking capabilities of the manufacturer. The Master Grande Tradition Répétition Minutes Perpétuelle may not be the most complicated watch in the catalogue but it is close. The watch is produced in a limited series of only 30 pieces which, for a manufacturer the size of Jaeger-LeCoultre, is a small quantity. The watch is priced at EUR225,000 which, in the grand scale of haute horlogerie, is decent value.
At the top of the minute repeater food chain is, and always has been, Patek Philippe. It is unsurprising, then, that the brand’s minute repeaters are always taken as gold standards. Patek Philippe minute repeaters – while nowhere near as loud as Jaeger-LeCoultre’s – are widely known to be the best in terms of musicality and clarity. The now-discontinued Ref. 5104 is a timepiece that showcases the perpetual calendar and the minute repeater, much like the Jaeger-LeCoultre in review. Its most discerning features include the semi-openworked dial and hands, the engraved case middle, and the transparent wheels of the perpetual calendar indicators. The piece has always been said to be too big for a Patek Philippe (43 mm diameter), too ornate, and too illegible, but once you hear its chimes, all the lamentations melt away. Auction prices for the out-of-production Ref. 5104 fluctuate significantly, ranging from around EUR295,000 to EUR670,000.
Vacheron Constantin too have recently introduced a minute repeater/perpetual calendar timepiece of utmost prestige: the Les Cabinotiers Minute Repeater Perpetual Calendar. The brand’s Les Cabinotiers watches are one-of-a-kind creations tailored to the requirements of clients. Inside the Les Cabinotiers Minute Repeater Perpetual Calendar is the excellent Calibre 1731 QP which has a silent strike governor serving to control the cadence of the hammers in striking the gongs. Indeed the chimes produced by the watch are heavenly. While not as loud as the Jaeger-LeCoultre, it certainly has better musicality. Stamped with the Geneva Seal, the Calibre 1731 QP also boasts superior finissage. The price of the piece has not been made public but expect it to be in the price range of the Patek Philippe Ref. 5104.
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Répétition Minutes Perpétuelle is a treat for both watch geeks and connoisseurs alike. It may not be the most musical, but it certainly is one of, if not the loudest and clearest minute repeaters in the market.
This is thanks to the innovations that the manufacturer has come up with over the years leading up to the piece. Combined with a user-friendly perpetual calendar mechanism and clad within a intricately handcrafted case, the watch is a titan in its own right.