In 1992, the Master Control collection was introduced by Jaeger-LeCoultre, and along with it, the famed “1000 Hours Control” certification. This is the brand’s famed internal quality control standard, with a testing period that spans six weeks (or 1000 hours). While the Master Control line was first to be subjected to this rigorous standard, it certainly wasn’t the last. Today, every watch made by Jaeger-LeCoultre undergoes the same battery of tests to ensure quality is kept at a high level.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Calendar with Blue Dial
In commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the Master Control collection, the Le Sentier brand has released two limited edition variations of pre-existing models, one of which is none other than the Master Control Calendar. Here, we bring you the details and our honest thoughts on the new Master Control Calendar with blue dial.
The Case, Dial, and Hands
The case of the new Master Control Calendar measures a contemporary 40.00 mm in diameter and 10.95 mm in height. The watch is rendered in stainless steel and thus wears lighter than its sibling in pink gold. As expected, the case utilises the same updated design language of the Master Control collection from 2020. It features a thin, sloped bezel; beveled lugs; and alternating brushed and polished surface finishes. Recessed pushers on the flanks at the 2, 4, and 8 o’clock positions can be actuated to adjust the calendar and moon phase displays.
For the first time in the current collection, the Master Control Calendar gets a blue dial, adding a dash of youthfulness to an otherwise sober series. Depending on how you see it, there are two or three tones of blue: one for the sunray-brushed main dial, one for the minute track, and one for the radial date display that kind of looks different to the main dial because of the circular graining. It is satisfying as well that the day and month discs – visible through their respective windows – are also crafted in blue to match the rest of the dial. For tasteful contrast, there are red accents on the JL-tipped date hand and on the date track. Balancing out the two rectangular apertures on the upper half of the dial is a bosom-style moon phase display at 6 o’clock. Its disc depicts the moon, crafted in white gold, in a night sky filled with stars. Time-telling remains a standard affair, with a pair of dauphine hands at the centre pointing towards a mix of arrowheads and Arabic numerals for hour markers.
Driving the Master Control Calendar is the 32-jewel Calibre 866AA, refreshed from its predecessor the Calibre 866. This update, which came in 2020, includes upgrades to power reserve (from 43 to 70 hours thanks to its new mainspring and barrel) and the use of silicon in the escapement. The movement is equipped with typical complete calendar complications, namely the day, date, month and moon phase. Where it really distinguishes itself from other complete calendar calibres is in its ‘jumping date’ mechanism. At the end of the 15th of the month, the date hand makes a 90 degree jump to the 16th so as to not obscure the moon phase display.
Finishing on the Calibre 866AA, while not quite artisanal, is attractive and beyond functional requirements. Visible through the sapphire crystal case back are bridges with Geneva waves and edges that have been beveled and polished. A similar treatment is given to the skeletonised winding rotor bearing the brand’s ‘JL’ logo. There is also perlage on the base plate, as gold-filled engravings and heat-blued screws offer a little pop of colour in a grey expanse.
The Competitive Landscape
The complete calendar is one of watchmaking’s most iconic set of complications. It is perfectly balanced, not just in the way that its displays are laid out on the dial, but also in the way that the poetic moon phase display acts as a foil to the dry practicality of the calendar indications. Few execute the complete calendar wristwatch better than Jaeger-LeCoultre – the new Master Control Calendar with blue dial is further evidence of that. The watch is genuinely easy on the eyes with its all-blue, elaborately finished dial. Combine that with a modern, reliable movement in the Calibre 866AA and the watch is virtually faultless. It might not boast the finest finissage in horology, but at a competitive price of SGD18,900, all is forgiven. As a minor bonus, the watch – a commemorative piece for the 30th anniversary of the Master Control line – is also limited to 800 pieces. There will be plenty to go around but at least production isn’t unfettered.
There is one other manufacturer that is synonymous with the complete calendar wristwatch: Vacheron Constantin. The Vacheron Constantin Fiftysix Complete Calendar in stainless steel with blue dial is perhaps the most comparable to the new Master Control Calendar, not just in colour and material, but also in size and dial design. The Fiftysix does not boast a jumping mechanism for its date hand like the Master Control, but it has superior finissage worthy of the Geneva Seal. Its price tag is indicative of that fact as well: EUR22,400 (in 2020).
For something in a similar price range to the Master Control Calendar, look no further than the Blancpain Villeret Quantième Complet GMT in stainless steel. Priced at SGD22,000 (in 2018), the piece has all the usual trappings of a complete calendar wristwatch with the addition of a GMT function (indicated by a red-tipped hand). The Calibre 67A5 that drives the Villeret Quantième Complet GMT arguably has better finishing than its Jaeger-LeCoultre counterpart but its winding rotor, which isn’t skeletonised, obstructs the view of half the movement at any given time – something to consider for case back fiends.
The Master Control Calendar may not be groundbreaking or even new, but Jaeger-LeCoultre’s execution of the model in its latest iteration is praiseworthy. Full credit to the manufacturer’s designers for doing the colour blue justice, as this is one of the nicest blue dials we’ve seen in a while. Only a dial colour change it may be, but the watch is certainly worthy as a commemorative piece.