It’s there, on your wrist. Your first prestige mechanical watch. It looks amazing. It’s not flashy, almost minimalist, with the added fascination of the moon phases, and above all it exudes a sort of James Bond-like cool, discreet style. If it’s your entrance into the fascinating world of haute horlogerie automatic watches, rest assured you’ll keep it for the rest of your life, and not just because of the investment, which is a little under 7k. There will never be a day when it’s out of fashion. Perhaps some people may think that this is rather high-priced for an entry-level mechanical watch, but it comes with all the prestige of the Jaeger-LeCoultre brand. The marque is celebrating its 175th anniversary this year, and it is still right at the top of fine watchmaking. It is one of the few brands to make all its own movements, and in fact it supplies many other maisons with the mechanisms that lie at the heart of their watches.
We have chosen the Ultra Thin Moon 39 in this article on an entry-level watch because it is a perfect expression of how Jaeger-LeCoultre constantly rises to new challenges. It is part of the new Ultra-Thin collection. This theme dates back a long way, to 1907 with the LeCoultre Calibre 145, but the Ultra Thin Moon 39 is particularly brilliant because it’s an automatic watch, in which the oscillating weight takes up a fair sheaf of space. The movement is just 4.9 mm thick, and you can see the weight through the transparent sapphire crystal case back. Its delicate oscillations provide the power that winds the watch.
In your hand, you can feel its weight and solidity, even though it is relatively small and slim – 9.9 mm thick and 39 mm in diameter. It is easy to put on and fasten, with an alligator leather strap and a double folding buckle. The watch is endlessly fascinating for its amazing style and elegance. The silvered gilt dagger-shaped hour-markers on the sunray brushed dial are sleek, beautifully engineered and finished, and likewise the dauphine hands, including the lovely dark blue seconds hand. The design is deceptively simple and clean-honed. You get the idea of perfection: nothing can be taken away, and nothing need be added. Tech New Master
The phases of the moon window at the 6 o’clock position adds yet further interest, driven by the Calibre 925 movement, built from 246 components. The date function is rather unusual, because it is on the circumference of this dial, with a small baton hand indicator. On the side of the steel case (the basic model), there is a crown wheel used to adjust date and second. On the other side of the case at 8 o’clock, there is a tiny flush button, used to adjust the phases of the moon. But you’ll want to keep it going, by wearing it all the time. The watch has a 43-hour power reserve, and so if you live an ordinary lifestyle you’ll never have any need to reset the moon phases.
A mechanical masterpiece of this sort is very different to a quartz watch. The Swiss brand Jaeger-LeCoultre comes very close to the alchemical creation of life in the constantly-beating heart of their automatic watches (their passion for perpetual motion reached extraordinary heights with the Atmos). Owning a watch like this requires a little extra effort. It comes with a two-year guarantee, and then from then on, the manufacturer recommends a service every four or five years. It’s not an underwater watch: it’s rated to five atmospheres water-resistance. This means that it’s OK in a quick rainshower or occasional drops while hand-washing, but not for jogging in a cloudburst, neither for wearing while showering or taking a bath. The alligator leather strap would suffer in any case. The only mechanical problem that is sometimes reported occurs when the owner is extremely sedentary, and spends most of his time at home sitting in an armchair.
You saw something cheaper? There’s always a cheaper option. But this watch is part of a legend, each piece with its own reference number. You have something unique, with a time-keeping precision certified by COSC. Each watch is tested in house for 1,000 hours, i.e. about 6 weeks. This is not a limited edition, but it is more exclusive when compared to the production numbers of brands such as Omega. It’s a classic option. Today the fashion is towards larger-diameter watches, and chunky, high-tech looks. Jaeger-LeCoultre themselves make some. This is different. The Ultra Thin Moon 39 will always be stylish. Lastly, the Jaeger-LeCoultre name is a guarantee in itself. Their pride is such that privileged customers are granted a tour of the factory in the Vallée de Joux. Something to look forward to. For now, for what you’re getting, I think that 6,950 is amply justified.