It is not commonly known that Jaeger-LeCoultre, in addition to producing movements for its own watches, also produced watch movements for a number of famous watch houses, such as Vacheron Constantin, Audemars Piguet, and IWC. Indeed for most of the 20th Century, Jaeger-LeCoultre even supplied bare movements to the great firm of Patek Philippe. Then as now, Jaeger-LeCoultre has always been considered one of the very finest watchmakers in Switzerland and so of course, the world.
Since the founding of Jaeger-LeCoultre in 1833, the brand has had a very inventive history, developing over 1,249 mechanical calibres, registering over 400 Patents and playing a tremendous role in the development of the industry as a whole. Whether it is the keyless watch, the calibre 101, or the iconic Reverso, it would be difficult to imagine a historical account of watchmaking without the mention of Jaeger-LeCoultre.
The company has always been a true ‘Manufacturer’ of the finest quality watch movements. This is unusual because more often than not, high-end brands such as Rolex, Patek Phillippe, Audemars Piguet and Vacheron Constantin would buy movements for particular needs. For example, in 1967 when Patek Phillippe, Audemars Piguet and Vacheron Constantin needed an ultra-thin automatic movement, it was to Jaeger-LeCoultre they turned, to produce one for them. Furthermore, the exquisite Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 920, is still in production and in use today by both Vacheron Constantin and Audemars Piguet.
Conceived as a competitor to the hugely successful Omega Seamaster and probably the Longines Flagship and Zenith Captain, the much rarer Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Mariner was produced in low numbers, just for the U.S. market, for only two to three years between 1960 and 1963. The model was a forerunner to the more famous, but also very low production, Jaeger-LeCoultre Geomatic Chronometer, which was produced between 1962 and 1970. Containing the JLC Calibre K880, this was later developed to become the chronometer grade K881G, more of which later. The K880 movement, along with the 14ct solid gold monobloc case and the dial were made to incredibly high quality standards. It is perhaps for this reason and also to keep the price as reasonably affordable as possible, that along with most JLC models of the 1950s and ‘60s, including the Master Mariner, most were made with ‘gold filled’ cases or steel, so while the Master Mariner itself is quite a rare watch, in solid gold, it is very rare, especially when found in such immaculate condition as the example you see here.
This watch contains its all original, very high quality Calibre K880 automatic movement. This movement was so well designed and engineered, a development of this calibre became the Calibre 881G which was fitted to the JLC Geomatic Chronometer, a highly prized watch among collectors which now often sells for two to three times the price you see here. Furthermore, a development of this calibre, the K888, is still manufactured by Jaeger-LeCoultre today! So good was the Calibre K880 that regular production models routinely achieved the chronometer grade standard of its day. Indeed following its overhaul by our vintage Jaeger specialist watchmaker, the example you see here is now running at an absolutely flat +1 sec per/day when tested on our electronic timegrapher. This is as good as any vintage watch we have seen this year! It is likely, the only reason the Master Mariner was not retailed as a ‘Chronometer’, is that Jaeger-LeCoultre, unlike Rolex and Omega, were not in the habit of submitting its watches out of routine, for independent Chronometer testing. Apparently some were occasionally sent to one of the Swiss Observatories for publicity purposes and to demonstrate its accuracy and reliability, but Jaeger-LeCoulture perhaps felt, in line with Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantine, that as anyone purchasing a Jaeger-LeCoultre would be already sufficiently assured as to the quality of the watch movement, they did not need the word Chronometer written on the dial!
Incidentally, the K in the calibre number refers to a special and highly effective form of shock protection, designed and patented by Jaeger-LeCoultre, referred to as the ‘Kif Flector’ system. This means not only is this watch highly accurate, but it is also highly shock resistant and reliable too! As with all the highest quality watch movements, it has been beautifully finished. Perfect ‘Geneva Waves’ decorate the bridge plates and rotor and each individual screw has been hand-polished. This, along with proper servicing in the interim, means the movement looks as good today as it did the day it was made.
The movement is signed LeCoultre Co, with the calibre number K880 and the movement serial number 159537, making the year of manufacture 1962.
The watch is running perfectly, having been calibrated and timed at +1 second per day which is truly outstanding for a watch of this age. The watch has a runtime of 43 hours from its fully wound state, which shows the movement is particularly strong and well within expected parameters.
This watch movement is now ready for many more decades of faithful service and we therefore have no hesitation in offering this watch with our 12 month warranty. We will also be more than happy to assist with servicing in the future.
*Note – The 12 month warranty is only applicable if the list price is paid.
The original very high quality, slightly Off-White dial carries applied gilt ‘Baton’ hour indices, which are matched by the original gilt ‘Index’ hands and centre seconds hand. The closer one looks at the dial, as is often the case with a high quality watch, one gradually becomes aware of an extra dimension, here, in the form of multiple radial divisions, more apparent in the outer area of the dial. In fact, almost imperceptibly and almost unbelievably, these radiate from the very centre of the dial all the way to the edge, gaining greater contour, as they progress. This effect is sometimes referred to as a ‘sunray’ (as opposed to a ‘sunburst’) dial. Only under the high magnification of a loupe can one truly appreciate how well executed this is. It is truly amazing and simply another example of the kind of thought and attention to detail which Jaeger-LeCoultre employs in everything it does.
Simply signed with an applied gilt JL brand, LeCoultre, Automatic, Master Mariner and “Swiss Made”, the overall look, as with all vintage Jaeger-LeCoultre is one of classic simplicity and elegance.
The lens is new, having been replaced with a new original as part of the restoration.
This is the original dial which has been restored to the very highest standards by our dial restorers which are considered to be the best in the UK.
The Watch Case
The 14ct yellow gold watch case measures 34mm, excluding the original JL signed crown. Its design, quality of its construction and finish, elevates it almost to a work of art in itself. It is beautifully crafted and noticeably sturdier and heavier than even the high standards of its peers of the period. It is also remarkable for being of a ‘monobloc’, or single piece construction. This means there is no separate case-back and no separate bezel. Instead, the movement is fitted from the front of the case and utilises a very tight interference fit between the case and lens, to hold it in place. The lens has to be fitted with a special lens compression tool and this provides an excellent degree of water and dust resistance. The design as a whole is much stronger and much more water resistant than a traditional three-piece case.
The case is in immaculate condition and has never been over polished, if indeed, at all. After cleaning and careful inspection, the case has only required a very gentle hand-polish to bring it back to its original showroom condition. The watch has obviously been very well cared for and there are no dings, scratches or marks of any kind, visible to the naked eye.
The case is of a typical size for a gent’s watch of the period and has a classic, elegant look with perfectly executed straight lugs.
Inside, the case is fully signed:- ‘Cased and Timed in the U.S.A by LeCoultre’. LeCoultre was a sister company of Jaeger-LeCoultre, formed to service the American market. The company had close ties with local watch case-making companies much as Rolex and Omega did in the UK market. This was to minimise the liability to punitive taxes levied on imported watch cases, particularly made of gold. Inside, the case-back also carries the case number 413255.
Externally, the case-back is signed ‘14K Gold, S&W’ and ‘Use All Proof Wrench’ and 1200. These marks are very distinct, indicating the watch has never been over polished. S&W stands for Schwab & Wuispard Case Co., a long-established, New York firm of watch case-makers, who produced some of the finest cases ever produced for the luxury watch market during this period. It is unfortunate perhaps, that due to the fact S&W was reluctant or slow to modify its production techniques, the company ceased to trade in 1963. Since the Master Mariner was only sold in the U.S. market and the Geomatic was already in production, these may be the reasons the Master Mariner was so short lived.
Please note – even though this watch was designed and manufactured with a high degree of water resistance, our standard advice applies: vintage watches should be kept clean and dry at all times.
The Strap & Buckle
A new high quality Brown leather strap has been fitted, which we feel compliments the watch nicely, along with a gold plated buckle. However, if a different colour or style of strap is preferred, please let us know and we will do our best to oblige free of charge. We carry tan, conker, dark brown and black in stock in plain padded leather, crocodile skin or lizard skin. We can also obtain most types and colours from our partners at ‘Watch Obsession’ within 48hrs. Please take a look at their huge range of 18mm straps if you wish here.
Box and Papers
Although there are no original papers with the watch, the numbers and markings are all correct, dating this watch to 1962. A detailed written receipt with 12 months’ warranty*, and a separate insurance valuation for the replacement value of the watch, will be provided at the time of sale, along with our unique ‘Lifetime Authenticity Guarantee’ which states: “If this watch proves to be anything less than totally authentic, or not as described, Vintage Gold Watches of London will offer you a full refund, at any time”. As with all our watches, this watch will be sold under our 14 days no quibble sale or return policy.
The high quality hardwood presentation box shown in the photographs is included in the sale.
This is exactly the kind of rare and interesting watch we love to find and restore and offer for sale to you here. It’s many more times more elegant than the modern equivalent watch and if produced today, the same standards of quality and finish would cost many thousands of £££s.
Even though it is well over fifty years old, this watch is still completely fresh, completely reliable and highly practical to wear as your everyday watch should you so wish. Mostly, it is a thing of beauty, to wear, use, treasure and enjoy. Should you wish to view it this way, it will also make an excellent investment or heirloom piece, because as each year goes by, and the world market for vintage gold watches grows ever greater, limited supply, linked with particularly high demand from the Far East, means prices will inevitably climb ever higher!
A beautiful example of a timeless classic from one of horology’s most prestigious names, which if treated with care, will provide excellent reliability as well as a sound financial investment, as long-lasting as the watch itself!
A word on our prices – We always try our hardest to acquire the very highest quality watches we can find, before restoring them to the highest possible standards. We then offer these at the fairest prices we can, taking into account our pre and post sales care and service. This approach means we will never be the cheapest, but nor will we be the most expensive. Indeed there are some well-known stores in West London which are highly successful charging between two to three times the price you see here. We therefore consider our prices to be fair, given the quality of watches we have to offer.
We are happy to accept PayPal as this is the quickest method of payment. However, if you would like to pay by UK cheque or by UK bank transfer we will be pleased to assist you with this and pass on a 3% saving to you. Similarly, if you wish to pay by International SWIFT or Bank Wire Transfer we will provide you with our BIC / Swift number and our IBAN number.
If you have any questions please call us on our Landline 0207 727 7095 or Mobile 07515 949250 or if calling from overseas, on Landline +44 207 727 7095 or Mobile +44 7515 949250.
Please note we welcome part exchanges. If you have a watch or small collection for sale, please contact us as we will be happy to discuss this.
We will also be happy to Service your watch, Repair your watch or Restore your watch, all at ‘sensible’ prices. Please see here.
Please take a look at our other fine vintage gold watches.