Jaeger-LeCoultre watchesKnown for its quality, craftsmanship and innovation, Jaeger-LeCoultre has long been one of the most desirable watch brands.
Its roots can be traced back to the mid-19th century and it has been at the forefront of manufacturing and technical developments ever since.
Among its most famous models are the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre and the Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox.
Over the years it has supplied movements to other top manufacturers such as Audemars Piguet, Vachon and Cartier. It also provided movements to Patek Philippe in the early 20th century as well as later in the 1960s due to production shortages.
Indeed Jaeger-LeCoultre has been one of the only producers to manufacture its movements solely in-house. This makes its watches desirable because in-house manufacturing, though sometimes more expensive, is generally viewed as being of higher quality and consistency.
In 1992, the firm introduced its ‘1000 Hour Control’ test – a programme of internal certification tests for each of the Jaeger-LeCoultre model to ensure reliability and durability of its watches.
Buying at auction
If a new Jaeger-LeCoultre is too pricey or doesn’t provide the classic style you are looking for, a second hand one at auction could be just the thing. Plenty of examples with a range of dates are available to buy at auctions on thesaleroom.com
Many auction houses hold regular specialist watch sales or watches and jewellery sales, while others include a selection of watches within a bigger auction, making it easy to find plenty of Jaeger-LeCoultre watches at any time of year.
With so many examples on offer you will always find plenty to suit your budget.
The firm was originally founded when Antoine LeCoultre set up a small watchmaking workshop in the village of Le Sentier, Switzerland in 1833.
Within 20 years, he had invented the Millionometer (the world’s most precise measuring instrument of the time) and the pivoting winding mechanism (meaning keys were no longer required to set watches). In 1851 Antoine LeCoultre received a gold medal at the inaugural World Fair in London.
As the business grew, LeCoultre established a new facility in the Vallée de Joux, becoming the first manufacture in the area that would become the centre of Switzerland watchmaking industry.
The involvement of Jaeger, a watchmaker in Paris that was set up in 1880, with LeCoultre started in 1903 when Edmond Jaeger challenged the most prestigious Swiss makers to manufacture a design for the ultra-thin movement he had invented.
Jacques-David LeCoultre, the grandson of Antoine, accepted the challenge and in 1907 the Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 145, the world’s thinnest pocket watch measuring just 1.38mm thick, was born.
The two watchmakers collaborated for the next two decades but it was not until 1937 that they officially merged and the Jaeger-LeCoultre brand was born.
Further innovations followed: the first automatic watch in 1946, the first automatic wristwatch with an alarm in 1956, the world’s thinnest quartz movement in 1982 (the Calibre 601) and the Duomètre in 2007 (where two separate mechanisms – one for the time display and another for an additional complication – are combined into a single regulator).
Perhaps the most famous Jaeger-LeCoultre model is the Reverso. The patented watch design with a hinged case that flips over for protection was originally designed in the 1930s for polo players and people going shooting.
It was extremely popular and the watch was designed in such a way that allowed each case to be personalised via an engraving to the underside.
When you’re buying a pre-owned Reverso, you should always check whether it is engraved because this will lower the value – fewer people want a watch that carries an engraving with someone else’s name on it (that said, a restorer can remove the engraving for you).
The Reverso has been through different editions and special releases over the years, and has been relaunched a number of times.
At auction today, prices start from around £800 while fine and rare limited-edition examples may fetch over £10,000. A gentleman’s Reverso from the 1990s will typically fetch between £1500-2500 at auction.
Another highly regarded model is the Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox which was first introduced in the 1950s. One of the best-selling watches of the age, both in its automatic and manual wind variety, its name was derived from the Latin words memoria and vox (so the name means ‘voice of memory’).
The striking mechanism and alarm were a significant innovation and models such as the Memovox Deep Sea and Memovox Polaris were developed as diver’s watches.
A Memovox with a silver dial would typically make around £1500-2000 at auction, while a rarer example with the black dial may sell for £3000-4000.
Important things to look out for
As with all high-calibre watches, condition, age and rarity determine the prices that second-hand Jaeger-LeCoultre watches will sell for at auction.
Check the auction house’s lot description. It will typically state whether the Jaeger-LeCoultre you are considering bidding on is in working order or needs repair. Some watches may have been repaired in the past in which case some of the parts, for example, may not be the originals. That would make it less desirable for a specialist collector and thus more affordable for you.
In general, unpolished and unrestored examples are more collectable and so will often sell for higher prices.
The lot description will also usually detail condition issues such as any scratches. These may often be typical wear and tear for a watch that was worn every day by its previous owner or they may be more severe.
You can request a condition report from the auctioneer if it is not already in the lot description. Attending a viewing in person will also enable you to try on the watch you are considering bidding for and inspect it for yourself close up.
Auction houses with a watches department will employ a specialist you can contact to discuss your requirements and answer your questions.
What to do next
Decide how much you’d like to spend and use the search facility on thesaleroom.com to find Jaeger-LeCoultre watches coming up for sale.
You can filter your search by, among other things, price and by location of the auction house to narrow down your selection.
To research recent prices at auction to see how much different Jaeger-LeCoultres sold for you can also try out the Price Guide.
If you are new to bidding check out our guides to buying at auction – it’s easy once you know how.