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The 1950s were somewhat of a golden era for wristwatches. The post-war era saw a horological renaissance, with brands competing to create exciting new watches with experimental designs and innovative complications. During this time, we saw the introduction of some true icons, including the Rolex Submariner, Omega Speedmaster, Breitling Navitimer, and many more. Another innovative and iconic watch that was introduced during the 50s is the Jaeger-LeCoultre Futurematic, which continues to enjoy a passionate cult following today.
Considered a groundbreaking watch when it was first released, the Futurematic was the very first automatic watch that did not feature a conventional winding crown on the side of the case. Instead, the crown is on the back of the watch. Marketed by Jaeger-LeCoultre as the world’s first “100 percent automatic watch,” the Futurematic is powered by the bumber wind Calibre 497, which was an extremely accurate movement for its time. While other brands in the 1950s were utilizing bumper-style movements, the Calibre 497 movement was particularly noteworthy in that it had “hacking” functionality, allowing users to set the time to the second.
The Futurematic also features an innovative and unique power reserve system. The piece was designed so that it would never run out of power entirely. Rather, the piece simply stops when the power reserve reaches six hours. Accordingly, the watch starts running again as soon as it is placed back onto the wrist. This feature is particularly convenient given the fact that the watch lacks a traditional winding crown.
The Futurematic’s design is beautifully symmetrical. Thanks to its crownless design, the case profile is smooth and seamless. The dial is also beautifully executed, featuring a sub seconds dial at 3:00 and a power reserve indicator at 9:00. The applied pyramid markers, dauphine hands, and sector dial echo a charming, mid-century modern aesthetic. The long, sharp lugs also add a slightly futuristic vibe to the design.
Although the Futurematic enjoyed some moderate success at the outset, it had a relatively short run from 1953 to 1959. In fact, legend has it that the development and production of this decidedly over-engineered piece nearly bankrupt Jaeger-LeCoultre. After all, while the features of the Futurematic are interesting on paper and fun to talk about, one could argue that they aren’t all that practical or necessary (I mean, is it really that difficult to simply wind your watch?). That said, the over-engineered, ambitious premise of the Futurematic only adds to its lore and collectibility; it’s a watch that is emblematic of a time in which watch brands were doing their absolute best to innovate and one-up each other.
While prime examples of the Futurematic are becoming more difficult to come by, eBay is definitely the best place to look. This particular example is sold as a complete set, retaining its original box, hang tags, and even the original price tag! Its 35 mm gold-capped case shows minimal wear, and most importantly, the watch is in honest, working condition.
For the layperson, purchasing a vintage timepiece (especially one that’s approximately 70 years old, like this one) can be daunting. Compared to other online watch outlets, eBay tends to have a greater selection of interesting vintage watches at competitive price points. In fact, most vintage and pre-owned watch vendors use eBay as an indispensable outlet for sourcing their watches.
When compared to other avenues, eBay offers several advantages. Firstly, there are thousands of watch listings to browse on the platform, with new watches being added every day. Because many of these listings are created by private individuals rather than watch dealers or resellers, the pricing on eBay tends to be considerably lower than other outlets. Moreover, there is often more room for price negotiation on eBay than on other platforms. Perhaps most importantly, eBay offers several measures of buyer protection that defend against potential issues like fraud, product misrepresentation, and other scams. For example, eBay recently unrolled its Authenticity Guarantee program, by which timepieces and other luxury items are sent to a third-party authenticator before delivery to the buyer. Thus, the buyer can rest assured that their purchase is fully authentic, and not a replica.
If you’re looking for a Jaeger-LeCoultre Futurematic or any other vintage timepiece, head on over to eBay to check out its impressive selection of collectible watches.
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