Whenever a new watch is released by a prestigious brand, accompanying reams of marketing material extolling a retrodden technique as unique are almost par for the course. However, with the release of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Duomètre Unique Travel Time watch, one of the industry’s most celebrated brands has produced something that catches the eye from all sorts of angles.
Boasting an in-house calibre and a dazzling dial, this new travel companion from Jaeger-LeCoultre is genuinely something of interest. I have never seen a dial created in this exact fashion. Similar in production to hand-peening, this dial is created by a freestyle chiselling process conducted by an artisan using nothing but touch and experience as their guide. The result is an optically engaging fascia, on top of which, pleasingly muted sub-dials have been installed. There’s a lot of silver on the face of this watch, which is always a touchy thing to balance well in a case of matching colour, but the monochromatic appearance is enlivened by the presence of red, blue, and dark grey flashes.
There are only going to be 200 of these pieces made, but each one will be unique. Not unique in the sense that it will be numbered and nothing else; no, these dials will all be a little different from each other. Each one will catch the light in a different way, will age slightly differently, will give a different shade and character to the time every time it’s read. Infinitesimal as these difference may be, separations of this magnitude are what distinguish the average from the extraordinary. Jaeger-LeCoultre describe this dial as subtle – I couldn’t disagree more. It is, in my opinion, bold and divisive. Some will love it and praise its artistic verve; some will abhor it and dismiss it as a chaotic mess.
The dial may well be the main aesthetic event, but there’s plenty of mechanical clout inside this 42mm case. The Jaeger-LeCoultre Duomètre Unique Travel Time watch features the in house Jaeger-LeCoultre calibre 383. It has two barrels, which are wound by the same crown. Turning the crown counter-clockwise winds the barrel responsible for powering the timekeeping element of the watch; winding the crown clockwise (“away” from you) winds the travel time-zone barrel. Each barrel has a 50-hour power reserve. The movement features 498 parts, 54 jewels, and comes encased in an 18ct white gold housing that is water resistant to 50 meters. The case itself is 13.6mm thick and features a satin-brushed middle and polished lugs. Attaching the watch to your wrist is an alligator leather strap with a white gold pin buckle.
Aside from the charmingly chiselled dial, the watch face displays the reference time (on the right-hand sub-dial with dark gray printing) and a centrally-mounted seconds hand. On the left-hand sub-dial with red printing, the travel time is displayed by way of a “digitally” rendered jump-hour at the 12 o’clock position of the sub-dial and a red, leaf-shaped minute hand. Beneath each sub-dial is a corresponding power reserve indicator (the right-hand indicator is in gray to match the printing of the reference time sub-dial, and the left-hand power reserve indicator is red to match the minute hand and the hour colour of the travel time-zone sub-dial).
What’s really cool about this particular time-zone complication is that the travel time can be adjusted to the nearest minute. You can, therefore, be guaranteed this watch will function as intended anywhere in the world. This isn’t as essential a complication as it might have been before the standardisation of time zones, but it still means the odd fiddly 15-minute differential can be accounted for. In addition to all this functionality, the prettily domed globe at six o’clock adds a dash of frivolity to proceedings. Surrounded by a ring that rotates once every 24 hours and shows the world time zones, the six o’clock display also features a subtle day/night indicator that is cooler than the Fonz on ice.
Stylistically, this watch has a slightly unusual feel to it. I think this is because of two factors that have little to do with each other, but combine to create a doubly unique aesthetic. The only centrally-mounted hand is a sweep seconds hand that travels around a delicately printed scale reminiscent of a medical measurement instrument. The hand is a needle style too, giving the watch a retro, tool-like appearance. In contrast is the dial. The previously discussed artisanal qualities of the face marry with the clinically rendered seconds scale thanks to their shared colour. If it weren’t for that chromatic harmony, these two elements might jar, but as it is, they fold seamlessly into one another, creating a very identifiable look that will likely inspire or disgust.
I think this is a watch that deserves some wrist time to be understood. It is bold, but in a decidedly unflashy way. It carries the Jaeger-LeCoultre branding well and fits neatly into the Duomètre range. It is stylistically identifiable and functionally astute. The case back (of which there are no official images yet) displays a hand-bevelled German silver movement, finished with the côtes soleillées pattern and engraved with the city names that correspond to 24 time zones. The watch also features the dual-wing concept, which basically sees two separate mechanisms contained within one watch case – one dedicated to precision, the other to function, but both linked by a shared regulating organ. The idea is to maintain the accuracy of the timepiece while a secondary complication is in action. With so much style and substance, it’s a shame there will only be 200 examples of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Duomètre Unique Travel Time watch. These limited pieces will be priced at $51,000 each. jaeger-lecoultre.com