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Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon Westminster Perpétuel Hands-On

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon Westminster Perpétuel Hands-On Hands-On

Fourteen years ago, when Jaeger-LeCoultre launched the original Gyrotourbillon I, fine watchmaking was a different world. In those fourteen years, Hong Kong and China have together imported about 50 thousand million (!) Swiss francs worth of watches. That is a lot of watches, including many very expensive watches. Since 2004, the world’s timepiece collectors have soaked up everything from minutely modified Patek 5270s to early Gyrotourbillons, all the way to crazy Horological Machines and other bold exercises from daring independents. In some ways, 2004 was far more relaxed. Outrageous watches such as Grandmaster Chimes, Supersonneries, insanely loud Full Strikes and Music Box watches did not yet exist, so a twist on a tourbillon made talking material for years. Today, the world’s wealthiest collectors are — there’s no other word for it — spoiled. Spoiled and bored. That’s why new-for-2019 timepieces with names such as Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon Westminster Perpétuel exist — and, apparently, need to exist.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon Westminster Perpétuel Hands-On Hands-On

Whatever happened to these cool images for presenting your pieces, Jaeger-LeCoultre? This is the caliber of the Gyrotourbillon I.

The Gyrotourbillon I made a splash — a big one, at that — by being what I believe was the first double-axis tourbillon with two perpendicular axes of rotation. It had a few other positively over-engineered complications, such as a ridiculous bi-retrograde perpetual calendar. The Gyrotourbillon II put all the Gyro-goodness in an absolutely humongous Reverso case. It was a simpler time, and I’ll spare you a more detailed look at how the Gyrotourbillon got ever more complicated through the Gyrotourbillon 3 Chronograph and the smallest-yet Gyrotourbillon Reverso Tribute. Instead, let’s just dive straight into the latest, but only apparently greatest Gyrotourbillon yet: the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon Westminster Perpétuel.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon Westminster Perpétuel Hands-On Hands-On

In stark contrast with these fantastic and insightful images, Jaeger-LeCoultre launched the latest Gyrotourbillon with two official images — of the front. Seen here is the Gyrotourbillon II from 2008.

I am not sure, and perhaps we will never know, but maybe it was this arms race that forced Jaeger-LeCoultre into launching the latest Gyrotourbillon years before it was completed, functioning, and ready to be sold and delivered. I can hear some of you asking, “Wait, what?!”  That’s right: the Gyrotourbillon Westminster Perpétuel we saw at SIHH 2019 was neither functioning properly, nor was it ready to be delivered in the foreseeable future. Word is that this latest Gyrotourbillon will be “finished” in late 2020, maybe even 2021. So, why the launch at SIHH 2019? This is a complete mystery.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon Westminster Perpétuel Hands-On Hands-On

The white dial alternative to the blue grand feu enamel version of the new Gyrotourbillon.

I am telling you all this because, when I first saw the launch images of this piece, it immediately became my grail watch to see, photograph, and video, in order to be able to bring it to you in all its glory. New Gyrotourbillons do not appear every year, and the previous models are like unicorns — extremely rare to see out in the wild, giving us very few opportunities to show you the haute horlogerie side of Jaeger-LeCoultre. You can imagine my frustration when, after waiting for 45-50 minutes with lights, camera, and the whole deal rolling and set up, pre-arranged meetings canceled, as I anxiously waited for this piece to turn up. Finally, it came, escorted by a distinctly unfriendly woman and a young watchmaker, who carried the piece around in what I could assume was a very heavy and unwieldy presentation case.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon Westminster Perpétuel Hands-On Hands-On

At last, the case opened and voilà, there it was: the all-new Gyrotourbillon, by far the most complicated of its kind to date, ticking away. From afar, the watch is shockingly impressive-looking, as though a regular watch case had given home to a complex mechanism growing out of it. Its case is a mere 43 millimeters-wide and just 14.08 millimeters-thick, while this Gyrotourbillon packs what I expect to be around 600-700 components. I say “expect” because Jaeger-LeCoultre did not specify exact component counts, apparently.

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The mystery your eyes try — and most definitely fail — to unfold is a combination of a four-gong Westminster chime minute repeater with some of the weirdest-shaped gongs ever, a perpetual calendar with central date, an extra small gyrotourbillon and a hand-guilloché-decorated and grand feu enamel-covered dial. There is a lot going on, and it’s all wrapped into a case the size of a Sea-Dweller.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon Westminster Perpétuel Hands-On Hands-On

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon Westminster Perpétuel Hands-On Hands-On

The caseback is equally breathtaking (from afar), just as one would expect after seeing the front. Those with a trained eye can spot the silent governor (to the right of the tourbillon) that regulates the chime, while to its left resides the one-minute constant force remontoir (spelled “remontoire” in English). Given the Westminster chime, there are not the usual two, but rather four gongs — they are marker sol, do, re, and mi on the caseback, right where the gongs are. This entails a massively more complicated chiming mechanism, meaning more snails and wheels and, well, more of everything, really, in the top half of the movement.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon Westminster Perpétuel Hands-On Hands-On

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon Westminster Perpétuel Hands-On Hands-On

Unfortunately, the Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon Westminster Perpétuel we saw at SIHH had a dysfunctional minute repeater, though word reached me that one of the two pieces displayed did work for a very short while on day one, hardly any solace for the 99% of watch-lovers, including us, who could only look at the minute repeater, but not present its sound and functioning to our audience. As much as I love watches, I find it funny how people at major brands often act as though showing a watch to us was a favor for our inner watch enthusiast. I don’t think it is. Our job there is to take as many enticing images and videos as possible and present them to you so that you can enjoy, discuss, and learn about these things.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon Westminster Perpétuel Hands-On Hands-On

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon Westminster Perpétuel Hands-On Hands-On

On that note, we had such a short time (about 3-4 minutes) with the watch that we could only shoot video, but not images, so I do apologize for the screenshots I had to grab from our video footage — but you can check it out in motion in the video below.

Still, the video itself sufficed to reveal what appeared to have been either a very dirty inside of the crystal and/or (I am afraid that’s an “and”) dirty bridges and dial. I don’t know about you, but as far as I am concerned, any watch that says Jaeger-LeCoultre on it, should never, ever have any dirty or poorly finished components on it, anywhere — and I feel like saying, “That’s especially true for halo pieces,” but no, it’s true for each and every JLC ever made.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon Westminster Perpétuel Hands-On Hands-On

Is it a privilege to see a Gyrotourbillon? Always. But that can only partially erase the bad taste left after seeing it in such a state. The dirty dial, dirty hands, grimy screws and bridges, and pieces of lint inside such a movement are just as disappointing as is the fact that it did not work. Again, this watch is not to be available for another two to three years, and though I’m sure the final pieces will not have these issues, it still makes one wonder: Why launch it now, and why launch it in such poor shape?

Last time I checked, SIHH is happening in 2020, and I can’t help but feel that this watch needed another year’s work. The icing on the cake was that on day three, by the time our Jaeger-LeCoultre meeting commenced, no one was allowed to wear the watch — though that says more about our colleagues who forced JLC into introducing this measure than it does about the watch or the brand.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon Westminster Perpétuel Hands-On Hands-On

Creating a watch of such immense levels of complexity is a gargantuan effort, and it seems that Jaeger-LeCoultre has been tricked into a bit of an oopsie. This, the lack of proper in-depth presentation, and such a premature launch of a timepiece in an unfinished state make me wish that this fantastic company focused much, much more on its products — and a lot less on everything else. And I haven’t even mentioned their three additional novelties for 2019.

Doubtless, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon Westminster Perpétuel will be an absolutely fantastic watch — eventually, when it’s truly ready for showtime, in 2020 or 2021. When that happens, it will be available with white dial or a blue grand feu enamel one, limited to 18 pieces and costing a whopping €800,000. If that isn’t enough sticker shock, check out the price on the three other novelties on the official website.

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Comments

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  • Pete L

    Amazing thing but totally agree it’s daft to show it to the press when it clearly isn’t ready.

    • David Bredan

      Thanks for sharing.

  • Polerouter

    Thanks for calling this out, but you’re talking about watchmaking a few years ago, and at that time the difference was that journalists were not prone to mention when watches were far from ready when presented at fairs, although it was more common than now. Famous examples are most pre-Swatch Group Harry Winston Opus, or those weird things by Tag Heuer (Monaco V4, for instance, ready years after its presentation).

    I’m just glad that now you dare to mention this fact.

    • David Bredan

      I was just getting into writing about watches when some of those launches were made (many of those new pieces I was merely spectating as an outsider). It also takes a fair bit of experience before one dares to call big brands out – no room for error here.

      • Polerouter

        Thanks for taking the time to answer. I was of course not talking specifically about you but watch journalism in general which has changed a lot, for the best and the worst at the same time. But in those times no one talked about the fact that HW Opus were often non working prototypes. No one has ever talked about the fact that Parmigiani Senfine has never existed to this date. When the Monaco V4 was finally there 10 years later, TH was almost proud to announce that they finally managed to do it.

        I prefer the attitudes for instance of Piaget (Altiplano Ultimate) or Ulysse Nardin (Innovision) who clearly stated that their watches were concept watches and that not all innovations would be able to end up in a selling watch. Consumers are more vigilant, with the help of blogs and forums, and that is a good thing.

  • Bozzor

    Probably the watch equivalent of a software “beta” build. Looks amazing as a concept, and will be amazing to see the final finished product.

    • David Bredan

      I guess this is a “public beta” now.

  • Jeffrey Miles

    A masterpiece for sure.

  • Berndt Norten

    This is it.
    The whining is over.
    This is it
    Make no mistake where you are

  • SuperStrapper

    As stunning as it may or may not be, only functional timepieces are interesting to me. This article is a year before it’s time or more, but the blame is on the impetuousness of the brand.

    • David Bredan

      The article is right on time in delivering where JLC is at the moment… Seriously though, I know what you mean and totally agree.

  • IanE

    I can’t help thinking that the new CEO is in above her depth – or, being generous, is still on a learning curve. I hope she is a quick study, because JLC is becoming a stinker.

    • David Bredan

      I wish her all the best – including a new-found, very-very strong team of product-focused people to direct that side of the brand. Marketing-wise JLC needs no more of a push that’s for sure…

  • Nello Alexandri

    I know we don’t always agree when it comes to JLC David, but I am with you on this one.

    The only thing that comes to mind in this situation-the watch was fully functioning when JLC made the press release for the show. I don’t know how far in advance of the show they announced this piece, or if they even announced it in advance. I imagine that it worked right up until it was too late to pull it from the show, whenever that occured. The dirt and lint was probably from the team that was flown in to fix it at the last minute. They obviously failed. In any case(pun), I would expect JLC to test a new unicorn more thoroughly before announcing anything to anyone.

    • David Bredan

      I appreciate you sharing that. I agree, a similar situation might have arisen, though nobody has made a single mention of anything like that – just the unfriendly “nobody’s allowed to touch the watch!!!” Wow. Anyhow, the amount of dirt on both the front and the back of the movement was really unexpected, to put it mildly. I hope JLC will return to its unshakable focus on its products soon.

  • Raymond Wilkie

    David. Did you not do a video of this watch?

    • David Bredan

      Yes, we did! It was meant to be embedded, doing that once more 🙂 Thanks for the heads-up, Raymond.

  • Raymond Wilkie

    Absolutely fantastic timepiece with the most boring crown in the universe.

  • Playboy Johnny – Team Mariu$

    Sorry JLC, but this is a fail.
    How could they be so foolish to unveil a non-working watch ? This is a Marketing 101 mistake. The most they should have done, is possibly make some statement about the next generation of “GyroTourb is forthcoming” That could build anticipation and excitement. I don’t like the way it looks – even if it worked! JLC just “showed it’s ass” to the world.
    I sit alone on my island.

    • Independent_George

      Yet here we are, on one of the two largest language watch publications on earth, talking about this watch.

      Far, far from a fail. They have people talking about a watch that won’t be available, if at all, for at least another two years. Doesn’t matter if it’s finished or not. People are paying attention.

      • Playboy Johnny – Team Mariu$

        Wear yours in good health.

        • Independent_George

          PBJ, just sayin’ that in the in Social Media game, you either hustling, or you don’t exist.

          JLC be hustlin.’

  • Polerouter

    Not to defend the timing used there, but I was just thinking that it is still far better than snnouncing a new watch with just 3D renders. Still, it happens dozens of times a month, even on this website.

    • David Bredan

      Fair point – I have never been a fan of 3D renders either! That said, if JLC launched only some parts of this watch with “photos” (CGI at this point, unfortunately) while noting that it’s still 1-2 years in the works, I don’t think I would have taken it this bad. But for JLC to show up with a watch they themselves are almost entirely unable to present is sad – at best. It shouldn’t be normal operation that at any given moment the majority of their entire staff is busy hunting down the only one of these watches for the countless different meetings going on at the same time. Tough time for the staff, tough time for the visitors (buyers and media) and ultimately anything but an ideal experience for the global audience, even if we give it all we can with the videography and photography.

  • David Bredan

    I wish I could say “my pleasure!” But it was tough to write up about something like this, that clearly had so much effort go into it and then be let down by such a launch and presentation. We’ll hear it a couple years from now for sure 🙂

  • BrJean

    Early access watch.

  • Agnar Sidhu

    Look at that caseback, wow what a movement!

  • Swiss_Cheese

    Bit of a dangerous precedent to set, allowing a watch that doesn’t even function as a watch to be shown at SIHH.

    SIHH 2023: “We’ve released the bracelet to this new watch, we haven’t come up with a case or movement yet so we’ll just be showcasing the bracelet, stay tuned for SIHH 2027 when we release the case and ’31 when we install the movement.”

    Makes me wonder if JLC was taking under the table ‘preorders’ for these ‘watches’. Yes, they look stunning (from afar), but, premier it when it actually works.

  • Steve_Macklevore

    Quite literally a waste of time.

  • Steve_Macklevore

    Our company has been forced to abandon the ‘minimum viable product’ philosophy because the engineers were being pressured into releasing junk. I’m not in the watch industry but it certainly looks like you may be right with the fiasco described here.

  • SuperStrapper

    Not that you’re wrong, but stuff like the Opus 3 happens too.

  • Yi-Ting Tsai

    This is disappointing, especially from JLC. I was looking forward to reading more details about this watch. No wonder there’s no buzz about this watch on the internet. Is it because of the new CEO?