Jaeger-LeCoultre, among other things, makes damn nice dress watches as part of their Master collection. I am going to be honest when I say that I rarely have use for a dress watch. Whether it is my generation, job, or where I live, there just aren’t that many social events I go to that demand a formal timepiece to go with formal attire. In some ways that is a shame, because most of the timepieces for men that I would actually refer to as “beautiful” are actually dress watches. Let’s face it, there are many of these available but the ones we love have a particular mix of style, refinement, and class that adds an emotional element to what would otherwise be a wrist tool to go with your suit or tuxedo.
Most dress watches fit a very distinct profile. They tend to have simple, elegant dials, relatively thin cases, modest case widths, and usually a traditional, conservative style. Dress watches also tend to have few if any complications aside from indicating the time. It is funny, because even though we know a dress watch when we see one, the category as a whole is still difficult to define. So let’s look at a newish dress watch for 2014 by Jaeger-LeCoultre, in fact it is two of them. These are the 18k pink gold Master Ultra Thin and Master Ultra Thin Date watches.
A note on “Ultra Thin” for a moment. This is a relatively new term applied to an existing state. Over the last few years thin watches are becoming more and more trendy. They were also trendy in the 1960s, but that is beside the point. So what brands have done–in addition to releasing a lot of very thin watches–is apply the term “thin” to timepieces that are exactly the same, but happen to be relatively thin compared to thicker timepieces.
What is “Ultra Thin?” Nothing. It is just a marketing term and doesn’t refer to a specific criteria or classification. It is also dependent on the type of watch. A chronograph can be ultra-thin at 8mm thick, but a manually wound movement at that thickness wouldn’t be thin at all. Context is a really important part of understanding what these terms mean. I’d say that anything 9mm thick or under is going to feel pretty thin, and under 5mm thick is going to look “super duper” thin. Anyhow, how does all that relate to these two new Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra-Thin watches?
These aren’t the thinnest watches Jaeger-LeCoultre makes–not by far. One of the reasons is that these have automatic movements. We tend to prefer automatic movements because you don’t need to wind them up all the time. Having said that, the placement of an automatic rotor tends to add thickness. So as thin watches go, these are certainly a nice slim size and are both different sizes. The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Date is actually the thinner of the two. It is 40mm wide and 7.4mm thick. The Master Ultra Thin has a slightly narrower case at 38.5mm wide and is a hair thicker at 7.58mm thick. Each comes in a fully polished 18k pink gold case that is comfortable and imminently classic. Oh, and it is worth noting that the non-date version will be available in a steel case as well. We didn’t see those, however, and I believe JLC is releasing the gold models first.
The dial of each watch is a sort-of yellowed-eggshell white that matches the gold nicely. The steel version will have a sunburst silvered dial. The hour applied pink gold hour markers are lovely and designed to match the dauphine-style hands. Personally, I feel that dauphine hands are the best design for a dress watch. A row of minute marker points adds a retro flavor that creates a timeless appeal in this and other Master collection models.