At the start of this year, the CEO of Jaeger-LeCoultre, Catherine Rénier, went on a five-continent hop to quietly reveal to journalists the core releases of the year, featuring the return of an important collection – the Master Control. Having had little presence for the last decade or so, the Master Control was set to rock 2020 with a refreshed visage, new developments and more.
Like everything else in 2020, the best laid plans have been re-edited to exhaustion. Instead, Jaeger-LeCoultre planned the launch of the Master Control in the later part of the year, ensuring that by the time the watches were announced, there were ready stocks in retail outlets.
The star of the collection is undoubtedly the Master Control Chronograph Calendar, a masterpiece that is not only a premiere within the Maison, but also an incredible performer. That’s in no small part due to the quality control and testing processes that are developed at JLC, something that also emerged with the first Master Control collection in 1992.
We had a week or so with the Master Control Chronograph Calendar in rose gold, which is a first for the collection that was positioned between the outdoorsy and rugged Master Compressor and the genteel Master and Master Ultra Thin series. What’s clear from the one week we had was that the Master Control collection had undergone some significant design changes, and the new calibre 759 is an impressive performer. Furthermore, the 2020 Master Control has a clear position in the range of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s collections: an elegant and utilitarian performer, for the collector who appreciates function with style.
The Master Control Chronograph Calendar in rose gold looks good. It’s quite hefty and noticeable on the streets, but it’s a handsome hunk of precious metal on the wrist. I wasn’t quite sure why at first, until I realised during photography that the rose gold case seemed to catch the light differently. It wasn’t after that I realised the gold alloy used in the Master Control is a new one for Jaeger-LeCoultre.
It’s called Le Grand rose gold® and it’s a patented alloy for the Maison. A press release suggests that palladium is incorporated into the mix, which gives the gold greater sheen compared with typical rose gold mixes. But what makes a strong first impression is the organisation of the dial. On a seemingly compact 40mm dial, the watch packs in a chronograph counter, a triple calendar with moonphase and a pulsometer. Despite all that information, the watch never looks cluttered. By keeping the fonts neat, compact and the counters borderless, the dial enjoys enough empty space that it is tiring when you look at it, which will be often.
Although Jaeger-LeCoultre doesn’t specify that the calendar is an instantaneous jump, it is. At 1am in the morning, the displays for the moonphase, date, month and day all make a hop to the next phase. While most watch movements switch at 12 midnight, I quite enjoy how JLC has kept the midnight hour as an in-between, neither really the end of one day or the start of another. The polished surfaces on the front and angles of the case, against the brushed sides, make for a very 1950s mid-century elegance.
Keep It Running
The secret sauce to the Master Control Chronograph Calendar, of course, is the calibre 759. A column-wheel controlled, vertically coupled chronograph with an annual calendar. An impressive and useful duo, which places a lot of demand on the escapement at times. During the review, we kept the chronograph running for hours at a time, mostly during the day, or occasionally, after the date jump was completed. Running chronographs can cause the amplitude of the escapement to dip, but it didn’t seem to affect the accuracy of the movement. I imagine that the calibre’s design must have emphasised efficiency on the use of power so that during the annual end of year change, which consumes the most power, the watch maintains its precision.
The movement, visible from the case back, is sturdily built and designed to maintain high shock resistance. It also is a rather slim calibre, keeping the watch at just a smidge over 12mm thick. It was quite interesting to use the chronograph and the pulsometer measure to calculate my resting and running heart rate at times and compare it with a digital tool: basic maths meant I was just one or two counts off for the most part.
Despite the fact that I rarely wear gold watches, I found myself getting used to the watch rather quickly, keeping it on my wrist at drinks, running errands and just at home. There’s a quiet pleasure in wearing the Master Control Chronograph Calendar because it’s not a flashy timepiece, but it’s definitely appreciable by yourself.
If you have not tried it out for yourself, I recommend that you give it a shot. The watch is now available at Cortina’s retail outlets. Just contact a sales specialist to view the timepiece. Bring another rose gold model to compare and see if you can notice the added sheen of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s new alloy. It’s just something slightly… different, which is exactly what the new Master Controls are.
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Written by: Darren Ho