This is a pick-up I’m very pleased with – a JLC from 1965, model reference E393. Its 35mm without the crown, has a glorious starburst dial, and a fantastic domed plexi to set it all off. It’s quadruple signed (dial, crown, case back and movement) and for me epitomises everything that I like about smaller, simple watches. The movement is a JLC calibre K881, and this is quite interesting in itself.
The K881 was introduced in 1959 and was the first JLC movements to feature a centrally pivoted 360 degree rotor that wound in both directions. The K part of the calibre number was a reference to Kif Flektor, the form of shock protection mechanism used in this unit. The company had flirted with rotor design in 1951 with the superb calibre 493, this winding in only one direction, but JLC watches with this movement were only sold for a two year period and it wasn’t to be until 1959, when the E393 was released, that their automatics finally entered the modern age. Incidentally, a development of this calibre, the 888, is still manufactured by Jaeger LeCoultre today which is an indication of how significant, and how brilliantly engineered, these K881 movements were.
One of the most obvious characteristics of the K881 is that, almost uniquely on a movement of this grade, it has no mechanism for fine adjustment. Astonishingly, the reason for this “omission” was that the K881 was manufactured as standard to such fine tolerances that it would achieve chronometer rated accuracy as a production norm, without the need for any further adjustment. The American publication “WatchTime” ran a test on the K881 and the various other related Jaeger LeCoultre movements from the same era in its August 2003 edition, concluding that this mechanism “embodies superlative expertise that emphasises skilful, precise craftsmanship and surface beauty”. Further mention is made that in its very slightly revised form, this same movement type was officially certified as a chronometer and sold in tiny quantities as the “Chronometre Geomatic”, a model that commands a lofty price today on account of its scarcity.
So, beautiful both on the outside and within…