As good as it gets?

Long post warning!

Complications. They seem to divide opinion to a certain extent, in as much as some of us love them whereas others prefer the simplicity of a more basic mechanism and, consequently, dial. For me, it’s been a strange morphing of taste over the last year or so although I have to admit that my interests seem to be rooted firmly in two camps. (Well, why does a liking for simplicity or complexity have to be mutually exclusive?)

I’ve owned a JLC Reserve de Marche for quite a while now, and it really is one of the most perfect of watches. Whilst the dial has a fair amount going on the overall appearance is one of simplicity. Ironically, I thought that it was pretty much the limit for me when I bought it but before very long I realised that – if anything – I hadn’t gone far enough, and I was soon mulling over various options for even more complication, particularly the strangely alluring moonphase. In fact, the mulling soon became a yearning; I’d been looking at vintage options (such as the Universal Geneve Tri-Compax) for quite some time – months, in fact – but I ended up firstly with a Seiko Spring Drive Moonphase and then a GO Senator Lunar Reserve de Marche. (As an aside, the moonphase is the strangest of complications, isn’t it? No use whatsoever, but so beautiful.)

Both were fine watches, but for some reason neither seemed to feel like they were “one” I was looking for, and it slowly dawned on me that the watches I was continuously salivating over were those that really seemed to push the watchmakers art closer to the boundary. In fact, what I really wanted was a Perpetual Calendar; specifically, the JLC Master Perpetual that was discontinued quite a few years ago now but which – at 37mm – was a far better size in my eyes than it’s larger replacement (the current 8 Day Perpetual).

I went as far as to post about the watch quite a few times on various forums over the months, particularly when chewing the (two or three-dimensional) fat with the like-minded friends, but to be entirely honest I had far from made up my mind that I was actually going to buy one any time soon. Then a few wheels seemed to turn in the horological universe such that circumstances presented me with the opportunity that I’d been (almost) waiting for. Today, as a result, a JLC Master Perpetual Calendar in rose gold arrived as promised and I can finally say that I have a watch that leaves me without any further desire, for anything. Well…

The movement is the Jaeger LeCoultre Calibre 889/440/2, which dates back to 1996. It’s actually the JLC 889/2 base movement, with then utilises the design of the IWC perpetual calendar plate made famous by that company in the Da Vinci (although from what I understand the movement in it’s entirety, including the calendar plate, is manufactured by JLC).

It’s a 28,800bph automatic movement, with 50 jewels, and 277 parts. Like all movements used in the JLC Master Control series, it’s been subjected (as a completely finished watch) to 1000 hours of rigorous reliability testing in 6 positions, over a temperature range of 4->40 Celsius. Testing includes magnetism (5000 amperes/meter), shock, vibration, and pressure (5 atm) tests.

In terms of functions, there really is quite a lot going on.

  • Hours, minutes and centre sweep second hand
  • Date, month and day of week each on separate recessed sub-dial, with blued hands.
  • Two digit year display, via a window within the month sub-dial
  • Moon phase (yes, you may well ask why, and there’s no answer other than “because”)
  • A warning indicator, just below the month sub-dial, which shows red during the time period (10pm->3am) when it’s unsafe to set back the time, or adjust the date. (The hands even have cut-outs in them so that the indicator is visible at all times.)
  • One pusher, which adjusts (in a single operation) the entire calendar (date/day/moon phase/month/year simultaneously) one day forward per push.
  • With regard to that latter point, I think this is known as a “locked” calendar mechanism, and the alternative isn’t something that would be particularly user-friendly. However, the calendar can’t be turned backwards; this means that if you were to inadvertently set it ahead of the current date all you can do is let it wind down until time has caught up with the representation of time… (that was just for you, Cilla).

    The case is simply gorgeous, a warm, soft pink 18kt rose gold (the diameter 37.2mm, height 10.1mm). It has a very slightly domed crystal and solid case back, which is attached to the case with 4 screws. This beautiful watch was also available in stainless steel, yellow gold and platinum and to my knowledge all provided the option of bracelet or alligator strap with appropriately matching deployant. (I have to ask, though, who on earth would wear this on anything other than leather?)

    Anyway, that’s about it. For me, it’s just the fulfillment of a bit of a dream, albeit a relatively recent one, and something I can’t imagine topping (or even thinking of topping), and suspect that I’ll be wearing this quite a lot. To put it mildly!

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