Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Perpetual Calendar (Hands On)

Jaeger-LeCoultre LogoJaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin QP Steel Wrist Shot

Last week, Jaeger-LeCoultre unveiled a spectacular new watch,  the Master Ultra Thin Perpetual Calendar.  The new Master Ultra Thin (“MUT”) Perpetual Calendar — offered in pink gold (Ref Q1302520), white gold (Ref Q1303520) and steel (Ref Q130842J) — is a watch that gives watch enthusiasts and collectors a lot of reasons to get excited.  In the new Master Ultra Thin Perpetual, we see a superb combination of the manufacture’s rich heritage of ultra-thin watchmaking and one of high watchmaking’s most quintessential complications, the perpetual calendar.  The result, as you see on my wrist above, is pure and classic beauty.  

And not only does it look good, but the price point on this new Perpetual Calendar (would you believe under $20,000 on the piece above?) will bring one of watchmaking’s most heralded complications into reach for a broader group of aspiring connoisseur’s of fine watches.

I was fortunate to join the wonderful team from Jaeger-LeCoultre at its boutique in the Wynn Las Vegas Resort last week for the official unveiling of these new references.  Which means that you are in luck today as I share lots of hands-on pics and a detailed run-down of the new Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Perpetual Calendar.

Entrance to the Jaeger-LeCoultre Boutique at the Wynn Las Vegas & Encore Resort

One of JLC’s newer boutiques (it was announced late last year), JLC @ the Wynn is very tastefully designed inside and out

JLC Wynn Las Vegas Boutique

As I think most everyone would agree, the perpetual calendar (or quantième perpétuel) is one of the signature complications of high watchmaking.  However, it is a complication that is rarely paired with an ultra-thin caliber.  It does not take much to appreciate the high degree of horological know-how that is required to craft a beautiful marriage of the two, but I would say that Jaeger-LeCoultre  was clearly up to the task on this occasion.

The new Master Ultra Thin has a perfectly sized case:  39mm diameter, 9.2mm thin (thank you JLC Caliber 868 — more on this below).  As well, the lugs are streamlined and do not call attention to themselves, and the bezel is thin.  Simply put, this watch will sit elegantly on almost anyone’s wrist.

Let’s now take a closer look at the calendar functions, and then I will discuss the aesthetics of the dial tone and appliques before touching upon the automatic mechanical ultra-thin caliber in the new MUT perpetual.  Shown here in the steel — which unlike the gold references will be offered exclusively through JLC boutiques — one can immediately appreciate the classic design of the watch and its clear and self-evident indications.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Perpetual SS Dial Angle

The three counters are very well proportioned relative to the rest of the dial; their size is such that their indications are legible and they do not crowd the center of the dial.  The moon phase aperture and “Jaeger-LeCoultre” logo/signature at the top of the dial provide additional  balance.  Of course a perpetual calendar function must indicate not just day/date/month, but also the current year.  And on the Master Ultra Thin Perpetual, a full four-digit display appears through a small aperture at 7 o’clock.  Jaeger uses this four-digit year display on some of its other perpetuals (Master Eight Days Perpetual 40, for example) — and I do like it.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Perpetual SS Dial Angle 2

Now if you have a keen eye you may also have noticed there is a small aperture just above the center-set hour/min/second hands.   Not always seen on perpetuals (though certainly not new to JLC), this indicator tells the wearer the period during which it is preferable to avoid adjustments to the watch so as to avoid potentially damaging the gear wheels that are already engaged in preparing the change of indication that takes place at midnight.  The critical time thus being the couple hours on either side of midnight, the window turns gradually red as evening falls and returns to the same shade as the rest of the dial a few hours later.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Perpetual SS

The perpetual calendar indications are adjusted via a single corrector at 8 o’clock:  one press moves the calendar one day ahead, with any additional changes ocuring automatically. The watch mechanism takes into account of the unequal length of months (i.e. 28, 30 or 31 days), and every four years, it will naturally display the 29th of February.  Essentially you are good to go until March 1st 2100.

From my point of view, I really like that each counter or indicator on the dial is singular in its purpose.  Contrast this with JLC’s Master Eight Days Perpetual 40 (Ref 1618420) and its a slightly busier dial, for example.  In fact on many QP’s you will see moon phases or leap-year indicators or power reserve sharing space on what is essentially a dual-purpose sub-dial.  Now don’t get me wrong — the aesthetic can certainly be attractive on watches such as these, but I am a simple guy and I do really like how Jaeger-LeCoultre so simply conveys the calendar functions on this new MUT.  All in, I think there can be no argument: the Master Ultra Thin Perpetual Calendar is an incredibly easy-to-read perpetual calendar watch.

Let’s now take a closer look at the dial itself.  The hour and minute hands are dauphine-style on all models, but each has a slightly different dial finish and applied hour markers — as noted below.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Perpetual Calendar in Stainless Steel

sunburst silver-toned dial and rhodiumed polished appliques


Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Perpetual Calendar in White Gold

grained silver-toned dial and black nickel appliques

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Perpetual White Gold

Aside from the differences in appliques/hour markers, when comparing the stainless steel and the white gold references, the difference is quite subtle.  But study the above to photos for a moment and I think that you can see the difference in dial finish.  Which one do you like better?  For me it is almost a toss-up, but I am partial to the steel model, preferring its rhodiumed hour markers over the darker ones on the WG model.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Perpetual Calendar in Pink Gold

eggshell-white dial with polished appliques

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin QP Pink Gold Wrist Shot

Finally, let’s talk about the movement, the Calibre 868 ultra-thin automatic perpetual calendar movement.  The Cal 868 has 336 parts and is a mere 4.72mm thick.  Impressive.  Jaeger-LeCoultre elected to use a sapphire crystal case-back so that the caliber is visible:

Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 868

I think it goes without saying that JLC has deep experience and history in crafting ultra-thin calibers.  For me, they along with Piaget are the first brands that come to mind when I think ultra-thin.  And of course that is what the Master Ultra Thin line is all about.  And now an ultra thin perpetual calendar to join the family.

Now that you’ve seen up close and personal what an elegant watch this new Master Ultra Thin Perpetual Calendar is, I want to circle back to my opening remark about price.  And here’s the deal:  this watch, in steel, will sell for $19,950.  Rose gold, $31,600, white gold $34,700.  Think about that:  an ultra-thin, perpetual calendar, from one of Swiss watchmaking’s finest.  For under $20k.  That’s compelling.  Especially considering that, in many cases, perpetual’s might sell for multiples of $20k, even upwards of six figures.

In short, Jaeger-LeCoultre has made this “complicated complication” even more accessible, and done so in an ultra-thin format.  Of course we’re still talking perpetual calendar here so this watch is not going to be within reach of everyone.  But there is no doubt in my mind that this new Master Ultra Thin perpetual will give many watch enthusiasts out there something they might not have had yesterday — hope.  Hope that that they one day might be able to own a perpetual calendar, one of high watchmaking’s more exclusive complications.  That’s something to aspire to!

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