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Getting a ‘big picture’ look at the new Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control collection

Three decades after it was first released, the Master Control collection comes full circle with a period-inspired aesthetic, silicon movement components and an all-new calendar/chronograph hybrid. 

Even though Watches & Wonders has come and gone faster than you can say “rattrapante“, there’s still plenty worth discussing at a more leisurely pace. Last week, we highlighted several higher-end pieces that collectors are expecting to hit retailers in May (i.e. Vacheron); so it only makes sense to balance that with some refreshingly accessible fare from brands like Jaeger-LeCoultre. The Le Sentier watchmaker unveiled a bold new aesthetic across its entire Master Control range, including (for the first time) a reference which combines chronograph and calendar complications.

The first Master Control models were unveiled in 1992. Since then, they’ve become a mainstay of the wider JLC family — encompassing a range of styles from automatic three-handers to pre-programmed travel watches.

Broadly speaking, the Master Control has always appealed to well-dressed below-the-radar types — ideal for the sort of guy who spends a good part of his day in an office or shuttling between a handful of professional environments. Undoubtedly, JLC have made some minor technical changes in 2020 — largely confined to the interior — but chances are, assuming you were already a fan, these will only serve to deepen your enjoyment of the collection.

Master Control Date

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control

It’s helpful to begin our exploration of the revamped Master Control collection by looking at its simplest expression: the time-and-dater. This release measures 40mm x 8.78mm, representing a sizeable increase in size over its spiritual ancestor (3mm).

Up close, the watch isn’t the massive world-annihilating reboot JLC reps have been touting the last few weeks. Point being: if you’ve handled any pieces from the Master Control range since 2015, the aesthetic will feel familiar and more lived-in than in previous iterations. The silvered dial is decorated with a muted sunburst finish, while timekeeping indications are constructed from an array of shapes and motifs: cardinal positions feature Arabic numerals (excepting the date window at 3 o’clock); hour markers take the form of dart indices (there’s even some faceting worked in); and JLC have even applied the manufacture logo, a subtle little upgrade over the previously printed version.

The Master Control Date’s visible simplicity is also a great excuse to explore the mechanical side of things. As part of the collection’s wider revamp, each Master Control movement has been fitted with a silicon escapement. Enhancements have also been made to the strength and tensility of the mainspring, enabling a significant improvement to operational efficiency. At full wind, the new Calibre 899AC (pictured right) has a power reserve of about 70 hours — an amount that’s now standard throughout the collection.

The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Date is currently available, priced at HK$50,000.

Master Control Chronograph Calendar

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control

Outfitted with triple calendar displays and a 30-minute totaliser, the Master Control Chronograph Calendar is a compelling choice of frontman for the collection’s relaunch. Whereas the time-and-dater, ‘Geographic’ and calendar models are (in their most essential characteristics) reworks of an earlier design, the Chronograph Calendar is an outlier within the Master Control lineage.

Notably, it’s only moderately thicker than the simplest watch in the collection; but manages to balance reasonable wearability with a multitude of information, all within a 40mm x 12.05 mm package. (Even the tachymetre — though not terribly useful for the watch’s target audience — is grounded in the Master Control design language of yore.) This release marks the first time JLC have combined a chronograph and triple calendar — a feat achieved by adding the latter complication onto the calibre 751, a movement introduced back in 2004.

The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Chronograph Calendar will be available beginning Fall 2020. It is priced at HK$111,000.

Master Control Calendar

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control

Like several other notable Swiss watchmakers who contributed significantly to the artform during the 1950s, JLC has built up a reputation for fine triple calendar wristwatches over the decades. The Master Control Calendar is a contemporary envisioning of that well-trod heritage.

On the wrist, it sits somewhere between the Chronograph Calendar and time-and-dater — measuring a rather agnostic 40mm x 10.95mm. The manner in which the calendar displays are arrayed will feel instantaneously familiar to enthusiasts of vintage, with the day and month aperture just below 11 and 1 o’clock respectively (I personally see flickers of Vacheron’s much-liked ref. 4240).

Rather than opting to combine the date and moonphase in one recess, JLC have instead made things though for themselves — positioning the classic 31-day display outside the minute track.

Happily, that brings us to the Master Control Calendar’s most innovative feature: a date pointer — tipped with a red version of the ‘JLC’ logo — that ‘jumps’ from 4 to 7 o’clock, in order to ensure wearers have a clear view of the lovely moonphase aperture at all times. Assuming you’re a value-minded person, it’s interesting to note this action was first introduced as a solution to a very similar problem encountered in the Master Tourbillon Dualtime — a watch that’s over seven times pricier than the current release.

The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Calendar is currently available, priced at HK$84,000.

Master Control Geographic

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control

Rounding out the new Master Control collection is the ‘Geographic’: a model that has historically been pivotal to the range’s erudite, classically-grounded appeal. It’s also the most visibly unchanged model in the collection, exhibiting the same sort of dial configuration it’s had for the better part of two decades. To recap: there’s the distinctive fan-shaped power reserve, which arcs from 8 to 12 o’clock; next to it, wearers will find a 31-day date disc; and at 6 o’clock, the ‘home time’ indicator for when you’re wearing the Geographic abroad. Helpfully, by actuating the left-side crown you can switch between a variety of pre-programmed cities — handy for when you’re taxiing into arrivals with seconds to spare.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control

The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Geographic will be available beginning Fall 2020. It is priced at HK$93,000. To learn more about the entire collection, visit Jaeger-LeCoultre online.

Randy Lai
Having worked in the Australian digital media landscape for over 5 years, Randy has extensive experience in men's specialist categories such as classic clothing, watches and spirits. He is partial to mid-century chronographs and a nice chianti.