From its unusual dial to its crownless case to its sci-fi name, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Futurematic was designed to be unlike any other watch ever made, and has more than lived up to that intention. When it was released in the early 1950s, the Futurematic broke new ground as the first-ever watch without a crown to wind the movement.
Unlike every other watch made before it, the Futurematic was powered by an automatic bumper movement that would start with a few shakes of the wrist and featured a prominent power-reserve indicator on the dial to let you know when it was running low on juice. (Setting the time was done via a wheel on the case back.) Despite helping to reinforce Jaeger- LeCoultre’s reputation as a maker of innovative movements and unique complications, the Futurematic was perhaps too futuristic for its own good. It gained a reputation as being overbuilt and difficult to service, and the watch was retired from production before the end of the decade. In the 21st century, however, the Futurematic has taken on a new life as an important piece of horological history and is highly sought by collectors, though anyone looking to own one of these unique pieces now has a new way to get one: The Collectibles.
Until this year, the only way to purchase a vintage Jaeger-LeCoultre watch was through a vintage dealer or another collector. The Collectibles, however — a collection of painstakingly restored vintage watches from the Jaeger-LeCoultre archive — are now being offered for sale both online and in select boutiques, allowing collectors to purchase their grails directly from the brand.
“With Jaeger-LeCoultre’s most emblematic timepieces being increasingly sought-after by collectors, we are delighted to introduce The Collectibles,” says Catherine Rénier, CEO of Jaeger-LeCoultre. “This new programme presents a unique opportunity to acquire a piece of the manufacture’s history.”
The collection of 17 pieces from the 1920s through to the 1970s, spans a wide range of styles and functions, from 1930s examples of the brand’s famous rectangular Reverso to quirky mid-century creations like the Futurematic and Memovox Parking (a watch with an alarm specifically designed to alert you when your parking metre was up) to expressive 1970s dive watches.
Each piece is thoroughly vetted by Jaeger-LeCoultre’s historical experts before receiving a full service and restoration by the team of specialized watchmakers at the brand’s Swiss workshop. With unrestricted access to the brand’s extensive archives, this team of nearly a dozen experts can comb through over a century’s worth of records to find the blueprint of every piece ever made, as well as original spare components. If no original component is available, they then turn to a collection of thousands of dies and stamps that can be used to recreate an identical component from scratch. While some pieces may require extensive mechanical restoration, the team takes pains to leave the dial and case in as close to original condition as possible — an important factor for collectors.
Each piece in The Collectibles is then offered up for sale on Jaeger-LeCoultre’s website as well as via a trunk show that makes stops at boutiques around the world. The collection is designed to evolve constantly, with new pieces added as others are acquired by collectors. Further speaking to collectors’ tastes, anyone fortunate enough to score their grail from The Collectibles will also receive a copy of The Collectibles, an expansive new coffee table book that explores the original 17-piece collection in loving detail.
With unprecedented interest in vintage watches from a wider audience than ever before, Jaeger-Lecoultre is one of a handful of elite Swiss watch brands now offering an official channel from which to purchase them. Whether it’s discovering a unique archival piece or simply wanting a perfectly restored watch with flawless provenance, The Collectibles provides an enticing alternative to the vagaries of the vintage watch market. It’s also a retribution of sorts for misunderstood and short-lived pieces like the Futurematic, which now get to enjoy a new life on the wrist of an appreciative collector.
“Being able to restore these remarkable timepieces and offer them once again is a nice tribute to our current environment, in which sustainability and second lives have come to the fore,” says Rénier. “It is fantastic to see 50- or 80-year-old pieces given a new life. For me, that symbolizes the beauty of our world – of timeless and durable objects to be passed from one generation to the next.”