A great watch adventure started in 1833 when the self-taught watchmaker Antoine LeCoultre established a workshop after having invented a cutting machine that made it easier to manufacture the movement parts.
By Mia Litström
This invention was followed by dozens of others, in parallel with hundreds of patents that all have contributed to the evolution of Swiss watchmaking. The little workshop grew quickly and in its bigger format became known under the nickname
Grande Maison in Vallée de Joux. The number of employees in 1888 was around 500.
During the last 180 years, Jaeger-LeCoultre have created over 1 200 different calibers and the archives contain more than 400 patentes. The Grande Maison’s resume includes a number of international successes like the models Reverso, Duoplan, Memovox, Polaris, the remarkable Gyrotourbillon one and two, and let’s not forget the advanced table clock Atmos.
Today there are over 1 000 people employed at the factory, which is still located in the original premises in the village Le Sentier. It’s 1 000 meters above the ground and surrounded by mountain passes where the roads sometimes get buried in snow, isolating the village. The harsh climate with extreme cold and blizzards may have stimulated the inventiveness of the locals – they simply had to come up with new ideas if they wanted to survive.
The roots of Le Sentier go back all the way to the 1500’s when the Huguenot Pierre LeCoultre escaped from the persecution in France, ended up in Geneva and became a citizen in 1558. The local Calvinism wasn’t his cup of tea though and he continued to Vallée de Joux where he was employed with chores like cleaning out woods, building houses, farming and raising cattle. He felt truly liberated when a church was built in the village in 1612, the year that marks the birth of the village Le Sentier. Later in the tiny village, the LeCoultre and Jaeger families would be joined in marriage and that’s how the brand was christened with both of the family names.
Jaeger-LeCoultre’s museum is located in the original Grand Maison, which is pretty much synonymous with the village museum since the evolution of the place has always been intertwined with the watch production. Guided tours can be arranged for collectors by appointment through your local Jaeger-LeCoultre dealer.
For more info about the museum, please visit Jaeger-lecoultre.com.