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Automotive inspired horology
I remember in 1978 my father owned a Citroën GS Basalt. I was 11 years old at time and thought the limited edition model with black bodywork, featuring bold orange stripes on its flanks was “seriously cool” to use the parlance of my own children. My tastes have changed with maturity and the elevated esteem I afforded the French car as a youth has faded.
One memory of the car which has never diminished with time is the instruments which featured on the console. At the base of the speedometer and rev counter was the nomenclature, “Jaeger.”
It was after World War I, Edmond Jaeger began to supply instruments for cars and planes. One car marque which used Jaeger speedometers was Aston Martin. The prestigious car company, founded in 1914 was originally based in Newport Pagnell. The cars are now made in Gaydon, however, the newly refurbished Works Service continues to operate from the location of the original site.
SERIES 1 with Jaeger Speedometer
Jaeger-Le Coultre formed in 1833, has always been located in the Vallee de Joux, Switzerland. They have the largest range of watch movements offered today with 1,231 calibres at the time of writing.
Both brands have an illustrious history and make prestigious products. Their relationship was rekindled back in 2005 with the two companies collaborating on a range of timepieces inspired by high performance motoring.
“AMVOX” is the soubriquet used for the watches which harness styling influences of car instruments. The first part of the name, “AM”, is shorthand for Aston Martin. The latter part of the name, “VOX” is derived from “Memovox”, the famous JLC alarm watches.
Francis Cretin, the design Engineer from Jaeger-LeCoultre, is the design genius who has been responsible for the range of AMVOX watches since their inception. I recently had the good fortune to meet Francis at Aston Martin’s headquarters in Gaydon and learn more of the design details behind the range of the watches he has successfully penned.
The brands Aston Martin and Jaeger-LeCoultre may be respectively, English and Swiss in origin, but a key aspect both brands share is their pursuit of perfection, harnessing hand crafted skills where machines would provide an inferior result.
The AMVOX1 had a dial which featured Arabic numerals from 8 o’clock through to 4 o’clock, cresting the upper aspect of the dial. The arc of numerals inhabited 270° of the dial in sympathy with the traditional speedometers gracing car dashboards in the 1920’s and 1930’s. No numerals featured at the most southerly hour markings.
The alarm function harks back to the Memovox models of the 1950’s. A personal favourite of mine from this era is the 1959 Memovox Deep Sea. This was a diving watch featuring an alarm. Sound travels better underwater and the alarm was a welcome aide memoir for the diver working with aqualungs attached.
The font used on the watch dial was similar to the typeface used on the iconic Reverso models which date back to 1931.
The respectful nod to traditional styling and mechanical aspects which have punctuated Jaeger-LeCoultre’s history are juxtaposed with modernistic styling which coalesces wonderfully.
The brushed dial of the titanium variant, with sparing and judicious use of colour to enhance the whole, marks the watch out as timeless. The watch was launched in 2005 and yet it still retains freshness and relevance in 2012.
One aspect which you could argue disrupts the line of any chronograph is the protruding pushers. The creative minds at Jaeger-Le-Coultre created another world first, the vertical chronograph trigger.
The sapphire glass of the watch would effectively rock within the case, starting and stopping the chronograph function absent of the customary pushers. The purity of the design acted in symbiosis with the user-friendly action and tactility of the complication.
This is yet another example of the ingenuity of the creative minds at Jaeger-LeCoultre which has led to them holding 398 registered patents.
AMVOX3 Tourbillon GMT
A tourbillon is one of the most complex complications and the preserve of the finest brands which occupy the elevated plateau of watchmaking, haute horology.
This watch maintained the successful design language of former models, whilst encompassing a tourbillon and dual time zone display. However, it was the date display which caused my grin to grow the most.
The date featured on the perimeter of the dial, from the aforementioned 8 o’clock through to 4 o’clock. However, the date hand, leapt across the tourbillon cage from the 31st of the month to the first day of the new month. The date hand did not obscure the view of the tourbillon cage spinning with industrious purpose.
This may sound like a small detail, but it was the depth of the engineering which distinguished this watch from the mere mundane. It reminds me of the extraordinary amount of time Aston Martin expends creating the indulgent interior of the Virage I recently drove, 70 hours, for those readers with inquiring minds. The pursuit of excellence takes time and patience but the outcomes can be more valuable than product of an Alchemist’s working week.
There is a small part of any alpha male which identifies with Ian Fleming’s fictional character, James Bond. The gadgets masterminded by Q would extricate the British Agent from any impending doom and delight readers of the famous books.
In recent films, Mr Bond has chosen to drive an Aston Martin, but he has elected to wear an alternative brand of watch. Sadly for James, he will never enjoy the filly magnet which is the AMVOX Transponder.
As you walk towards your Aston Martin DBS or Rapide, you can enjoy the convenience of opening your sleek sports car by pressing the areas of the watch glass marked “OPEN” and “CLOSE.”
This is an unusual watch for JLC as it houses electronics which would normally be shunned by the brand synonymous with the mechanical. A transponder module and antennae are located within the watch in such a way that they do not cause any negative influence on the operation of the mechanical movement.
There is an element of showboating with this model, but it reaffirmed the wedding vows of two companies working in concert, sharing know-how and expertise. I must confess I despise quartz watches with religious fervour, but this model remains a mechanical watch, with the electronics harnessed within appealing to this closet special agent in waiting.
AMVOX5 World Chronograph
The AMVOX5 World Chronograph along with the AMVOX Transponder, are sadly, the only models from the line of AMVOX timepieces still in production.
AMVOX5 combines a worldtimer function in combination with a chronograph, again another world first.
My objectivity may be questioned when reading this editorial as I am a huge fan of Jaeger-LeCoultre owning two models personally. I have been a long term fan of the brand and confess to being smitten with their skill and craft.
The first JLC I acquired was a Grand Date Reverso, another creation of the aforementioned Francis Cretin. This model harnesses the Calibre 875, a beautifully finished movement featuring a power reserve indicator and twin barrels which provides an eight-day power reserve.
The second JLC which joined my cherished personal collection was a World Extreme Alarm. This watch has an inner bezel ring showing cities around the globe and it is this feature which is in common with the AMVOX5 World Chronograph. However, the AMVOX5 does not feature, “London” on the inner bezel ring but “GAYDON”, the home of Aston Martin.
The AMVOX5 uses conventional chrono pushers. I am sure Francis and his team would have ideally preferred to have used the vertical chronograph trigger, but I would suspect this would have proved impractical due to the presence of the worldtimer function.
Those who share my love of aesthetics and style should not despair. The watch features handsome pushers which contrast with the understated, neoteric elegance of the ceramic case.
One aspect I particularly admire about this watch is the view of the circular graining visible through the aperture beneath 12 o’clock.
There is a lot happening on the dial of this watch with a 30 minute chrono counter on the subdial at 3 o’clock, 12 hour chrono counter at 9 o’clock and “movement operating indicator” located at 6 o’clock. But, despite the numerous pieces of information displayed on the dial, legibility and handsome lines are obvious to all those who survey its dashing looks.
Jaeger-LeCoultre are often associated with the Reverso, an art deco masterpiece of outstanding beauty, its legend now part of horological folklore. Yet, Jaeger-LeCoultre are no “one-trick pony”. They have repeatedly created watches exhibiting different characters, complications and materials. Yet, one constant has remained, horological excellence.
Jaeger-LeCoultre harness craftsmanship, ingenuity and elegance and this DNA pervades the organisation. The prospective purchaser need look no further to see these qualities than view the AMVOX models created to date.
Unfortunately, as I mentioned, the majority of models are no longer available to purchase. My favourite model has to be the AMVOX1 Alarm in Titanium. However, I am an optimist at heart and envisage there will be further pulchritudinous models to satisfy my yearning for a JLC timepiece which captures the octane fueled pleasure of Aston Martin ownership.
I have bought and sold watches over the years, but the two Jaeger-LeCoultre models I own are for keeps. I suspect any AMVOX model which joined my collection would retain residence in my collection until I voyage one way to the great watch shop in the sky.