The night skies of the Vallée de Joux wherein Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Manufacture lies forms the inspiration not only of their new calendar watches to be launched at SIHH 2015 but of a broader thematic approach to the incoming year’s releases. But more on that later.
These two new models that will be formally released next month in Geneva are a variation on the Master Calendar released in 2013 in pink gold and stainless steel with a silver-toned sunburst dial, although Jaeger-LeCoultre’s calendar watches date back to 1945.
As with the previous models, the date indicator is via a moon-cresent tipped hand that circles the dial, the day of the week and month are in windows at 12 o’clock, and the moonphase indicator, which shows the new moon, first quarter, full moon and last quarter amidst cloudy skies, are part of the sub seconds indicator at 6 o’clock.
The major distinguishing feature of the new Jaeger-Lecoultre Master Calendar is self-evident – the use of meteorite on the dial.
The sourcing of the dial is a block of meteorite discovered and registered in Sweden that comes from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Meteorites are older than the oldest rocks on Earth, and those coming from this belt are thought to be the shattered iron and olivine cores of large bodies that collided.
The patterns you can see on the dial are called Widmanstätten patterns or Thomson structures. They are found in the octahedrite iron meteorites (the most common class of iron meteorites) and some pallasites (a class of stony–iron meteorite) and consist of fine interleaving of kamacite (an alloy of iron and nickel found on earth only in meteorites) and taenite (an alloy of iron and nickel found mosty in iron meteorites) bands, between which are often a mix of kamacite and taenite called plessite can be found.
‘Widmanstätten’ refers to Count Alois von Beckh Widmanstätten, director of the Vienna Imperial Porcelain Works who, whilst flame heating iron meteorites in 1808, noticed that the varying rates of iron alloy oxidation lead to colour and texture variations. His find, although not published, was acknowledged by Carl von Schreibers, director of the Vienna Mineral and Zoology Cabinet. Mr Thomson, on the other hand, noticed the phenomenon in 1804 whilst applying nitric acide to a meteorite and published his findings in the Bibliothèque Britannique. They were posthumously re-published in 1808.
Although it is an existing watch with new dials, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s to use a material such as meteorite is unexpected. So why meteorite? Well it’s part of what they are calling “Jaeger-LeCoultre pays tribute to astronomy in 2015”, so look out for other astronomically themed watches may appear next year. Oh and yes, it has to be acknowledged that they the first to do this, with Martin Braun’s ‘Selene’ a notable moonphase/ meteorite watch.