Jaeger-LeCoultre Revolutionises The Vintage Watch Game With New ‘Collectibles’ Programme

The best way to get your hands on a piece of watchmaking history.

A man assembles a vintage Jaeger-LeCoultre watch.

Image: Jaeger-LeCoultre

“The watchmaker’s watchmaker” dives into their back catalogue, unearthing some seriously rare vintage watches and making them available to the public.

It’s undeniable: there’s just something particularly glamorous about wearing a vintage watch. But shopping for vintage watches – especially ones you actually want to wear yourself – can be a bit of a crapshoot.

Not only are vintage watches, by their very nature, fragile and rare, but there are so many fakes and ‘Frankensteins’ out there that you stand a very good chance of getting dudded. More to the point, servicing vintage watches can also be exceptionally difficult. I can tell you from first-hand experience that the glamour of buying a vintage watch wears off quickly when it stops working and you can’t find anyone to fix it.

That’s why Jaeger-LeCoultre’s latest product offering, which they’re calling ‘The Collectibles’, is so exciting. As the brand itself puts it, “The Collectibles is a meticulously curated collection of rare and sought-after timepieces that represent high-water marks for both Jaeger-LeCoultre and 20th-century watchmaking”.

Here’s the really good bit, though: every piece offered through The Collectibles will be “thoroughly vetted” by Jaeger-LeCoultre’s in-house historical experts, plus fully serviced and restored by the highly specialised watchmakers of the brand’s dedicated restoration workshop.

Three Jaeger-LeCoultre watches available as part of 'The Collectibles'.
Three of the models initially available through The Collectibles. L-R: a 1933 Reverso, a 1958 Memovox Parking and a 1968 Memovox Polaris. Images: Jaeger-LeCoultre

JLC will offer a “continually evolving” selection of vintage watches through The Collectibles programme, which you’ll be able to purchase on their online boutique. JLC will also send capsule collections of these rare watches around the world so that you’ll be able to try some of them on in the flesh before you buy.

The Collectibles is launching with an exciting and varied selection of timepieces, giving us a taste of what we can expect from the programme going forward. Some highlights include an original Reverso from 1933 and an original Memovox Polaris from 1968, as well as a bunch of obscure Memovox variants including a funky 1958 Memovox Parking (yes, to remind you to feed your parking meter – how cool).

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Every Collectibles timepiece is presented with an extract from the JLC archives, a new watch strap and a complimentary coffee-table book. When available, JLC will also provide you with the original box and papers, and the original strap or bracelet.

“This new programme presents a unique opportunity to acquire a piece of [our] Manufacture’s history,” Jaeger-LeCoultre CEO Catherine Rénier says.

“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… It is fantastic to see 50- or 80-year-old pieces given a new life.”

Catherine Rénier
A vintage Jaeger-LeCoultre in a wooden box with an 'extract from the archives'.
Perfectly repaired with more provenance than you can shake a stick at. Image: Jaeger-LeCoultre

I had the chance to visit JLC’s manufacture last year and see these master watchmakers at work restoring vintage pieces (as well as the chance to try on some very rare vintage pieces, the likes of which will be available in The Collectibles programme). These are some of the best watchmakers in the biz; what they do is pure magic.

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I can’t think of a more confidence-inspiring prospect when it comes to vintage watch ownership than a vintage JLC that’s been fettled and certified by JLC themselves. This is a real game-changer.

While there’s no doubt that JLC’s modern watches are just as worthy as their watches of yesteryear, there’s just something undeniably alluring about their vintage pieces in particular, above and beyond other brands. Maybe it’s because they’ve got such a long history and have been wildly innovative over their many years, but vintage JLCs are particularly special. Let me tell you, few watches have filled me with joy (and lust) as much as the vintage Polaris I got to try on in Le Sentier.

A master watchmaker hard at work at Jaeger-LeCoultre's heritage and restoration workshop in Switzerland.
A master watchmaker hard at work at JLC’s heritage and restoration workshop. Image: Jamie Weiss/DMARGE

JLC is just one of a number of high-end Swiss watchmakers that are experimenting with official second-hand watch programmes. For example, Rolex recently announced their own Certified Pre-Owned programme, which will give customers the chance to buy Rolexes from yesteryear signed off on by the brand.

The difference between Rolex and JLC’s programmes, however, is that Rolex’s isn’t specifically about preserving and making available historically significant vintage watches – it’s more about trying to clamp down on dodgy aftermarket ‘flippers’ by offering a first-party alternative.

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In that sense, JLC’s programme is a much more intriguing prospect as it’s squarely aimed at true aficionados and collectors rather than simply trying to nab a piece of the grey market pie. In short: we’re very excited by this new move by JLC, and we’re curious to see what other rare pieces JLC’s got in store for us.

Find out more about The Collectibles and see what vintage watches are on offer at Jaeger-LeCoultre’s online boutique here.