HANDS-ON: The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Moon EnamelSandra Lane
With the new Master Ultra Thin Moon Enamel, Jaeger-LeCoultre has pulled off quite a feat: it has transformed a quietly beautiful and discreetly elegant design into a take-your-breath-away showstopper. And it has done so without losing even a milligram of the class and refinement that has defined the model since it was first introduced in 2012.
While JLC has added a variety of dial colours and finishes to the collection over the years, this new dial takes it to another level, showcasing the Maison’s mastery of guillochage, enamelling and engraving.
It’s unlike any guilloché-enamel dial I’ve seen before. (The technique of applying coloured, translucent enamel over guilloché engraving is called flinqué – or, in Japan, Shippo.) Usually, when these two crafts are combined, the engraving is delicate and reveals itself fully only when the light hits the dial at certain angles. But here, the sunray pattern is highly pronounced, with the ‘rays’ cut extra-deep and wide, so they appear almost faceted and make the dial dance and sparkle in the light as you move your wrist.
The vivid colour of the enamel adds even more impact. Oddly, Jaeger-LeCoultre describes it as “a deep, intense midnight blue”, which is well off the mark – and all the better for that (deep, intense and midnight being the sort of blues we see a lot on watch dials). No, this is a brilliant petrol blue, with a lovely greenish cast that becomes stronger in certain lights – and it’s not like any other blue in the business.
Such strong patterns and colour could, in the hands of less sophisticated designers, become too much, and this is where Jaeger-LeCoultre’s aesthetic judgement comes into play. To keep everything in harmony, the radiating dial pattern is echoed by the long, tapered triangles of the applied, white gold hour markers (specially designed for this model), the dauphine-shaped hour and minute hands and elongated counterweight on the seconds hand.
The moon phase display is all about detail and refinement. It follows the design of the earlier MUT Moon models, with the date displayed on a ring around the moon phase aperture – a perfect design solution that focuses attention on the main complication. However, where the ‘standard’ model has printed numbers on a plain background, on this model the ring is white gold, engraved so that the numerals stand proud of the textured background. The moon itself is a disc of white gold, mirror-polished to stand out against the dark blue starry sky.
In a work of extraordinary precision, the guilloché rays on the small section covering the ‘out of phase’ moon are aligned precisely with those on the main dial, matching not only the position and angle but also the depth and width of the cuts – just as the most skilled cabinetmaker would book-match the grain of the wood he uses so that the finished piece looks seamless.
Like the ‘regular’ Ultra Thin Moon collection, this watch is powered by Jaeger-LeCoultre’s highly respected Calibre 925. However, having lavished such attention on the dial, JLC went a step further with the movement – reworking its geometry to enable it to provide a power reserve of 70 hours (rather than 43) without adding to its 4.9mm height. A fully rose-gold winding rotor and some refined hand decoration and finishing complete the package.
At 39mm in diameter this is a slim and beautifully proportioned dress watch, in a classical and well-balanced white gold case. However, at a shade over 10mm thick, the Master Ultra Thin Moon is something of a misnomer. It doesn’t quite fit with Jaeger-LeCoultre’s own illustrious history in truly skinny watches (among them, the Master Ultra Thin 1907 at 4.05mm; the Ultra Thin Squelette at 3.6mm and the Hybris Mechanica 11 – a 7.9mm thick minute repeater), not to mention a plethora of sub-8mm dress watches from other makers – and even sport-luxe pieces under 8.5mm (Nautilus, Royal Oak). That’s not to diminish the beauty of this timepiece but simply to clarify where it sits on the thin-watch spectrum.
Issued in a limited edition of 100 pieces, the Master Ultra Thin Moon is a stunningly gorgeous, attention-grabbing watch, yet it’s extremely classy and sophisticated – ideal for an elegant man with a strong sense of style.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Moon Enamel Australian pricing
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Moon Enamel, limited to 100 pieces, $55,000.