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WRIST ICONS presents the Jaeger-LeCoultre Futurematic in stainless steel. This is the big sized European variant with a very nice patina dial with an egg shell hue. The Futurematic is one of the most collectible and innovative models manufactured by this famous company and probably second only to the Reverso in their vintage model range . Even today it looks futuristic and also very well balanced with its symmetrical design of the dial and case without crown. This particular example is really beautiful with the champagne silver dial
The watch displays a chronograph style dial with two registers, a power reserve indicator and a seconds dial. The case houses an automatic “bumper” movement, especially designed for the Futurematic model. Jaeger LeCoultre was so confident about the quality of this new movement that the company decided not to spoil the aesthetics of the watch by adding a crown. Instead it has a disc on the back cover which slides inwards to set the time.
What is this model:
The Futurematic is a self-winding wrist watch without a crown. It was manufactured between 1951 and 1959 by the Swiss watch manufacturer Jaeger-LeCoultre. The Futurematic was the world's first watch without a crown for winding the mainspring, having a flat crown on the back that was used solely for setting the time.
The Futurematic was produced with two different watch dials. Both dials have a central time indicator for hours and minutes. The earlier dial has a small second indication and a power reserve indicator and was used in model E501. The later dial version called Futurematic Porthole had two portholes and was used in model E502. Below these portholes are rotating discs, one as a power reserve indicator with a colour change of red or blue (two variants, with the color indicating high reserve) to white (for low reserve), the other porthole had a disc with an arrow to indicate the seconds. The watch calibres K497, K497/1, or KP827 were used for the model E501, whereas the E502 contained K817, K817/1, or KP837
Due to the Smoot–Hawley Tariff Act the Futurematics for the U.S. market have a LeCoultre logo instead of Jaeger-LeCoultre printed on the dial and engraved on the calibre and the inside of the case back. As an exception to this rule, all case backs of U.S. and European Futurematic models are internally engraved with LeCoultre, whereas the other markings differ. The cases of the U.S. models and the dials which were produced in the U.S., encase a Swiss-made watch calibre engraved LeCoultre. The U.S. models were distributed by the company Vacheron-Constantin-LeCoultre, a subsidiary of Longines-Wittnauer. Therefore, there are differences in the case forms and the dials between the U.S. and the European models. While the European models had only two watch case forms and were produced in three metal variants (stainless steel, yellow gold, and red gold), there are more models of the U.S. Futurematics, and an additional case metal variant, 10 carat gold-filled stainless steel cases.
"Don't lift - slide."
While those words sound like they could be a lyric from a 1950s dance hit a la "The Twist," they're taken directly from the crown of this watch, the Futurematic from Jaeger-LeCoultre. "Do not lift - slide" applies to the way you activate the crown (more on that later). However, it could apply to the way JLC slid out of the war-torn 1940s into the booming, design-rich 1950s.
History of Jaeger-LeCoultre
During World War II, Jaeger-LeCoultre churned out durable timepieces that could withstand the rigors of combat while keeping accurate time. Their military watches from this period (particularly their Mark X "W.W.W" and their Mark XI aviator's watches) are enduring examples of reliable tool watches that are as beautiful as they are reliable. The Mark X or "Watch Wristlet Waterproof," one of the Dirty Dozen, combined a spartan exterior with a robust, no-frills movement. Immediately following the war, the watches that the manufacture produced were spartan in their appearance, with large luminous numerals and modified versions of the movements that carried the brand through the War. But in the 1950s all that changed, as JLC began to experiment with design, both internally and externally, resulting in the creation of this unusual watch.
Compared to Blancpain and Rolex, JLC came late to producing automatic movements. The Calibre 476 arrived in 1946, twenty years after Blancpain achieved that feat, and fifteen after Rolex. However, while Blancpain's and Rolex's movements had low power reserves, JLC's Calibre 476 had a power reserve of 40 hours; additionally, the movement was accurate enough for it to achieve chronometer certification twelve years after its introduction.
Introduction of the Futurematic
And in 1953, JLC broke the mold--both literally and figuratively--with the Futurematic. After the devastation wrought after five years of total war, the world turned its eyes to the future. Manufacturers--both horological and otherwise--designed products in innovative shapes and colors that aesthetically embodied the future the world aspired to.
The Futurematic was powered by the Calibre 497, which, thanks to its larger balance, was even more accurate than the Calibre 476. Like many early automatic movements produced by Universal Genève, for example, the Calibre 497 was a bumper wind movement. But in the Calibre 497, the oscillating weight was locked into place by a little hook, preventing it from overwinding and breaking the mainspring, which was a problem that plagued many early automatic calibres.
A watch with a “bumper” movement is always in demand from collectors. If you look at the photographs you can see that the rotor does not turn continuously through 360 degrees but bounces back and forth through around 300 degrees. Older Omega watches also had this type of movement. These two companies probably manufactured more bumper watches than any other watchmaker. This watch is correctly signed by the manufacturer in three places, on the dial, case and movement.
The Calibre 497 is also notable for its hacking mechanism, which stops the watch when the crown is slid towards the centre. A feature of many military watches that JLC carried over into the construction of this watch, the hacking mechanism (unusual in automatic watches of the time) allowed for unparalleled accuracy. JLC also included a revolutionary six-hour power reserve (indicated by the sub-dial at 9 o'clock) that stops the movement from running when there's six hours of power left.
Design dial and case
Perhaps the most noticeable design quirk is the lack of a conventional crown at 3 o'clock. With the Calibre 497, JLC created a unique hand-setting wheel that is engaged by sliding--not lifting--the coin-shaped crown on the back of the case inward toward the center of the watch, which also engages the hack lever. To set the hands, the wearer simply rotates the crown clockwise; to get the hands going again, you slide the crown toward the outside of the case.
While JLC produced the Futurematic in an array of case materials and dial colors, Caliber 497 powered variants like this one feature two subdials- running seconds at 3 o'clock and the aforementioned power reserve indicator at 9 o'clock, bringing symmetry and balance to the gloss black dial.
Externally this watch is a study in contrasts. Though the lack of a conventional crown at 3 o'clock gives the case a smoother silhouette, its sharp, curved lugs--echoed by the dauphine hands--give it a decidedly futuristic look. It calls to mind the fins on a 1949 Cadillac (an image that Hamilton would take to the extreme with the Ventura in 1957).
With distinctive looks and an innovative construction, the Futurematic is emblematic of an era, a classic of mid-century horology that deserves appreciation.
For more about the Futurematic's movement and its vicissitudes, check out this writeup at Watchguy.co.uk.
This particular watch has just undergone a check by our watchmaker. The watch keeps good time.
As with all of our pre-owned watches this watch comes with a full 12 month warranty with ourselves that will be invoked from the day of purchase.