Jaeger-LeCoultre S.A. premieres “Master Class” for U.S. watch fans

Luxury Swiss watchmaker Jaeger-LeCoultre recently held the world premiere of its new “Master Class” workshop, designed for watch enthusiasts, collectors, and professionals, in New York City. It’s the first time any Swiss luxury watchmaker has invited watch fans to actually disassemble and reassemble a complicated metrical movement.

“This unique educational program is intended not only to raise the level of awareness of watchmaking in the United States,” said Ronald Wolfgang, president of Jaeger-LeCoultre North America, “but to foster a higher level of understanding and appreciation for the art of watchmaking, [which] uses progressive technology, detailed precision, and the highest levels of ingenuity and creativity.”

Jaeger-LeCoultre, a 133-year-old company, is one of the very few Swiss watch manufacturers still producing its own movements, at its facility in Le Sentier, Switzerland. Since only a few watch aficionados can visit there, “we wanted to share our expertise and be the first to open doors to a world that many can only imagine,” Wolfgang noted. “Our goal is share our passion with the world.”

The debut “Master Class” workshops were conducted by master watchmaker Sylvan Golay and held Oct. 23-28 at the Christie’s auction house at Rockefeller Center. About 60 people—including watch collectors, enthusiasts, and retailers, plus a few consumer and trade press journalists—participated, 10 per day. Each worked on the newest Jaeger-LeCoultre watch movement—the eight-day Caliber 875, introduced this year and used in the brand’s new Reverso Grande Date.

Each class featured a tutorial on watchmaking theory and movement construction, instruction on how watches are created, and the crafts and technologies that produce them. Participants, each working at his or her own bench, viewed a CD (on a laptop at each bench) about the Calibre 875, and under Golay’s guidance took apart and reassembled the movement themselves, learning its inner workings. At day’s end, each received a certificate of accomplishment along with the smock and tools they had used.

Jaeger-LeCoultre’s “Master Class” will be presented next in London and then in other parts of Europe and in Asia, and probably will make a return visit to the United States in 2004. In the meantime, the CD and class information are being integrated into the training of the brand’s U.S. retailers and staff.

To celebrate inauguration of the “Master Class,” Jaeger-LeCoultre North America hosted an Oct. 23 evening reception at the Tribeca Rooftop penthouse restaurant in New York City. Several of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s finest watchmakers, technicians, and craftsmen (including a master enameller and a master gem setter) discussed and/or demonstrated their skills for guests. The guest list included some of the “Master Class” participants, watch collectors from around the country, company officials, and leading New York socialites.