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Jaeger LeCoultre travelling clock, pigskin 1935
Dating from 1935, this LeCoultre travelling clock is one of those wonderfully evocative pieces from the art deco era that are so collectible today. We tend to think of LeCoultre, or Jaeger LeCoultre as the concern would be known after 1937, as a manufacturer of wristwatches but in fact, it was also the creator of a number of exquisitely crafted clocks, all aimed at the same high society buyer. The celebrated London jeweller Asprey offered a selection of these LeCoultre clocks, promoting them in its pre-war advertising, as did the Parisian retailer Hermes. Then as now, they were unashamedly extravagant and I think this remains part of their appeal even almost eighty years on.
Going back fifteen years, we used to buy vintage LeCoultre clocks fairly regularly, but over the last five or six years, we have noticed that worthwhile examples have all but disappeared from the marketplace. Now and again we’ll be offered pieces on which the hands have been replaced or the winding crowns missing, or those just in generally worn out condition, but genuinely clean, investment grade pre-war vintage LeCoultre clocks that are actually worth buying are conspicuous by their absence.
This clock is charming and one of the most attractive that we have seen in a while. It takes the usual LeCoultre form of a rectangular dial set in a hide covered case, with a flip up lid that protects the glass in transit acting as a fold back stand when the clock is positioned on a flat surface.
The hide here is pigskin and has mellowed into the most gorgeous tobacco colour. It oozes old world charm and the look of the piece immediately conjures up stylish mental images of a fashion conscious gentleman’s Mayfair flat in the inter-war years. If you think of a pair of once honey coloured bespoke made English shoes that have been polished religiously for half a century, then you’ll have a pretty good idea of the sort of deep glowing patina present on the hide covering of this case.
The general condition of the hide outer is very good, the only area of wear being on the underside of the lid where some of the leather is missing. This isn’t the end of the world, largely because, fortunately, it’s on the side that faces the dial when the lid is closed and next to the table surface when it’s open, so under normal circumstances, it isn’t at all visible. For the perfectionist, it would be very easy and inexpensive to just have this side of the lid recovered, but we haven’t gone down this route. The policy on this site has always been to offer very high quality antique watches for sale in a legitimate, non-enhanced state that is suited for investment. Particularly given the attractive way in which it has aged, it would a mistake to replace any of the original hide covering in this instance.
The bezel and movement casing are very heavily chrome plated. This plating is in excellent condition and hasn’t worn in the slightest. One thing that always strikes anyone handling one of these clocks for the first time is their weight. Admittedly, they are considerably larger than their modern equivalents, but even so, the solidity of the build is quite remarkable. As with its vintage wristwatches, LeCoultre intended that the buyer of one its clocks was acquiring a possession for life, rather than just for a few years. To use a cliché, these things are built like the proverbial tanks, but finished to the most refined standard imaginable.
It really doesn’t get a lot more attractive than the jet black dial here, signed “LeCoultre, Eight Days, Swiss” in white above and below its centre point respectively. The whole package of oversize Arabic numerals, original tulip hands and an angular double minute track just scream art deco. Notice how the LeCoultre signature, rather than Jaeger LeCoultre, dates the clock as being pre-1937. Since 1918, the two firms of Jaeger and LeCoultre had worked closely together but were never united as a single business entity, with the signatures of each appearing alone on dials. In 1937, the two formed the amalgamated “Societe de vente des produits Jaeger LeCoultre SA” and from then on, the full Jaeger LeCoultre name was used. On early vintage Reverso, Uniplan and Duoplan wristwatches from the early and mid-1930s, we see the LeCoultre dial signature as here.
The condition of this dial is so close to being mint that we might well have assumed that it was a freshly restored item. There is no fading or spotting to the dial surface at all and the whole thing looks today exactly as it did when on display in the jeweller’s window in 1935. However, close inspection with an eye glass reveals that in fact, this is a totally original dial. It has never been restored and is untouched, even down to its original slightly aged radium based luminous paint. Finding original 1930s dials on vintage watches or clocks today is very difficult. Dials like this one are the ideal for the collector, but are not easy to find, with most superficially comparable examples turning out to be refinished, either recently or, quite commonly, back in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
In our archives of vintage watch advertising material, we have a LeCoultre advert from November 1935 that features this particular model of clock, with exactly the same black dial, hands and winding crown. The advert itself is something of an art deco masterpiece and will be photocopied and included for the enjoyment of the clock’s next owner.
Having been serviced regularly, this clock works perfectly. It runs extremely smoothly and sets very precisely, without any of the backlash in the gear train that we often encounter on worn out vintage movements. Jaeger LeCoultre will still undertake the servicing of its classic movements back at its factory in Le Sentier, but these 1930s clock movements are so simple and so brilliantly engineered that a good local watchmaker will have no difficulty in cleaning and oiling them for a fraction of the cost of official servicing.
The price of this clock is £425 GB pounds, which makes it remarkably good value. It would be impossible to purchase any vintage LeCoultre wristwatch from the 1930s in a worthwhile condition for this amount, but yet the intrinsic quality in the movement and case of this item are every bit as exceptional. There is something very elegant and deeply satisfying about these vintage art deco LeCoultre clocks and it can be said with certainty that anyone purchasing this piece for themselves, or receiving it as a gift, will be extremely pleased.