Antoine LeCoultre (1803 – 1881), a talented self-taught watchmaker, set up his small workshop in Le Sentier Switzerland in 1833. He worked diligently to hone his craft and in 1844 he invented a new instrument capable of measuring to the micrometre (μm) for the first time. This, the world's most precise measuring instrument, was called the Millionometer and its exceptional precision allowed him to calculate and create the finest components for his watches.
LeCoultre exhibited at the inaugural 1851 Great Exhibition in London where Queen Victoria purchased a watch from him and he was awarded a gold medal for his numerous horological inventions and his finely made time pieces. Antoine’s son Elie joined the business in 1858 and was instrumental in transforming it by creating a large manufacturing workshop whereby all the different craftsmen and outworkers could work under the same roof. At this time most of the craftsmen were based in home workshops so when LeCoultre bought them all together in 1866 he created the first facility of its kind in the Joux Valley. This revolutionary idea allowed all aspects of the watchmaking craft to be executed by LeCoultre and with his employees all pooling their expertise they were soon creating complicated movements. Within 30 years, LeCoultre had created more than 350 different timepiece calibers, of which 128 were equipped with chronograph functions and 99 with repeater mechanisms. And by the end of the century they were making double complication movements, combining both repeaters and chronographs in single pieces.
In 1900 Antoine LeCoultre’s grandson Jacques-David takes over the running of the business and over the coming years collaborates with the Parisian-based watchmaker Edmond Jaeger to create ultra-thin movements. During the early 1920s LeCoultre developed the Calibre 101 which was the world’s smallest movement. This facilitated the creation of a luxury wrist watch for women; called the Duoplan it was unveiled in 1925. Six years later they launched the now iconic Reverso watch in which the face can be flipped over to protect it from damage. Originally designed for wear on the polo field over the years it would become one of the company’s signature timepieces.
In 1937 the company was renamed Jaeger-LeCoultre and within five years they had received the highest distinction from the Neuchâtel Observatory for their tourbillon Caliber 170. The ensuing decades saw them continue to create and innovate with new advancements in all areas of horology. Ever more complicated designs were unveiled and they launched watches suitable for every occasion from diving to dinner. In 2009 they created the Hybris Mechanica à Grande Sonnerie with 26 complications making it one of the most complicated and expensive watches ever made. Today the company’s headquarters remain in the heart of the Vallée de Joux in the Swiss Jura Mountains where they proudly combine over 180 different expert skills to create watches that will be as cherished by future generations as they are by the clients who buy them today.