Jaeger LeCoultre vs LeCoultre
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  1. #1
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    Jaeger LeCoultre vs LeCoultre

    What, if anything, is the relationship between Jaeger LeCoultre and LeCoultre? I've seen websites claiming that LeCoultre was set up by JLC to finish watches in the US that were made by JLC in Switzerland, to get around some kind of tax or import duty at the time.

    Is there any evidence or authoritative source of information about LeCoultre?

  2. #2
    Member Ray MacDonald's Avatar
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    Re: Jaeger LeCoultre vs LeCoultre

    Here's a rough sketch of the situation.
    LeCoultre itself is a fairly old company that was started in 1833 by Antoine LeCoultre. In 1903 they formed a working relationship with the Parisian firm of Edmond Jaeger. In the late 1930s Jaeger and LeCoultre formally merged to form JLC as we know it now.
    They seemed to use the JLC brand more in Europe and the LeCoultre brand more in the US, but both brands used the same calibers.
    LeCoultre is the older of the two firms, and hence was not set up as a dummy brand after the merger. The older pocket watches are all LeCoultre & Co. pieces.

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    Re: Jaeger LeCoultre vs LeCoultre

    That's what I've read, and I'm not doubting you, I was just looking for something authoritative. JLC doesn't seem to say anything about it on their website, and Wikipedia (which I realize is about as reliable as my 8 year old cousin) contradicts this.

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  5. #4
    Member Ray MacDonald's Avatar
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    Re: Jaeger LeCoultre vs LeCoultre

    Well most of my info came from Shugart. I know that the Swiss marked movements unadjusted to avoid duties but I don't know if JLC cased watches in the US. It's not like they had a US-Swiss heritage like Bulova or Gruen.

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    Re: Jaeger LeCoultre vs LeCoultre

    "LeCoultre" was a marketing entity set up as a part of Longines-Wittnauer to market JLC watches in the U.S.A. Since the movements, dials, hands, and crowns were made by (or for) JLC I consider these watches to be basically the same as JLC products. Note that most leCoultre cases were made in the US to reduce import tariffs but this was also true for other Swiss brands like, for example, Omega. Many U.S. case designs are identical to the JLC Swiss-made cases. How JLC exactly regarded the "leCoultre" marketing enterprise is open to speculation since the people who established it are gone.

    Here is a quote from Zaf Basha (JLC expert and author of a new JLC History)

    A U.S. Company called Longines-Wittnauer (LeCoultre-Vacheron Constantin) was formed in the U.S. to market, case and time "LeCoultre" timepieces. Special attention was paid to U.S. market needs with the use of Gold Fill, 14k gold and less conservative case designs.

    However, to say that this entity's relationship with JLC Switzerland was only limited to the supply of movements is simply not supported by the many watches that exist under both nameplates.

    Hard evidence to the above can easily be found in U.S. market watches bearing the LeCoultre name which match up to their Swiss counter parts 100%, typically in steel & 18k. Also note that many Swiss market JLCs have "LeCoultre" signed cases bearing Swiss Hallmarks which are entirely correct.

    So, yes, perhaps they were different legal entities but to make the claim that JLC only supplied movements to a company that has nothing to do with them, is not supported by the many hundreds of watches I have personally examined.

    Here is a good example of the tight relationship of the 2 companies.

    Here is a 1966 "LeCoultre" Master Mariner in a 14K case from my collection. Note that the dial and crown are marked with the Swiss JLC logo (JL).



    The movement is a JLC 881 caliber which is marked as JLC (JLC movements are signed LECOULTRE CO and marked as JL on the oscillating weight). Note the import code on the movement, VXN, for Vacheron & Constantin and LeCoultre.




  7. #6
    Member Ray MacDonald's Avatar
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    Re: Jaeger LeCoultre vs LeCoultre

    Thanks JimH. That is pretty authoritative I'd say.

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    Re: Jaeger LeCoultre vs LeCoultre

    Thanks to all. There is a lot of conflicting information online, and I was not sure what to believe. I have a vintage LeCoultre and I basically wanted to know the relationship between it and the company that currently makes unobtainably expensive (for me) watches.

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    Member gatorcpa's Avatar
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    Re: Jaeger LeCoultre vs LeCoultre

    JimH has said it all regarding the marketing relationship. I always like to trot out a 1950's magazine ad for LeCoultre to give a little contemporaneous evidence of the US marketing relationship between Vacheron Constantin, LeCoultre, Longines and Wittnauer:



    The Wikipedia information regarding the L-W Co. relationship is, in my opinion, just flat-out wrong. Some LeCoultre models were 100% identical (including Swiss-made cases) to their European cousins, while others were very much different. I attribute such differences mostly to style, rather than substance. Although I'm sure that some customs savings were involved as well.

    It is true that JLC versions of most watches bring more in the marketplace than similar LeCoultre versions. I attribute that mostly to the marketing value of today's JLC name and logo, as opposed to any real differences in the watches.

    Hope this helps,
    gatorcpa

  10. #9
    Member Ray MacDonald's Avatar
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    Re: Jaeger LeCoultre vs LeCoultre

    I'd like to once again thank JimH and gatorcpa for their contributions to this thread. I don't see how anybody could have gotten a better answer than we see here.
    We may not have the biggest or most popular forum on WUS but in terms of knowledge and willingness to share - none better.
    parrotandpitbull likes this.

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    Re: Jaeger LeCoultre vs LeCoultre

    Quote Originally Posted by Ray MacDonald View Post
    Thanks JimH. That is pretty authoritative I'd say.
    I agree. Would you guys regard the two names as holding the same value?

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