Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Jaeger LeCoultre New Chronograph Controversy

First spotted by eagle eyed ei8htohms of ThePurists.com, he suggested this movement "bears an incredibly strong resemblance to the Piguet 1185."

This was never really answered or challenged. So.... in the absence of any further discussion on the movement, inevitably I've gone wandering myself (I prefer that term to surfing - it seems more applicable to the way I 'search' the Internet...) and I have to agree with ei8htohms.

Pictures can be deceptive, but here's the new JLC Calibre 752

And here is a FP 1185.

JLC has an undoubted historical pedigree in chronographs including, of course, the recently developed Calibre 829. It’s precisely because of this grand history that once everybody understood a new chronograph was coming out of JLC, most were on the edge of their seats to see what it would be like. This makes the mysterious likeness of FP1185 to their latest chronograph simultaneously fascinating and puzzling. One’s immediate reaction is to sink to the obvious and disagreeable conclusion, i.e. investing in a new chrono is too expensive, so JLC choose a good base calibre/parts-bin-base to save money and then sufficiently technically upgrade and choose feature content to give brand differentiation, add insuperable JLC prowess and level of finish, et voila Cal 75x.

I remember a similar question arising over Omega 33xx. But IMO 33xx simply doesn’t as closely resemble FP 1185 as much as JLC Cal 75x seems to! In addition, if memory serves me right, Omega even announced that it was going to be a co-development with F Piguet. So nothing was hidden from the outset and nobody was under any illusions that it incorporated many of the features that FP 1185 possessed but it was at least to be Omega exclusive.

With JLC’s brand integrity underpinned by its commitment to in-house manufacture, I would expect they would not risk undermining this philosophy by using even one part of someone else’s. So what is going on here, and in light of the situation where taken at face value the calibres look next to identical, why create a situation where this damaging question will arise rather than tackling it at the outset? JLC were a wee bit careless to think people (least of all Purists) were not going to notice.

If it turns out to be the case that it is an (extensively) adapted base FP1185, incorporating all the Autotractor features (except notably for a true balance bridge (sic)), adding another winding barrel and semi-instant minute change, these are not trivial steps and of course the movement is still phenomenal. BUT, then the next step would be to have to re-enter the well worn debate of “when is a modified base calibre a new movement in its own right” for Cal 75x and I fear, it might become an enduring blot on the manufacture status of JLC. In fact, I think this may well turn into brand error of the century for them. I hope not.

Watch this space as the story will unfold.

In the meantime read a view on why Chuck Maddox thinks the Omega 33xx isn't a FP 1185 despite appearing so


Speedmaster said...

Great stuff!

I created a link to your blog from mine and and posted about it as well.

have a great day,


Anonymous said...

Hey V, some of the ongoing (and preceding) unhealthy speculation:

“I've found on news section of www.horologerie-suisse.com a short article on this watch and its calibre. The calibre seems to be closely similar (chronograph levers and column wheel are quite identical) to the Frederic Piguet 1185.
Did JLC cooperate officially with Frederic Piguet in the development of this chronograph? And if this is the situation, why (not) mention it?”

“The calibre seems to be a 100% FP off the shelf calibre.”

“Look at these two images, one of the Piguet 1185, the other of the new JLC 752, and then notice the reset lever, the column wheel, the hart of central wheel, the friction clutch levers...
I find they're almost the same in both calibres, even though the JLC is more refinished. What do you think?”

“although they didn't come up with a completely new calibre (seems to be "inspired" by Frederic Piguet automatic chronographs).”

“and it sure looks to my eye like the JLC calibre 752 is very similar to the FP1185. Just thought I'd point it out.”

“There is certainly less difference between the two movements than between (say) an Omega c.321 and 861, or the Lemania 1342 and 5100 for example which were made by the same firm. It would be amazing/shocking to me if the JLC and the FP movements didn't share some DNA so to speak.”

“I'm not sure if anyone over at Purist's came to any conclusion... But it sure looks to my eye like the JLC calibre 752 is very similar to the FP1185.”

“To me, the similarity is more than striking. The following illustration IMHO speaks for itself. (Piguet 1185 on the left, JLC chronograph on the right)”

“Given that the JLC chronograph project has been thought already 10 years ago (ie before JLC became under ownership of a group which is now a rival of Piguet/swatch group), is it reasonable in that case to assume that there has been some "technology transfer" at some point (and I would say that more than technology transfer, it is the entire chronograph design which might have been transferred)?”

“The Piguet 1185 has been launched in 1988 whereas the project of the predecessor of the current JLC 750, i.e. project for the 930 took place from 1995.”

“Therefore, I think one can reasonably wonder what is the filiation between these 2 calibres.”

“As a fan of MJLC, my first reaction was "no this can't be, MJLC is well known as a true manufacture and they won't rely on another ebauche". But looking at the pictures, I can't deny there is some visual likeness. So of course as an ordinary person I have questions too.”

“I strongly suggest JLC release something about this issue because, unfortunately “no comment” in this day and age leaves people to make up their own minds based on face value. On that basis, with a movement looking like a long lost twin to FP1185, it doesn’t look good for JLC IMHO.”

“When I saw it…..thoughts were …..it's a Piguet with some slight changes. …..lots of the details are identical, almost any spring, not to mention the basic layout."

“I don't think it's based on the 1185. I think the similarity is striking, but I don't think the JLC caliber is a modified 1185. Even the Omega Cal. 3303 (and variants) which bears an even stronger resemblance to the 1185 in some respects (and slightly less in others) is clearly not "based on" the Pigeut 1185 in the sense that the term is commonly used with regards to watch movements.”

“My opinion is that the design and layout of the two movements have many similarities which are numerous enough for some people to wonder if there has been any joint effort or transfer at some stage during the conception (to say the least).
….. it is quite unlikely for 2 separate teams creating 2 movements "from scratch" independently to come up with solutions which definitively have like a "family look". “

Kitchen member ;)