From the very dawn of what we would call modern science, the one Holy Grail of inventors – a perpetual motion machine – has eluded everyone from Leonardo Da Vinci to Thomas Edison. But today, it is a reality, albeit on a small scale, in the exquisite timepieces from Swiss company Jaeger-LeCoultre. Their crowning achievement is the Jaeger-LeCoultre Atmos 568.
The idea behind these legendary creations came from engineer Jean-Leon Reutter, who came up with first Atmos Clock – which was essentially powered by the air. The Atmos timepieces include a capsule filled with a mix of reactive gases. Minute fluctuations in the surrounding air temperature cause these gases to expand and contract, so that the capsule presses against a tiny bellows, the movement of which winds the clock spring.
By 1936, timepieces using this method had been adopted and perfected by Jaeger-LeCoultre, resulting in a device that came very close to perpetual motion. Even one degree of temperature change causes enough movement to power the clock for two days, so that Jaeger-LeCoultre can rightfully market these products as “virtually perpetual”.
The genius of this company dates back to 1833, when Antoine LeCoultre opened a small workshop in the village of Le Sentier, in the Jura Mountains of Switzerland. The man’s precision and skill are illustrated by the fact that he perfected the world’s first micrometer, a device that could measure accurately down to a thousandth of a millimeter.
His skill at his trade were passed on to his heirs. The LeCoultre name became associated with fine clocks and watches. In 1903 they were challenged by French watchmaker Edmond Jaegar to make a watch using his designs for ultra-thin movement; LeCoultre produced the thinnest pocket watch ever made at 1.38 millimeters in thickness. That record stands to this day. LeCoultre was also the first to develop the Reverse concept; its Reverso line, launched in 1931, could show the time and date in one time zone on the front, and the time and date in another on the back.
Jaeger developed a friendship with Antoine’s grandson, Jacques-David. Jaeger also bought up the rights to Reutter’s capsule-driven design. They partnered in 1937 to form the Jaeger-LeCoultre brand we know today. Always committed to style and precision, the company has since come up with some of the most astounding products in the history of timepieces. In 1953, they produced the first automatic alarm wristwatch. They also launched a line of luxury car instruments, and to date have obtained over 400 patents.
All along they have had a reputation not just for technical sophistication and very high quality, but expensive materials and stunning design. Jaeger-LeCoultre timepieces are among the finest and most expensive ever produced. For decades they’ve been known as one of the global leaders in the industry. They have also provided their fine Swiss watch movements to other luxury brands such as Cartier and Phillipe Patek.
In 2008, designer Mark Newson began collaborating with Jaeger-LeCoultre on the production of timepieces. Newson has been a highly skilled and productive designer of watches, clocks, and hourglasses for many years. Australian by birth, he’s the leading designer of modern timepieces. His striking 1988 Lockheed Lounge creation, with it’s sleek look and riveted construction, is a piece of aluminum furniture considered a unique work of art – it went for nearly $3 million in a 2015 London auction. This is a record for a living designer. He also works for Apple as Designer of Special Projects; the Apple Watch was another of his noted creations.
His first design for Jaeger-LeCoultre was the very well-received Atmos 561, or the Atmos “Newsom”. This was followed two years later by the Atmos 566, and finally the dazzling Atmos 568.
Design of the Atmos 568
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Atmos 568 tells time, tracks the months, and displays the phase of the moon. The time mechanism involves 231 separate components in a configuration the company calls “Caliber 568”, though it’s not significantly different from the movement of the Atmos 561. There are, of course, aesthetic differences, and a few new adjustments of the central balance wheel, but the inner gear and complications are nearly identical to those in the 561.
The face and centerpiece movement is contained – seems almost to float – in fine Baccarat crystal. This is due in part to the magnification effect of the smoothly rounded crystal lens. But this is so subtle that you may not spot it until you look at the hands from several different angles. The etheric visual effect continues to the numerals, set in a round glass ring in blue, with dots and dashes to mark the minutes between numerals. Within that is a brushed steel ring with blue indicators for the month, and at the bottom center of the face, over the six, is the white and blue moon phase indicator. In case you’re that interested in the moon, this indicator is promised to be accurate to within 24 hours every 3,861 years.
The end result is a stunning timepiece that is at once scientific, elegant, and even to some extent surreal. There has been a lot of excitement over the Atmos 568 among those who appreciate a superb timepiece, both for it’s simple, clean, yet fascinating design, and because it delivers on Jaeger-LeCoultre’s promise of extreme quality. Among the wide range of remarkable timepieces the company offers, the Atmos 568 is even somewhat of a bargain with a current value of $28,000 USD.
Jaeger LeCoultre offers over 1,200 different men’s’ and ladies’ timepieces. This variety includes steel, titanium, and solid gold or platinum. Some of the models include high-quality diamonds that would impress any jeweler. In addition to the Reutter design, some of these watches utilize quartz, moon phase, chronograph, GMT, and Reserve de Marche mechanisms associated with the finest watches. Adding variety on top of style and quality, Jaeger-LeCoultre timepieces are among some of the most highly valued products available.
That’s the estimate on the watch given to Queen Elizabeth II in 2013, on the anniversary marking the 60th year of her reign. A smaller and more luxurious version of a standard timepieces, Jaeger-LeCoultre created a delicate bracelet-type watch containing the smallest mechanical movements ever made. The Queen’s version also included 576 small diamonds, a sapphire dial, and 18 carats worth of white gold accents. It is definitely one of a kind.
The most expensive watch Jaeger-LeCoultre offers is the $2.5 million Hybris Mechanica Grande Sonnerie. “Sonnerie” is a French term meaning “to make sound” and refers to a watch that chimes the hour and quarter hour on a tiny gong, producing a sound that simply can’t be imitated by electronic means. These distinctive sonnerie watches are highly prized by connoisseurs.
This is one of the most complex watches ever made, including 1,300 parts and 26 settings, a perpetual calendar, leap year indicator, grande and petit sonnerie, with a separate power reserve display for each. All of this is contained in an elegant watch of solid white gold.
The highest price ever paid at auction for a Jaeger-LeCoultre watch was $58,800 for a vintage Reverso at an exclusive 2011 Paris auction.
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Atmos 568 lives up to their tradition of industry-leading excellence, both inside and out.