I normally do not comment on auction pieces, but this particular watch I find very interesting and I received several questions regarding this piece.
It also align with my reports on “Jaeger-LeCoultre and the U.S. market”. So, here I will give you my view of this watch.
I will not repeat the story how the astronaut and senator John H. Glenn, Jr. came to this watch, instead I will focus on the watch itself. You can read the story provided by Phillips here.
The watch in question:
Reference No: 3027
Movement No: 1’328’079
Case No: 898’783
Model Name: “Lucky 13”
Material: 10K Gold-filled
Calibre: Manual, cal. K831/CW, 17 jewels
Bracelet/Strap: Associated gold tone Speidel extendable bracelet
Dimensions: 33mm Diameter
Signed: Case, dial, and movement signed; movement additionally stamped “VXN”
Only reading the specification for this watch, I would say a typical U.S. market men’s wrist watch from the late 1950’s or early 1960’s.
Now if we go through this step by step –
Year: 1962 – yes, the watch was gifted in 1962, but the movement, based on the movement number was most likely manufactured in 1960 or 1961. One should also remember that shipping from Switzerland to the U.S. was not as fast as it is today.
Reference No: 3027 – if you google the reference number you may find other LeCoultre watches with the same reference but with different dial/movements.
Well, the dial is easy to explain, the “Lucky 13” have a one off custom made dial but the same reference with different movement?
Here is an example found on the Internet. It states it has the Calibre P 830/CW inside. By looking at the dial, this is clearly a 12 hour dial/movement.
As I explained in my “Jaeger-LeCoultre and the U.S. market, part 3” report, movement were imported separately for watches and assembled into locally produced cases.
If you look closely of the “Lucky 13” and this example from the Internet, you can see the cases are the same. The pointed lugs, the semi hidden crown…
And yes, Calibre 830 and 831 have the same base/size (11 1/2) which make their cases interchangeable. Which explains the same reference 3027 on different watches.
Movement No: 1’328’079 – my comment to the year 1962 is based on the movement number. Many of you may know I have been study the Jaeger-LeCoultre 125 Years Jubilee collection from 1958 for many years.
Based on the number I would think the movement was manufactured sometime between 1959-1961.
Case No: 898’783 – well, here I am clueless since I have no knowledge about how the Schwab & Wuispard Case Company, “S&W”* numbered their cases (the “S&W” on the inside of the case back). I observed lower case numbers on watches with later movements and vice versa. But without any knowledge on how numbers were given to the cases and if cases was produced sequentially I can not give any input.
Material: 10K Gold-filled – you don’t see many 18K solid gold during this period of time from LeCoultre on the U.S. market. If gold, mainly 10K or 14K gold filled cases were used, from my point of view this is not very surprising – even for a gift of this level.
Calibre: Manual, cal. K831/CW, 17 jewels – now we come to the big mystery!
Not the Calibre K 831/CW itself, that Calibre is a well-known movement that was used in the Quartermaster. Same movement as inside the watch given to the astronauts of the Mercury 7. I will come back with a detailed report on these special Mercury 7 Quartermaster in a separately.
The very reason for the astronauts to have this watch was the 24 hour dial/movement because in space it hard to know if its day or night….
Now this “Lucky 13” has, confirmed by Jaeger-LeCoultre, a 12 hour dial/movement. As far as I was aware until this “Lucky 13” watch – the K 831/CW was only used in the Quartermaster whit 24 hour dial/movement.
Compared with the movement of my Quartermaster with the same Calibre K 831/CW. Same number of jewel, same markings, same layout and decoration… Only obvious difference would be the colour of the friction spring (no 471), which is steel on the “Lucky 13” and gilt on my movement.
Guess this will remain a mystery why the Calibre K 831/CW was used for a 12 hour dial/watch. During this time period several options existed for a 12 hour movement.
Bracelet/Strap: Associated gold tone Speidel extendable bracelet – these kind of expandable bracelets was very common during the 1950’s and 1960’s. No mystery here…
In the 1960 Jaeger-LeCoultre catalogue, the E 857 Deep Sea Alarm was displayed on one similar bracelet.
Dimensions: 33mm Diameter – typical men’s watch size of the time.
Signed: Case, dial, and movement signed; movement additionally stamped “VXN” – that dial, movement, case and crown is signed LeCoultre (LeC) is expected. As Jaeger-LeCoultre watches was during the 1950’s and 1960’s.
The “VXN” is the U.S. import code which all imported Vacheron & Constantin and LeCoultre movements had during this period.
To summarise, this is a very interesting watch which looks to be in great condition and with solid provenance, yet with a mysterious twist regarding the Calibre inside.
The special “Lucky 13” dial and the connection to the space history…
I hope this watch ends up in a good home! Wishing Jaeger-LeCoultre and “Lucky 13” all the best of …. on the 10th of December!
P.S. To the lucky winner of this watch, once you have this watch in your hands, can you please confirm that it is a 12 hour watch and not 24 hour?! Because if 24 hour watch, it would explain a lot! D.S.
Stay tuned – more LeCoultre related reports on its way!
* Edit note: S&W inside a rectangle is the mark of Schwab & Wuispard Case Company, not Star Watch Case Company. Thank you to @vintage_watch_longines for the input.
Both Schwab & Wuispard Case Company and Star Watch Case Company made cases for LeCoultre watches in the U.S. market.