Jaeger-LeCoultre and the U.S. market: Special watches – the Mercury 7 Quartermaster

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In this part 4 of my reports on the topic “Jaeger-LeCoultre and the U.S. market” I like to put focus on one watch related to the “Lucky 13” I wrote about not long ago.

Here is a link if you missed the report: LeCoultre “Lucky 13”.

The relation? This watch have a movement from the same batch as the “Lucky 13” and had the same original owner!

What is the “Mercury 7 Quartermaster” and why Mercury 7?

Confirmed by several independent sources, all astronauts who participated in Project Mercury was given a LeCoultre watch with 24-hour dial.

Also confirmed is that the watches of Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard and the watch we will look closer on here, John Glenn all had the same special look.

Odds are that the watches of Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, Gus Grissom and Deke Slayton looked the same.

Here it is – a 24-hour black dial with white painted numerals and minute track:

LeCoultre Mercury 7 Quartermaster

The base is the regular LeCoultre Quartermaster reference “114”. I put quotations around the number due to that I don’t think it is a official reference number, but that it the number which is on the inside of the case back of the regular LeCoultre Quartermaster with the same case like this Mercury 7.

I know some thinks that all Quartermaster have the same reference, but please note that the regular LeCoultre Quartermaster came with T.W.O very different cases, one the reference 2405 (I will go more in details on this in a separate post), and the 114 which looks identical to the Mercury 7 case.

Now, the Mercury 7 have the number “112” on the inside of the case back, except from the different number, I have not been able to find any differences to the 33 mm stainless steel case.

LeCoultre Mercury 7 Quartermaster – 112

No, the difference is on the dial and hands.

Most likely, the Mercury 7 had a special ordered dial. Not only does it differ from the regular version dial, it also differs a lot from what we normally see on LeCoultre dials from the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.

The regular black Quartermaster had several different dial versions, all a bit glossy, here the black dial is mat. The regular version have luminous material on hands and dial, here all hands and numerals and markings are painted white.

The reason for this I suspect is due to visibility and to avoid any radioactive material which were normally used during this period in time.

LeCoultre Mercury 7 Quartermaster – white paint instead of luminous material

Here is one shot of my regular version of the LeCoultre Quartermaster “114”. As you can see, same case, different hands and dial.

LeCoultre Quartermaster – regular version 114

Inside of all observed versions of the Quartermaster is the Calibre K 831/CW. A manual 24-hour movement.

If you read my report on the “Lucky 13” you know my confusion around that watch and the movement inside, the same K 831/CW.

Now, to add to this confusion here are some observations regarding the Quartermaster and the K 831/CW I made over the years –

The movement numbers are either in the 1’305’nnn range or in the 1’328’nnn range. Like if two batches of the Calibre K 831/CW were made.

If you remember the movement number of the Lucky 13: 1’328’079 and compare it to the two Mercury 7 watches I have been able to source the movement number from: 1’328’310 and 1’328’418.

All from the 1’328’nnn batch, just a few hundred numbers apart!

As mentioned, the movement, even if Jaeger-LeCoultre confirmed 1962 for the Lucky 13 watch, must have been manufactured earlier as here is Alan Shepard on the cover of Life Magazine from May 19, 1961 with what looks to be his Mercury 7:

Alan Shepard on the cover of Life Magazine – May 19, 1961

Movements were most likely not used sequential number order, which can explain that the Lucky 13 have a lower number than the two Mercury 7 watches.

My conclusion is that the Mercury 7 must have been a special order for the astronauts of the Project Mercury. If it was a official NASA order of the watch or if made as an personal initiative of anyone involved in the Project Mercury the story do not tell…

But if it was an official request from NASA and records would be recovered, I suspect marketing of the brand will inform us…

So this report four – Jaeger-LeCoultre and the U.S. market: Special watches – the Mercury 7 Quartermaster, not only a special watch for the U.S. market, but a special watch for the NASA.

LeCoultre Mercury 7 Quartermaster – a special order for NASA?

This watch now belongs to Jeff Stein. All photos of the Mercury 7 Quartermaster version shared here are credit to Jeff.

If you missed any of my previous report on Jaeger-LeCoultre and the U.S. market:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Lucky 13

Stay tuned as I will continue with other special watches for the U.S. market…

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