Jaeger-LeCoultre Automatic SR-497: E 501 Futurematic

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To continue this automatic watch series, next up is maybe, the ultimate automatic watch from Jaeger-LeCoultre, the Futurematic with the Calibre 497 – the fully automatic movement…

Not possible to manually wind, even if you would like to…

Officially launched in Europe in 1953 as “The world’s first fully automatic wrist watch”.

But the very first Futurematic saw the light earlier…

A known fact is that the Futurematic was sold in the U.S. already the year before, in 1952 and I have also located repair manuals for the Calibre 497 printed in the U.S. in 1951 which indicates it may have been introduced even T.W.O years earlier in the U.S. than in Europe…

What makes the Futurematic so special from a design perspective is that there is no winding crown. The case and dial are symmetric around the line from 12 to 6.

This gives the watch a very clean and elegant look!

If we zoom in, we see the circular patter on the sub-dials – only thing breaking the symmetry is the red-zone on the up-and-down indicator.

There is a “crown” located on the back of the watch, but that one is only for setting the time – the fully automatic movement is not possible to wind manually.

Here is one of the Jaeger-LeCoultre advertisements from 1953 describing this new watch – later to be named Futurematic including an own logo (1956):

Arguments used to sell the Futurematic –

Increased precision: 20% larger balance wheel. The Calibre 497 is a 18000 vph/2.5 Hz “slow beat” in modern standards allowing a larger balance wheel for higher accuracy.

Constant power: Once the spring is fully wound, the rotor is locked. You can’t over-wind it…

Starts instantaneously: If you stop using your Futurematic it will stop with a few hours of power left in the spring. Once you pick it up again it will start immediately. As can be seen in my photos, even if the power reserve indicator or “up-and-down” indicator is on zero, the watch is still ticking…

A very cool feature but can also get you in trouble – if your watch only stops for a few minutes or an hour, once back on your wrist you may not notice the incorrect time… In today’s society with watches all around us this may not be a very big problem but back in the 1950’s when no laptops or cellphones reminded us…

Up-and-down indicator: “A special hand”, remember that the power reserve indicator was something quite new to wrist watches back in 1953…

Setting the seconds hand: The Calibre 497 is equipped with a hack seconds. Once you slide the crown on the back to set the time, the seconds are locked giving you the ability to set your watch to the second.

On the back is the setting crown with the text “Slide – do not lift“.

Yes, the Futurematic SR-497 was a strong contender in the “Automatic movement race” during the 1950’s…

Advanced movement, maybe too advanced and complicated to service as it was faded out and replaced with other more traditional automatic movements during the end of 1950’s…

As with many of the Jaeger-LeCoultre watches, the Furturematic existed in several different version – different cases, sizes, hands and dials…

Mine is the reference E 501, with the large 37 mm waterproof case.

Made for the French market, hence the “FabriquΓ© en Suisse” on the dial but exported to Portugal according to the tax stamp on the upper left lug, which aligns from where I bought the watch…

Would be interesting to know the full story behind this…

Stay tuned for more about the Futurematic and the Calibre 497…