Jaeger-LeCoultre and the U.S. market: the Master Mariner Line

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I started to write about Jaeger-LeCoultre and the U.S. market and about some of the special watches which only were launched “over there”.

One thing that I have observed on several models which are common for all markets, is that earliest traces often can be seen in U.S. documentations.

At first I thought that maybe Jaeger-LeCoultre used the U.S. market as a “test market” to see if a new model would be a success or not…

But based on the fact that during this period, 1950’s and 1960’s, watch fashion is quite different between the U.S. and Europe and shipping, distribution, communication, etc. were much slower than today… I don’t find that theory very likely.

The fact is that during this period, the demand for new and innovative models were high in the U.S. market compared to Europe – post WWII, so maybe it is not that surprising to see a Swiss watch manufacture launching their new models in the U.S. market first…

One of these “first in the U.S.” is the Master Mariner line – “A series of self-winding watches which command respect for perfection of styling and technical competence.

First traces I have in documents is from 1957 which I also believe is the year for the release of the Master Mariner line.

Here are T.W.O ads from 1957, one of the Powerwind and of a Chronometer – the Chronometer is a chapter of its own, one I will come back to in a later report:

LeCoultre Master Mariner 1957 – Powerwind and Chronometer

Another example of ad from 1957, again pushing the fact of self-winding movements. A different sub-second model and again, the mysterious Chronometer…

Please note that even if promoted as Master Mariner, no such name on the dial.

LeCoultre Master Mariner 1957 – Sub-seconds and Chronometer

If we move into the 1960’s, now the Master Mariner name is also included on some of the dials but not all.

In this ad from 1962 there are several fun and interesting points to see:

  • Master Mariner appears on the dial
  • The Memovox model is included in the Master Mariner line
  • The Memovox model name is still not used in the U.S. market

As can be seen, the manual Memovox is named “Beau Brummel” and the automatic Memovox “Automatic Calendar Wrist-Alarm“.

A bit strange as the name “Memovox” was used already since 1950-1951 in Europe.

These early Master Mariner came in a special “Master Mariner box”, you can read more about the box here: Master Mariner box

LeCoultre 1962 ad – Master Mariner and more

Up to this point the Master Mariner appears to be exclusivity used in the U.S. market. Similar models here in Europe are promoted as “Self-winding“.

Here an example from the 1963 European catalogue (French, German and English language):

Jaeger-LeCoultre 1963 catalogue – Self-winding watches

Another LeCoultre example from the same year, 1963 – only one Master Mariner watch in this ad, but it tells us that the Master Mariner Royal were made in both 18K and 14K solid gold.

Guessing that “others” in this instance are stainless steel- and gold filled cases.

Gold filled cases are at this point much more commonly seen in the U.S. market than in the rest of the world and looking at the price one can understand why…

LeCoultre 1963 ad – Master Mariner Royal

The “red line” through the Master Mariner line is that all watches are self-winding, water resistant (to some level – from water resistant to waterproof) and they all are of a design which today would be considered as dress watches.

All-Proof“: shock-, dust-, water- and antimagnetic resistant.

LeCoultre 1965 catalogue – Master Mariner, all-proof

But as always, there is an exception to the rules…

In the LeCoultre 1965 catalogue is the E 335 chronograph which have the Calibre Valjoux 72 inside… And we all know that the first self-winding chronograph came to market several years later…

LeCoultre 1965 catalogue – Master Mariner, exception to the rule

First trace of the Master Mariner name used together with Jaeger-LeCoultre I have is found in the 1967 French catalogue.

It is shown as a separate line, not including all self-winding and water resistant dress watches.

Jaeger-LeCoultre 1967 catalogue – Master Mariner in Europe

So far I never saw the Geomatic included in the Master Mariner line, my understanding is that the Geomatic was kept as a stand alone model (including several different versions).

Here is another example from the same year, 1967 French-English catalogue – dress watches:

Jaeger-LeCoultre 1967 catalogue – Master Mariner in Europe

But in the end of the 1960’s something happens – the request for more sportier and robust watches are shown also in the Master Mariner line.

The introduction of the E 558 Master Mariner Deep Sea “Barracuda” opens up for other than dress watches in the line!

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Mariner – E 558 Deep Sea “Barracuda” late 1960s

The change is not only a reflection of demand of sportier watches, it’s also a reflection of the fashion of this period. The Funky 70’s with much bigger and bolder watch designs.

Not only within Jaeger-LeCoultre but through the entire industry a lot of “spaced out” creations see the light!

Here is an old photo of the Jaeger-LeCoultre E 563-42 Master Mariner, one of these creations… Gone but not forgotten – super comfortable on the wrist despite its bulky exterior!

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Mariner – E 563-42 late 1960s

Here is an example of the E 558 Master Mariner Deep Sea “Barracuda” ad from 1969 – you can read more about this watch here: E 558

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Mariner 1969 ad – E 558 Deep Sea “Barracuda”

Moving on to the early 1970’s, Jaeger-LeCoultre introduce a second Master line, the Master Quartz line.

Jaeger-LeCoultre as most of the industry believed this to be the future and used the Master name here as well…

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Quartz- new line with in the Master collection

In a collaboration between Jaeger-LeCoultre and Girard-Perregaux quartz movements were obtained in exchange for mechanical movements. I will return to this topic in a separate report…

Here is a scan from the 1972 Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Quartz catalogue:

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Quartz 1972 catalogue – Girard-Perregaux movements inside

Even with the introduction of Quartz movements, the Master Mariner line lived on for a few more years.

The last trace of the Master Mariner line I have in documents are the 24000, 24001 and 24002 references which in the catalogue still were referred to as Master Mariner even if the name was not included on the dial or the case back.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Mariner 1975 catalogue – 24000, 24001 and 24002

This is from the sales book 1975-1978 of Jaeger-LeCoultre:

Master Mariner – “superb technique, good performance and extreme robustness. Automatic movements and water resistant or waterproof“.

Interesting to see that over the T.W.O decades of which the Master Mariner line was in the catalogue, the description of the line did not change much even if the appearance of the watches in the line did…

Jaeger-LeCoultre 1975-1978 sales book – Master Mariner

My conclusion of the Master Mariner line –

  • A name which at start Jaeger-LeCoultre used for their finer watches in the U.S. market
  • All automatic movement, all water resistant/waterproof watches
  • Name exclusively used in the U.S. market for the first decade
  • Name adapted in other markets due to success and recognition

After the disappearance of the Master Mariner line and also the Master Quartz line, the Master name was used again in 1992 with the introduction of the Master Control line.

And again, used as an indication of Jaeger-LeCoultre finer watches…

Jaeger-LeCoultre 1992 – new Master line, the Master Control line

Stay tuned as I will come back with more U.S. market reports…

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