I started to describe the reference system in the U.S. market. From the outside, it may look quite unstructured and unorganised, but the longer you look at it, a pattern starts to form and there is a order in the “chaos”!
One reason for the many different types of case codes in the U.S. market I suspect is due to the long distance and many parties involved.
Today, the long distance between the U.S. and Switzerland would not be that big of a deal. A Zoom call and a few e-mails can be done in a day.
Back in the period before 1970, communication was not as fast. Yes, the telephone existed, but long distance calls was expensive, letters and shipments took weeks or months…
Also. LeCoultre was only one of several divisions within the importing agency in the U.S.. On top of that add the several different case manufactures and assembly facilities and yes, the result will be a multiple sub-reference systems!
Since last report on this topic, I have been looking deeper into the Longines – Wittnauer – LeCoultre Case Code Catalogue.
Another details which I could confirm in this catalogue is that some watches used the same code in the U.S. as the Swiss reference .
Here are T.W.O examples – the E 326 and the E 329.
E 326 – automatic without date, Calibre 812:
E 329 – automatic with date, Calibre 813:
The base movement for both these watches are the same, Calibre 812. A 28.00 mm in diameter, automatic movement beating in 19.800 vph/2.75 Hz.
The Calibre 813 have the additional date mechanism which adds 0.70 mm to the height of the movement, in total with the date, 5.25 mm high.
Notice the characteristic roulette date wheel on the Calibre 813:
Now if we go back to the case code catalogue, both the E 326 and the E 329 have the same crown stated, 32WP. “WP” which one might guess would be an abbreviation for Water Proof and a imported crystal.
What is a bit strange is that even if the Swiss reference is used in the U.S., the same watches in the French market have both a Swiss reference and a French reference: top – the E 326 in the 1956 French market catalogue, bottom – the E 329 / 12 R.A.E.C. 2 in the 1958 French market catalogue
One theory would be that the E 326 and the E 329 were imported to the U.S. as complete watches and that is why they have the Swiss reference number.
Another argument for that theory is that the LeCoultre E 326/E 329 steel versions I have seen all have “LeCoultre Co, SWISS” stamped in their case back instead of the expected “Cased and timed in the U.S.A. by LeCoultre”.
But the case code catalogue have a special section for import models which were imported as complete watches and these T.W.O are not included in this section.
Another argument against this theory is that I have spotted British manufactured cases of the E 326/E 329 made for DTE, De Trevars – the British importer of Jaeger-LeCoultre at the time. So, if the Brits made their own cases for the E 326/E 329, why would U.S. not do their own cases as well? To be fair, these cases have been in 9K Gold, not stainless steel – it could be that only gold cases were made locally by the Brits.
So unfortunately, I have nothing conclusive to report this time more than the confirmation that some U.S. case codes used the Swiss reference.
If you are like me and find this topic interesting, make sure to read my previous post, part 1 on the subject. Stay tuned for more!