Earlier I have been writing about the U.S. market and the different reference system that was used for the LeCoultre watches sold in the North America.
This time I thought I would look into another very important part of the Jaeger-LeCoultre brand, the French market!
The markers and characteristics for the French market is not as clear as for the U.S. market. But if you look close they are there…
To start with, the reference system is more describing of the watch compared with the Swiss or U.S. system.
The French system is built around the movement size with additional information of the watch.
For example: the Swiss E 329 – Calibre 813 (size 12), round, automatic, calendar watch.
In French terms, 12, Rond, Automatique, Étanche, Calendrier – and as it is the second of its kind with this combination, id number #2 – 12.R.A.E.C.2
The reference system have a positive side as it tells you what kind of watch it is. The downside is that it is easy to mix-up between different watches.
Like the reference 12.R.A.C.1 is very similar but look at the shape of the lugs, compared with the E 329. Also the recessed crown differs. As the Étanche is left out here, I suspect this version have snap on case back instead of the waterproof screw-down case back…
I suspect that the 12.R.A.C.1 is a local mark reference without any Swiss counterpart.
Now the Futurematic – the commonly known Swiss references are the E 501 and E 502.
Except for the sub-dials Calibre 497 vs. portholes Calibre 817, the big difference is the lug shape. The E 501 have more rounded lug ends while the E 502 lug ends have a more sharper cut, subtle but yet a difference.
Now, one thing to keep in mind is that same as on the U.S. market, the French market had higher taxation on precious metal cases which resulted in the same dilemma as on the U.S. market.
Jaeger-LeCoultre had to export movements which were fitted into French made cases, yet the distance between Switzerland and France is not as far as to the U.S. – they even share a border, it resulted in the same – local mark references without any exact Swiss counterpart!
Looking through the French section of my library, I have been able to identify three French references of the Futurematic.
Below are some examples of French catalogues between 1953 – 1956.
The Futurematic was launched in France same year as in the rest of Europe, 1953.
A lesser known fact about the Futurematic is that it was first launched in the U.S. in 1951.
Another interesting thing is that the name “Futurematic” most likely was coined in the U.S. market as it was used there from the start in 1951 while in Europe the Futurematic was referred to as the “SR-497” due to the Calibre 497.
In Europe the name Futurematic wasn’t adopted until 1956-1957.
Now, the three French Futurematic references I been able to identify: 12.R.A.E.2, 12.R.A.E.6 and 12.R.A.E.7
All three basically have the same case size, 36 – 37 mm, similar round case shape and bezel. The big difference between these are the lugs: 12.R.A.E.2 – “Claw lugs”, 12.R.A.E.6 – “Straight lugs” and the 12.R.A.E.7 – “Shaped lugs”.
The last one, 12.R.A.E.2 looks to be very similar or same as the Swiss reference E 501.
Now, as we know that the French reference system is based on movement/case shape I suspect there may have existed as many as seven different French market Futurematic!
I base my suspicion on the following – During this period Jaeger-LeCoultre had other size 12 movements, but as far as I can recall, none with no seconds or a sub-seconds, i.e. with the same base reference “12.R.A.E”.
The Powerwind Calibre 481 is also a size 12, but with the central seconds which in French reference would be “SC” or “S.C”, “Secondes Centrales” in French.
As I said in the beginning, there are both positive and negative with a describing reference system. On the minus is that it is easy to mix-up between different references…
Here is an example of such mix-up, T.W.O French catalogue featuring the same reference , first say 12.R.A.E.1 and the other say 12.R.A.S.C.4 – which one is correct? My money is on the later as this is a central seconds watch which implies “S.C.”.
Of course it could be different cases as the first catalogue state “E”, Étanche which the second do not, but normally, the first reference would still be 12.R.A.S.C.E.1
As you can see, it is not easy to navigate the Jaeger-LeCoultre universe… It takes time and a lot of research… BUT, it’s also very interesting and fun!
Please join me in my journey through it all – will continue with more details regarding the French market.