I have the pleasure to share another guest review – this time it is my friend Charlie Dunne “@books_on_time” who loves to collect every bit of literature he can find about watches.
He will give us his thoughts on a vintage pearl – the Jaeger-LeCoultre reference 2975!
The Vintage Jaeger-LeCoultre Reference 2975 – An understated time-only dress watch
By Charlie Dunne
An opportunity to acquire a Jaeger-LeCoultre dress watch presented itself recently. The reference number was unknown to me and there were few comparable examples to narrow in on it’s specs. Upon taking one look at what was a totally flawless timepiece, I knew that it would be absurd to pass it up. I have been a fan of the usual suspects from vintage JLC for a number of years. Reversos, Futurematics, and of course the epic Memovox have all been imprinted in my mind whenever the Le Sentier manufacture is mentioned. Yet the traditional time-only dress watches from the [watchmaker’s] watchmaker never received the prestige that garnered my attention.
Soon after the Extract from the Archives returned from Jaeger-LeCoultre, I learned that the watch model was designated as reference 2975. The movement was produced in 1945, leaving one to assume based on the design that it had sat without a home for somewhere between 5-10 years.
The Dial & The Details
One of the first noticeable aspects to the watch is the applied Arabic numerals 3, 6, 9 and 12. Only upon close inspection under a loupe are the faintest signs of patina discernible. Despite appearing to be without a blemish when viewed with the naked eye, the sheer presence of this minutiae adds a certain charm only those passionate for vintage timepieces might appreciate. The simple dial layout is an exercise in restraint. One which draws a clear line emphasizing understated elegance from a watchmaker that could (and was) making more involved designs during the same period in which this watch was born. However, the pursuit of tranquility above all else is what Jaeger-LeCoultre stresses in such time-only models from the mid 20th century. With more daring styles coming out from the American market, along with complicated models such as the Memovox alarm, or Futurematic models absent of a “winding button”, the reference 2975 epitomizes a classic watch that was not for the individual looking for frills of the era.
Complementing the Arabic numerals are the applied dagger markers and dauphine hands. The dial furniture, hands and vertically brushed surface live in complete harmony, giving off a timeless impression.
The case measures in at 36mm (44mm lug-to-lug) and certainly fits into the “jumbo” territory. At a very elegant thickness of 9mm (including the domed caseback and crystal), it is most certainly a dress watch that at best can be made a bit more casual with the likes of a tan or brown strap. The bezel is very minimal in size, and does not enhance the watch in any physical sense. It is one of those timepieces that could be described as “all dial”. The steel crown, a signed one branded “JL”, is more than likely from a later date which had been added on subsequently. Both the bezel and lugs’ surfaces are polished to a mirror finish, met with a crisp edge, and ultimately accented with a horizontally brushed profile.
The movement is a calibre P450/4C, which interestingly can be found in both military watches from the 1940s, as well as dress watches from well into the 1950s. The calibre (and later modified versions of it) would be used frequently in three-hand JLCs during this period. It possesses a 40 hour power reserve and operates at a rate of 18,000 vbh.
Similar Time-Only Jaeger-LeCoultre Models
Rewinding to a post from 2010 via Blomman, two models that resemble the 2975 can be seen within a 1950s JLC catalogue. The first is a 10.5” calibre dress watch depicted as a [reference] 2262. The second possesses a slightly larger movement at 12.5” cited as [reference] 2983. Based on some research from parts listing excerpts (Basha page 85) and Dr. Roland Ranfft’s site, it would appear that the reference 2983 is a closer comparison due to the fact that the calibre is a 12.5” movement. It’s worth mentioning also that there is a distinguishable difference when comparing the decoration of the calibre P450/4C on dress pieces from the 1940s-1950s with the purpose based rhodium plated military timepieces.
Lastly, it is worth pointing out the E 373. And while it technically has a “up and down indicator” (power reserve indication), there are some similarities worth mentioning. The case and lug design are close. Additionally, the dial, markers, and hands are uniform within both references. Obvious discrepancies are the screw-down water protected caseback, as well as the E373 being slightly larger.
There could be some truth in pointing towards the aesthetic inspiration of modern models from the Master Control line. Despite having more “performance” cache than the 1950s dress watch, the minimalist beauty is still showcased in the modern catalog. Both models feature the mirror polished applied numerals, hour markers and dauphine hands. Besides the obvious date-window, it is the case where the differences are more clear. The Master Control line certainly emphasizes the bezel a bit more, giving off a sportier aesthetic to the classic timepiece.
As far as I can tell, the Jaeger-LeCoultre reference 2975 is somewhat of a less celebrated watch, like many time-only JLCs. More often when it comes to the brand, these are not the first place one will look. And I think that people are missing out by overlooking simple watches. One of the great things about the Memovox (or modern Reverso for that matter) lies in the variety of models to appreciate. While there are many collectors that admire time-only Audemars Piguet or Patek Philippe, it is a bit perplexing that Jaeger-LeCoultre’s understated dress watches don’t appear to be cherished anywhere near as much by collectors. Even more so when you consider some are rather large for the era.
It’s always enjoyable to explore the lesser discussed references that have slipped through the cracks. Hopefully this watch adds to the ongoing conversation of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s rich and diverse history.
Thank you very much Charlie for sharing your 2975 – a real beauty! And as you already pointed out, very understated compared to many of the more well-known Jaeger-LeCoultre models.
Looking forward to see and read more from Charlie in his journey through the universe of vintage watches!