TimeZone Interview with Nancy James Fox
Vice President of Jaeger-LeCoultre
|This is the first of a series of Interviews with the Great houses of the Swiss watch Industry. I am pleased and excited that our very first interview is with a company that not only is considered one of the best in the world, but also a favorite here on TimeZone.|
I find it appropriate that Jaeger chose as their Spokesperson, Nancy James Fox, Vice President of Jaeger-LeCoultre, Division Swiss Prestige, Inc. Nancy was the driving force behind the Jaeger-LeCoultre Web Site.
RP: Being brought up in a family of watchmakers,I’ve always been a Jeager leCoultre fan for as long as I can remember. But, if my memory serves me correctly, I seem to remember the Jaeger of yesteryear as a watchmakers’ watch and not really a well known brand here in the USA….. To what do you attribute Jaeger’s meteoric rise as one of the best of the best, in today’s crowded marketplace?
NF: The key to the success of Jaeger-LeCoultre is “authenticity.” Today, end consumers are more demanding. They are looking at the real value and origin of a product. They are looking for authenticity in any product they acquire. In this regard, Jaeger-LeCoultre is in a unique position, in that it still has its factory and its production facilities. It remains today a true manufacturer, making every movement and component in-house. This enables Jaeger-LeCoultre to develop new technology and to remain self-sufficient within the industry. In short, we are able to innovate and bring new things to the market, such as the Reverso Duo and Reverso Duetto movements, which we have most recently patented.
RP: Why did Jaeger choose to streamline the models to the really only two directions…the Master Control series, and the Reverso series?
NF: You mentioned earlier that the watch marketplace is crowded, and I agree. Therefore, Jaeger-LeCoultre decided to focus on distinctive products rather than “me too” styles. Both the Reverso and Master Control lines are founded on products we have been making for decades, and each sets us apart from other brands. As you know, Jaeger-LeCoultre has been making the Reverso continuously since 1931. The Master Control watches are reminiscent of Jaeger-LeCoultre classics from the forties and fifties, albeit with state-of-the-art movements and technologies. All have the distinguishing feature that they are tested for more than 1,000 hours. This sets these models apart from those of the other brands.
And let’s not forget another of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s distinctive products…the Atmos clock, which lives on air, or more precisely on temperature differences. It’s a real perpetual motion machine with a life expectancy of up to 600 years! It has been in existence since 1928 and has the honor of being the official gift of the Swiss government to visiting dignitaries.
RP: If my history is correct, then Jeager, being founded in 1833, will be fast approaching the unique priveledge of being a company that will have produced watches in 3 different centuries. How does Jeager see itself as a premiere watch company in the new millenium?
NF: Quite simply, we see ourselves as “The Reference”; that is, the standard by which all others will be measured. As one of the only remaining true watch manufacturers, we will continue to innovate and perfect timekeeping.
RP: Our TimeZone audience are watch nuts as well as computer nuts; What really is Jeager’s attitude and perception of the Internet?
NF: As you know, Jaeger-LeCoultre has its own website at http://www.jaeger-lecoultre.com.
It would appear that internet usage is more prevalent in the U.S.A. than in Europe, though it is growing rapidly there, as well. As an information source, the internet is an excellent tool…completely revolutionary. Where else can you get sight, sound and action on demand on virtually any topic? Nevertheless, we believe the internet should be an information source only. Watches should be purchased only from an authorized Jaeger-LeCoultre dealer’s place of business. Only in this way can a consumer ensure that he/she gets the benefits of our international warranty.
RP: What made you decide to have a Jeager LeCoultre Web site?
NF: The internet is here to stay. To ignore it is foolish. If our customers are using the internet, then we must be present there. Jaeger-LeCoultre is a progressive company, not only in terms of developing new watch technology. Just as Reverso has been “ahead of its time since 1933”, so we think our internet site is also ahead of its time.
RP: The TimeZone audience is not only fans of watches styles, but take the insides as seriously as the case. There was a time in Jaeger’s history when they produced almost all of Patek Philippe’s raw movements. Does the Jaeger of today, still supply other companies, and which?
NF: Yes, Jaeger-LeCoultre today still supplies movements and parts to other companies. This we state in our catalog. However, in deference to these brands, we prefer not to name them here. Suffice it to say that the brands that buy Jaeger-LeCoultre movements for their watches do so because they believe our movements and components are the best. These are, of course, top brands that are concerned about quality.
RP: What is the yearly production of Jaeger watches, and do you see the future of the company increasing the production?
NF: For 1997, we intend to produce about 37,000 watches. At this level, we are probably the top producer of hand-made watches. Though this is more than double the number produced just ten years ago, we are far, far below the quantities made by mass-producers like Rolex and Cartier. I should add that we will sell out every one of the 37,000 we produce this year. Our biggest problem right now is that the demand for our watches far exceeds the number we can make.
RP: Why are some of the Jaeger models almost impossible to get?
NF: JLC: To maintain the integrity of a fine timepiece, you cannot take shortcuts in its production. Jaeger-LeCoultre simply can’t make enough of some models to meet the demand. The Reverso Duo and Master Geographic are two models which have been difficult to supply this year. The technology in these movements is unique to Jaeger-LeCoultre and both are very useful complications yet very easy to operate. This is undoubtedly why they have been so popular.
RP: The staying power of the Reverso still amazes me, and I still think it is one of the premiere styles of the modern watch market. Why do you think this particular watch has such strong staying power?
NF: Reverso has lasting appeal because it is absolutely distinctive and still an original design. In a field cluttered with round watches, the rectangular Reverso with its unusual turning case is incomparable. In recent years, Jaeger-LeCoultre has added several new models to the line. The original Reverso offers a blank canvas on which an engraver can personalize the watch for you. More recent additions to the collection include models where the backside of the watch performs separate functions. Examples include Reverso Duo which has two time zones controlled by a single mechanical movement, or the new Reverso Duetto for ladies, with a daytime or casual look on the front and an evening look with diamonds on the back.
RP: Jaeger’s reputation as an in-house watch finisher, from movement to case, leaves the TimeZone audience a little in awe, since the modern watch market is so reliant on outsourcing. Is this something that was planned or did it just evolve this way?
NF: Probably a little bit of both. Jaeger-LeCoultre has been firmly rooted in technological development and manufacture of movements since its inception in 1833, and we intend to continue in this way. Being located in a secluded valley in Switzerland, the factory had to be self-reliant and not dependent upon outside suppliers. This philosophy is part of our heritage and has not changed. The company was fortunate that it was able to keep its production facilities running continuously, even when the Japanese quartz crunch forced many other brands to shut down manufacturing and become reliant on outsourcing. It is clear that Jaeger-LeCoultre’s manufacturing capabilities distinguish the brand in today’s marketplace.
RP: Explain if you could why the Master Control series really doesn’t need a chronometer rating.
NF: Chronometer certification is obtained by sending movements to an independent laboratory in Neuchatel where the movements are tested under various conditions for approximately 350 hours. With its tremendous in-house resources, Jaeger-LeCoultre is able to test the Master Control watches itself. Further, we test them for more than 1,000 hours. They are tested in six positions, rather than the usual four or five as in the chronometer test. It is also important to note that the chronometer test at the lab in Neuchatel covers only the movement, outside the case. For the Master Control watches, Jaeger-LeCoultre tests not only the movement outside the case, but the completed, cased-up watch, as well. In short, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Master Control watches are tested nearly three times longer and under more diverse conditions than watches bearing the chronometer certification.
RP: Can you give the TimeZoners a sneak preview of something special waiting in the wings for us?
NF: Reverso and Master Control watches are mainly classified as classical and specialty wristwatches. In recent years, we introduced the ladies’ jeweled Reverso models, including the Florale and Duetto which are new for 1997. But, Jaeger-LeCoultre really hasn’t had a watch on the market that would be considered a sportswatch. Perhaps you will see an addition of something in that category. Further, in 1998 Jaeger-LeCoultre will introduce a new 500-piece limited edition Reverso model. This watch will be part of the limited Reverso series begun in 1991 for the 60th anniversary of the Reverso. At that time, we made a commitment to the market to introduce a limited specialty Reverso every two years until at least the year 2000.